Stephen Brook's Bordeaux 2009 Blog: Day 2

Specials Specials

Sunday is a quiet day here, with the Cercle du Rive Droite tasting the main feature of the day.

It gives a useful overview of the vintage on the right bank, and it surprised me how accessible many of these very young wines were.

They mostly showed excellent fruit and freshness, but lacked some grip and structure. The real test will come later, when the big guns of Bordeaux are available for tasting.

I bumped into winemaker and négociant Jean-Luc Thunevin, who told me his large tasting in St Emilion would be open that day.

I must have misunderstood him, as his cellars were locked later that day. So instead I dropped in on Jonathan Maltus at Châteasu Teyssier in St Emilion, where he was pouring his many wines from three continents to an American importer.

Maltus bypasses the traditional Bordeaux networks, although this year for the first time ever he is selling some wines directly to négociants.

Because he positions himself outside the usual Bordeaux system, he has an unusual and perhaps more independent perspective on what’s going on.

So I went to pick his brains as well as taste his mostly excellent if exceedingly modern-style wines.

In the evening Gérard Perse, owner of Pavie, Pavie-Decesses, and Monbousquet, was giving a dinner at the 2-Michelin-starred La Plaisance (prop G. Perse) in St Emilion. It was preceded by a tasting of the 2009 Perse wines.

When I questioned our host about the accessibility of these young wines and their seeming lack of structure, he replied that this was illusory, an impression given by their abnormally high ripeness levels.

In fact, both acidity and tannins levels were higher than in 2005, but the perfect and atypical maturity of the grapes concealed the fact.

The dinner was magnificent, and attended by a galaxy of journalists.

At my table alone there was a Luxembourgeois, a Dane, an Italian, and myself. The Chinese, French, Austrians, and Canadians were scattered elsewhere.

Those seated at one table were requested in turn to give their view of 2009 Pavie. As each journalist waxed eloquent, the minutes ticked by and a certain monotony set in.

Moreover chef Philippe Etchebest and his squad were waiting in the wings with increasing impatience to be presented and applauded.

I was secretly hoping one brave soul might opine: ‘Frankly, I thought it was a pretty poor effort.’ But the praise was unanimous, and indeed the wine had been impressive.

Fortunately the exercise was abandoned just before I was asked to speak.

The dinner broke up at 11.15, with journalists muttering that the days ahead would be tough, and this would be for many their last convivial dinner of the week.

From now on it would be the lonely rigour of the hotel room and the computer. Well, not if I can help it, I can tell you.