Thoughts on 2009 Bordeaux

Alongside swarms of other rabid oenophiles, I recently attended the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting in Chicago.  In general, I was blown away by the quality of wines in this vintage.  With few exceptions, these wines were bold, expressive and really remarkable.  Certainly worth the hype they’ve received.  The biggest surprise is how approachable many already are.
For those who don’t typically explore wines from Bordeaux, this is the vintage to do so, especially from St Emilion and Pomerol.  Many of these could pass for their new world counterparts.  For those with more “classic” Bordeaux tastes, there are limitless choices for you as well, although arguably better (albeit pricier) are coming in 2010.
I’ve ranked my top ten from the tasting.  Please keep in mind, this is a subjective list.  These aren’t necessarily the “best” of the day, nor the most expensive.  These are simply the ones with which I was most smitten.
Please feel free to share any thoughts, observations or questions.
Honorable Mentions:

Larrivet Haut Brion Blanc, Pessac Leognan
Canon la Gaffeliere, St Emilion
La Tour Carnet, Haut Medoc
Cantenac Brown, Margaux
Doisy Daene, Sauternes
10. Troplong Mondot, St Emilion
A beautiful, elegant St Emilion. From a strictly enjoyment perspective I would rank this higher; but my major complaint is the price tag. I just didn’t consider this wine twice as good as others in its category.
9. Cantemerle, Haut Medoc
Driven by merlot, the blend works well with the ripeness of the vintage. I loved the body and mouthfeel of this wine. Impressive but not intimidating. A little heat on the finish should dissipate over time.
8. Leoville Barton, St Julien
This was beautifully crafted, with amazing depth and a very muscular structure. Definitely built for the long haul, with potential for decades of evolution. My only complaint is the very big, hefty tannins which will give way with time, leading to a wine with incredible substance and nuance. For those with extreme patience.
 7. Lascombes, Margaux
Always an intense, impressive wine, this vintage is no exception and its name was on everyone’s lips that afternoon. Massive, inky, almost aggressively tannic, with concentrated currant, blueberry, toasty vanilla and hints of earthy truffle. Superb potential but I wouldn’t touch it for at least 8 years.
6. Suduiraut, Sauternes
Wonderfully frangrant. Superconcentrated with fresh peach, apricot and lemon curd with hints of caramel and honey. Enough acidity to keep it honest. Intrigued by cellar potential but gorgeous now.
5. Lafon Rochet, St Estephe
Critics throw around the phrase “sleeper of the vintage” a lot these days, but this is definitely mine for 2009. I loved this classy, expansive St Estephe. Black currants, spice, hints of tea leaf? Impeccably balanced, fascinating and an amazing value.
4. Armilhac, Pauillac

This emobdied everything great Bordeaux should be. My notes merely read “……..” A hefty, distinctive body with impressive length and everything in place. Should evolve quite nicely but already surprisingly approachable.

3. Smith Haut Lafite, Pessac Leognan

I was remarkably surprised here. Usually Graves and Pessac are too earthy and too taut for me; but this wine was round, approachable, subtle and texturally flawless. Intensely concentrated flavors of black fruits, licorice and charcoal.  It shared a table with Pape Clement and beat it, easily.  This could be the perfect wine for those with more classic Bordeaux palates.
2. Pavie Macquin, St Emilion
Here I believe I found Nirvana. Initially I was overwhelmed by vanilla, but with patient swirling and a revisit later, I encountered amazing fruit, with luxurious, thick cassis intermingled with hints of foliage, charcoal and the signature St Emilion pencil lead. Others made a case that this wine was “overripe” or “too modern” but I found it absolutely delicious, with the perfect balance of fruit, structure and elegance. This is what I am looking for in a great Right Bank. I wanted this to be my favorite but it was very slightly edged out……
1. Clinet, Pomerol
For me this was the most expressive, most beautiful wine of the day. I found it surprisingly soft and silky for its youth. Gobs of plum, with layers upon layers of lush black fruits, fig and espresso. Very voluptuous and forward- almost flamboyant- but still incredibly elegant, with a finish that is still lingering a month later. Truly remarkable. It’s hard to imagine wine ever getting much beter than this.
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