I was in Bordeaux earlier this week for a flying visit to see some paintings and to try some wines!
The en primeur circus begins next week though some UK writers were already assessing the 2009s… I have never been involved in the en primeur campaign and have always felt that it is quite ridiculous to buy and sell wines that are not necessarily representative of the finished product.
At any rate, with my friend Véronique Hoffmann-Martinot I visited Châteaux Langoa-Barton, Léoville-Barton, Pichon-Baron and Pichon-Lalande.
The first wine of the day was the 2009 Langoa, which was fruity and bright but retained the characteristic hardness of the estate. Blended from 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc, it should come of age from 2015 to 2025.
The 2008 was even tougher, the oak still apparent and creating tar/coconut aromas on the nose. The palate was very dry and austere. I thought it had a bit more acidity than the ’09 but that was merely my impression.
Léoville 2009 was also sui generis, much softer and more elegant than the Langoa. Although more closed on the nose, it was fuller and had more flesh than the first wine. Despite the high (77%) Cabernet content, it promised to become silky when mature. A very good wine, with fine length, to drink 2020-35. It will be interesting to see how Anthony Barton sells this: It is undoubtedly of outstanding quality and as such can command a high price. But the UK and USA markets are still quite fragile and there is an awful lot of Diageo stock sloshing around… I guess that he will price it at or about the price of the 2008, even though the ’09 is superior.
At Pichon-Baron we tasted 2009 Château Pibran, Tourelles de Longueville and the grand vin itself.
The Tourelles had a bright and fruity Merlot nose – 61% of this wine is Merlot, with 21% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc. Oak was more apparent on the palate, especially the grippy finish, but the middle was supple and juicy. Quite charming on the whole and to drink 2012–18, perhaps.
Pibran is made at Pichon-Baron but aged at its own estate. It had more structure, and particularly more tannic extract, than the Tourelles. The length was superior, too. Drink 2015–20?
As at Léoville, Pichon-Baron’s 2009 grand vin has a high Cabernet content – 67%, with 33% Merlot. Cabernet Franc has not been used here since 2006. The nose was bright and fruity, though again the palate was wearing quite a bit of new oak makeup. The fruit flavours and textures were beautiful but the oak makes this very hard and tannic at the moment… Fine persistence, though. Try 2015–25?
Véronique and I were apparently the first “journalists” to see Pichon’s new tasting room and “history” room… It all looks (and smells) very new – and very expensive.
Over the road at Pichon-Lalande we were given a guided tour of the château’s paintings – a rare treat. The main reason for me to come to Bordeaux was to see Sophie Lalande’s paintings and to write about them. Of course we also tried the wines!
The 2009 Reserve de la Comtesse was bright but earthy – the influence of Lalande’s St-Julien vineyards, perhaps – and more tannic and chunky than the finer 2008. Try 2013-20?
Pichon-Lalande’s 2009 grand vin had an even more viscous colour than the Comtesse but there was hardly anything on the nose. The mid-palate had rich, savoury fruit and finished with fleshy, almost chunky tannins – obviously a family resemblance to the Comtesse! The juicy acidity suggested that this could be aged 2015-25.
So that is a very brief look at what Bordeaux 2009 promises. To generalise, the best wines have wonderful richness and purity of fruit, with fine tannins and persistence.
As for the prices…