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Bordeaux 2005 – Vintage Guide

A very successful commune, with most châteaux going to the maximum to preserve the marvellously ripe Cabernet fruit. The 2005 vintage is definitely a Pauillac year. Steven Spurrier


A very successful commune, with most cha;teaux going to the maximum to preserve the marvellously ripe Cabernet fruit. The 2005 vintage is definitely a Pauillac year.


The message has got through: Margaux is now producing splendid wines for the most part, those chateaux that remained true to the classic style of their appellation producing beautifully balanced, classic wines.


‘There are very few holes here,’ quoted Bruno Borie on his robust Ducru-Beaucaillou, and the same applies to this splendid appellation. Less forward in general than the Margaux wines, more innate structure, great length.


This commune impresses me more each year, as new chateaux emerge to challenge the vast array of established crus bourgoeis, that balance the small number of crus classes. The clay soils retained more water than further south in the Medoc, allowing the vines welcome respite from the drought, providing freshness as well as depth


The days were warmer than average in 2005 but the nights far colder, allowing the grapes to mature slowly with none of the excesses of 2003. Because of the very dry summer, berries tended to be small with deep skins, giving a very high tannin content, often the highest ever. Acidity was fair – higher than in 2003 but less than in 1998 or 1996 – aiding balance, and thanks to a level of viticulture and vinification in Saint-Emilion that has never been higher, overall quality was very good.
The wines are big, rich in alcohol and tannin, and better balanced than most 2003s. The only real difficulty was to extract ‘noble’ tannins from the skins and not heavy ones from the pips – and quite a lot failed. Generally, the wines are built for long ageing, and will certainly soften with one more year in good casks.


In terms of the viticultural year, 2005 vintage reminded Christian Moueix of 1982. ‘It was the same type of easy year except a little drier and with yields better controlled,’ he says. Certainly conditions, as in the rest of Bordeaux, were ideal. Water stress was the only worry but in general the vineyards adapted to the dry conditions avoiding the difficulties seen in 2003. Sugar potential was high (though not as excessive as some ACs) so the wines have power. They also have an abundance of fruit, impressive tannin levels and good acidity providing an overall feeling of balance. Quality across the appellation is reasonably homogenous, the wines built for the long haul. In style, this is perhaps a purer and more intense version of 1982 with a hint of the power of 1989. Undeniably a very good year for Pomerol.  James Lawther MW

Graves & Pessac-Leognan

The red Graves follow the pattern of the vintage; a richness of alcohol (Haut-Brion weigh’s in at 14 degrees), sweet-fruited inner core and powerful tannins for ageing. The latter appeared a little drier at the
primeur tastings than the lusher Medocs hence the wines had slightly less eclat. James Lawther MW

Fronsac & Canon-Fronsac

If ever there was a year for the later ripening terroirs of the Cotes and Fronsac this was it. The clement conditions throughout the year and during the harvest were perfect for ripeness. As well, clay-limestone soils helped regulate water stress. This then was a very ripe vintage with a plentiful supply of tannins and big sugar potential (wines at 14.5-15° in some cases). The danger here was twofold, a ‘porty’ tone to the wines if the ripeness was pushed too far and long fermentations which needed hygienic conditions and a soft touch to avoid further imbalance or microbiological spoilage. A number of wines had not finished their malolactic fermentation by the primeur tastings. In general, rich, powerful, long-term wines providing the correct balance was achieved.    James Lawther MW


2005 seems a perfect year for Moulis, where the lush fruit is pronounced and the Cabernet provided freshness and fragrance. Some of the most attractive wines of the vintage are here. Meanwhile, Listrac rose to the occasion from its usually rather lean, sturdy wines to show ripeness of fruit and more sophistication than is expected from this appellation.

Sauternes & Barsac

As with the rest of Bordeaux, the drought was the outstanding feature of the summer. 2005 was the second driest year since 1897, just after 1906 and just ahead of 1989, both great Sauternes vintages. As for temperatures, between June and October, it ranks as the fifth hottest vintage in 110 years, after 2003, 1949, 1921 and 1899, but ahead of 1906 and 1947 – all of them great years for Sauternes. But to start botrytis, you need moisture, and between the 8th and 12th September about 30mm of rain fell, more than for the entire months of August, July or May. This was followed by perfect anti-cyclonal conditions, with the classic morning fogs and afternoon sunshine. All the producers emphasise the purity of the botrytis and the resulting must. ‘We can’t remember having such a pure first ‘trie’ even in 2001,’ said Berenice Lurton at Climens. In terms of power and elegance, the vintage is closer to 2001 than it is to the ultra-powerful 2003s. Eventually, it may even take its place alongside 1989 and 1947 at the very summit of what Sauternes can produce. The wines are very rich, though less so than 2003, and lower pH gives them great freshness and hence balance and complexity.     David Peppercorn MW

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