I drank some 2009 Bordeaux today. I just couldn't help it, but the 2009 Vieux-Château-Certan from barrel was just too good. I thought why not just drink it with my simple lunch of salami, pâté, cheese and salad? So I did.
The red was made from 84 percent Merlot, 8 percent Cabernet Franc and 8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It showed an incredible nose of chocolate and berries that turned to sweet tobacco and China tea leaves. It was full-bodied, with a beautiful softness and silkiness in texture that kept on beckoning you back to taste it (or better, drink it).
As VCC's winemaker Alexandre Thienpont said, "It is balanced, concentrated and warm, without being massive."
That's what is so impressive with the vintage. Apparently, many of the young wines are the most concentrated ever from their respective wineries, yet the young reds remain fresh and balanced. I keep hearing about the concentration levels of polyphenolic compounds, or tannins, being off the charts. Winemakers say they are 88, or 95, or whatever. It doesn't mean that much to me. But it does mean that the 2009s, in many cases, are packed with ripe tannins, yet they are balanced and remain fresh.
Theinpont said that his 2009 reminds him of his legendary 1950, or "some other great vintage from my grandfather in the 1940s."
With so much natural concentration in tannins, winemakers had to be very careful in how they made their wines. They had to be prudent not to overextract tannins in their fermentations and macerations. "2009 was more complicated than 2005," said Jean-Michel Laporte, the technical director of the famous Pomerol estate of La Conseillante. "The skins were thicker so you had to be careful. You had to understand the phenolic maturity, and you had to macerate correctly and not overextract. It was very important. We made a slightly shorter maceration with the grapes, and it worked. I just didn't want any dried tannins."
In fact, I tasted numerous wines today in St.-Emilion that had slightly dry tannins. There was the fruit concentration, and relatively high alcohols, but the chewy tannins were slightly dry on the finish. They were very good young reds, but I think they would have been better if they hadn't been so extracted. It made me think of body builders on steroids. Oh well.
This certainly wasn't the case in 2009 for Lafleur, the legendary Pomerol estate. I tasted the wine this afternoon and I wanted to go immediately into the lotus position and meditate on its grandeur. What a wine. The nose was fascinating with blackberries, black licorice, minerals, flowers and more. It was full-bodied, with an incredible texture of ripe tannins that resembled cashmere yarn. Yet it was like a tightly wound ball. What length too. It went on for minutes.
"You had to do the least possible to the wines in the winemaking," said Baptiste Guinaudeau of Lafleur. "You shouldn't have worked the wines too much. You shouldn't have extracted too much. With the incredible raw material [grapes] you had, you really had to leave the wine to its own."