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At Ch Margaux this morning the wines were predictably magnificent, but so was director Paul Pontallier, now at the height of his powers. His thrilling performance introducing the great 2005 wines a few years ago would be hard to surpass, but this year he did so.
Not only is a 100-point score probable, but so is a Bafta nomination. Even in such a marvellous year, with tannins at unprecedented levels but balanced by sheer ripeness and splendour of fruit, only a third of the wine went into Ch Margaux itself (you can imagine what the price is likely to be).
‘Not only that!’ declaimed Paul. ‘23 percent of the wine was not used in the first or second wine!’ At this rate, I calculate, by 2020 production could be down to a hundred cases.
The same thought was clearly running through owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos’s mind. ‘Paul’s happy! I’m not so sure. This perfectionism gets worse with every year.’ While they were joshing each other, comic relief was provided by Corinne’s dogs, the faithful Zorba now assisted by the good-natured Apple, whose principal activity was flopping at your feet and getting in the way.
I then blind-tasted wines, mostly from Margaux, at the UGC tasting at Ch du Tertre. The wines from Margaux were highly consistent, more so than the St Emilions, with beautiful freshness and balance and surprising typicity given the high ripeness of the fruit.
Some of the wines from Listrac and Médoc posted a warning sign, however. Many of these wines, while very fruity, had low acidity, and consequently were quite slack and lacking in drive.
A very good lunch was provided by the chateau with older vintages from Ch du Tertre and Giscours that were a pleasure to sip.
To my left sat Chinese journalist Michael Tse, who confirmed my impression that those expecting some kind of miraculous intervention by the Chinese market could be in for a disappointment. To my right sat Jane McQuitty of The Times, who hitched a ride to Pontet-Canet in Pauillac.
Once again Pontet-Canet has excelled. Paul Pontallier had observed that the tannin levels in 2009 were the highest ever recorded at Margaux, so I asked Alfred Tesseron whether this was true of his own wine. ‘I don’t know,’ he replied, adding: ‘And I don’t care.’ All that matters is what it is in the glass. To me it tasted beautiful and harmonious, of first-growth quality or very close.
On to Ducru-Beaucaillou, where owner Bruno Borie conducted the tasting with typical flair and humour. Often tasters are presented with a tasteful but valueless gift on departing – last year a rock-shaped candle – but this year we left empty-handed, other than good memories of the wines.
No disappointment at Léoville-LasCases and its stable of wines. Even Nenin from Pomerol, not a wine I usually rate highly, was sumptuous and sexy. A noble Potensac and a grand but austere LasCases completed the line-up.
Traditionally the Decanter team, led by Steven Spurrier, travels in a pack to the various chateaux, with some long-established additions such as Jancis Robinson and Fiona Morrison.
By the time we reached Latour our numbers had somehow swelled, to the consternation of director Frédéric Engerer, as there were insufficient places around the tasting bench.
Self-sacrificing souls offered to stand back and merely sniff Latour from afar, but before long everyone had squeezed up and no-one left without a taste of this sublime wine.
It was monumental and hard to taste, reminding me of classic Latour vintages such as 1970, only with more refined tannins.
The Spurrier circus continued on its rain-sodden way to more chateaux, but after the wonderful Latour I thought I would call it a day and head back to Greysac.
I dined with the director, Stéphane Pariaud, who noted that to his own surprise nobody in Bordeaux was asking about or talking about prices.
He felt that extravagant price rises might be constrained by the fact that many estates as well as negociants are sitting on substantial stocks of older vintages and second wines.
We shall see: I am not sure that ‘constraint’ or ‘restraint’ are words that come easily to the Bordelais.