A lot of this is academic. I would most likely have to sell my car to buy a case of one of these wines and, even then, they will almost invariably be offered on an allocation basis and I simply won’t make the cut. Herewith the tasting trip juxtaposition, the tasting torture. I visit Bordeaux. I taste wines. I am moved, impressed, et cetera. But I cannot buy what I like. Once done, I’m thrown back to reality, forced to drink the dregs of the best, to eat the crumbs from the Lord’s table. I am lucky in that I have seen Paradise, but I have to catch the train back to Sydenham. And then some volcano goes off…
To add to my depression, the fact is that the vast majority of these wines will be bought by speculators. Very few people will be buying these wines with a view to drinking them, if only because they will need, I reckon, a good twenty years of peaceful slumber in the bottle to bloom, to show what they can do, to dance. And forty years would be better. This might be the last great vintage that I can drink at maturity, and the greatness of these wines, and the pleasure that they will give, has me reaching for the stop smoking self help book…
I do not think that 2009 is a better vintage than 2005, though many properties have made better wines than they did four years previously. 2005 will always be the benchmark; 2009 will always have its impossible jewels. I found a few diamonds last week.
Icelandic volcanic activity meant TGV and Eurostar instead of BA: nearly nine hours to Gatwick (to pick up the car) as opposed to an hour and a half. As a result of this I missed Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, and to say that this is a shame is too facile for words. But, these two aside, I tasted the 2009 left bank big boys, and was moved. Which is what wines like this are supposed to do.
2009 Ch. Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac
Mouton has been on the up for the past few years after inconsistency in the 80s and 90s. It has been a candidate for wine of the vintage for the past four, and those that question its first growth status should taste anything from 2004 onward. Your Pauillac purists might say that the wines are flashy, BUT THAT IS THE POINT. Mouton is upskirt Pauillac, Playboy, Harrods. There is no snobbery, no faux elitism here. Mouton is the new money. Herewith my note:
“Not giving much away (on the nose) save from some brooding mocha. Incredible density in the mouth. All here. Layers and layers of it. Compressed. A chunk of fruit: solid, block-like. Long, flashy and sexy. Still there. Density. Brooding. Very, very good. Nothing out of place. Completely different to Latour. Length. Balance. Class. Velvet. Very Mouton…”
2009 Ch. Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac
This is the one that is going to set you back a few quid, and that’s if you can get some. Demand for this wine, be it from Far-Eastern consumers or speculators speculating on the demand of said Far-Eastern consumers, is such that I reckon this will be a ten grand case of wine by the end of the year. This is the first heartbreak, the first knife. If the statement is true then it doesn’t matter what it tastes like. I want it to be rubbish, but it’s not. It’s the best young Lafite I’ve tasted. It’s better than 2005, better than 2003, and reminiscent of the 1996 in its mineral style. The note:
“This has that slightly ethereal, graphite nose to it. There is a great deal here, and really quite lovely in the mouth. Starts with the taut focus, then gently explodes. All bells and whistles, densely complete. Really quite exceptional. The combinations, layers. Minerality and fruit. Maybe not the patrician class of Latour but exceptional”.
2009 Ch. Margaux, Margaux
2005 Margaux was one of the tasting experiences of my life. I can remember the moment now. I saw my maker, then considered mugging one of my colleagues for what remained in his glass. It was one of the few wines that I have ever tasted that took me higher, took me to the heavens. My point being that the 2009 had an act to follow, which it did in its own way:
“Lovely nose. Inviting. Something of beauty underneath here. Some real beauty, some real femininity. And seriously, seriously good in the mouth. Is this an 05 moment for me? No, but this is clearly very, very special and very much a feminine wine compared to the manliness of Lafite & Latour? A Goddess? Very long, and beautiful in its length. A ripe 2005? Lovely”.
2009 Ch. Latour, Pauillac
The Silverback. The Musigny of the Medoc. The best. As simple as that. You can keep your Petrus, you can keep pretty much everything and set light to the rest. This place is the real deal. More seriously, this chateau has perhaps the best vineyards of the Medoc and has been making some truly exceptional wines over the past ten years. Tasting their 2009 had me weepy, and I had dark thoughts whilst walking back to the car park. I had glimpsed Paradise. Things could only go downhill. I am going to stay alive to taste this wine in maturity:
“It even looks regal. Classy in the way it stains the glass. Very, very, very classy nose. Lifted, elegant. All here. I’m chasing the perfume. Restrained. And in the mouth this is perfection. I don’t want to spit. This is Latour. Hauntingly other-wordly. Phenomenal. Beyond words. Latour. Beyond the gods. Celestial. Solar. Perfection. Seamless. And first and foremost Latour. Incredible.”
I think I’ll leave it at that.
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