Expectations can be a dangerous thing, but sometimes, happily, they are exceeded. This was most certainly the case at last week’s 14th Wine Dinner at The Savoy hosted by Johnny and Laura Goedhuis and the Wentworth-Stanley family in aid of two hugely worthy charities when we tasted one of the greatest Bordeaux vintages of recent times: 2005.
I remember vividly my excitement when I first tasted this extraordinary vintage back in the spring of 2006. I returned to write my report with my opening gambit, “I suspect this is one of the most exciting vintages I will ever taste en primeur.” Long standing clients still talk about the glee on my face when I got back from Bordeaux that year. Since then my resolve has occasionally been tested. The great Robert Parker occasionally questioned the overall quality of the vintage as recorded in my blog a couple of years ago (http://wpdev.junowebdesign.com/goedhuis-blog/2015/07/02/mr-parker-i-think-you-are-wrong/). A vintage of such stature inevitably goes through a slightly dumb period when such a degree of density can almost be overpowering and one wonders where it will actually go. Thirteen years on and these fabulous wines are blossoming and resurfacing to show the undoubted class we had all hoped for. There have since also been a number of challengers of beautiful quality such as 2009, 2015, 2016 and, most notably, the exceptional 2010 vintage. For many, 2010 is the great pretender, knocking 2005 off its perch as the “real deal”. But I, for one, after last night’s amazing event, stand firm. There is no doubt in my mind that greatness awaits the very best of the 2005s as it did for such vintages as 1961 and 1945 amongst others.
It would be wrong to expect all the wines to have been exceptional and this is no different for any great year. Vineyard management and winemaking techniques change, as do ownerships and generations in charge, so it should not come as a surprise that some wines did disappoint, but in general this was a truly inspiring night. For me what defined the exceptional quality was when I reached the pinnacle of the night and the famed First Growths or their equivalents. Amongst this group, I had one wine which scored a miserly 18! the rest were all 19 or above with two wines scoring the perfect 20/20. A rarity indeed for me…
This was one of the most exciting tastings I have done for a long time and whilst Catherine Petrie MW will write up the Pessac, St Emilion, St Julien and St Estèphe wines I am delighted to share my notes for Pomerol, Margaux and Pauillac.
Ch La Conseillante Pomerol
My comments back in 2006 about this gorgeous wine were, “For me it was one of the highlights of the week, a beautifully complete wine with grace, harmony and expressive tannins, absolutely alive and has tremendous complexity. A star in the making”. Last night it had everything. Brilliant garnet colour, a little reserved initially on the nose but on the palate it has a wonderfully layered sweetness of subtle generosity, full of plums and berry fruits, it coats the mouth in every way and finishes long and beautifully textured. Delicious.
Vieux Château Certan Pomerol
Subtle brick red colour. Not the showiest of wines on the night, this is full of discreet class. Bright pure soft red fruits, this is about delicacy and freshness as it dances across the palate. Certainly not a powerhouse but gorgeously alive. A real beauty and if you are looking for subtlty and grace, this is a wine for you. I’m a real fan!
Ch L’Evangile Pomerol
From the Rothschild stable of Châteaux, this superb estate offers a wonderful contrast to its neighbour VCC. This delicious Pomerol is all about boldness and breadth. Deep garnet colour, this wine is a cross between youthful opulence with its plum fruit flavours and sophisticated secondary fruit characteristics with hints of gaminess and almost a medicinal touch. A wine of real density, with a more obvious tannic core that provides length and complexity on the finish.
Ch Giscours 3ème Cru Margaux
This was a joy to taste. A couple of years ago I had a small concern when I last tasted it, the wine had closed down and I wondered how it might evolve. Last night all my confidence returned! Full of dark strong raisiny fruits, this has succulence and class. There is a noticeable degree of tannic structure, but the wine remains vibrant and fresh throughout the palate providing length and flavour on the finish.
Ch Brane-Cantenac 2ème Cru Margaux
Always a favourite of mine and it most certainly didn’t disappoint. Cool minted fresh blackcurrant aromas. This wine is about elegance and harmony and represents quintessential Margaux. Full of subtle sweetness and quite simply exquisite!
Ch d’Issan 3ème Cru Margaux
This famous estate’s wine was served at the wedding of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor d’Aquitaine and its regal qualities most certainly remain this year… Full of cassis and youthful dark berry fruits. The deliciously open sweet richness is perfectly balanced with the tightly woven grippy tannins. This has a real core and heart and shows a wine of breeding and class.
Ch Rauzan Ségla 2ème Cru Margaux
One of the hardest wines on the night to taste. It felt it was considerably more backward than some of its neighbours. More on the reserve, Rauzan always has a greater degree of masculinity within its structure and this was definitely the case last night. A big and powerful wine and the tannins were just slightly taking control of the fruit. I am sure it is just a phase and we will watch to see how it evolves.
Ch Palmer 3ème Cru Margaux
Neighbouring Rauzan, but a total contrast. This is an absolute fruit bomb in its generosity and opulence. A delicious cuvée, the Merlot shines through providing sweet succulent wild berry fruits with a touch of the autumn in it. Long, velvety and generous with subtle flavours of spice on the finish. Irresistible and quite simply fabulous!
Ch Margaux 1er Cru Margaux
Oh how we all loved this wine! I noted back in 2006 about this great cuvee, “A wine which possesses the hallmarks of greatness”, and that is most definitely the case. For many it was their wine of the night. Deep opaque in colour, hints of iodine and striking Black Forest fruits on the nose. This wine is almost perfect in its texture. The fruit is generous and rich, without excess. There is breadth and sweetness and the ripe tannic content sits beautifully underneath. A wine all about pleasure and possesses that wonderful feminity for which great Margaux is famed. Stunning.
Ch Grand Puy Lacoste 5ème Cru Pauillac
A wine which punches totally over and above its 1855 classification. Few wines express better their appellation’s origins than Francois Xavier Borie’s superb estate in Pauillac. Hints of truffle and eucalyptus, it is chunky and firm but in a positive Pauillac way. It is always direct with its drive of cassis fruit. Sweet, full, and long, a real classic and one of the buys of the vintage.
Ch Lynch Bages 5ème Cru Pauillac
Typically Pauillac, with its striking blackcurrant and eucalyptus flavours. This is a firm direct style, with a natural drive of tannic intensity. A little more reserved than the Grand Puy Lacoste and will benefit from further development in the bottle.
Ch Pontet Canet 5ème Cru Pauillac
A cool herbal minted aroma. This wine was one that split opinions. One of the most noticeably direct and tannic wines, it is a real powerhouse, expressing masculinity whilst retaining sweet black fruit flavours. It wasn’t my favourite but I can certainly appreciate its appeal.
Ch Pichon Lalande 2ème Cru Pauillac
Arguably the most controversial wine of the vintage. Its reputation has never recovered from the savage tasting note it received from Robert Parker. I have tasted it on a number of occasions: sometimes it delights and occasionally it has been slightly muted. Last night was most definitely its night. I loved it. Yes, it is a wine out of context with many for the vintage, but boy is it graceful and harmonious. Hints of vanilla pod and herbal fruits, it is subtle, elegant and just a style that you want to drink. I love it as a superb wine in its own right.
Ch Pichon Baron 2ème Cru Pauillac
This is an exceptional Pichon Baron, snapping at the heels of the First Growths! Deep opaque colour. Rich dark cassis and black cherry aromas and flavours with hints of fresh tobacco leaf. Opulent and generous with a touch of the Orient about it. Very layered, the fruit coats the tannic density. Very, very long and a wine of huge class. Fabulous.
Ch Mouton Rothschild 1er Cru Pauillac
Deep garnet colour, almost brash in its boldness of fruit character. Layers of dark Black Forest fruits with hints of graphite on the nose. In the palate it is a full and powerfully textured wine. The initial attack is full of deep dense dark fruits, with a firm drive of tannic intensity. This is a gutsy wine with a long life ahead of it. Certainly eye catching in the First Growth line up.
Ch Lafite Rothschild 1er Cru Pauillac
After the primeur tastings in 2006 when considering my wine of the vintage I surmised of this extraordinary wine: “… certainly this Lafite would have to be right up there.” 12 years on and I am hard pushed to name a favourite amongst the amazing flight of First Growths. But if forced this was my wine of the night! It really does deserve a flawless score of 20/20. Typically Pauillac with hints of graphite and fresh tobacco leaf, this exceptional wine somehow balances refinement and grace with understated power. A wine so full of energy and yet beautifully subtle. It is almost fully aware of its greatness that it doesn’t have to shout from the roof tops. A wine of supreme balance which I dream to have the opportunity to drink when it reaches its absolute prime.
Ch Latour 1er Cru Pauillac
The hardest wine to assess as there was a surprising degree of bottle variation on the night, but the best bottles showed breeding and class. If Lafite is all about subtlety, this a wine with unreserved brooding power. Molasses, liquorice and dark blackberry fruits, this is deeply intense, massively full, with a feeling of rich sweetness. It really is the epitome of the raw power that the very best 2005s have. A wine with a huge life ahead of it, as it is a long way away from its peak.
To conclude this was an extraordinary night’s tasting, the likes of which I will not have for a very long time again. But most importantly of all, ignore the doubters: 2005 is most definitely up there with the greats! I personally would like to thank the generosity of so many friends within the wine industry and beyond who donated such a wonderful selection of auction prizes and to thank the amazing group of guests helping the evening to raise just over £300,000 for the two great causes of the night, The James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund and The Bee Hive.