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Robert Parker Bordeaux 2009 scores shrink Atlantic taste divide

Robert Parker’s ringing endorsement of Bordeaux 2009 shows the vintage has brought together American and European palates as never before.

In his assessment of the vintage, published last night, the influential American critic says 2009 ‘may turn out to be the finest vintage I have tasted in 32 years of covering Bordeaux’.

It will prove ‘far superior’ to most vintages of the last 10 years – ‘and not far off the quality of the 2005 and 2000’.

Eighteen wines are given scores of 98-100 – near-perfect in Parker’s complex scoring system in which he returns to wines and clarifies his scores after bottling.

There is remarkable consistency on both sides of the Atlantic in terms of the top scorers. Parker has a reputation for favouring right-bank wines, especially the bigger styles, often disagreeing vehemently with his peers in Europe.

In 2003 Parker and Jancis Robinson were involved in heated exchanges over Chateau Pavie – the former found it delicious, the latter undrinkable.

A similar spat looked possible over Cos d’Estournel 2009 – a wine which every critic agreed was highly unusual in terms of style and power.

Decanter gave it 18.5 points, Parker a possible 100, and Robinson a very low 16.5+.

But overall this year Decanter and other European critics are in agreement.

Spurrier told decanter.com, ‘traditionally, European critics have found it difficult to give full marks. This year I gave 20 out of 20 for the first time, for Margaux. We’ve pushed the boat out.’

Right bank wines such as Ausone, Pomerol’s Lafleur and L’Eglise Clinet are favourites, both Decanter and Parker marking them very highly. Angelus too had top marks from Parker, and 18.5 from Decanter.

St-Estèphe property Chateau Montrose separated the critics, with Jancis Robinson’s score (16.5+), at odds with Parker (96-100) and Wine Spectator (97-100). Decanter gave it 19.

The real surprise is Clos l’Eglise, which Parker awarded a potentially perfect score of 96-100. Other critics, both UK and US, were less impressed. Wine Spectator awarded it 93-96, whilst Jancis Robinson scored it at 16.5. Decanter score: 17.5.

Elsewhere Parker stays loyal to his old favourites. Valandraud, one of the controversial ‘garage wines’ of the early part of the decade, gets a high 96-98 (Decanter 18.5). Pape Clement, whose wines are made by Michel Rolland, traditionally a Parker favourite, gets 95-97+, a score echoed by James Lawther’s 18.5 for Decanter.

For Spurrier, the most significant thing about 2009 is the fact that it has redrawn the boundaries of what is possible for Bordeaux.

‘Any attempt to say that Bordeaux can’t handle extra-ripe grapes is nonsense. This proves that Bordeaux can deal perfectly with an untypical vintage.’

Spurrier also stressed that any perceived problems with higher-than-normal alcohol have also been defused – ‘it was just not a problem.’

Parker agrees. Reports of excessive alcohol are ‘absurd’, he says in his introduction, making the point that the Medocs might have been higher than normal, but once the blends were done, everything ‘fell between 13% and 14% alcohol.’

Bordeaux 2009: All the coverage

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Written by Adam Lechmere

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