Here are the promised tasting notes on my Top 100 wines tasted at the Bordeaux 2009 primeur tastings (check out my Top 100 post on 6 April). As I’ve said before, it’s important to remember that until these wines are bottled, they are as yet elemental, raw and unfinished and so the descriptions relate to how the wines tasted in the week before Easter and are therefore only a snapshot of how they are likely to develop over time.
It’s seriously good news that Gérard Basset has finally won the best sommelier in the world competition. Gérard has achieved much in Britain since he first worked here in 1983 after coming over to watch his football team St Etienne four years earlier, but the ambition that has propelled him forward since his first job here has always been to become the best sommelier in the world. Of course some of us already felt that he was, but he wanted the official seal of approval.
I wonder if you have heard of Mayfair Cellars, or Uvine, or Greens, or the Hungerford Wine Company, or Meyniac & Cie.? No? Well that’s good, because you’ll be able to sleep at night if you buy en primeur blissfully unaware of the losses suffered by consumers when these companies, English and French, went pear-shaped.
After Act 1, the harvest, and Act 2, the making of the wine, the curtain opened on Act 3 in bright Bordeaux sunshine on Monday last week. And then the rains came. It was a hectic week of tasting the new vintage for the many thousands of trade and press visitors descending on the region to make their assessments of the quality and value of 2009. I don’t know exactly how many visitors there were, but Paul Pontallier said on Wednesday that at Château Margaux alone, they had seen 650 visitors that day, and would have processed well over 2000 by the end of the week.
Two days of the 2009 vintage en primeur tastings done and dusted and it's Wednesday morning in Bordeaux . Yesterday morning the breakfast room of the little château I'm staying at in the Entre Deux Mers is full of smart Chinese and Japanese businessmen tapping at their laptops and speaking into mobile phones. They are about to be welcomed at the various châteaux, whose wines they're going to taste, with open arms. According to one merchant, they fart and burp a lot. He has to brief them: 'please do not fart and burp in the tasting room'.
Snow had fallen on the runway on the Thursday evening before last week at Toulouse airport but by the following Wednesday, four days before the vernal equinox, it was perfectly clear and sunny 50 minutes drive away in Gaillac.
Only 14 of the ’50 Portuguese Great Wines’ were white (an achievement, however, given Portugal’s reputation as a stolidly red wine country), so that meant to my mathematically challenged brain that there were 36 reds. Ok I lie, there were actually 34 reds. How come? You guessed it, because the last two wines were sweet wines, a 2007 Portal Late Harvest Douro, a deliciously fragrant citrusy, elegant sweet blend of rabigato, moscatel and viosinho at only 11.5% alcohol, and an altogether more robust, exotically raisined sweet sticky in the 1999 Bacalhõa Moscatel Rosso.
I tried a few cleanskins while I was in Australia this time round. A cleanskin is a wine with no label sold cheap because it's surplus to requirements. Don't therefore expect Château Lafite from a cleanskin. On the other hand you should expect something decent. Otherwise why bottle the wine at all rather than sell it off in bulk. I've had good cleanskins before. Last time I was in Australia, my father-in-law produced a memorable bottle of a Hardy's 2002 that had cost him AUD $2.50.
At my father-in-law's 60th birthday party last week, we all did our bit for Australia's ongoing wine glut. After Coopers Clear ale, bubbles and whites, the centrepiece of the impressive barbecue was the six magnums of 2000 Evans & Tate Lionel's Vineyard Cabernet Merlot Robert had laid down for the occasion: delicious, mature, claret-like elegance and textured silk with savoury bite. My wife's cousin Lesley was off to a bogan party immediately after. A bogan, says I?
Not a shot has been fired yet, nor a glass lifted in anger, pleasure or uncritical assessment, but the hype has begun. Welcome to Bordeaux 2009 en primeur and the annual circus that now seems routinely to surround a new Bordeaux vintage when there's a sniff of something interesting in the air. And there's no doubt that Bordeaux 2009 looks like being every bit as interesting in its own way as the other three successful vintages of the noughties, 2000, 2003 and 2005.