Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spoiler Alert! Bordeaux 2009 My First Impression

The 2009 Bordeaux en primeur campaign has just began. Our earliest offers at Vineyard Gate, very modest $30 and under wines from obscure petits châteaux, have been popular and a few even sold out within hours prompting me to scramble for more. Hopelessly.

So, almost by surprise, the campaign is off to a great start. But this is just the opening salvo of modestly priced, albeit high-scoring wines. I expect it to be a long, drawn-out campaign, a la 2000, when it stretched out all the way to June. Parker's inevitable scores would probably come out by the end of this month or early May.

Early posturings by Bordelais show almost uncontained elation about the quality of the vintage, yet taking pains to avoid any discussions of price. "We speak too much about money nowadays, let's just think about the wine at the moment, let's just try to tell people about how excited we are", said the winemaker for a top classed growth producer. Uh-oh, ka-ching! It's the old, if you have to ask the price...

For such a quality vintage an air of smugness is understandable among the Bordelais, but American wine traders are grumbling of being snubbed, of being treated less than uber class now that Asians, particularly, Chinese, have exhibited a highly disposable bent. But, hey, why whine? For centuries the Bordelais have been traders after all, money runs through their veins.

Anyway, I couldn't go to Bordeaux for the en primeur tasting but one of the negociants flew in about a dozen or so barrel samples to taste for a small group of us yesterday afternoon. I won't beat around the bush, 2009 is a really delicious vintage to taste even from barrel because of the big fruit concentration and ripe tannins.

As can be expected, right bank wines--St.-Emilions, Pomerols, Fronscacs, etc.--are big and very ripe, some are almost ringers for Napa Cabs! I favor the ones with more finesse and firmness like Château Canon and Figeac, but the Beau Sejour Becot is incredibly opulent and full and gorgeous. I'll be pouncing on these wines depending on the price.

But it seems to me the left bank produced the best wines. I'm very impressed with
Saint-Juliens like Leoville-Barton and Beychevelle--the latter probably made its best wine ever, certainly the best I've ever tasted, easily eclipsing its 1982 and 1986. Leoville-Barton appears to be one of the must-haves in this vintage, so seamlessly well-knit, really extraordinary class in this vintage, the best young Leoville-Barton I've ever sipped.

And 2009 is totally superb in the high-rent district of Pauillac as a whole. Pichon Lalande is gorgeous, sexy, and precise. Clerc-Milon should be a great buy, and Haut-Bages Liberal is stunning. I would go long on Pauillac but I'm scared of what the prices might be!

Margaux could be a notch below Pauillac and St. Julien, only in the sense that it doesn't have the concentration of the vintage like the latter two, but I need to taste more to be sure. But I very much like Rauzan-Segla, very Margaux, aromatic, rich, and so well proportioned.

The Graves may tout some of the most opulent wines of the vintage. The usual roasted quality is giving way to very ripe, right-bank like fruit, but with spicy aspects, as in the case of the blockbustery Pape-Clement.

There will be no shortage of very affordable wines--under $50--in this vintage. The only question is, how hefty would the prices be for the top classed growths? Hey, the 2008s are looking better and better!

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