Tasting 36 wines is a bit of a daunting task, but when these are Bordeaux wines from one of the best vintages ever, you may be prepared to do it. As it turned out, this was a fantastic tasting.
First of all, to a number of general observations.
1) The old saying "In poor vintages, buy the top producers, in good vintages, buy the cheaper ones" is certainly good advice for 2009. Prices for the 1st growth wines and some others are stratospheric, but this tasting showed that some reasonably priced wines are terrific.
2) The tasting was done in brackets of six, by sub-region. We knew the wines, but not the order they were tasted in. Therefore, the individual wines were tasted blind. There were two 100 point wines (Robert Parker) in the line-up: Chateau Pavie and Leoville Poyferre. I did not rate them highly: both wines have a good fruit core, but are dominated by oak and massive tannins. They will need a lot of time. But why mask the beautiful fruit and elegance this vintage can produce? There were plenty of other wines which are approachable now and will age gracefully for a long time as well.
3) The sub-regions (appellations) showed very distinctive characteristics, driven by grape varieties and terroir. On the right bank
- St. Emilion: dominant grapes are Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The soils are clay-like limestone with good water holding capacity. The wines tend to be rich and supple, naturally high in alcohol and lower in tannins.
- Pomerol: mainly Merlot. Slightly lower in alcohol and more tannin than St. Emilion. The good wines show a blend of power and delicacy.
On the left bank:
- Margaux: primary grape is Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil is fine and gravely, often almost white. The wines are delicate and feminine.
-St. Julien: this is north of Margaux. Primary grape is Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil is gravel and clay. As a result, the wines have similar characteristics to Margaux, but are richer and fuller bodied.
-Paulliac: further north again, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are powerful, with firm tannins.
-St. Estephe is similar, but was not well represented.
In my next post, I will describe some individual wines.