It’s easy to be cynical when Bordeaux châteaux wheel out the superlatives to describe the latest vintage, but with 2009 there do seem to be sound grounds for optimism.
The best wines will reflect a warm but mostly balanced year, with an unusual uniformity to the reports of excellence from left bank, right bank and Sauternes.
Early assessments suggest a broad similarity to 2005, although with a little extra warmth translating into higher levels of alcohol in the finished wines.
AXA Millésimes managing director Christian Seely predicts ‘one of the great’ Pichon-Barons, while Pomerol stablemate Petit-Village is said to be ‘simply outstanding and maybe the best we’ve ever made’.
Few, if any, voices have so far dissented. ‘A great vintage is assured,’ says Patrick Jestin, CEO of Vins et Vignobles Dourthe. ‘The only regret is that we have lower yields as a result of localised hail or low rainfall.’
Bordeaux generic body the CIVB describes weather conditions as ‘particularly favourable’ during 2009, characterised by a mild spring, a warm and dry summer and a continuation of that heat and sunshine into September and harvest time.
The major problems were violent hailstorms across the region on 11, 13 and 25 May, which were typically localised but very damaging where they hit.
Some vineyards lacked a little water in the sunny, dry summer conditions, but Seely’s concerns for the Cabernet Sauvignon at Pichon-Baron were assuaged by a little rain early in September, helping to replenish water reserves in the soil. Meanwhile, cool nights in the run-up to harvest helped to boost colour and aroma.
Hail was the one black spot on an otherwise exemplary vintage in weather terms, causing significant damage to 19,000 hectares of vines – which equates to about 15% of the total Bordeaux wine growing region. Damage was widespread but localised across the Médoc, Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers, St-Emilion, Blaye, Bourg and Premières Côtes, and production will be noticeably lower as a result.