Legend most likely will perpetuate the myth that the harvest of 2009 smiled on Bordeaux with sunny skies and ideal conditions, which would support the narrative of greatness that has accompanied this vintage from the moment the first grapes were crushed.
In fact, it was a very good year, with even ripening throughout the summer and a healthy crop of gorgeous fruit as the end of summer arrived. This stood in stark contrast to the three previous vintages, which had been difficult.
Yet '09 did suffer a blip, which isn't much talked about, and the Right Bank communes of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion were hit with rains that certainly caused vignerons to scramble, if not outright panic. Cheval Blanc, for example, started picking early, then stopped. It resumed the harvest following the rains and produced one of the greatest Cheval's in recent memory.
It's no secret, however, that the Right Bank wines are not as uniformly glorious as those from the Left Bank, particularly Pauillac and Margaux.
Suggestions that this may be the "vintage of the century," whatever that might mean, are wildly overstated. In recent memory, it seems to me the exceptional vintages of 2000 and 2005 were more uniform, but there is little doubt a number of chateaux produced their best wines in many a harvest and have every reason to be proud of the accomplishment.
I spent a week in Bordeaux tasting barrel samples at the end of March, and what follows are my condensed notes and ratings. I would point out these ratings should be taken for what they are: notes made from highly volatile barrel samples a mere few months after the harvest. While interesting and somewhat useful, the samples presented to the wine media do vary and over time the wines will change.
Some will improve, others might regress. Nevertheless, these are my initial impressions of the wines I've tasted from this most outstanding vintage.
Ch Chantegrive – Nose of violets, plums. Good palate weight and density. Wine is packed with fruit. Raspberry and blackberry, currants. Well integrated tannins. Fine tannins. Minerality. Complex, sophisticated, suave. 93+.
Graves Ch Ferrande – Sweet core. Spicy and floral. With good density and palate weight. Well integrated tannins. Outstanding wine. 94+.
Ch Rahoul – Fresh and juicy. Sweet fruit core. Integrated tannins. Smooth and suave Very nice length. Fie tannins. 92+.
Ch Coufran – Cassis nose. Freshness is apparent. Good density. Rich, packed with fruit, well balanced, firm but not aggressive tannins. Very good. 92.
Ch Citran – Floral note. Violets. Firm tannins. Muted fruit, but good palate weight and density. Tannins are fine. 90.
Ch Lamarque – Pretty nose. Floral and chocolate. Spicy. Lovely mouthfeel. Ripe fruit. Pretty aromas. Cassis and blackberry. Rich through mid-palate. Very, Very nice. 94+.
Ch Beaumont – Fresh grapey, vinous nose. Firm tannins. Good richness and palate weight. Well balanced. Slightly tart on the finish, with a sour cherry note. 90.
Ch Malecasse – Grapey, vinous nose Some fermentation aroma. Fruit not as sharp and focused as others. Good weight and density. Alc not out of proportion. 87.
Ch Belgrave – Lovely nose. Floral, black currant. Good palate weight and density. Good length. Fine tannins. 94+.
Ch Latour Carnet – Pretty nose of violets and black fruits. Spicy. A little sweet in a good way. Sweet fruit aromas. A crowd pleaser. Good density and weight on the palate. Packed with fruit. Fine tannins. Should age superby. 94+.
Ch Camensac – Lovely wine. Full and rih, with ripe black fruit aromas. Well balanced. Good length. Find tannins. Complete in every way. 94+.
Ch Cantermerle – Ripe, almost jammy fruit. Full and rich. Extractedfruit comes with big tannins. Firm tannins. 89.
Ch Fonreaud – Pretty floral note. Grippy tannins. Black cherry fruit. Well balanced, simple. 87.
Ch Fourcas-Hosten – Plums and cherries. Grippy. Well balanced. Minerality. Nice if simple wine. 88.
Ch Clarke – Peachy, stone fruits. Odd. Grippy on the finish. Unbalanced. 78.
Ch Fourcas-Dupre – Simply, fleshy, tannic. Good potential for middle-grade Bordeaux wine. 87.
Ch Greysac – Grippy tannins, but loads of black fruit, plenty of density and flesh and minerality. 89.
Ch Durfort Vivens – Very dark, almost black in color. Closed on the nose. Aroma of ripe plum on the palate. Very fine, supple tannins. Good length. Tightly packed. Well made. 91.
Ch Monbrison – Black cherry fruit. Well balanced. Fine, supple tannins. Good length. Very nice. 91.
Ch du Tertre – Slightly floral nose. Lifted fruit. Fresh. Blueberry and black currant aromas. Fine, supple tannins. Very nice. 90.
Ch Malescot Saint Exupery – Complex aromas on the palate. Raspberry, stne fruits, currants. Very elegant. Fine, supple tannins. 93.
Ch Desmirail – Violets on the nose. Blackberry fruit. Good depth. Tightly packed. Lifted note. Fine, supple tannins. Slightly short on the finish. R: 90.
Ch Prieure-Lichine – Complex palate. Plump, juicy fruit with firm acid. Floral notes. Good richness mid-palate. Fine, supple tannins. 94.
Ch Dauzac – Grippy. Fine mid-palate. Complex. Lot of guts. Minerality. Excellent wine. 94.
Ch Giscours – Big and rich, firm tannins, slightly green, lots of extract. 87.
Ch Kirwan – Plummy nose. Good minerality. Fleshy, but with hard tannins. Not green, merely hard and tongue piercing. Good length. Will need some time for the tannins to come around. Overall a classy, elegant wine. Black currant, cassisfruit. 94.
Ch Cantenac-Brown – Blackberry fruit. Firm tannins. Mineral notes. Good acidity. 94.
Ch Lascombes – Plum nose. Firm, grippy tannins. Good minerality. Plum, black cherry fruit. Classy wine. 94.
Ch Palmer – Very firm tannins. Rich and dense. Very elegant. Hits the sweet spot between power and elegance. Layered complexity. Dark fruits of blackberry and cassis, with a hint of plum. One of the greatest Palmers ever? 97+.
Ch Rauzan Gassies – A hint of violets. Muted fruit. Firm tannins. Good wine, but hardly fabulous. 88.
Ch d’Angludet – Fleshy, all plums and blackberries. Soft, velvety mid-palate. Fine, supple tannins on the finish. 92.
Ch Marquis de Terme – Fresh berry nose. Slightly floral. Gorgeous currant, raspberry fruit on the palate. Fine tannins that will need time to resolve. 91.
Ch Siran – Very pretty fruit, lots of black plum, fine, supple tannins, plenty of flesh, but still elegant. Very nice. Good minerality. 93.
Ch Labegorce – Mouth puckering tannins. Minerality. Black cherry fruit. Quite simple, but with good flesh and potential to be nice wine after tannins soften. 87.
Ch Brane-Cantenac – Peach nose. Blackcurrant fruit. Firm tannins. Potential for being a nice wine. 89.
Ch Ferriere – Plump in the mid-palate, with lovely black fruited and red fruited aromas. Fine tannins. Firm but not green. Maybe slightly higher alc than some of the others. Very nice, good potential. 92.
Ch Rauzan-Segla – Plump and juicy, with firm tannins, black fruits, a hint of floral and decent length. 89.
MOULIS EN MEDOC
Ch Maucaillou – Grippy, with decent black cherry fruit. Good richness. Straightforward. 88.
Ch Poujeaux – Pretty fruit. Floral note. Fine tannins. Blackberries, currants. 89.
Ch Chasses-Spleen – Awkward. Coarse.Probably will evolve into something decent, but not elegant or classic. 86.
Ch Croizet Bages – Violets on the nose. Intense floral. Wonderful mouthfeel. Good omplexity. Black fruits. Blackberry, cassis. Rich and full but elegant and fine. Strikes a beautiful balance. 95+.
Ch Lynch Moussas – Ripe black fruit, sweet fruit core, blackberry and blueberry fruit, fine, elegant tannins. Very classy wine. 94+.
Ch Haut Bages Liberal – Odd aromas. Aggressive tannins. Dense fruit. Good palate weight. Overall, however, unattractive considering the vintage. 85.
Ch Grand Puy Ducasse – Floral, spicy nose. Rich and full on the palate, with hard tannins. Good density and palate weight, well balanced except for the astringent tannins. Slightly woody. 91.
Ch Lynch Bages – Lovely nose, fresh and clean. Cassis fruit. Good density and palate weight. Layered complexity. Firm, almost hard tannins. Well balanced. Built to last. 94+.
Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – Ripe cassis fruit. Dark fruits abound. Firm tannins. Good palate weight and density. Beautiful color. Fresh berry nose. Red fruits add to complexity. Good acid levels. Classy wine. 95+.
Ch Clerc Milon – Ripe cassis. Fat and juicy. Fine tannins. Huge but in balance. Sweet core, with layers and textures that give it complexity. Very nice in the bigger, riper style. 93+.
Ch d’Armailhac – Pretty nose, Crished fresh berries. Red and black fruit aromas. Hints of spice. Good density and palate weight. Slightly sweet and soft in the mid-palate. 91.
Ch Batailley – Deep, rich red fruit nose. Hints of spice. Violets, tea. A leafy note. Flesh and round, with weak tannins. Good, but hardly great. 88.
Ch Bouscaut – Very firm tannins. Good weight and density. Strawberry, currant fruit. Lots of elegance and finesse. Will need cellar time to be at best. 92+.
Ch Carbonnieux – Tight, with a bit of a tart edge on the finish. Black and red fruits. Short finish. Good wine, but not shining at this moment. 90.
Domaine de Chevalier – Fresh fruit nose, slightly spicy and floral. Wonderful nose, great mouthfeel, layered complexity. Texture in the mouth is elegant and refined. Good acid balance. Outstanding wine. Excellent length. 95+.
Ch Fieuzal – Grapey and juicy, with integrated tannins and a touch of minerality. Will be very good. Raspberry, strawberry, blackberry fruit aromas. 92.
Ch de France – Rich and ripe, though not jammy. Layers of red and black fruits. Fine but firm tannins. Outstanding potential. 94+.
Ch Haut-Bailly – Ripe black currant fruit. Firm tannins. Good length. Very nice with good aging potential. 90.
Ch Haut-Bergey – Lovely nose of blueberry and plum, with hints of spice and floral. Good concentration. Bright focused fruit on the palate, with a blueberry dominant note. Fine well integrated tannins. Exceptional. 95+.
Ch La Louviere – Ripe, layered fruit. Almost jammy. Some gamey notes. Firm tannins. Good wines, fleshy, with good palate weight. 90+.
Ch Larrivet Haut-Brion – Ripe and packed, showing a juicy black fruit core. Firm tannins. Good potential. 90.
Ch Latour Martillac – Spicy and floral. Good weight, fine tannins. Excellent potential. Sowing fruit of plums, blackberry. 90+.
Ch Les Carmes Haut-Brion – Ripe, jammy fruit. Firm tannins. Raspberry, plum, blackberry profile. Firm tannins. Minerality. Will need considerable time. 91+.
Ch Malartic Lagraviere – Blueberry fruit nose. Very high toned aromas. Fine tannins. Juicy and fleshy. Firm tannins. Very nice wine with excellent potential. Some spicy notes. 94.
Ch Olivier – Red and black fruits. Sweet fruit core. Plenty of flesh. Juicy, with firm tannins and good acid. Potential to age is outstanding. 94.
Ch Pape Clement – Good palate weight. Plummy fruit. Juicy. Good color and extract. Fine but firm tannins. Minerality. Good balance. Will need time in bottle. 93+.
Ch Pique Caillou –Good attack. Plum and strawberry fruit. Fine tannins. Good density and weight. Good elegance. Will need time to resolve firm tannins. Good aging potential. 92.
Ch Smith Haut-Lafitte – Plums. Firm acidity. Blackberry. Juicy. Nice wine. 90.
Ch Gazin – Exhibits a pure fruit nose. Ripe plums. Blue fruits. Supple, fresh and plush. Firm but fine-grained tannins. Excellent length. Outstanding potential. 93.
Ch Petit Village – Dense on the palate. Firm tannins. Black cherry, black currant fruit. Pleasing tartness on the finish. Good acid balance. Likely to age well. 91.
Ch La Conseillante – Nose of violets and blueberries. Outstanding purity. Good length. Staightforward and juicy, potentially a real crowd-pleaser in its approachability. 90.
Ch La Cabanne – Floral nose of violets, with hints of stone fruits such as peach or apricot. Good acid, but somewhat coarse tannins. 88.
Chateau La Croix de Gay – One of the finest wines of the vintage. Earthy, mineral nose. Aroma of fresh blackberry. Firm structure. Built for the long haul. Outstanding palate weight and concentration. Potential for superb development over next 10-15 years. 96+.
Ch La Pointe – Grapey nose. Firm tannins. Slightly tart. Good potential for development. An earthy hint of minerality. Should evolve into an outstanding food wine. 89.
Chateau Beauregard – Stone fruits on the nose. A bit lean but not lacking in flavor. Like this style. Should begin to open up after five or more years. Patience will be rewarded. 90.
Ch Clinet – Sweet, supple tannins. Ripe plum aromas. Currants. Good palate weight and structure. Dense, concentrated fruit. Firm tannins and fresh acidity. Cellar five years or more for best results. 94.
Ch Cheval Blanc – This firmly structured Cheval exhibits classic notes of blackberry and blueberry, with sleek, well-integrated tannins. Extremely elegant. A triumph for the chateaux considering the problems with rain in the middle of harvest. 97.
Ch Troplong Mondot – Floral nose. Hints of spice. Blackberry fruit. Plush and ripe, plumy, with loads of fine grained tannin. A good Saint-Emilion for the long haul. Outstanding depth. Powerful, yet elegant. Outstanding wine for this or any vintage. One of the stars of the vintage. 96+.
Ch Larmande – Gorgeous nose of violets and plums. Excellent structure. Full through the mid-palate. Plush and lush, with abundant sweet tannin. A very pretty wine that is both supple and gutsy. One of the stars of the Right Bank in this vintage. 94.
Ch Larcis Ducasse – Damson plum on the nose. Ripe, sweet core of blackberry, blueberry fruit. Firm structure. Good acid, solid tannins. Outstanding candidate for cellaring. 93.
Ch La Tour Figeac – Violets on the nose. Just absolutely gorgeous to smell. Dense fruit on the palate. Packed with fruit. Firm tannins. Good acid. Full bodied and powerful. Very, very good wine. Some doubts on the finish, which is short. Expect that to lengthen with age. 93.
Ch La Gaffeliere – Violets on the nose. Excellent fruit purity. Black currant, black cherry fruit. Good length and palate weight. An elegant, structured wine with fine-grained tannins. Excellent length. Expect that to improve by the time it is released. Among the stars of the vintage. 95.
Ch Cap de Mourlin – Plummy nose. Good weight. Firm tannins. Lots of grip. Ripe, succulent blue fruits. Somewhat soft acidity. Will be fabulous to drink young. 90.
Ch Grand Mayne – Blueberry nose with hints of minerals and violets. Slightly tart red raspberry finish. Complex red and black fruit profile. Should drink well in its youth. 90.
Ch Franc Mayne – Violets on the nose. Damson plum. Vinous. Nice, fat, meaty middle palate. Good weight. Firm tannins. Well balanced, with excellent length. Open knit, not as tightly packed as some. Plush and supple fruit. 90+.
Ch Figeac – Vinous nose. Tight, with firm tannins. Potential for evolving complexity and depth. Fruit somewhat dumb at the moment. 90.
Ch Balestard`La Tonnelle – Full and rich in the mouth. Nose is stunted. Fruit a bit tart. Wood tannins in evidence. Lots of density and body, but an awkward wine. 87.
Ch Berliquet – Floral notes. Pretty blackberry, black cherry fruit. Dense on the palate, with fine tannins. Altogether a very good wine. 92+.
Ch Canon – Mineral nose. Blueberry fruit. Slightly floral. Well balanced. Packed with fruit. Fine tannins. Nice wine. 90+.
Ch Dassault – Vinous nose. Very plumy fruit. Good density and palate weight. Packed with fruit. Closed but excellent potential. Very long finish. Good balance with good grip. 94+.
Ch Canon La Gaffeliere – Ripe and sappy, blackberry fruit, very plush and concentrated, with decent tannins. A little fat, but overall a nice wine. 92+.
Clos Fourtet – Violets on the nose. Dense fruit. Blackberry and blueberry. Firm structure. Excellentlength and balance. A veryclassy wine. 95+.
Ch Pavie Macquin – Absolutely stuning nose of fresh berries and minerals. Damson plum. Pretty fruit Dense and concentrated. Good tannins. Good acid. Very complete wine. Bravo. 95+.
Ch La Dominique – Smokey, meaty, gamey, earthy. Powerful and concentrated. Unlike other wies. Could have some fermentation aromas lingering. Very concentrated, with good tannin. Obviously ripe fruit. 90+.
Ch Beausejour Becot – Floral nose. Rich, ripe, plumy fruit. Firm tannins. Weighty wine. Plump and juicy. Will be very good. Black cherry. Good finish. 92+.
Ch La Couspade – Gorgeous nose. Floral, with blue fruit notes. Terrific on the palate. Firm tannins. Tight, but with plenty of flesh. Lots of red fruit aroma. Raspberry, currants. Very, very elegant. 94+.
Ch Lafon Rochet – Fine tannins, but firm. Dark fruited and dense. Layered complexity. Well balanced. A wine that will need time. Very, very classy. Elegant. Ripe but not jammy. Beautifully done. 95+.
Ch Ormes dePez -- Fruit is somewhat dumb right now and lacks focus. Good density and weight. Fine tannins. 90.
Ch Cos Labory – Aggressive tannins. Muted fruit, dry. Good density and palate weight. Likely will improve and show more layers as the hard tannic shell falls away. 92+.
Ch de Pez – Spicy nose. Good density and weight. Great color. Lots of flesh. Hard tannins. Well balanced in the riper, sweeter style.A little hole in mid-palate that could close up with additional age. 94.
Ch Phelan Segur – Floral and grapey. Hard tannins, but still lots of flesh. Fresh tasting. Mid palate is short, but the finish is nice. Will likely flesh out and develop complexity as it evolves. 92.
Ch Beycheville – Pretty red fruit nose. Firm tannins, but with a lot of flesh. Good density and weight on the palate. Aromas of cherry, raspberry and blackberry. 90.
Ch Talbot -- Violets. Black fruits. Exceptional mouthfeel. Focused red and black fruit aromas. Spicy. Well balanced, however on the ripe side. Fine tannins and length. Loads of elegance. 93.
Ch Saint-Pierre – Violets. Nicely perfumed. Spicy. Good density on the palate, with depth, complexity and impressive weight. Also minerality and fine tannins. Classy wine on the riper side of the spectrum. 94+.
Ch Branaire-Ducru – Grapey nose, with hints of spice and floral. Lovely really. Good density and palate weight. Good length through the finish. Fine tannins. Very classy wine. 94+.
Ch Lagrange – Rich through middle palate. Good balance. Firm tannins. Ripe, almost jammy, but perhaps a bit short on complexity? Still, a nice wine that should be very pleasing and good for mid-term drinking. 90.
Ch Gruaud Larose – Rich and dense, with hints of floral, spice and red currant fruit. Firm tannins, but at the moment short on the finish. 91.
Ch Langoa Barton – Cassis nose. Smells rich and classy, fine and precise. Red fruits. Dense on the palate, complex and layered. Fine tannins. Will be very good. 94+.
Ch Leoville Barton – Black cherry note. Fine tannins. Less expressive on the nose than some. Good density and palate weight. Good length. Ripe but not out of balance. 92.
Ch Leoville Poyferre – Blackcurrant aroma, blackberry fruit. Dense on the palate, full bodied and rich, with firm tannins. Should have long-term aging potential. 94.