An Exciting Vintage, En Primeur 2009


chevalblanc_simagazine.jpgThere’s a great buzz in Bordeaux this week as the 2009 En Primeur kicks off. Producers look happier than ever and are bubbling with excitement. The reasons are obvious. This is the best vintage since 2005 and according to some much better. Shiv Singh reports for Sommelier India WINE magazine from Bordeaux where he’s on hand to taste this potentially historic vintage. Pictured here are Pierre Lurton of Château Cheval Blanc with Reva Singh, Publisher of Sommelier India.

The last few years have been comparatively difficult for Bordeaux. 2005 was a knockout year by all standards. But then 2006 wasn’t as special even though it had lower yields and higher concentration. It also had to live in the shadow of 2005 which meant less buzz. The fact that wine producers chose to raise prices in 2006 did not help either.
2007 was not a great vintage, by any means, and was only saved from disaster by rain in September. Wine drinkers bought the 2007, but there wasn’t significant enthusiasm for the vintage. In many ways it was the lucky vintage, saved by rain.
2008 suffered in its own way but this time not due to weather. The Right Bank was particularly strong in 2008, with Sauternes and Graves (including Pessac-Léognan) closely followed by Saint-Emilion and Pauillac leading the way on the Left Bank. However, the global financial crisis hurt interest in Bordeaux. Fewer people felt they could justify the increasingly exorbitant prices of the top Châteaux. Indeed, given the state of the global economy some even questioned the value of holding En Primeur tastings. Such was the mood barely twelve months ago.
Which brings us to the 2009 vintage. Early reports (and our own tastings) indicate a vintage that has many of the strengths of the 2005 but is richer and more complex. The mostly ideal weather conditions through the summer and at the time of harvesting is at the reason for this optimism.
According to Olivier Casteja of Château Doisy-Védrines at whose Chateau we tasted wines from the Sauternes and Barsac, “2009 has been a wonderful vintage I have worked in this vineyard since 1972 and there has never been a better one. It has richness, elegance and complexity. 2005 was clear and pure. In 2009 we have all that there was in 2005 plus complexity.”
Pierre Lurton of Château Cheval Blanc was restrained and analytical in his response but clearly very pleased with 2009, when we asked him what he thought about it.
“In this vintage I love the touch of tannin and the freshness of the wine,” he said. The climate was different for this vintage compared to 2005 which was hot in September. In 2009 we had cool nights. The wines of this vintage combine the structure of 1998 with a touch of 2005 in complexity. The vintage is remarkable just for the touch of the tannins which are velvety. You could call it cashmere vintage!” he smiled.
But the mood in Bordeaux was captured best by Sylvie Cazes, President of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, at the Welcome Dinner at Château La Dominique (Saint Emilion) on 29 March, in her address to the international press, wine producers and visitors, when she said, “We are all very happy, very excited and even dying to show you our new baby!”
The wines, from what we’ve tasted so far, are rich, extremely well balanced with smooth tannins. More to come, as we taste through the course of the week.

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