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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No Need to ‘Cry Wolf’ in 2005 Bordeaux

As most of us know, the Bordelais tend to conjure more hype than a Heavyweight Boxing promoter, but every so often there is some substance behind the push. The term ‘vintage of the century’ has been thrown around so often that one can’t help but treat it like the mundane 3 a.m. infomercial it has become. In the case of 2005, chateau owners were yet again flogging the term into submission, but this time they were not alone in coming to that conclusion. The Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and just about any publication w/ ‘wine’ as a preface is singing the praises of the 2005 vintage louder than a rooster at sunrise. While great quality, great press and a weak dollar create a veritable perfect storm for inflated pricing, savvy shoppers can still get outstanding 2005 Bordeaux for extremely reasonable prices. I’m sure several of you imagine ‘value Bordeaux’ to be an oxymoron, but regardless of your budget, 2005 offers tremendous quality at all price points.

In my view, what makes a vintage truly great has very little to do with the quality of the classified growth. The top producers are well equipped w/ the terroir, experience and financial resources to make outstanding wine w/ a fair amount of consistency. What does separate a 2005, from say a 2004, is found in a Cru Bourgeois, an unclassified Haut Medoc or a pedestrian Premieres Cotes de Blaye. Quality is found across the entire spectrum of Bordeaux wines in 2005, from the left bank to the right, and with thousands of Chateau producing wine, competition in the 10-30 dollar price range is fierce. If consumers choose to shop for great claret, instead of great labels, they will uncover a sea of rich ’05 Bordeaux for not so rich prices.

At a recent Unions des Grands Crus tasting in New York, one thing that became immediately apparent from my experience is that these young Bordeaux are extremely structured wines that demand, at the very least, short-term cellaring. The drought of the vintage, coupled w/ warm days and cool nights, produced firm backbones and crunchy acidity in even the most unheralded appellations. Right bank wines, composed predominantly of Merlot, tend to be a bit more approachable with their gobs of fresh, juicy fruit concealing the wealth of firm tannins. For those that are interested in storing wines for the long haul, the wines of Margaux have the stuffing and potential to evolve for decades to come.

The appellations that impressed me most were Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Saint Julien and Margaux. Some top notch values of note were the delicious Chateau Greysac, the ethereally perfumed Chateau Dassault, the succulent Chateau Larmande, the smoky and layered Chateau La Tour Figeac and the perennially ‘under the radar’ Chateau Cantemerle. Sleeper appellations like Fronsac and the Cotes de Castillon performed exceptionally well thanks to Mother Nature (along w/ some outside financial investments) and certainly merit consumer attention. My favorite wines from these unheralded areas include Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cap de Faugeres, La Vieille Cure and Michel Rolland’s Fontenil.

The stars of the show definitely came from the Right Bank and Margaux. While not inexpensive, the following wines are some of the finest young Bordeaux I’ve had the pleasure to taste:
  • Pomerol’s La Conseillante was a cunning, flawlessly textured temptress of a wine that I still can’t get out of my mind.
  • Pavie Macquin could be one of the most super-ripe, powerful expressions of St. Emilion I’ve ever put to my lips. It was knee-buckling!
  • Larcis Ducasse was completely closed, but hauntingly explosive and as opulent a Merlot based wine as you’ll ever see.
  • Rauzan Segla brought such tremendous viscosity and mouth coating texture to my palate that I nearly felt overwhelmed.
  • Finally, the star of the show for me was without a doubt Chateau Angelus. I was lucky enough to attend a vertical tasting of this Chateau last month and never thought they could have made a wine that eclipsed the quality of their 2000. I was wrong. Their 2005 is, in a word, perfection.

This is just the tip of the iceberg folks. There were countless trophies on display at the UGC, but there was also an enormity of outstanding values to be had. Whatever your budget, 2005 has something for just about any Bordeaux lover out there….but I implore you to not take these wines lightly. Even the unclassified wines have the sinewy character of a Greco Roman wrestler and demand patience. In some cases, the wines of this ‘vintage of the century’ may need just that, a century, to become mature.

Stay tuned for all the notes from the UGC tasting in NY...

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