I’m yet to drink a lot of top Bordeaux, namely because on any regular basis I can’t afford it. While a one off splurge of $200-$300 for a bottle of wine might be fine, doing it on any regular basis or buying half a case of something is not really a sane amount of money for me to be spending, especially if I want to buy wines from other wine regions as well.
In spite of this, I have always wanted to drink more top Bordeaux, and this year through a number of different opportunities and tastings, I’ve drunk far more fantastic Bordeaux than ever. A few First Growths, in Latour and Mouton Rothschild, and a number Second Growths like Rauzan Segla and Montrose, and some right bank stars like Chateau Vieux Certain, have all been in the mix. Below is a collection of thoughts and notes from some of these different tastings
- High acidity – while I’d read about it, and experienced it to some extent previously, I’ve nevertheless loved the high levels of natural acidity in Bordeaux wines I’ve tried of late. Some 15 year old Bordeaux that i tried greatly impressed me with an acidity that was still very prominent (in a positive way). While the ageworthiness of Bordeaux is legendary, it has been nice to actually experience the acidity upon which this is based. As impressive and ageworthy as many Australian Cabernets from places like the Margaret River and the Coonawarra are, it is perhaps more evident to me now than it has been previously why the very best Bordeaux goes that extra mile.
- Savoury profile – with Australian wine the prominence of fruit is almost never in doubt. What is in question, and what sorts the wheat from the chaff, is whether there is a savoury complexity to compliment that naturally powerful fruit. With Bordeaux it more or less seems to be the opposite. A savoury flavour profile is almost a given, with classic tobacco, cigar box, and pencil flavours very much the norm. What is more variable is the generosity of fruit. For me the better Bordeaux are predominantly savoury but nevertheless have beautiful fruit in tow.
- 2009 vs 2010 – 2009 has been lauded by a number of prominent Bordeaux critics, including Parker and Suckling, as near enough to the finest vintage of their lifetimes. The 2010 vintage has also gained plenty of praise as a wonderful vintage, but at this early stage seems to be playing second fiddle to 09 in terms of reputation. I was fortunate enough to attend a tasting where I was able to try a number of right bank wines from both vintages. The two highlights of the tasting were the 09 and 10 of the Chateau Vieux Certan from Pomerol and Chateau Pavie Macquin from Saint Emilion. For me the ‘10s were actually the better wines. Both vintages looked very impressive, with the 09’s quite rich and powerful. The 10’s however looked fresher and more balanced. In particular the 2010 Chateau Pavie Macquin looked stunning. It’s admittedly a very small sample to be drawing conclusions about these respective vintages, though they would seem to align with descriptions that I’ve read, with 2010 being considered by many to be a more classic vintage than the riper 2009.
Some tasting notes on some aged Bordeaux
1996 Chateau Montrose – Saint Estephe (65% Cab Sav, 25% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) - this is a wine that feels fully integrated, but is still very primary, and has many years in front of it. It has a beautiful, floral nose along with some amazing exotic spices. To drink it is a bit of “wow” wine, with beautiful cassis fruit, fantastic drive through the mid-palate, and impressive length. Some lovely secondary notes of sweet leather indicate where this wine is heading.
1996 Chateau Rauzan Segla – Margaux (54% Cab Sav, 41% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 1% Cab Franc) - A beautifully balanced wine. It’s a touch less expressive and powerful than the Montrose, but no less impressive. Great tannins. Lovely tobacco notes linger on a long finish.
1996 Chateau Haut Batailley – Pauillac (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc) - At 15 years of age this wine has a wonderful intensity of primary fruit that just puts a smile on your face. Not without a sense of elegance and restraint this is nevertheless a rich and tannic Bordeaux. Leather and cigar box adding beautiful savoury complexity. Many years ahead of it.
As discussed at the beginning of this post, cost is the only issue with these wines, however, I have seen enough, particularly in the past year or so, to know I should be making the occasional strategic splurge with these most ageworthy of wines.