We should have seen 2005 coming

Broadbent 2005 People & Places Articles
  • Thursday 15 February 2007

Michael Broadbent

Ido find it extraordinary that so many of the best, and certainly many of my favourite, vintages end with a ‘5’. More extraordinary is when a ‘5’ vintage happens to be good in all of the major wine regions – which is perhaps not so surprising if I have in mind the vineyards of Europe.

In this case, port happens to be an odd man out, for example in 1927 and 1963. But even port fell into line in 1935 and, in 1945, it aligned with the major wine regions in France and Germany (though it’s a wonder that any decent wine was made in Europe that year given the war had scarcely ended.)

The Loire 1945s, though very good, were surpassed by the 1947s; 1955s are very good in all regions; but 1965 was abysmal everywhere. The 1975 vintage was uneven, except for Sauternes and the sweet wines of Germany, thanks to tartaric acid’s nervous vitality.

It is when I get to 1985 that it all comes together. Though there had been great growths and good vintages in Italy, it was in 1985 that serious improvements in vineyard and cellar were noted (readers will recall a recent review of Ornellaia vintages: 1985 was its first and – dare I say it again – its best). Generally speaking, the wines of 1985 have come of age; after all, 20 years is a long time. How supremely lovely are the vintage ports. How excellent the top Bordeaux. How glorious are the red Burgundies, by now fully mature – the best at peak; some declining.

1995s are also good. Then, leaping nimbly over the timely and adequate millennium vintage, I arrive at the uncontroversially

well-received 2005s.

When I was in Burgundy last autumn with my knowledgeable colleague Anthony Hanson, all the leading growers we met were very happy with the 2005 wines just harvested. But, without exception, they were worried that excessive publicity would make it difficult to sell their (very good) 2004s. This is, of course, one of the problems. The Bordeaux producers, while relishing in and taking advantage of the 2005 hype, are also concerned about the previous vintages. Early days, but if the prices rocket, sensible buyers for drinking might find 2004 Bordeaux (and Burgundy) surprisingly attractive.

I am afraid that I am not in a position to comment on

New World 2005s even though, picked in our springtime, they have a head start. Doubtless the southern hemisphere whites will be on restaurant lists before too long. As for the

top Californian wineries, their 2005s won’t be released for another three or four years yet.

2005 Bordeaux is the hot topic. Decanter has already published notes made by Steven Spurrier and his distinguished panel, to which I shall merely add that, as far as ratings go, the average quality is uniformly high.

But ‘uniform’, for me, is the operative word. It could be my age (though I am relieved to know that I am not alone), but I do miss some of the stark contrasts; the drama. Of course there were some under-performers to balance the over-performers: the big and black, the heftily unpalatable. I was aware of the New World influence, though there seemed to be a conscious effort, on the Left Bank in particular, to keep the alcoholic content at a reasonable level. We shall see.

Now for some unconfined joy. The annual tasting I always most look forward to is that organised by the VDP Grosser Ring Mosel-Saar-Ruwer estates. Held in June at the German Ambassador’s residence in Belgrave Square – a prestigious start – the producers presented their 2005s. Once you get over the wines’ almost complete lack of colour (which vies with the water glass), the seduction starts with the scent of ripe Rieslings. Yes, some have a whiff of that varietal’s kerosene character, but at this early stage one notes peaches and cream, the Ruwer’s steely minerality and botrytis giving a touch of honey and extra dimension to the richer wines.

In fact, it seemed that every stage of the prädikat wines had extra dimensions: the spätlese had auslese richness and the auslese was up to beerenauslese. Actually, this is a practical problem: an estate’s regular customer will find his usual kabinett richer than he anticipated. But, of course, there is always that tingle of acidity to balance the sweetness.

Although I think that fine wines, regardless of their background, should not be drunk prematurely, I defy anyone not to be totally bowled over by youthful German Rieslings. But first an important point: these wines are rarely, if

ever, bought for investment. They are for drinking, And the other equally important point is that you don’t have to be an expert to appreciate them: they are simply delicious.

Michael Broadbent, a director of Christie’s, has more than 50 years’ experience in the wine world. He has written numerous award-winning books on wine

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