The opportunity to taste blind 170 wines of any vintage from the greatest estates in Bordeaux over the course of two days is something very special indeed. Even more so when such an acclaimed vintage as 2009 comes along.
The Southwold 10 Years On Tasting is an amazing annual event that allows attendees to review the Bordeaux vintage ten years after the wines have been released. This year the wines were tasted by a group of 18 people, including some of the world’s most respected journalists and the UK’s most prominent wine buyers including seven Masters of Wine. Recognised by the châteaux owners as one of the most comprehensive and most respected tastings in the world, the line-up reads like a “Who’s Who” of Bordeaux: Petrus, Le Pin, all the First Growths through to the most respected Cru Bourgeois in the Médoc. To say it is unique would be an understatement.
Preparing for the event, I referred back to our 2009 en primeur offer and the words that resonated the most in the introduction were “At the top of the ladder, the wines are full, with a great richness of fruit, but also include a finely driven structure and that all important freshness one seeks in the best of years. These will not be wines for the short-term and will undoubtedly reward patience, but most importantly, they have huge potential”. I was therefore hugely optimistic and at the very top end the expectations were not only reached but actually exceeded!
This is undoubtedly Bordeaux’s best vintage since 2005 in the first decade of this century, but very different in style. In some ways the wines are a little more exuberant and boisterous. Certain wines are a little more forward than one might have expected but absolutely in a positive way. Others in contrast have all the makings of becoming truly great aged wines.
As always, some appellations show better than others and the inevitable question is raised: “Is this the best time to be tasting such a vintage when the wines are still so much in their adolescent youth?” For me the answer is a resounding YES. They might still possess some of their puppy fat, but with eight years of bottle age, one sees additional degrees of nuance and complexity that might not necessarily have appeared in their youth.
This year it appeared that the timing might not be ideal for some of the Merlot-based wines. Some St Emilions had closed up in their shells, although Ch Canon was exquisite, an absolute star performer. Similarly, the likes of Petrus and La Conseillante in Pomerol were superlative.
It is fair to say that last week it really was Cabernet’s day. The Cabernet Sauvignon wines of the Médoc and Pessac had a brightness, drive and energy that was truly exceptional. These were stunners and the further up the quality scale we went, the scores also went higher and higher. The UK 20 point scoring system still prevails and the elusive 20 was reached for some tasters. This for me is the true reflection of a great vintage, when the classification system prevails and is absolutely justified.
The top 13 wines were the First Growths themselves or their equivalents from the four major areas, Médoc, St Emilion, Pomerol and Pessac-Léognan. The top scorer was the truly sensational Ch Latour with a whopping group average score of 19.24, but it says something about the quality of the vintage when the beautifully poised and restrained Ch La Mission Haut Brion came in in 13th with a tremendous average score of over 18. However equally exciting were the wines hot on their heels. For me there was a truly brilliant selection in St Julien, in particular the three Léovilles, and in Pauillac, as expected, wines such as Pichon Baron and Lynch Bages performed well. The surprise package was the incredibly composed Ch Grand Puy Lacoste which came 16th overall and, as before, I have to mention Ch Canon again.
The lasting memory of this remarkable tasting was the comment of one Master of Wine when asked how this vintage compares with the 1982s. He was very clear that at the top there was no contest. The 2009s win hands down in terms of quality, consistency and sheer potential.
|David Roberts MW’s Top 20||Overall Top 20|
|Mouton Rothschild||19.5||Haut Brion||18.61|
|Margaux||18.5 +||Cheval Blanc||18.58|
|Cheval Blanc||18.5 +||Lafite||18.58|
|Leoville LasCases||18.5||Le Pin||18.29|
|La Mission||18||Leoville Poyferre||17.53|
|Leoville Poyferre||18||Grand Puy Lacoste||17.5|
|La Conseillante||17.5||Les Forts de Latour||17.18|
|Pichon Baron||17.5||Saint Pierre||17.08|
|Grand Puy Lacoste||17.5||Lynch Bages||17.08|
|Rauzan Segla||17.5||Ducru Beaucaillou||17|
|Leoville Barton||17.5||Leoville Barton||17|