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This Week's Tasting:

2009 Bordeaux
January 25, 2012

2009 or 2010, which is the better vintage in Bordeaux? Not since 1928 and 1929 more so than 1947 and 1948, have there been two such fine vintages in a row.

Chateau Lanessan

Thirty or forty years from now the next-plus-one generation of wine geezers will still be debating the relative merits of the two the way old men did when I was starting out in the wine trade.

You’ll be able to tell them you were there when the wines were young. We are just now getting in the first of our more serious of the 2009s. But these are not so serious that they will defy drinking relatively young, nor will they weigh down your palate while lightening your wallet.

That is not the 2009 Bordeaux style. (2010 will be something else entirely.) The growing season was perfect with a long warm, dry fall. Cabernets ripened to glorious perfection, without angular green pepper or bitter tannins, but with sweet acids enough to keep them fresh and graceful. The only spots on the 2009 escutcheon came from some merlots that ran away with themselves into too exuberant ripeness, making some wines porty and/or too thinly fruited and alcoholic.

You won’t taste that this week. We’ll lean to Cabernet, focussing on Left Bank wines. We will start with a white though, to whet your appetite.

Ch. Rahoul is in the Graves, that gravely area that runs southeast from the city of Bordeaux. It reverses the common Bordeaux proportions with twice as much Semillon grape as Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve liked several vintages of its wines for theirs sappy richness and exotic fruit, but haven’t tasted the 2009. Others have though. The French magazine Gault-Millau described it as medium-bodied, letting finesse speak over a bed of pine sage and anise. The Wine Enthusiast praised its “Fat style, almost Burgundian in its creamy character, a full-bodied wine, with plenty of ripe, yellow fruit and mango flavors. Big, bold.”

We’ll set the baseline for the reds with a wine with simple Bordeaux appelation. Ch. du Pin is a satisfying Merlot Cabernet blend with soft flavors and a balanced, solid base. The 2009 Ch. Villars is likewise a Merlot Cabernet bend, with its strong Cabernet Franc component giving it an appetizing herbal spice.

The three Haut Medocs show how 2009 cabernet-based wines outperformed their class and price. all three showed well in my barrel tastings and subsequently got much critical praise

Ch. Beaumont reliably makes wines good sturdy, solid wines. Its 2009 has an extra note of richness and spice The Gault Millau guide awarded it a Coup de Coeur , a heart throb,, “Magnificent wine with incredible length and satin texture. Vibrant and elegant with bright notes of wild strawberry and cinnamon. Extraordinary balance.”

Ch. Lanessan just missed being classified grand cru in 1855. Critics compare its wine to those robust fruity wines of nearby St. Julien. I had found the very fine 2000 and 2005 to have more the elegance of Margaux. The 2009 is certainly in that league. Decanter called it one of Bordeaux’s best values in 2009;"Good smoky cassis nose and flavours that show its proximity to St. Julien. Good Balance length and class. 3 stars”

Ch. Caronne Ste. Gemme makes a bigger bolder style of wine. Decanter loved it also. We ave very limited quantities.

Our first arrival prices, good through next week make the Beaumont and Lanessan extraordinary values.


Image above - Chateau Lanessan

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(c) Federal Wine and Spirits Inc. 2012