2006 – THE ‘HAUTE COUTURE’ VINTAGE It’s better than 2001 and 2004, says STEVEN SPURRIER, but this is not a vintage to buy ‘off the peg’. Below the highest level, knowledge is key

2006 – THE ‘HAUTE COUTURE’ VINTAGE

It’s better than 2001 and 2004, says STEVEN SPURRIER, but this is not a vintage to buy ‘off the peg’. Below the highest level, knowledge is key

Left Bank By Steven Spurrier

The 2005 vintage was always going to be a hard act to follow. Described on the cover of Decanter this time last year as a ‘dream vintage’, I stated in my overview that ‘nature and man appear to have created something truly wonderful in 2005’. If the atmosphere in the departure lounge at Mérignac airport last year for the Friday afternoon flight home that is always filled with wine merchants and journalists could be described as ‘euphoric and optimistic’, I would describe the atmosphere this year as ‘impressed and perplexed’. Impressed, for, with absolutely no fanfare beforehand, 2006 seems to be a very good, in some cases (the usual suspects) great, vintage; and perplexed for there was little indication of what prices would be and even less whether the market is there to pay for them.

Every vintage is determined by the weather. According to Bill Blatch’s Vintex Vintage Report, ‘while nobody in Bordeaux is saying that the 2006s will surpass the 2005s, until well into the vineyard year it was a distinct possibility.’ The report raises the interesting theory that many vintages which stood little chance at the start of their lives – 1986, 1990, 1996, 2001, 2004 – dwarfed by illustrious predecessors, have gained reputation in time and have in many cases ended up surpassing them. Weather-wise, the 2005-6 winter was very cold, resulting in a late but healthy budding followed by a warm spring which produced a regular and abundant flowering in late May. A hot June and July gave the grapes the initial concentration that would account for the high sugars seen at harvest time, raising the highest hopes, but a cool, damp August swelled and weakened the crop. 

While the early September heatwave allowed the dry whites and some Right Bank reds to be picked ‘in an ideal phase of re-concentration’, for the rest there was significant risk of rot. Hopes were further dashed by heavy rains in mid-September – each commune claiming that they had less of a downpour than their neighbours – forcing decisions to either pick early and accept slight unripeness, or wait. Only the healthiest vineyards could afford to wait, and the Cabernet Sauvignons that got safely through to the very fine weather at the end of September which re-concentrated the grapes for a second time provided their mostly Left Bank owners with a vintage on a par with 1986 and 1996, but better, due to modern management and money.

It was money invested over the years into the best equipment and the best people that produced the best results in 2006. Whereas 2005 epitomised ‘the rising tide that raises all ships’, it was only the most copper-bottomed of them that came through the mid-September rains. On the Right Bank, everything was prepared for the early harvesting of the Merlots, while extensive crop-thinning on the Left Bank lessened the risk of rot to the Cabernet Sauvignon. Caught by the weather, the weak link was the aromatic Cabernet Franc, while the Petit Verdot, so prized in recent hot vintages, fared only slightly better. Those châteaux that just hoped for the best did not find it. Only forensic attention to detail produced great wines in 2006, thus widening even further the gap between the very good and the just average. 

The need for careful selection

The first growths are progressively reducing the quantity of their grand vin to achieve an absolute pinnacle of quality. Latour has dropped from 15,000 cases in 2004 to just 10,000 in 2006. At Margaux, only 36% of the crop went into the first wine, at Lafite 40% and at Mouton 44%. At such high levels of quality and low levels of production, the laws of supply and demand play in favour of the producer and the suggestion that they lower their price seems unrealistic, if not insulting. Yet, in contrast to 2005, second wines will not be the bargain they usually are, for the imperfections that were absent in the previous year had to come out somewhere. Second growths – and their equivalent in the Graves, St-Emilion and Pomerol – have maintained their level in 2006, but below this level of the highest ‘haute couture’, there is much irregularity. This is not a vintage to buy off the peg.

Whether it will be a vintage to buy at all will be defined mostly by its price. My personal theory is that this should be the current price of each chateau’s 2004. I fear it will be higher. Bill Blatch told all his suppliers simply to forget that 2005 had ever existed, treat it like a wonderful dream and not as a price base. The 60 or so châteaux that make the market are very well off; the Bordeaux merchants likewise. Do not expect to get these wines on the cheap. 

In general, the red wines are full in colour and have good extract of fruit and tannins. It is certainly a serious vintage, better than 2004 and even the underrated 2001, and it will be giving pleasure for many years after the 2003s have faded. 1996 and 1995 are the most quoted comparisons, but everyone agreed that the grapes are far healthier than a decade ago. It is not an easy, forward vintage and the alcohols and tannins are just as high as in 2005. ‘Classic’ is now an outmoded word, so the firm structure of the Left Bank 2006s is described as ‘what Bordeaux is all about’. The dry whites are quite exceptional and the sweet whites lively and attractive. What did come through, on both banks, was a sense of purity and freshness, a vintage reflecting the vineyard rather than the consultant winemaker. The successful wines, which far outweigh the unsuccessful, can hold their heads up high as true and distinctive products from what certainly remains the largest fine wine region in the world.   

In short, Bordeaux has done it again.

THE MEDOC

This is a much better vintage than could have been feared from the high risk of rot in early September and the heavy rains in the middle of the month. The best properties treated their vineyards like a garden, green harvesting and de-leafing on a scale that permitted them harvest bunches as healthy and ripe as possible. At these estates the inevitable greenness from some parcels found its way swiftly into second wines, or even declassified into its generic appellation. Elsewhere, greenness and edgy tannins are more evident but the basic fruit is fresh and fruity, and even though such wines may lack class and charm, they are not poor. Indeed, the quantity of wines below three stars was very low indeed. The wines are much better than 2002, better than 2004 and more reliable than 2003. Even the lesser ones are good examples of their appellation and will show well for the first half of the next decade. Up the scale, more depth will bring a longer life.

MEDOC

These are the unsung wines of the Left Bank, producing wines with good colour and fruit, generally from a little over 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, the rest mostly Merlot. Experience (many of the Médoc estates are in their third or fourth generation) and hard work has paid off to produce some good wines.

 

Ch Goulée HHH (16+/20)

Big smoky wine, full and fragrant and much better than the fruit bomb of 2003, rich, suave, powerful, but not heavy. 2010–18.

Ch Potensac (CBE) HHH (16+)

Well-extracted fruit and good smoky, leafy style, good oak, a little grippy, good length, more reliable than exciting. 2011–18. 

Ch Ramafort (CB) HHH (16+)

Good colour, floral and fragrant Médoc with ripe Cabernet Sauvignon to the fore, fine classic Médoc. 2010–16. 

Ch Greysac (CBS) HHH (16)

Good colour, attractive blackcurrant nose, quite firm grippy Cabernets but good middle fruit. 2010–16.

Ch La Cardonne (CBS) HHH (16)

Ripe Médoc fruit, quite supple and lifted, not smothered by oak, nicely balanced. 2010–15. 

Ch La Tour de By (CBS) HHH (16)

Intense colour, concentrated, leafy, almost leathery fruit, slightly green tannins, but has enough ripeness to improve. 2010–16.

Ch Patache d’Aux (CBS) HHH (16)

Good clear Cabernet fruit, oak still present, well structured, good future. 2011–17. 

Ch Haut-Condissas HHH (15.5)

Well-extracted blackcurrant fruit, smooth flavours, good length. 2011–16. 

Ch Noaillac (CB) HHH (15.5)

Elegant Médoc fruit, fragrant and quite forward, attractive. 2010–15. 

Ch Grivière (CB) HHH (15)

Quite light and fragrant, pretty Médoc with a nice touch of oak. 2009–14.

Ch Lousteauneuf (CB) HHH (15)

Good blackcurrant Cabernet, some greenness but good depth. 2010–15. 

Vieux Ch Landon (CB) HHH (15)

Good straightforward Médoc fruit for the medium term. 2010–15.

 

HAUT-MEDOC

The Haut-Médoc appellation runs from north of St-Estèphe to well south of Margaux, and is perhaps the surest bet for classic Médocs that are often as good as the minor classed growths. Some properties are large enough to allow for investment and a rigorous selection, both being important in 2006. Here were a series of reliable wines with an attractive freshness and good ageing potential.

Ch Belle-Vue HHHH (17)

Deep colour, rich blackcurrant fruit, really good ripeness for the vintage, fine new oak blended in, plummy, classy wine, impressive. 2010–18.

Ch La Lagune (3G) HHHH (17)

Fine, deep colour, well-extracted, lightly gamey fruit, very good depth of fragrance and freshness, spicy new oak, polished, classy wine. 2011–20.

Ch Sociando-Mallet HHHH (17)

Intense colour, big cassis concentration, lots of good oak, still a raw edge, but a very serious wine and will be impressive. 2012–20.

Ch Belgrave (5G) HHH (16+)

Intense colour, pronounced and concentrated jammy blackcurrants, lots of high toast new oak, modern wine, fruity and polished. 2012–18.

Ch Bernadotte HHH (16+)

Deep colour, lots of fruit in the Pauillac style, ripe and long, good future. 2012–18.

Ch Coufran (CBS) HHH (16+)

Good colour, nice broad

briary fruit, elegant wine

with balanced fruit/tannins. 2011–18.

Ch de Lamarque (CBS) HHH (16+)

Good colour, fresh crushed fruit, slightly gamey, good personality and ripeness, very attractive. 2010–18.

Ch La Tour-Carnet (4G) HHH (16+)

Big colour, ripe concentrated fruit, elegant and expressive, fragrant and fresh with good depth. 2012–20.

Ch Les Grandes Chênes (CBS) HHH (16+)

Deep colour, blackcurrant and cedary texture of a classed growth, small yields, good effort and future. 2011–18.

Ch Verdignan (CBS) HHH (16+)

Deep colour, well-extracted fruit with proper vineyard depth, good future. 2011–18. 

Ch Villegeorge (CB) HHH (16+)

Big, ripe, plummy fruit, none of the 2006 asperity and not over-extracted. Good characterful wine. 2010–16. 

Ch Cantemerle (5G) HHH (16)

Good colour, very attractive fresh blackcurrants, supple lifted fruit, should be good medium term. 2010–16.

Ch Caronne Ste Gemme (CBS) HHH (16)

Lots of Médoc cassis fruit, good vineyard fruit and length. 2011–17. 

Ch Charmail (CBS) HHH (16)

Good deep, sturdy Médoc, quite meaty St-Estèphe

style. 2011–18. 

Ch d’Agassac (CBS) HHH (16)

Firm, classy Médoc fruit in

an elegant Margaux style, thoroughly modern Médoc. 2010–16.

Ch Cambon La Pelouse (CBS) HHH (16)

Soft berry fruit, good oak, smooth and supple, forward, attractive. 2010–15.

Ch du Moulin Rouge (CB)

HHH (16)

Good supple fruit and nice smoky oak, quite forward style but very attractive. 2010–15. 

Ch Malescasse (CBS) HHH (16)

Intense colour, big, broad blackcurrant fruit, harsh tannins increased by new oak, concentrated fruit. 2013–20. 

Ch Paloumey (CB) HHH (16)

Full blackcurranty spice and good overall ripeness, rich flavoury style, more elegant than 2005. 2010–15.

Ch Sénéjac (CBS) HHH (16)

Lovely Cabernet/Merlot fruit, more vineyard expression than most, still a bit green but fine and elegant. 2011–17. 

Ch Tour du Haut Moulin (CBS) HHH (16)

Lots of cassis fruit, smoky oak, good ripeness, weight and length. 2011–18.

Ch Beaumont (CBS) HHH (15.5)

Lively blackcurrants on the nose and nicely balanced ripe fruit, clear and clean, quite forward. 2010–16.

Ch de Camensac (5G) HHH (15.5)

Deep colour, fine blackcurrant fruit and some finesse, palate a little sturdy and still a little raw. 2012–18.

Ch Reysson (CBS) HHH (15.5)

Good ripe crunchy fruit, touch cedary, fresh and fruity, forward. 2010–15.

Ch Citran (CBS) HHH (15)

Deep colour, concentrated blackcurrants, fresh and fruity, will need time to absorb the greenish tannins. 2011–18.

Ch Haut-Madrac HHH (16)

Good fragrance and fruit in the light supple style, good northern Médoc. 2010–15. 

Ch Maucamps (CBS) HHH (15)

Open and easy style, nice fruit, typical if a bit light. 2010–15. 

 

ST-ESTEPHE

St-Estèphe is getting better and better. The three-star estates – Cos d’Estournel, Montrose and Calon – continue to produce great wines, while the lesser classed growths and particularly the crus bourgeois are making exciting wines that combine power and elegance. Apart from St-Julien, this is the most homogenous commune of the Médoc.

Ch Cos d’Estournel (2G) HHHHH (18.5)

Huge colour, very exotic and lots of new oak, fabulous extraction of ripe fruit, firm and structured, even severe, very good length, a true vin de garde. 2014–40. 

Ch Calon-Ségur (3G) HHHH (18)

Fine floral, fragrant nose, all elegance and lift, almost feminine style, great purity, a lovely wine with ripe tannins and perfect balance. 2012–25.

Ch Montrose (2G) HHHH (18)

Lovely deep colour, really fine expression of St-Estèphe, all in balance and seamless length, has exchanged some of its previous earthy depth for suavity and breed. 2014–30. 

Ch de Pez (CBE) HHHH (17.5)

Deep colour, big Merlot-influenced nose, quite fleshy and held together by vibrant Cabernet, lovely depth and length. 2011–20.

Ch Haut-Marbuzet (CBE) HHHH (17)

Good depth of colour, fragrant/floral nose and nicely lifted fruit, good depth and grip without roughness, classy. 2011–20.

Ch Lafon-Rochet (4G) HHHH (17)

Intense colour, concentrated black fruits and quite lush over massive yet ripe tannins, big, yet has elegance and freshness, good long term. 2014–30. 

Ch Les Ormes de Pez (CBE) HHHH (17)

Intense colour but not over-extracted on the palate, lots of fruit and more elegance than in recent vintages, modern yet classic, very good. 2011–20. 

Ch Phélan-Ségur (CBE)

HHHH (17)

Black-red colour, smoky, slightly gamey nose, but this time much more fruit than game, fragrant and sappy, very fine expression of St-Estèphe, quite open. 2010–18.

Ch Haut-Beauséjour (CB)

HHH (16+)

Elegant, fragrant fruit, suave and silky tannins, smooth and ripe, fine claret. 2010–16. 

Ch La Commanderie (CB)

HHH (16+)

Good colour, very good

floral red fruits, clean, clear and elegant from a fine terroir. 2010–16.

Ch Le Boscq (CBS) HHH (16+)

Big spicy wine with lots of liquorice fruit, smooth with good vineyard depth, very attractive. 2011–18. 

Ch Sérilhan HHH (16+)

Lots of depth of very ripe fruit aided by new oak, fine natural concentration, smooth yet vigorous. 2012–18. 

Ch Tronquoy-Lalande (CBS) HHH (16+)

Very attractive ripe, fragrant, crunchy fruit, fine and modern but has kept St-Estèphe structure despite high (59%) Merlot, lots of charm. 2010–16. 

Ch Andron-Blanquet (CB)

HHH (16)

Good concentrated cassis fruit, fine ripe, plummy, modern St-Estèphe. 2011–17. 

Ch Cos Labory (5G) HHH (16)

Good colour, good jammy fruit, ripe and smooth, fruit/acidity/tannins in balance, quite forward style. 2010–18. 

Ch Marbuzet (CB) HHH (16)

Fragrant, pure cassis nose, nicely extracted, good elegant style but less depth than usual. 2011–18.

Ch Meyney (CBS) HHH (16)

Big spicy black fruits, robust wine with character and depth. 2012–18.

Dame de Montrose (2L) HHH (16)

Deep colour, big gutsy wine, well extracted, full but not grippy, slightly hollow middle. 2010–16. 

Les Pagodes de Cos (2L) HHH (16)

Velvety colour, full meaty, smoky wine, floral and fragrant, good fruit and structure. 2011–18. 

Ch Clauzet (CBS) HHH (15.5)

Fine lifted blackcurrant fruit, new oak, elegant, a bit green but will improve. 2010–15. 

Ch Lilian-Ladouys (CBS) HHH (15.5)

Big smoky wine, full and fleshy, lots of oak, meaty style. 2011–17. 

Ch Moutinot (2L) HHH (15.5)

Good fruit and pleasant easy depth. Fresh, crunchy Cabernet-dominated wine. 2009–14. 

 

PAUILLAC

While the three first growths were absolutely superb, Pauillac as an appellation was very varied: whereas many of the St-Juliens were the equal of, in some cases superior to, 2005 only rarely did these wines come within range of last year’s quality. They are, nonetheless, classic Médocs.

Ch Lafite-Rothschild (1G) HHHHH (19)

Velvet black-red, really lovely nose of cassis and violets, terrific depth of fruit, both racy and opulent, with very firm tannins that make it a true vin de garde. Truly classic, very fine indeed. 2016–40. 

Ch Latour (1G) HHHHH (19)

Intense vibrant colour, marked crunchy, cassis fruit, wild violets, exceptional freshness on the nose matched by richness and succulence on the palate, a very pure, beautiful wine. 2015–40.

Ch Mouton-Rothschild (1G) HHHHH (19)

Superb colour, fabulous spicy fruit, explosively seductive, great purity and more vigorous than fleshy, a marvellously elegant, imposing wine, very Mouton. 2015–35.

Ch Pichon Longueville (2G) HHHHH (19)

Deep purple, brilliant. Nose pruney, rich, plummy. Wonderful depth of fruit and richness of flavour. Plums, blackcherries, blackcurrants, prunes. Big tannins but fine and integrated. Great length. 2017–40+ (Beverley Blanning)

Ch Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (2G) HHHH (18)

Deep colour, very much more finesse than Réserve de la Comtesse, seems to have kept all the flesh and fruit of the vintage, lovely expression, all in femininity and lissom depth. 2014–30.

Ch Pontet-Canet (5G) HHHH (18)

Intense colour, concentration of blackcurrant fruit, very fresh and fragrant despite the concentration, very good length, shows great depth of vineyard fruit. 2015–30.

Ch Clerc-Milon (5G) HHHH (17.5)

Deep colour, rich cassis nose with spicy plumpness and very seductive fruit with ripe tannins to hold it. More sensual than in 2005. 2012–25. 

Ch Duhart-Milon (4G)

HHHH (17.5)

Deep colour, fine blackcurrant fruit, lovely middle palate showing great purity with typical Duhart grip, firm but ripe, fine classic northern Pauillac. 2012–25. 

Ch Grand-Puy-Lacoste (5G) HHHH (17.5)

Dense, rich, more meaty and more grip than its stablemate, Haut-Batailley. Lots of structure and length with a satiny, polished finish. 2014–30.

Ch Lynch-Bages (5G) HHHH (17.5)

Intense colour, masses of concentrated berry fruit, rich and ripe but all in balance, lovely fragrance and sappy, savoury length. 2014–30. 

Le Petit Mouton (2L) HHHH (17.5)

Lovely nose of spicy cassis fruit, very Mouton, has structure and concentration, excellent texture and smooth tannins, very good indeed. 2011–20. 

Les Forts de Latour (2L)

HHHH (17.5)

Fine, fresh colour with true depth, pure Cabernet fruit, with lots of vigour and energy, beautifully balanced, harmonious finish. 2013–22. 

Carruades de Ch Lafite (2L) HHHH (17)

Fine purple red, fresh cassis nose with violets, lovely fragrant fruit, ripe even jammy attack, great elegance on the finish. 2011–20. 

Ch d’Armailhac (5G) HHHH (17)

Really fine aromatic, leafy nose due to high (15%) proportion of Cabernet Franc, clear fragrant fruit, good tannins, very elegant Pauillac. 2012–22. 

Ch Haut-Batailley (5G) HHHH (17)

Deep colour, lovely expression of Cabernet Saurvignon (75%) Pauillac fruit, fragrant, crunchy with vineyard purity, not massive, but fine. 2013–20.

Les Tourelles de Longueville (2L) HHHH (17)

Deep red, brilliant. Nose smoky and spicy. Glossy, silky fruit, stylish. Lovely freshness, very open fruit, will be approachable early. Crisp structure. 2012–17. (Beverley Blanning)

Ch Batailley (5G) HHH (16+)

Deep colour, big meaty wine with nicely concentrated berry fruits, a little rawness showing through, but with enough ripeness to hold it. 2012–22. 

Pauillac de Ch Latour (3L)

HHH (16+)

Really fine precise, crunchy fruit, a classy Pauillac, made with the press wine from Latour and also young vines destined for Latour. 2010–16.

Réserve de la Comtesse (2L) HHH (16+)

Fine floral fruit with elegant leafiness from Cabernet Franc, slightly lean now but good fruit and structure and good length. 2011–18. 

Ch Fonbadet (CBS) HHH (16)

Deep colour, good extract of cassis, very Pauillac in plummy style. 2011–16. 

Ch Grand-Puy-Ducasse (5G) HHH (16)

Intense colour, fine fragrant blackcurrant fruit, ripe and a little jamminess over the faint greenness. Straightforward Pauillac. 2011–20.

Ch Haut-Bages Libéral (5G) HHH (16)

Deep colour, concentrated berry fruit lifted by natural acidity, slight leafy greenness but enough fruit concentration to see it through. 2012–20. 

Ch Haut-Bages Montpelou (CBS) HHH (16)

Lots of cassis, big plummy Pauillac with a touch of elegance. 2011–18.

Ch Lynch-Moussas (5G) HHH (16)

Good colour, nice fruit and nice touch of oak. Elegant and quite forward. 2010–18.

Ch Pibran (CBS) HHH (15.5)

Dense purple colour. Nose fragrant, floral, appealing. Palate juicy and fresh, with good ripeness. Good, medium-weight. Easy, short term. 2012–17. (Beverley Blanning)

Ch Colombier Monpelou (CBS) HHH (15)

Good colour, floral and easy fruit, pretty, forward. 2009–12. 

Les Hauts de Lynch-Moussas (2L) HHH (15)

Lots of blackcurrant fruit, well-made wine in the forward style. 2009–15. 

ST-JULIEN

With 90% of its appellation made up of classed growths,

it is not surprising that this is always the most regular commune in the Médoc. Described as ‘quintessential claret’ by Harry Waugh 40 years ago, there could be no better expression today. With very few exceptions, the châteaux maintain the same level of quality as last year.

Ch Léoville-Las Cases (2G) HHHHH (19)

Intense colour, fragrant and smoky, masses of extract, almost Californian, but then wild violets and terroir expression come through, extraordinary richness of fruit yet perfect balance. 2015–40. 

Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou (2G) HHHHH (18.5)

Black-red, superb extraction that marries fragrance and power, really pure fruit with lots of concentration yet more finesse than in 2005. 2015–40. 

Ch Léoville-Barton (2G) HHHHH (18.5)

Deep colour, fine concentration of blackcurrant and berry fruits, fragrant, immense purity of expression, a superbly expressive wine with natural concentration. 2015–40. 

Ch Langoa-Barton (3G)

HHHH (18)

Intense colour, lovely concentration of blackberry fruits with a touch of wild violets, fine balance between ripe vineyard fruit and St-Julien class, very good. 2013–30. 

Ch Branaire-Ducru (4G)

HHHH (17.5)

Deep colour, fine, softly extracted, pure blackcurrant fruit, lovely fragrance that carries through to a silkiness on the palate, prime example of St-Julien finesse. 2012–20. 

Ch Léoville-Poyferré (2G) HHHH (17.5)

Deep colour, concentrated, quite wild/gamey nose, ripe briary fruit, high acidity and high tannins, but enough natural fruit to carry it through to the long term. 2015–35.

Ch Gloria HHHH (17)

Deep colour, fine fragrant fruit, lovely extraction of St-Julien fruit with fleshy/earthy overtones, a touch of violets, pure and long. 2012–20. 

Ch Lagrange (3G) HHHH (17)

Fine, deep colour, beautifully extracted fragrance of blackcurrant fruit, fresh and lifted, oak blended in, lightly concentrated, fine length, purity and balance. 2013–22. 

Ch St Pierre (4G) HHHH (17)

Marvellous density of colour, pure and seductive. Floral, fragrant fruit with flesh and depth. Fine terroir. 2013–15.

Ch Talbot (4G) HHHH (17)

Good colour, fine concentrated blackcurrant fruit, quite rich and backed by robust tannins, fragrant slightly gamey fruit that will open up early. 2012–25.

Marquis de Las Cases (2L) HHHH (17)

Fine depth of classic St-Julien fruit with more structure

and grip than in 2005, yet fleshy and succulent. Very good. 2012–20. 

Ch Gruaud-Larose (2G) HHH (16+)

Deep colour, quite meaty, almost sweet, concentrated fruit, floral elements but still a little rough and raw. 2013–20. 

Croix de Beaucaillou (2L)

HHH (16+)

Deep colour, good meaty concentration, this is now made from separate vineyards near Langoa-Barton to produce a classic St-Julien. 2012–20. 

Ch Lalande-Borie HHH (16)

Good clear fruit, typical

St-Julien (vineyards adjoin Ch Lagrange), ripe even succulent fruit. 2010–16.

Ch Beychevelle (4G) HHH (14.5)

A little vegetal unripeness on the nose, more smoothness and fruit on the palate, but a little green. 2012–17.

 

LISTRAC-EN-MEDOC

Eternally playing catch-up to Moulis, Listrac is now producing wines of elegance and quality, with less of a tendency to over-extract than in the past. A reliable appellation in 2006 due to increasing quality of winemaking.

Ch Clarke (CBS) HHH (16+)

Very intense colour, rich blackcurrant nose, very ripe berry fruit – more extraction than elegance now, but will turn out well. 2011–18. 

Ch Fonréaud (CBS) HHH (16+)

Intense colour, fragrant and savoury nose over firm Cabernet fruit, typical of the appellation with extra plumminess and class. 2011–18.

Ch Lestage (CBS) HHH (16+)

Good colour, lively cassis

fruit, good depth, quite grippy but will soften out, good effort. 2011–18. 

Clos des Demoiselles HHH (16)

Merlot-dominated smoky oak, ripeness over grippy tannins. 2010–16. 

Ch Mayne-Lalande (CBS) HHH (16)

Deep colour, lots of meaty fruit, nicely extracted modern wine. 2010–16. 

Ch Ducluzeau (CBS) HHH (15.5)

Nice nose of briary fruit, easy supple wine, quite forward. 2009–14.

 

MOULIS-EN-MEDOC

The leading châteaux in this appellation have created a benchmark that others are striving to follow. The smooth, supple Moulis style manages for the most part to dominate the lack of Cabernet ripeness, creating very reliable wines.

 

Ch Branas Grand Poujeaux HHHH (17)

Very good depth of cassis fruit and good oak, very Moulis, very seductive with good length. 2010–16. 

Ch Chasse-Spleen (CBE)

HHHH (17)

Fine, deep colour, lovely nose of concentrated blackcurrants. Lifted fruit that shows the elegance of the style of Chasse-Spleen, fine length. 2011–18. 

Ch Poujeaux (CBE) HHHH (17)

Intense colour, very ripe, slightly gamey, wild violets nose, new oak, rich, ripe wine, lots of fruit, meaty but has elegance. 2012–20.

Ch Brillette (CBS) HHH (16)

Lots of good fleshy fruit, good spice, good depth. 2010–16. 

Ch Moulin-à-Vent (CBS) HHH (16)

Good colour, nice touch of smoky oak, supple and elegant. 2010–16. 

Ch Le Garricq HHH (15.5)

Intense colour, masses of ripe blackcurrant fruit but a little coarse and over-extracted. 2011–16. 

Ch Myon de l’Enclos HHH (15.5)

Good fruit and good sappy Cabernet flavours. 2010–15. 

Ch Duplessis (CB) HHH (15)

High in Cabernet Franc, this has a pretty style with good purity. 2010–15.

 

MARGAUX

On paper, the weather pattern favoured Margaux rather than the northern Médoc, but although there was overall good quality in this usually diverse appellation, there were few outstanding wines. Gonzague Lurton of Durfort-Vivens said that the winter had not been cold enough to allow the wines to ‘decant’ properly and that they would benefit from a cold spell next winter to brighten them up. There were some over-extracted, raw wines and those châteaux going for elegance came off best. Quality is better than 2004, the very hot 2003 where many wines were cooked, and the rather light 2002. There will be some interesting comparisons over time between 2001, which was a success for the appellation.

 

Ch Margaux (1G) HHHHH (19)

Deep colour, 90% Cabernet Sauvignon dominates with amazing purity and noblesse, freshness combined with great depth and perfect tannins. A 100% Ch Margaux (for Paul Pontallier 2000 and 2005 were 100%+). 2015–40.

Ch Palmer (3G) HHHHH (18.5)

Intense velvety colour, dense and rich, quite fleshy due to the very ripe Merlots, but Cabernets bring true Margaux breed and a wonderfully silky expression of fruit with power behind it. 2014–30. 

Ch Rauzan-Ségla (2G) HHHH (18)

Very good colour, complex, floral (violets and wild roses) nose and beautifully poised fruit, very good length and vineyard expression which captures the essence of Margaux. Needs time, but good future. 2014–25. 

Ch Giscours (3G) HHHH (17.5)

Very good colour, attractive Cabernet fruit, good fragrance, depth and fine Margaux expression continue the Giscours successes. 2011–20. 

Alter Ego de Palmer (2L) HHHH (17)

Deep velvety colour, fresh blackcurrants, full and fleshy, purity of fruit and ripe tannins, masses of charm and elegance. 2010–18. 

Ch Boyd-Cantenac (3G)

HHHH (17)

Dense colour, lots of cassis fruit but not over oaky, lush, natural vineyard concentration, less dense but perhaps more balanced than 2005. 2012–20.

Ch Ferrière (3G) HHHH (17)

Good colour, fresh and fragrant blackcurrant fruit, nice lift, good oak, and elegant, classy wine for the medium term. 2011–18. 

Ch La Gurgue (CBS) HHHH (17)

Fine, floral and fragrant fruit, very good Cab/Merlot balance and elegant Margaux style with depth as well as charm. 2011–18. 

Ch Malescot-St-Exupéry (3G) HHHH (17)

Deep colour, ripe, smoothly extracted fruit and has avoided the rawness of some wines, rich, plummy, good length, ripeness and potential complexity. 2012–20. 

Ch Monbrison (CBS) HHHH (17)

Intense colour, fine floral and blackcurrant fruit, shows good lift and a lovely freshness and purity, good length, very good. 2012–20. 

Ch Pouget (4G) HHHH (17)

Intense red-black, sappy, smoky fruit, fleshy and ripe with an elegant nose of wild violets, pure vineyard depth, powerful yet suave and balanced. 2012–20. 

Pavillon Rouge de Ch Margaux (2L) HHHH (17)

Deep colour, a beautifully fresh wine compared by Pontallier to 2003 and 1995. 2012–20. 

Ch Brane-Cantenac (2G)

HHH (16+)

Good colour, floral, fragrant, even slightly jammy/sweet fruit typical of the Cabernets at this château, an elegant, soft, well-defined wine that will age well. 2011–20.

Ch d’Angludet (CBS) HHH (16+)

Intense colour, concentrated leafy blackcurrant fruit, not the huge success of 2005, but a fine vineyard wine with depth of character. 2012–20. 

Ch d’Issan (3G) HHH (16+)

Fine depth of fruit showing Margaux finesse, but a bit leafy and much firmer in style than 2005, ripe tannins will lead to a good future. 2012–20. 

Ch Dauzac (5G) HHH (16+)

Intense colour, dense concentration of ripe Cabernet fruit, slightly leafy and green, smoky oak, a good solid wine that will mature well. 2013–25. 

Ch du Tertre (5G) HHH (16+)

Good colour, quite ripe, plummy fruit with some complexity, nice blackcurrant fragrance on the palate, quite forward, seductively fruity wine. 2010–18. 

Ch Durfort-Vivens (2G) HHH (16+)

Very good colour, ripe, slightly leathery nose, shows the extra concentration this château has had in recent years, probably a good future. 2012–20. 

Ch Labégorce-Zédé (CBS)

HHH (16+)

Deep fragrant fruit and nicely lifted on the palate, more feminine than Labégorce, a really pretty wine with good depth. 2011–18. 

Ch Lascombes (2G) HHH (16+)

Deep colour, lots of ripeness and rich, slightly gamey fruit, seductive Merlot roundness and nice Cabernet lift on the finish. Quite forward. 2011–18. 

Ch Prieuré-Lichine (4G) HHH (16+)

Intense colour, hugely concentrated fruit, ripe blackcurrants and good fleshy, smoky, savoury flavours, seductively full and quite forward style. 2011–18. 

Ch Siran (CBE) HHH (16+)

Intense colour, big smoky blackcurrant fruit, lots of concentration but vineyard quality is there. Good length and good future. 2012–20. 

Ch Cantenac-Brown (3G)

HHH (16)

Intense colour, big tanky, meaty nose with a hint of violets above the concentration, solid and chunky, more robust than elegant. 2012–20. 

Ch Kirwan (3G) HHH (16)

Intense colour, deep extraction of ripe fruit, but concentration and oak cover the fruit, no doubt good, but hard to get beyond the extraction. 2012–20. 

Ch Labégorce (CB) HHH (16)

Intense colour, concentrated blackcurrant nose and good straightforward, slightly smoky fruit, good future. 2012–20.

Ch Marquis d’Alesme (3G)

HHH (16)

Deep fragrant Cabernet-based nose, a bit flat in the middle but Margaux fruit comes through. An improvement on 2005. 2011–18. 

Blason d’Issan (2L) HHH (15.5)

Good colour, lovely supple nose but rather raw on the palate, should soften out to an easy, attractive wine. 2010–15.

Ch La Bessane HHH (15.5)

Dense colour and concentrated Cabernet fruit, rather four-square but should age well. 2011–18. 

Ch La Tour de Bessan (CB)

HHH (15.5)

Quite tight fruit, but good lift and true Margaux finesse, more elegance than ripeness, but should gain weight. 2010–16.

Ch Marquis-de-Terme (4G) HHH (15)

Intense colour, concentrated blackcurrant fruit, pretty massive and a bit overdone. Lots of fruit, little expression of Margaux finesse. 2011–18. 

Left bank

MASSIVE IMPROVERS

Ch Branas Grand Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Médoc

Ch Belle-Vue, Haut-Médoc

Ch Tronquoy-Lalande (CBS),

St-Estèphe

Ch St-Pierre (4G), St-Julien

Château Goulée, Médoc

WINES PERFORMING ABOVE THEIR CLASSIFICATION

Croix de Beaucaillou (2L),

St- Julien

Ch Clerc Milon (5G), Pauillac

Ch Pouget (4G), Margaux

Ch Monbrison (CBS), Margaux

Ch de Pez (CBE), St-Estèphe

Right Bank by James Lawther MW

St-Emilion

This was a difficult vintage in St-Emilion. Up to 150mm of rain fell during a two-week period in September provoking the rapid onset of rot. Growers were faced with the decision to either pick before grapes were physiologically fully ripe with a resultant toughness of tannin or run the risk of rot with the consequential loss of crop and wines that can be a little heavy and tired.

Much depended on work in the vineyards and how certain locations reacted to conditions. All told it’s a question of individual success rather than any set pattern. A deft hand in the cellar was also required.

Sugar levels held so there’s alcohol power and sweetness. Where the maturity was good there’s a bright purity to the fruit, freshness (minerality from the clay-limestone soils) and firm tannins but the wines are always shy of the vigour and density of a top year. Heavy extraction had to be avoided. The Cabernet Franc was variable but with one or two notable successes.

Making comparisons with other vintages is tricky. Ten to 15 years ago 2006 would have been a disaster, illustrating the progress that’s been made in the vineyards since. Taking a plunge it’s perhaps 2001 for the best, 2002 for others, with a touch of 1996 where acidity and tannins seem severe.

Ch Ausone (1GCCA) HHHHH (18.5)

The outstanding wine from St-Emilion in 2006. Intense floral, violet aroma. Exceptional quality of tannin wrapped in exquisite fruit. Long, lively and fresh. Power and finesse combined. 2016–35.

Le Dôme HHHHH (18.5)

Huge rich colour, big flavours and lots of Cabernet Franc to give leafy elegance, very deep, very fresh, very pure, a triumph for the vintage. 2012–20. (Steven Spurrier)

Ch Cheval Blanc (1GCCA)

HHHH (18)

Classic Cheval Blanc in style, elegant, long and fine. Lacy texture and quality of tannin. Misses the extra intensity of a truly great year. 2015–25.

Chapelle d’Ausone (GC)

HHHH (17.5)

Real vibrancy. Deep, bright crimson hue. Lively, intense, dark fruit. Tannins ripe but fresh and long. Great harmony and balance. 2014–20.

Ch Figeac (1GCC) HHHH (17.5)

Lovely purity of fruit. Cabernet components very evident. Tender character to the wine but fine, long tannins. Classy for the vintage. 2015–25.

Ch Pavie (1GCC) HHHH (17.5)

Less extreme for Pavie these days. Yes, the ripeness is there with a generous volume of textured fruit. The pedigree of the terroir shows, with freshness and minerality on the finish. 2016–30.

La Mondotte HHHH (17.5)

Dense, powerful but balanced. Plenty of red fruit extract. Tannins tight and firm. Fresh and long. Shows class. 2014–25.

Le Carré (GC) HHHH (17.5)

Huge colour, massive extraction balanced by fine leafy fruit. Powerful yet elegant. Very good. 2011–18. (Steven Spurrier)

Les Astéries (GC) HHHH (17.5)

Deeply extracted fruit with a fine minerally backbone. Fine and grippy, very pure. Great vineyard personality from very old vines. 2011–18. (Steven Spurrier)

Ch Angélus (1GCC) HHHH (17)

True to style. Deep, bright, dark hue. Spicy, dark fruit nose but less exotic than some years. Rich fruit concentration with tannins that are fine and long. Modern but more contained than some years. 2014–25.

Ch Canon-la-Gaffelière (GCC) HHHH (17)

Fine spicy, complex aromas. Lively fresh fruit expression on the palate. Has length and finesse. Close to the elegance of 2004. 2014–22.

Ch l’Arrosée (GCC) HHHH (17)

Lovely fruit, weight and texture. Pure, ripe notes. Dense fruit on the palate. Velvety tannins. Long, fine finish. Really classy. 2015–25.

Ch Laforge (GC) HHHH (17)

Intense, fragrant, fleshy fruit, tobacco and green tea flavours. Very attractive deep Merlot picked at perfect ripeness. 2010–18. (Steven Spurrier)

Ch Larcis-Ducasse (GCC)

HHHH (17)

Not equal to 2005 but still superb. Generous fruit, precision of flavour, firm, ripe, minerally tannins and lovely freshness and length. 2014-25.

Ch le Tertre Roteboeuf (GC) HHHH (17)

A voluptuous wine with fragrant, ‘Burgundian’ red fruit aromas, sweet, ripe fruit and velvety tannins. More Pomerol than St-Emilion. 2014–25.

Ch Pavie-Decesse (GCC)

HHHH (17)

Intense, solid, masculine wine. Dark berry fruit. Powerful tannins. Quite monumental. Long-term ageing. 2016–30.

Ch Pavie Macquin (1GCC) HHHH (17)

Lovely vitality of fruit. Plenty of length and persistence from firm but ripe tannins. Minerality on the finish. Long ageing wine. 2016–30.

Ch Soutard (GCC) HHHH (17)

Fine effort from the new management. Shows the quality of the limestone plateau terroir. Fine red fruit, ripe tannins, minerality, length and persistence. 2015–25.

Ch Troplong Mondot (1GCC) HHHHH (17)

Rich, dark, modern, spicy, punchy style. Big volume of fruit for this vintage. Tight, robust tannic frame. Powerful. 2014–20.

Ch Valandraud (GC) HHHH (17)

A different style for Valandraud this year. Minerally, upright, long and linear. Less density and concentration but a good volume of pure, ripe fruit. One for the cellar. 2016–25.

Ch Beau-Séjour Bécot (1GCC) HHHH (16.5)

Good colour. Tight, firm structure and length. Attractive red fruit. Minerality of the terroir shows. 2015–25.

Ch Berliquet (GCC) HHHH (16.5)

Fine medium-bodied wine. Attractive fruit expression. Refined texture. Tannins fresh and long. 2015–20.

Ch Fonplégade (GCC) HHHH (16.5)

Second vintage under new ownership and much better than 2005. Lovely fruit expression, velvety texture, great balance and length. Smooth and elegant. 2014–20.

Ch Laroque (GCC) HHHH (16.5)

Lovely lifted blueberry fruit expression. Soft, ripe extract. Very pure. Fresh, minerally line and length. A touch nerveux but more harmony and finesse than 2005. 2016–25.

Ch Le Prieuré (GCC) HHHH (16.5)

Beautifully crafted wine. Fresh fruit aromas. Tight, firm texture and tannins. Length and precision. Classic limestone plateau nuance. Better than 2005. 2015–25.

Ch Moulin-St-Georges (GC) HHHH (16.5)

A little oak but lovely fruit extract. Fruit intensity, plenty of extract with length and freshness on the finish. 2015–20.

Ch Rol Valentin (GC) HHHH (16.5)

Smooth, round and suave. Attractive red berry fruit. Tannins finely honed. Rich, balanced and harmonious. 2012–18.

Ch Grand Destieu (GC) HHH (16+)

Dark colour, nose of wild violets and spices, meaty and fleshy. Fine concentration of ripe Merlot lifted by Cabernet Franc. Very good length. 2011–18. (Steven Spurrier)

Ch Barde-Haut (GC) HHH (16)

Elegant, stylish wine. Silky tannins, pure fruit flavour, fresh, minerally finish. 2013–20.

Ch Belair (1GCC) HHH (16)

Direct, linear, calcaire. Classic expression of the vintage and terroir. Acidity a little sharp but will age. 2015–25.

Ch Bellefont Belcier (GCC)

HHH (16)

Medium bodied, elegant with plenty of silky, aromatic fruit. Tannins ripe and smooth. 2014–20.

Château Canon (1GCC) HHH (16)

Gentle, elegant weight and style. Fruit pure and fresh. Stylistically affirmed but a little fluid on the finish. 2014–20.

Ch Fleur Cardinale (GCC) HHH (16)

Warm, ripe, modern style. Dark. Spicy, jammy fruit. Powerful tannic frame. 2013–20.

Ch Franc Mayne (GCC) HHH (16)

Seems to have gained in quality of texture and tannins this year. Lovely aromatic expression. Round but with length and finesse. 2013–20.

Ch Grand Mayne (GCC) HHH (16)

Big, round with plenty of dark fruit extract. Firm tannic structure. Good ageing potential. 2015–25.

Ch Jean-Faure (GC) HHH (16)

Tender fruit. Great aromatic expression. Ripe, smooth tannins. Fresh, clean and vital. Should make a great bottle. 2013–18.

Ch La Dominique (GCC) HHH (16)

Here’s a change of style. Riper, fuller with smooth, velvety texture and tannins. Just misses that extra vigour and length on the finish. 2013–25.

Ch La Gaffelière (1GCC) HHH (16)

Medium bodied, sweet fruited with a touch of minerality. Harmonious but a little lack of vigour and length. 2015–25.

Ch la Gomerie (GC) HHH (16)

Quite rich and dense but less luxurious and extracted than some years. Mid-term drinking. 2012–18.

Ch Laroze (GCC) HHH (16)

Very pretty – betters the 2005. Elegant, lifted, red fruit aromas, fine tannic frame. Intermediate drinking. 2012–18.

Ch Magdelaine (1GCC) HHH (16)

Discreet and unassertive but plenty of finesse. Harmonious, midweight with attractive red berry fruit. 2015–25.

Ch Monbousquet (GCC) HHH (16)

Aromatically fine – Burgundian-raspberry notes. Smooth textured, clean and balanced. Tannins a little pinched on the finish. 2012–18.

Ch Teyssier (GC) HHH (16)

Nice sappy Merlot fruit, good grip and lots of vineyard depth, damson plums and elegant finish. 2010–15. (Steven Spurrier)

Ch Trottevieille (1GCC) HHH (16)

Clear expression of the limestone terroir. Firm, rigid structure which some will find severe. Definitely for the long haul. 2016–30.

Clos des Jacobins (GCC) HHH (16)

Ripe, opulent. Lots of red fruit. Full and round with a touch of alcohol on the finish. Modern but very St-Emilion. 2013–20.

Clos Fourtet (1GCC) HHH (16)

Core of dark fruit but without the volume of a grand vin. Firm, even robust tannic structure. Lacks a touch of elegance. 2015–25.

Gracia (GC) HHH (16)

Round, full but with sensitive extraction. Peppery, dark fruit notes. Vintage freshness.

Tight tannic frame. 2013–20.

Ch Bergat (GCC) HHH (15.5)

A certain elegance and charm. Attractive spicy, red fruit aroma, lively, long with good balance. Classic for the vintage. 2014–20.

Ch Dassault (GCC) HHH (15.5)

Red fruit and oak aromas. Tight, firm and long. A little one dimensional but well made. 2014–20.

Ch Destieux (GC) HHH (15.5)

Dense, rich with a solid structure. Reserved but with some finesse. 2014–20.

Ch Faugères, Cuvée Péby (GC) HHH (15.5)

Dark, rich and modern. Ripe, jammy fruit but note of terroir on the finish. Good balance for such a big wine. 2013–20.

Ch Grand Corbin-Despagne (GCC) HHH (15.5)

Attractive red fruit aromas – Burgundian-raspberry nuance. Good fruit, harmonious with grip on the finish. 2012–18.

Ch La Couspaude (GCC) HHH (15.5)

Big, rich wine. Modern. Ripe, warm and round. Firm tannic structure behind. 2013-18.

Ch La Tour Figeac (GCC) HHH (15.5)

Lively fruit expression. Fine tannic frame. Quite open and forward in style. 2012–18.

Ch Chauvin (GCC) HHH (15)

Ripe, modern with a good volume of fruit. Well made but lacks real vitality. 2012–18.

Ch Fonroque (GCC) HHH (15)

Lively, aromatic with good fruit weight. Tannins on the finish a little severe. 2014–20.

Ch Larmande (GCC) HHH (15)

Medium bodied, fresh and balanced. Supple but lacks intensity and vigour. 2012–18.

Ch les Grandes Murailles (GCC) HHH (15)

Like stablemate Clos St-Martin full, round and warm. Soft and perhaps a little heavy. Plum, kirsch aromas. 2013–18.

Ch Quinault L’Enclos (GC)

HHH (15)

Round, fresh and easy in style. Dark fruit notes. No great intensity. 2012–18.

Ch Sansonnet (GC) HHH (15)

Dense, firm and long. Ripe, modern style but with calcaire terroir evident. 2013–20.

Clos de l’Oratoire (GCC) HHH (15)

Perfumed bouquet. Well-handled fruit. Round, harmonious but a touch dull on the finish. 2012–18.

Clos St-Martin (GCC) HHH (15)

Big, powerful wine but a little heavy and dull. Fruit jammy. Warmth of alcohol on the finish. Modern style. 2013–18.

Ch Cap de Mourlin (GCC)

HHH (14.5)

A touch robust and austere. Fruit a little hidden but has structure and length. 2014–20.

Ch Corbin-Michotte (GCC)

HHH (14.5)

Easy, round. Stays on the fruit. Blackberry notes. Light and a little fluid but clean. 2012–18.

Château Faugères (GCC)

HHH (14.5)

Sweet fruited, supple and warm. No great complexity but stays on the fruit. 2012–18.

Ch Haut-Sarpe (GCC) HHH (14.5)

Dark, modern and fleshy but a little extracted. Rather one dimensional. 2012–18.

Pomerol

Pomerol could be the success story of 2006. This doesn’t mean it’s a brilliant year (more good to very good) but that harvest conditions in this earlier ripening zone were as near to optimum as anywhere in Bordeaux.

Merlot from the young vines was ripe for harvesting the week of 12 September with grapes for the grand vin harvested mainly the week of 18 September in between bouts of heavy rain. Sugar levels were high, as was the tannin count. The effects of rot and dilution were felt less than in other areas. The Cabernet Franc had more difficulty gaining full maturity and was less exciting this year.

This was also a year where terroir played its part, top estates on the warmer gravels of the plateau producing the outstanding wines. These are gently aromatic (red fruits), full bodied (13–14° alcohol) but balanced by a refreshing zip of acidity and pronounced minerality. Growers are making comparisons with 2001.

As usual quality in Pomerol should be measured on a varying scale with, at the bottom end of the table, wines that should not even be allowed the Pomerol label.

Ch Lafleur HHHHH (19)

The nose is a little reserved but the palate is magnificent. Elegant, spicy with aromatic lift and a long, smooth tannic frame. Real minerality on the finish. 2016–35.

Ch Le Pin HHHHH (19)

Wonderful wine. Tops the 2005. Elegant, long and crystalline. Gentle red fruit aroma and flavour. Beautifully mellow fruit weight then fine, long tannins. Poised, fresh and harmonious. 2014–35.

Ch L’Eglise-Clinet HHHHH (18.5)

True to the house style. Deep, dark hue. Rich, complex nose with toasted, floral notes. Palate dense, powerful with a big, firm tannic frame. For the long haul. 2016–35.

Ch Pétrus HHHHH (18.5)

Intense, brooding, gives little away on the nose. Full bodied with a chunk of ripe red fruit and a huge tannic frame. Powerful wine. 2016–40.

Ch Clinet HHHH (18)

Aromatic, harmonious wine. Burgundian raspberry and spice nuance. Mellow fruit and fine tannic frame. Long, fresh finish. 2014-25.

Ch Hosanna HHHH (18)

Harmonious, fresh and long. Displays real minerality with a layer of creamy, red fruit. Medium weight but should fill out with élevage. 2015–30.

Ch La Conseillante HHHH (18)

Lovely fruit, incredibly aromatic with notes of blueberry and cassis. Fine, long and refreshing with firmness on the finish. 2015–35.

Ch La Violette HHHH (18)

First vintage under the new ownership of Catherine Péré-Vergé. Exquisite fruit and floral bouquet. Long, fine tannins. Really elegant wine. 2012–25.

Ch Trotanoy HHHH (18)

Full bodied with elegant bouquet of fresh red fruits. Ripe and almost crystalline with length and freshness on the finish. Harmonious. 2016–40.

Vieux Château Certan

HHHH (18)

Superb wine, only fractionally off 2005. Has that extra level of ripeness with hallmark elegance, aroma and suavity of texture. Long. 2015–30.

Ch l’Evangile HHHH (17.5)

Dense, full and rich. Plenty of fat and volume. Point of alcohol on the finish. Broad, powerful wine. 2013–25.

Ch Providence HHHH (17.5)

Ripe and intense but poised and elegant in the house

style. Tannins fine, firm and long. 2013–25.

Ch Rouget HHHH (17.5)

Another successful offering from this much improved estate. Plenty of mellow red fruit and a fine, ripe tannic structure. Spice and red fruit aromas. 2012–20.

Clos L’Eglise HHHH (17.5)

Dense, tight and firm. More austere than the 2005 but a quality wine. Big tannic frame. Quite intense. Long, firm finish. 2015–30.

Ch Certan de May HHHH (17)

Lively red fruit nose. Oak adds coffee, cassis notes. Medium bodied, fresh with a firm tannic finish. 2012–25.

Ch Gazin HHHH (17)

Dense layered fruit. Firm tannic frame. Point of acidity adds freshness and vigour. 2014–25.

Ch Vieux Maillet HHHH (17)

Ripe, succulent fruit with just the right point of acidity. Fresh, long and harmonious. 2012–20.

Ch Vray Croix de Gay HHHH (17)

Better than 2005. More character and vivacity. Lovely purity of fruit. Linear, fresh and clean. Minerality shows a top terroir. 2012–20.

Pensées de Lafleur HHHH (17)

A real charmer. Lovely raspberry-tinged aroma. Palate seductively soft and round but structured. Very much on the fruit. 2011–18.

Ch Petit-Village HHHH (16.5)

Substantial wine. Plenty of extract. Good length. Ripe but robust tannic frame. 2014–25.

Domaine de L’Eglise

HHHH (16.5)

Attractive pitch of ripe red fruit. Good medium-bodied weight. Lively, fresh and clean.

2012–25.

Ch Beauregard HHH (16)

Fragrant fruit on the palate and nose. Quite good depth. Crisp acidity making the tannins fractionally severe. 2012–20.

Ch La Cabanne HHH (16)

Real improvement in the winemaking. Firm, ripe tannins coated in fleshy fruit with a fresh, balanced finish. 2012–20.

Ch La Commanderie de Mazeyres HHH (16)

A distinct change of style here. Dark hue. Ripe to overripe with rich, jammy, mouthfilling fruit and smooth texture. Broad and fleshy. 2011–18.

Ch La Fleur Pétrus HHH (16)

A shade under par. Supple, round and smooth textured with fine, ripe tannins and good density. 2014–25.

Ch Latour à Pomerol HHH (16)

Aromatic and fruity. Floral, raspberry notes. Palate mellow, round with a generosity of fruit. 2012–20.

Ch Le Bon Pasteur HHH (16)

Sweet fruited, modern, ripe and spicy. Harmonious, well-handled extraction but lacks the density of a top year. 2013–25.

Ch Nénin HHH (16)

Soft, round and full in style. Fine tannic tram. Built for ageing. 2013–22.

Clos du Clocher HHH (16)

Another good effort from this improving, good-value estate. There’s a sweetness to the fruit and an attractive bouquet. Oak a little invasive but should mellow out. 2012–20.

La Petite Eglise HHH (16)

Lively fruit-driven nose with notes of spice and pepper. Gentle tannic frame. Stays on the fruit. Fresh finish. 2010–16.

Ch Bourgneuf-Vayron

HHH (15.5)

Dense red fruit, round with a firm, square tannic frame. Consistent in style. 2012–20.

Ch Guillot HHH (15.5)

Dark fruit expression with notes of cassis. No new oak used here. Fine, grainy tannins. Good medium-bodied fruit weight and length. 2012–20.

Domaine Fayat-Thunevin HHH (15.5)

Formerly Vieux Château Bourgneuf, now a joint venture between Clément Fayat and Jean-Luc Thunevin. Very ripe raspberry compote aroma and flavour. Warm, rich. 2011–18.

Ch Feytit-Clinet HHH (15)

Warm, ripe and mellow. Less density than 2005 but more power than 2004. Touch lacking in finesse. 2012–18.

Ch La Croix de Gay HHH (15)

Gentle, round red fruit but lacks the intensity of the top wines. 2012–20.

Ch La Pointe HHH (15)

Good colour and depth of fruit. Rich, warm and modern in style. Confit character. Opulent but limited. 2011–18.

Ch Mazeyres HHH (15)

Lighter weight and frame but attractive fruit expression. Claean and ripe. 2011–18.

Ch Bellegrave HHH (14.5)

One of the regular good values in Pomerol. There’s precision and quality in the fruit and structure but the finish is a little light and fluid. 2012–18.

Ch La Croix du Casse HHH (14.5)

Lighter weight. Attractive fruit but a little masked by the oak. 2010–18.

Ch La Grave HHH (14.5)

Honest sort of wine. Good but unexceptional. Quite forward and fruity. Medium bodied, soft and mellow. 2010–16.

Lalande de Pomerol

Ch Siaurac HHH (16)

The most improved wine in Lalande this year. Elegant, floral, raspberry aromas. Attractive midweight fruit. 2010–14.

La Fleur de Boüard HHH (16)

Less powerful than previous vintages but fruit well respected. Good density but more linear in style. 2010–16.

Domaine des Sabines HHH (15.5)

First vintage of this new Thunevin venture. Ripe, rich and modern in style. Exotic notes. Layered fruit with a light tannic frame. 2010–14.

Ch La Sergue HHH (15)

Tight, oaky and difficult to taste but definite fruit and structure. Less power than usual. 2011–16.

Ch Les Cruzelles HHH (15)

Pleasurable, easy-drinking, medium-bodied wine.

Crisp, fresh with lively fruit. 2009–12.

Ch Perron, La Fleur HHH (15)

Modern, dark-coloured wine. Some extraction but fruit apparent and dry tannins avoided. 2010–14.

Ch de Viaud HHH (14.5)

Light, fine and aromatic. Pretty wine without any pretentions. 2009–12.

Ch Jean de Gué HHH (14.5)

Easy, fruity style. Not full ripeness but balanced. 2009–12.

Fronsac, Cotes & satellites

Fronsac, Côtes de Castillon and the other Right Bank satellites suffered the same problems as the rest of Bordeaux – heavy rain in September, the outbreak of rot in the vineyards and a complicated harvest. Quality is therefore extremely varied.

Curiously, Fronsac seems to have come out of it rather well with some fresh, clean, minerally wines. This could be the result of three factors: a great terroir (limestone-clay, hillslopes) and the amount of investment and work that is now going into the region. 2001 is again being quoted

as a similar vintage. Look out for a number of new, upcoming names.

Castillon had more rain than anywhere else in the Libournais and this is reflected in the inconsistency in the wines. The vineyards had to be in good condition and even then severe selection was needed. Thierry Valette of Clos Puy Arnaud reckons he put 40% of the crop on the ground while yields at Stéphane Derenoncourt’s Domaine de l’A are 10 hectolitres/hectare.

Producers in Lalande de Pomerol were successful if they handled the fruit with care. This was not a year for over extraction.

Cotes de Castillon

Clos Puy Arnaud HHH (16.5)

Dense, pure and zesty. Velvety texture and tannins. Good length. Bravo. 2010–16.

Ch d’Aiguilhe HHH (16)

Less power and intensity than 2005 and 2003, more on length and finesse. Natural acidity and freshness. 2010–16.

Clos Les Lunelles HHH (16)

Tight and firm. Elegant toasted aromas combined with dark raisined fruit. Good length. 2010–16.

Domaine de l’A HHH (16)

Aromatically fine. Red berry, raspberry nuance. Tight, firm structure. 2010–16.

Ch Joanin Bécot HHH (15.5)

Firm, medium-bodied wine. Less fruit than 2005 but balanced. 2010–16.

Ch Clos l’Eglise HHH (15)

Red berry fruit. Freshness of the vintage. 2009–12.

Ch de Laussac HHH (15)

Easy, fruity, round. Light in volume and frame. 2009–12.

Ch Veyry HHH (15)

Firm, clean. Mid-weight fruit. Crisp finish. 2010–16.

Ch Cap de Faugères HHH (14.5)

Jammy red fruit, powerful and heavy but for crisp acidity on the finish. Touch disjointed. 2009–12.

Ch d’Ampélia HHH (14.5)

Delicate and long but a touch lean. 2009–12.

Cotes de Francs

Ch de Francs, Les Cerisiers HHH (16)

Mellow, aromatic. Great fruit flavour. Interesting for early drinking. 2008–12.

Ch Puyguéraud HHH (15)

Lighter weight and frame than top years but linear and clean. 2010–16.

Ch Puyguéraud, Cuvée George HHH (15)

Firm and austere. Tough tannic structure. Dark fruit and peppery notes. Will need some bottle age. 2012–18.

Ch Marsau HHH (14.5)

Earthy red berry and plum fruit. Solid if a little dull. 2009–14.

Fronsac

Ch de La Dauphine HHHH (17)

Definite improvement on 2005 with fruit from Canon de Brem now in the blend. Elegant, fruit-driven bouquet, soft, round fruit. Well-judged oak and a touch of minerally complexity on the finish. 2010–18.

Ch Dalem HHHH (17)

Lovely intensity and purity of fruit. Polished tannins. Freshness and length. Gains in elegance and finesse. 2010–18.

Ch du Gaby HHHH (17)

Eclipses the 2005. Should make a really fine bottle. Intense, elegant with firm but fine tannins. Mineral complexity. Harmonious. 2012–20.

Ch Moulin Pey-Labrie

HHHH (17)

Powerful wine. Spicy, even exotic nose. Mellow, round and fruit packed. Tannins fine and long. 2012–20.

Haut Carles HHHH (17)

Lovely, intense fruit concentration. Tannins smooth and elegant. Ripe flavours but long, clean finish. 2010–18.

Ch Les Trois Croix HHHH (16.5)

Medium bodied, harmonious. Lively, racy fruit on the palate. Elegant and long. 2010–18.

Ch Cassagne Haut-Canon,

La Truffière HHH (16)

Cabernet element quite dominant. Blackcurrant notes. Appears lighter in weight but aromatic and long. 2010–18.

Ch Fontenil HHH (16)

Rich, perfumed. Plenty of crunchy fruit. Solid tannic frame. 2010–18.

Ch Haut-Ballet HHH (16)

An improving estate. Lovely fruit expression. Pure, elegant. Refreshing finish. 2011–18.

Ch Haut-Mazeris HHH (16)

Fine, clean, linear in style. Less intensity than 2005 but attractive fruit. 2010–16.

Ch Moulin Haut-Laroque HHH (16)

Plenty of fruit extraction. Solid but ripe tannic frame. Oak a little invasive but should settle in. Clean finish. 2010–18.

Ch Villars HHH (16)

Plenty of crunchy fruit. Full and round. Freshness on the finish. 2009–18.

Ch Vrai Canon Bouché HHH (16)

Under new ownership and management since 2005 and one to watch. Less vigour than the 2005 but mellow, tender fruit, fine tannins, minerality and length. 2010–18.

Ch Barrabaque HHH (15.5)

Clean, fresh and harmonious. Red berry aromas and minerality. 2010–18.

Ch La Rousselle HHH (15.5)

Fine, delicate style. Dark berry notes. Very fresh and clean. 2010–16.

Ch Richelieu HHH (15.5)

Warm, round and fleshy. Quite powerful in style. Firm, ripe tannins. Good length. 2010–18.

Ch Chadenne HHH (14.5)

Clean, fresh fruit. Sound in style if a little unexciting. 2009–16.

Ch de La Rivière HHH (14.5)

Easy, round with soft berry fruit. Touch of green in the tannins but has character. 2009–16.

Ch La Vieille Cure HHH (14.5)

Open, fruity, easy style. Tannins a touch angular on the finish. 2009–16.

Right bank

Massive improvers

Château La Dauphine, Fronsac

Château Fonplégade (GCC),

St-Emilion

Château Le Prieuré (GCC),

St-Emilion

Château Vray Croix de Gay, Pomerol

Château La Commanderie de Mazeyres, Pomerol

Outside the Medoc

Wines performing above their classification

Château de France (red), Pessac-Léognan

Château Rouget,Pomerol Château l’Arrosée (GCC), St-Emilion

Château Jean-Faure (GC), St-Emilion

Pessac Leognan and Graves by Beverley Blanning MW

The earlier-ripening Pessac-Léognan and Graves districts generally suffered less than the Médoc from the difficulties of the late-season weather.

In common with the rest of the wines of the region, the defining characteristic of the Pessac and Graves 2006s is their structure. In both reds and whites, there is beautiful fresh acidity, thanks to the long and rather cold August that followed the protracted heatwave of June and July. This was perfect for the white wine grapes, which ripened slowly, building up complexity of flavour and aroma. Sauvignon Blancs are particularly expressive this year. The whites are almost uniformly good and may exceed the 2005s in quality. Certainly, they have higher acidities and many show considerable finesse.

While the whites were mostly harvested before the heavy September rains, picking the reds was a more nail-biting affair. Alternating heat and rain provided ideal conditions for rot. In some cases the Merlots were picked in advance of optimum ripeness to avoid losing the crop, leading to some green tannins. On the whole, though, there is sufficient ripeness and density of fruit. This, combined with the mouthwatering acidity of the vintage, combats the high tannin levels found in all the wines. Many of these wines will be approachable young, but the best have the structure to age very well.

Pessac-Leognan – Reds

Ch Haut-Brion (CC) HHHHH (18.5)

Dense, bright ruby. Nose of tobacco, sweet cassis, smoky, toasty oak and violet scents. Tannins silky in the mouth, firmer on the finish. Feels almost weightless, despite 14% alcohol. Long, fine-grained, tannic, tobaccoey finish. Very good. 2007–42.

Ch La Mission Haut-Brion (CC) HHHHH (18.5)

Dense, inky purple/ruby. Fresh, blackcurrant and cherry-scented nose, with hints of coffee and spice. A weight of rich, crunchy fruit and fine-grained mouthfilling tannins. Very good. Lovely balance and weight. Elegant, fine, delicious. 2007–37.

Ch Haut-Bailly (CC) HHHH (17.5)

Dense purple. Nose floral, fragrant. Palate has sweet, juicy, fine fruit under a firm tannic structure. Needs time. Tannins pretty hard at present. Good length. 2015–27.

Ch Smith Haut Lafitte (CC) HHHH (17.5)

Dense, inky colour. Nose oaky, with plums and blackcurrants. Palate has lovely freshness and some elegance. Good minerality and well-managed oak. Intense, big wine. 2015–27.

Domaine de Chevalier (CC) HHHH (17.5)

Dark purple-red. Mineral, cherry-scented. Fresh, understated and stylish. Mineral-charged flavour and good ripeness. Elegant, savoury wine. Very good. 2015–27.

Ch Bahans Haut-Brion (2L) HHHH (17)

Moderately intense ruby. Nose spicy and fresh, fruity, cherry-scented. Palate easy, fresh, midweight, with gravelly, mineral flavours. Very pleasing, easy to enjoy young to mid-term. Well made.

Ch La Louvière HHHH (17)

Deep purple. Nose open, blackcurrant scented, very attractive. Palate fresh and uncomplicated. Fruit on attack is dulled somewhat by firm tannins. Excellent freshness on the finish. 2012–17.

Ch Pape Clément (CC) HHHH (17)

Deep colour. Intense blackcurranty, oaky nose. Palate rich, round and very smooth. Sexy, oaky style. Big, mouthfilling wine with considerable richness of flavour. Very good. 2015–27.

La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion (2L) HHHH (17)

Bright ruby, with moderate intensity. Nose gravelly, smoky, mineral. Silky palate, with cherries and violets, and grainy tannins. Good acid balance and moderate length. Fresh and appealing. 2012–22.

Ch Bouscaut (CG) HHHH (16.5)

Deep purple. Aromatic,

with spicy oak and violets. Gentle, sweet, juicy fruit.

Very drinkable, richly fruity. Good balancing acidity and well-managed tannins.

Good. 2012–19.

Ch Brown HHHH (16.5)

Chalky, mineral nose. Juicy and fresh palate, with plumy fruit. Good, supple tannins. Very appealing. 2010–17.

Ch Latour-Martillac HHHH (16.5)

Deep purple. Nose quite closed, some cassis notes. Palate firm, with chewy tannins, but good depth of fruit. Good. Needs some time to soften. 2012–22.

Ch Pique Caillou HHHH (16.5)

Deep purple. Fresh, primary fruit on the nose. Palate also very fresh, with good acidity and firm but not excessive tannins. Moderate complexity. Has interest and speaks of its place. 2014–22.

Ch de Fieuzal (CC) HHHH (16.5)

Dark, purple. Forward, blackcurrant and leather aromas. Fresh and fruity. Firmly structured but does not overpower the fruit. Appealing early consumption. 2012–19.

Ch de France HHHH (16.5)

Dense purple. Nose intense, cedary. Palate fresh, cassis-flavoured, pure. Uncomplicated, firm, good. 2011–17.

Ch Haut-Bergey HHH (16)

Dark, purple. Animal scented. Firm, mineral flavours dominate. Pretty intense. Good. 2014–22.

Ch Malartic-Lagravière (CC) HHH (16)

Juicy and fresh, with firm structure. Good balance and length. Firm, chewy tannins. Quite good. 2012–22.

Ch Olivier (CC) HHH (16)

Dense, purple. Closed/reduced flavours. Good richness of fruit. Tannins not too hard. Fairly simple, but pleasant. 2012–17.

Ch Les Carmes Haut Brion HHH (15)

Green aromas and flavours. Quite nice freshness though. Easy, short term. 2010–15.

Ch Carbonnieux (CC) HHH (15)

Inky purple. Rich, cassis, intense. Concentrated, but with rather hard, unyielding tannins. Touch of greenness here. Some good underlying fruit quality. 2012–22.

Pessac-Leognan – Whites

Ch Haut-Brion HHHHH (18.5)

Cloudy, pale gold. Nose very complex, fresh, floral (white flowers), honey, lemon, oak. Mid-weight palate, quite closed versus the nose. Good lemony, mineral-edged fruit. Delicate, with excellent length. 2015–27.

Domaine de Chevalier (CC) HHHHH (18.5)

Pale, limpid. Soft, creamy, aromatic, oaky nose. Lovely freshness and gentle fruit. Subtly lovely; silky fruit. Long finish. Super stylish, lovely balance. 2012–32.

Ch de Fieuzal HHHH (17.5)

Pale, green/gold. Soft, oaky, creamy, straw-scented nose. Smooth, crisply structured, very integrated and stylish. Good depth of flavour allied with balanced structure. Good length. 2010–27.

Ch Laville Haut-Brion (CC) HHHH (17.5)

Bright, limpid. Nose has exuberant fruit, waxy Semillon aromas, lots of oak. Palate crisp and ripe, with lemony, waxy fruit. Lots of oak. Gentle mid-palate fruit weight. Very good. 2012–27.

Ch Latour Martillac HHHH (17.5)

Pale, watery colour. Oaky, fresh, grassy nose. Delicious freshness and integrated oak. Very stylish, exuberant fruit. lifted acidity. Expressive Sauvignon. 2010–17.

Ch Haut-Bergey HHHH (17)

Pale, watery, greenish. Fresh, green, aromatic, quite pungent, floral notes behind. Crisp, very Sauvignon flavoured, grassy and fresh. Open, punchy, almost New World in style. Good, primary fruit. 2009–13.

Ch Malartic-Lagravière (CC) HHHH (17)

Lifted, spicy nose, quite exotic and perfumed. Full flavoured, with wonderful sweet, ripe fruit. Oaky, but not dominant. Very good. 2010–17.

Ch Pape Clément HHHH (17)

Pale, green/gold. Fresh, lemon-scented. Palate rich, and sweetly fruity, with nice acid balance over honeyed, lemony fruit. Full and round in the mouth, slightly warm alcohol. Oaky finish. Full bodied, perhaps less typical of the vintage, but impressive. Long. 2010–22.

Ch Brown HHHH (16.5)

Bright, lemony colour. Lifted nose, rich, with some alcoholic warmth. Full, ripe palate, with nice fresh acidity and rich, lemony fruit. Good length, with grassy, Sauvignon flavours. Quite ripe, early-drinking style. 2010–17.

Ch La Louvière HHHH (16.5)

Pale, greenish. Lemon scented, some oak. Smooth, rounded palate, with crisp balancing acidity. Good. Slightly one-dimensional but lovely balance. Very Sauvignon. 2009–17.

Ch Larrivet Haut Brion

HHHH (16.5)

Golden colour. Lifted, waxy floral aromas. Sweetly fruity core. Very appealing. Quite warm alcohol apparent. Good ripeness, richly flavoured. Lemony, honeyed finish. Good. 2009–17.

Ch Carbonnieux (CC) HHHH (16.5)

Pale gold. Oaky, waxy aroma. Mineral, oaky fruit core. Good texture, moderate weight. Stylish, crisp. Slight greenness of flavour doesn’t detract. Good length. 2010–17.

Ch Olivier (CC) HHHH (16.5)

Slightly cloudy, pale. Nose honeyed. Crisp and fresh, with smooth fruit mid-palate. Grassy, with fresh acidity on the finish. Good, structured, firm. 2010–17.

Ch Couhins-Lurton (CC) HHH (16)

Intense, pure Sauvignon (100%) with very crisp acidity. Good fruit expression, relatively lean style. 2011–19.

Ch de France HHH (16)

Pale gold. Nose, lemony, oaky. Palate smooth and rich, quite oak-dominant. Rich style. Good. Oak a little dominant. 2010–17.

Ch Smith Haut Lafitte HHH (16)

Pale gold. Nose oaky, intense, creamy. Palate rich and ripe, with sweet fruit. A little warm alcohol. Big and rich, quite oaky. A little overdone for my taste. Lacks freshness compared with others. 2010–22.

Ch Pique Caillou HHH (15.5)

Sherbet, lemon-scented, lightly honeyed. Straightforward, linear and fresh. Good. A little short. 2010–15.

Ch Bouscaut (CC) HHH (15)

Pale, lemony. Lots of oak evident, with good weight of fruit. Full bodied and rich. Plenty of acidity. A bit obvious, but pretty good nonetheless. Will need some time to shake off the oak. 2009–13.

Graves – Red

Ch des Fougères HHH (16)

Smooth, rich and juicy fruit. Firm on the finish, but well rounded for the vintage. 2010–15.

Graves – white

Ch de Chantegrive HHHH (16.5)

Pale gold. Lifted, lemony, oaky fragrance. Crisp, with sweet, ripe fruit, waxy/lemony flavours, some floral complexity. Nicely balanced.Firm. Good. 2009–15.

Pessac/Graves

performing well

and/or improving significantly

Domaine de Chevalier (CC)

Ch de Fieuzal (CC)

Ch Brown

Ch La Louvière

Ch Haut-Bergey

Key

CC cru classé

CB cru bourgeois

CBS cru bourgeois supérieur

CBE cru bourgeois exceptionnel

2–5G 2nd–5th growth

2L/3L 2nd or 3rd label

GC grand cru

GCC grand cru classé

1GCC premier grand cru classé

NB Classifications have been included for reference despite the annulment and suspension of the cru bourgeois and St-Emilion classements respectively

Sound Bites

‘With a handful of exceptions, this is a vintage to be bought by wine lovers only if they have an empty cellar they are dying to fill. The dry whites were the most successful’

Jancis Robinson MW

‘We think 2006 is comparable to 2004 and, as a consequence, we need to get prices back to the 2004 level, if not slightly cheaper’

Simon Staples, buying director, Berry Bros & Rudd

‘You want to know why my father is looking happy? Château Reynon Blanc 2006 has sold out. It’s the only white 2006 that has all sold this year’

Fabrice Dubourdieu, son of consultant and Ch Reynon owner Denis Dubourdieu

‘It was a harvest where you had to have people ready to go into the vineyards at a moment’s notice’

Florence Cathiard, Smith-Haut-Lafitte

‘The weather was too tough for a lot of people’

Steven Spurrier

‘Freshness is the characteristic of the vintage in Margaux. It’s similar to 2004, with more density’

Paul Pontallier, Château Margaux

‘2004 prices were too low, 2005 were too high. We need

to find a happy medium’

Eric d’Aramon, Ch Figeac

‘We were very pleased. At the end of August we thought we had no harvest – and then the good weather started in September. But our average production was down 50% this year so it would be dangerous for us to put the price down’

Eric Larroma,

Ch Lafaurie Peyraguey

‘It will be a difficult campaign. To come back down to the more sensible prices of 2004 doesn’t seem to be in the air, but too ambitious a campaign would damage a market that is now healthy’

Journal Sud-Ouest

‘2006 is a serious vintage, but it is impossible to give an overall view of prices any more. Each château has its own trajectory to follow’

Patrick Maroteaux,

Ch Branaire-Ducru

& president, UGC

‘Pomerol and the white Graves are the highlights. The latter had perfect conditions and no excuse not to make a great wine – though not all of them have done’

Serena Sutcliffe MW

5* at a glance

Ch Cos d’Estournel (2G)

Ch Lafite-Rothschild (1G)

Ch Latour (1G)

Ch Mouton-Rothschild (1G)

Ch Pichon Longueville (2G)

Ch Léoville-Las Cases (2G)

Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou (2G)

Ch Léoville-Barton (2G)

Ch Margaux (1G)

Ch Palmer (3G)

Ch Ausone (1GCCA)

Le Dôme

Ch Lafleur

Ch Le Pin

Ch L’Eglise-Clinet

Ch Pétrus

Ch Haut-Brion (CC) (red)

Ch La Mission Haut-Brion (CC) (red)

Ch Haut-Brion (white)

Domaine de Chevalier (CC) (white)

What Price Bordeaux 2006 en primeur? By Colin Hay

However good it is, the vintage immediately following an exceptional year always poses big and difficult choices for château proprietors when it comes to setting appropriate release prices.

2006 was never going to be easy, and the general difficulties of following a legendary vintage have merely been compounded both by just how good the 2005s now seem to be and by the acute climatic challenges of an exceptionally wet September. What makes pricing strategy more complicated still in 2006 is the increasingly differentiated character of the global

en primeur market, the high value of the euro relative to the dollar in particular, and the

re-evaluation of the 2004 vintage currently under way. Finally, all of this needs to be set in the context of the very high cost in the vineyard of getting the best out of 2006. For, whatever its market price will ultimately prove to be, 2006 has proved an almost unprecedently expensive vintage to produce.

So what, if anything, can we say about likely release prices in the 2006 en primeur campaign? First it is important to be sanguine about our chances of predicting release prices with any degree of accuracy. Apart from anything else, most proprietors have still to decide upon a price. And Bordeaux proprietors do not set their prices in a vacuum – the prices they choose will be shaped decisively both by the ratings of international wine critics (Robert Parker in particular) and by the pricing decisions of other proprietors. Bordeaux prices are all about relative status and standing, and until one knows the release price of the châteaux across the road and their respective Parker ratings, it is almost impossible to predict the prices of specific properties.

Yet what we can hope to understand is the pricing dilemma that different proprietors face. And the point is that different proprietors face very different challenges in this vintage. Take first the wines at the very pinnacle of the 1855 classification, the first growths – Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton and Haut-Brion. It is these properties that benefited the most from 2005.

For, somewhat ironically, this most even of vintages – kind to first growths and cru bourgeois properties alike – resulted in a greater price disparity than ever before. While the prices of the fifth growths increased by as little as 30%, the first growths’ release prices typically rose 300–400%. Such large increases for the first growths, combined with the more positive evaluation of the 2004 vintage by international wine critics now that it is in bottle, have served to drive up the market value of the 2004s. As the following table shows, these currently trade on the UK market at around twice their release price.

Wine 2004 prices (case) 2005 prices 2006 price

estimate

Haut Brion 894 1,300 2,452 4,500 1,200–1,600

Lafite Rothschild 895 1,750 3,800 3,950 1,600–2,000

Latour 1,150 2,800 4,000 7,500 2,600–3,200

Margaux 895 2,340 4,000 5,100 2,200–2,600

Mouton Rothschild 896 1,400 3,380 3,500 1,400–1,800

It need scarcely be pointed out that, unless they hold back large amounts of stock for later release, the châteaux themselves do not benefit from any increase in the value of their wines on the secondary market. This point is hardly lost on them. If, as Steven Spurrier suggests, the 2006 vintage is genuinely better than 2004, then the first growths will surely be reluctant to release for anything lower than the current market value of their 2004s. What this means is release prices of approximately twice those in 2004. It would seem that the days of first growth release prices below £1,000 ($2,000) are now gone.

The situation for the fifth growths is very different. These are, of course, a far more disparate bunch. But none were able to use the success of 2005 to triple or quadruple their prices and they all compete in a part of the market which is rather more price sensitive. Their predicament is rather different and arguably rather more difficult – and it is likely that they will respond in a less homogenous way. As the following table shows, and with only a couple of (notable) exceptions, their 2004s have not increased significantly in value on the secondary market.

Wine 2004 prices (case) 2005 prices 2006 price

release current release current estimate

d’Armailhac 135 150 230 240 140–180

Cantemerle 99 109 116 161 90–110

Clerc Milon 168 189 270 277 180–220

Dauzac 126 148 198 198 140–180

Grand-Puy Lacoste 196 198 425 424 190–240

Haut Batailley 129 132 210 215 120–160

Lynch Bages 243 337 474 560 300–360

Pontet Canet 233 265 450 582 260–320

du Tertre 135 170 205 231 160–190

Consequently, they have less room for manoeuvre in terms of 2006 release price. The costs for them of getting it wrong are also greater. And they have additional problems to deal with in setting release prices. Put starkly, some of these 2006s are not very good – and the reason for that is simple. A number of these châteaux simply couldn’t afford to spend the money in the vineyard required to make wines that are superior to their 2004s. Where this is the case – or where it is seen to be the case by critics – the market will not bear release prices higher than those in 2004.

Overall, then, we should expect to see release prices reasonably close to the current market value of the 2004s. But – and this is the crucial point – that means very different things at different points in the classification. For the first growths this is likely to translate into release prices around double those in 2004; yet for the fifth growths it means release prices much closer to those set in 2004. Put in more tangible terms, while in 2004 nine bottles of Cantemerle could be had for every bottle of Margaux, in 2006 it is likely that one could have two full cases of Cantemerle for a single bottle of Margaux. The price disparity opened up in 2005 is here to stay. If this proves to be an accurate assessment, then Bordeaux 2006 will be priced at a level the market can bear. Whether, at that price, it represents value for money is a tough call. If that is indeed the case then the châteaux will have probably got their prices just about right.

Colin Hay is professor of Political Analysis at the University of Birmingham, UK, and has recently written a thesis on the evolution of Bordeaux release prices for the journal New Political Economy

Written by Steven Spurrier