Posted by: jmbwineblog | May 1, 2010

Some more 2009 Bordeaux En Primeur Samples.

On the 24th April, I popped over to the Sampler in Islington in order to try the selection of cask samples that Jamie Hutchison (the owner) had managed to get his grubby mits on in order to place in their tasting machines so that potential customers could taste the wines and decide for themselves whether they should purchase the wines or not. A great opportunity for a prolonged tasting and the opportunity to pop back over a few days and keep trying the wines… especially considering the fact that different samples will have come from a selection of different casks. Unfortunately for me, with a flight the next day it would just be the one day from the selection of bottles that were first put into the machines!! I certainly hope that the Sampler can achieve a bigger standing amongst the Bordelais, so that they can obtain more samples in following years and have a bigger spectrum with more of the top wines… Of course, you have to pay for the samples; but 5 pounds sterling (perhaps?) to try a primeur sample of Lafite, which will be too expensive to otherwise try wouldn’t be a bad deal at all. Well even if it were 6 or 7 I wouldn’t have complained when one thinks about the possibility of this wine being about 1000Euros a bottle!!

I, however, certainly have a few Caveats about this vintage. It is not a vintage like 2005 where there are no wines that fall off the radar. It is not like 08 which will be pleasant appealing wines with lift that allows them to age for longer than people will expect. It is however a far more appealing vintage than the ripe and powerful 2003s, and there are certainly some brilliant highs with some exceptional wines. If one is buying to drink there will be plenty of ‘good’ value wines that can be enjoyed for many years to come at all levels. However, choosing carefully is a must, and unless you are buying for other reasons other than to drink I would strongly advise against simply looking at the tasting notes of Robert Parker. I have no issues with Robert Parker and I do not here intend to downgrade him as he has tasted more wines from this vintage than I, but although the production of wine is becoming more and more scientific, the appreciation and love of wine will always be subjective, and whilst Mr. Parker is a talented and astute wine taster, his scores will always favour the styles of wines that he prefers… this is human nature, and this is why the reference point critics for wines that I have not tried, will be Neal Martin, Jancis Robinson, Tim Atkin, and Steve Tanzer as well as keeping a beady eye on how Mr. Parker’s scores (whether he likes it or not) affect the prices of these primeurs.

It is best to have a good spectrum of tasters. The best wines are usually the ones where everyone agrees on how good the wine is, but even then style is still a factor. For example, Tim Atkin has given Cos D’Estournel 95 points, but he doesn’t like the wine as Bordeaux… the score is based on intrinsic quality alone. Also pick a spectrum of tasters who in the past you have agreed with, or they like the wines that you like for the same reasons. Whatever you do don’t always believe the hype of the merchants… they are after your money and shop around amongst a group of merchants that you trust. There will always be someone reputable that will offer you the same wines for less money!

Here are my notes on the wines at the Sampler:

Chateau La Garde Blanc; Graves: fresh, crisp, lemon, minerals, only slightly but a little cooked and a bit hot on the backend. ****+

Chateau de Fieuzal Blanc; Pessac-Leognan: Burgundy-esque, lemon, butter, fresh, milky, wood, a touch cloying, big for a white BX. ****

Chateau Malartic Lagraviere Blanc; Pessac-Leognan: Hollow, lacking power but fresh, a bit woody and hot. ***

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc; Pessac-Leognan: oyster shell, deep, slightly racy but dissappointing on the palate. Flabby but with some minerality which livens it up. ****

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc; Pessac-Leognan: deep, mineral nose. Tropical but balanced. Mineral, deep, wood tannins. Most impressive white with a mineral finish. *****+

Chateau Citran; Haut-Medoc: wood, plums, lots of wood spice. Balanced, herby, grainy, sandy tannins. Tasty. No unnervy heat. *****+

Chateau Sociando-Mallet: Haut-Medoc: lifted, vibrant nose, deep, green palate, not unpleasant, soft tannins. This needs serious time in bottle to really shine. ***(**[+?])

Chateau Belgrave: Haut-Medoc: minty, deep, expressive, plum, licquorice, good balance. V.Good. *****+

Chateau Fonplegade; St. Emilion Grand Cru: green, herby nose, nail varnish, plum on the palate. Disjointed, hollow, dissappointing but at least it isn’t hot and overblown. It might come round! ***(*+?)

Chateau La Tour Figeac; St. Emilion Grand Cru: tar, plums, a bit of heat, greenness, hollow, red plum, cherry, again dissappointing but lighter and not overblown. ***(*+?)

Chateau L’Enclos; Pomerol: Nice soft fruit charactar, not overblown or hot, spice. Herby finish, simple but nice. Red and black plum, cassis, grass, minerals. ****(*+)

Domaine de L’Eglise; Pomerol: Vibrant, lifted red fruit. Herby, mineral, serious. Nice tannins, menthol, V. Good, a step up! *****

Chateau La Conseillante; Pomerol: Lovely, elegant, ripe fruit, fresh. This could be an excellent wine. Elegant, sexy, fresh, deep, complex, but that backbone of acid is freaky and a nice thing to have when considered in the context of the vintage. Ripe fruit, alcohol, soft grainy tannins and rasping acid. PErfectly balanced. Brilliant. ******(*+)

Chateau Pedesclaux; Pauillac: plum, herbs, menthol. Balanced, very nice and elegant. A touch of wood, perhaps a bit green but nice. ****+

Chateau Haut Bages Montpelou; Cru Bourgeois; Haut-Medoc: minty, menthol, cigarettes, nice fruit, richer, riper but soft and elegant. Pencil lead could this drink from the off? A touch grapey. *****

Chateau Batailley; 5eme Grand Cru Classe; Pauillac: Meaty, rich, classic, minty, delicate, menthol, eucalyptus, really lovely. Wonderful, herbal finish. If this is good value, it will be one of the stars of the vintage. Brilliant.******(+)

Chateau Lilian-Ladouys; St. Estephe: Grapey, plush, plum, big tannins, tannin heavy, a touch too little acid and a touch disjointed but somehow for what you pay, it is quite nice. ****(*+?)

Chateau Beau-Site; St Estephe; Cru Bourgeois: rich, plump, big tannins, a bit grainy, green but pleasant. ****(*+?)

Chateau Le Boscq; St. Estephe; Cru Bourgeois: lifted nose, plum, herbs, cassis, a certain depth the others don’t have from this appelation. Good. *****+

Chateau Belle-Vue; Haut-Medoc: Spice, earth, farmyardy and actually quite nice; rich, herbal. Good and solid. ****+

Chateau Cissac; Cru Bourgeois; Haut-Medoc: lifted, menthol, cassis, plum nose. Herby, grapey, a touch disjointed but it feels very much like it will fill out into a very good wine in time. ***(**+?)

Chateau Brown; Grand Cru Classe; Pessac-Leognan: lifted, damsons, plum, cassis, pencil lead, minerals. Good for what it is. ****(*+)

Chateau de Fieuzal Rouge; Grand Cru Classe; Pessac-Leognan: grainy, hollow, difficult but again for what you pay it isn’t bad at all. ****+

Chateau Malartic Lagraviere; Grand Cru Classe; Pessac-Leognan: herby, ashy and a little bit hard and green; chunky tannins. Grapey and lacking a bit of stuffing. ****(+?)

Domaine de Chevalier; Grand Cru Classe; Pessac-Leognan: fresher, good depth of plum, cassis fruit, with nice mineral character. Classy, herby finish. *****(+)

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte; Grand Cru Classe; Pessac-LEognan: herbs, ash, charcoal, cassis, nice depth. Rather good, solid but a touch green. *****(+?)

Chateau Brane-Cantenac; 4eme Grand Cru Classe; Margaux: Plump, herby, menthol, plum, earth, minerals. Another lovely, consistent Margaux. Pencil lead, very nice, very good. Elegant. *****(*)

Chateau Langoa-Barton; 3eme Grand Cru Classe; St. Julien: St. Julien roundness and minerals, cassis, balance. Serious wine, wood, depth, earth, plum, leather. Complex and very very good. Herbs. ******(+)

Chateau Leoville-Barton; 2eme Grand Cru Classe; St. Julien: green, dense, backward, cassis, minerals, earth… very classic and true to form. *****(*+)

Chateau Cantegril; Sauternes: ripe, honey, marmalade, grass, oranges. Well balanced but lacks a bit of freshness but for roughly 12 pounds sterling a bottle, it is very very good. *****(*+)

Chateau Doisy-Daene; 2eme Cru Classe; Barsac: light, crisp, elegant, mineral, delicate, grass, freshness, balance. This is lovely, ready to go but will age beautifully. ******(*?)

Chateau Guiraud; 1er Cru Classe; Sauternes: crisp, fresh, sugar cane, elegance and freshness, needs to fill out but it has what it needs. Honey, honeysuckle. *****(*)

Those are all the wines from this campaign that I have tasted; I will endeavour to write a more in depth report on one of my Pages rather than in a blog post, and the scores I have given these wines are simply the feelings that I got from these particular wines, and give no reflection other than my opinion at the time, other cask samples may give me other feelings, but having worked my way though thirty of so cask samples full of tannin (and some sugar) I needed a bit of light relief so I made my way over to the ‘Icons’ sampling machine with my Sampler card and…

1953 Chateau Palmer; 3eme Grand Cru Classe; Margaux: Alive and kicking, ferrel, elegant, lifted, stewed cranberry and cherry, earth, truffle, cassis, still some fresh fruit lingering but cooking fast. Tobacco, cedar, earth and forest floor. Beautiful balance, sous bois, forest floor, truffle. Very very good, but somehow it hasn’t blown my socks off like I was expecting it too… is my palate jaded after all those 09s? ******-


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