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Bordeaux 2004 – the insiders’ view

Read what the insiders had to say at this year’s en primeur tastings… Stephan Von Neipperg, Canon La Gaffeliere, St-Emilion Kees Van Leeuwen, consultant winemaker, Château Cheval-Blanc St-Emilion Emilie Faniest, Château La Pointe, Pomerol Jean-Christophe Mau, Château Preuillac, Médoc Pierre Lurton, Chateau Cheval-Blanc, St-Emilion Denis Dubourdieu, consultant oenologist Jean-Charles Cazes, JM Cazes, Pauillac Ben Collins, Bibendum Laurent Lebrun, Château Olivier, Pessac-Léognan Johan Magnusson, Grappe (Swedish importer) Paul Milroy, Berry Brothers & Rudd Daniel Cathiard, Smith-Haut-Lafitte Jancis Robinson MW Peter Winding, Vinbladet (Danish magazine) Back to Bordeaux 2004 homepage

Stephan Von Neipperg, Canon La Gaffeliere, St-Emilion

‘It was vintage with financial implications. Those who could afford it had workers in the vineyard from dawn to dusk during July and August. Those who did no green harvest produced high yields, and consequently tended to overextract in order to concentrate the middle palate and avoid having dilute wines.’

Kees Van Leeuwen, consultant winemaker, Château Cheval-Blanc St-Emilion

‘Yield control was key. The potential yield was extremely high. Those who kept the yields down had the potential to make great wines. If there was no control the consequence was greenness and dry tannins, and dilute wines.’

Emilie Faniest, Château La Pointe, Pomerol

‘A very difficult vintage to vinify. Vineyard management – in particular, two separate green harvests – was essential to ensure the quality of the vintage. I would say the weather favoured Merlot, which was able to reach phenolic ripeness.’

Jean-Christophe Mau, Château Preuillac, Médoc

‘Definitely a vintage for the vigneron. People who worked in July and August did best. I was very surprised – I thought it wasn’t a very exciting vintage until I tasted it.’

Pierre Lurton, Chateau Cheval-Blanc, St-Emilion

‘A lot of people think that this is a high-yielding vintage. The negociants are thinking there will be a lot of bottles at the end of it – and they have a great influence on price.’

Denis Dubourdieu, consultant oenologist

‘The reds, both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, have a very intense colour, fresh and ripe fruit, and tannic richness. Velvety on the attack, soft towards the finish, they epitomise the classic style of great Bordeaux.’

Jean-Charles Cazes, JM Cazes, Pauillac

‘Overall, I would define the 2004 vintage as a true “Classic Bordeaux” vintage, with some expressive and well-defined fruit and a good acid/tannic structure. A vintage which is reminiscent of the concentration of the 1996 plus the freshness of the 2001. We are far from the exuberance of the 2000 or 2003 vintages…

This vintage is truly a success in those estates which conducted their vineyards with great care, adjusting grapes and leaves thinning in order to maximize concentration and ripeness.

In Pauillac, I noticed the deep colour and the full-bodied texture of the wines which suggest that this will be a good vintage for laying down. St Estèphe has all the typical power, with fruit and freshness that are nevertheless elegant.’

Ben Collins, Bibendum

‘Bordeaux 2004 is a vintage of highs and lows. The lows are mainly of high extraction and fierce, searing tannins that will be around for too long to contemplate. There are also some lovely examples of delicious fruit and tannins in check. This vintage will put the extraction fraternity firmly back in their baskets. The most reliable Commune is Margaux. We are expecting sensible prices as well; it should be a good vintage for first time en primeur buyers.’

Laurent Lebrun, Château Olivier, Pessac-Léognan

‘It looks like most of us underestimated 2004 – maybe in the same fashion as we overestimated 2003.

The whites are consistent and excellent across the board; with crisp and mineral characters and good fruit expression. A good acidity should make for excellent ageing potential.

The reds are also quite flagrant and fruity; colour and tannins are outstanding. I think Pessac Léognan did particularly well, though I found also some very good wines in Margaux and St Julien.’

Johan Magnusson, Grappe (Swedish importer)

‘The 2004 looks like being just the vintage the Bordelais needed. Classic freshness coupled with well-structured fruit and sturdy tannins in a medium-bodied texture bodes well for the future, especially on the Left Bank. In particular I’ll go for the Margaux wines, as having the highest and most consistent quality.’

Paul Milroy, Berry Brothers & Rudd

‘2004 is a cool, classic and precise vintage for those properties which monitored the vineyards, green harvested and removed foliage to allow sunshine to ripen the grapes. The Merlot was lovely and ripe but many properties on the Left Bank made wines equal if not better than many Right Bank properties. Therefore we favour many Left Bank properties which worked the vineyards and had a good understanding of this vintage.

The old favourites from Pauillac and St Julien have done very well. They are classic in style, have a good balance of acidity, tannins and the fruit has good ageing potential. Fruit was very obvious on the nose with the best wines, but dry tannins dominated the palate.

It is difficult to compare this vintage to others, but 1978, 1986, 1988 and 1996 come to mind.’

Daniel Cathiard, Smith-Haut-Lafitte

‘2004 is surely more the year of the “vine-tenders” than of the wine-makers. You had to prune tight, take off the leaves east and west, make a green harvest on some parcels -because vines have memory and made up for the drought- and pick the grapes when they were phenolically riped and not yet rotten…

You needed to have not only a great terroir -Margaux, Pauillac, Crus classés de Graves have got it, it could be a Cabernet vintage- but also nerves, and the financial means of your ambition. It is a neo-classic vintage, definitely less exotic than 2003. I think it could be a longer keeper.’

Jancis Robinson MW, wine writer

The best Bordeaux 2004 are muscular, energetic, fine, potentially long lived, seriously appetising and good expressions of terroir, typically with more Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon) than usual. Pauillac and St Estèphe are especially successful, with some fine Margauxs. Worth buying IF prices come down to 2002 levels. Most like 1996 on the Left Bank.

The worst: Hollow and/or over-extracted with mean green tannins. Sometimes desperately simple. To be avoided whatever the price. Most like – 1992?


Peter Winding, Vinbladet (Danish magazine)

‘The vintage 2004 is very classic, it has only the problem that people compare it with 2003 which was very atypical and will not last for long. In the tasting you find for nearly all the better wines marked, ripe tannins and long aftertaste with a lovely freshness. It reminds me a little bit of 1998, but more elegant, more fresh. A result of a fresh, lovely summer and much-much better work in the vineyard.

For the white wines it is a great-great vintage and I even like the Sauternes better than in 2003 because of there more fresh structure.

For me 2004 is a great, classic vintage. Elegant with marked tannins and lovely, fresh, long, aftertaste – a vintage for people who like to collect wine.’

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