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2008 Bordeaux Barrel Tastings

Wine Spectator's annual evaluation of the newest vintage's young wines

Posted: March 31, 2009

Updated April 6, 2009

Welcome to our coverage of the 2008 Bordeaux barrel tastings! Every year since 1983, our Bordeaux expert, James Suckling, has been traveling to the region to taste the new vintage and evaluate the potential quality of the young wines while they are still aging in barrels in the château cellars.

He has provided scores and tasting notes for more than 300 red, white and sweet wines from top estates. His reviews are accompanied by blogs with detailed analysis and his impressions of the vintage.

The 2008 vintage was challenging for red wines, though undoubtedly a better one than 2007. Cool, wet weather in May and June kept yields low, but was followed by a warm, sunny July. Then August and early September were gray and damp; ripening was uneven and mildew threatened the grapes. But the last three weeks of September were warm and sunny, potentially saving the day for many producers. The best of the resulting wines show lovely aromas, fruity palates, silky tannins and bright acidity that gives them long, lively finishes. However, the weaker reds can be light, green and acidic.

The dry whites can also very good but may have strong acidity and not be as well balanced as those from 2007 and 2006.

For the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, the harvest was one of the latest in memory for Sauternes, but the grapes that were picked at the right time carried plenty of noble rot, assuring rich and spicy young sweet wines. The wines are generally good, with some exceptional examples, but not on par overall with the best vintages, such as 2005.

Now, in light of the global economic crisis, the question on everyone's mind is how the wines will be priced. Châteaus are planning on dropping prices from the highs of recent years. But will anyone buy the wines as futures? Or will they wait until the wines are released and available on store shelves two years from now?

Join the discussion in James' blog to find out more about his tastings and conversations with château owners, winemakers and merchants.

James Suckling's Bordeaux Blogs: Members Only

April 6, 2009
Who Knows about 2008 Bordeaux?
I've tasted more than 300 wines and found a surprising number of very good to outstanding reds, as well as very good whites and a few exceptional sweet wines. And there's some promising news from Château Angélus, which has already come out with its futures price, much reduced from last year's. Find out more…

April 2, 2009
The Big Question Mark for 2008 Bordeaux
I reviewed wines on the Left Bank today, almost all of which showed lovely perfumes, ripe and subtle fruit, refined tannins and fresh acidity. I also headed back to Pomerol for a visit to Le Pin, which you can see in today's blog video.

March 31, 2009
My First Impressions of 2008 Bordeaux
Today I tasted some of the biggest names in Pomerol and St.-Emilion, including Cheval-Blanc, Ausone and Pétrus. And it seems that at least some top châteaus were able to make very good to outstanding wines in 2008 despite a difficult summer.

March 30, 2009
Time Will Tell on 2008 Bordeaux
As I head from a luxury watch show to Bordeaux for my tastings, I'm wondering how the top names in Bordeaux are going to sell their 2008s. Makers of luxury watches say they won't reduce prices, and there's still a market among collectors. But will wine collectors bother with the new Bordeaux unless prices go back to levels that make people want to buy?

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