Interesting report from Garagiste today. I know, I know, they're selling wines, but that doesn't mean that there's any ulterior motive in particular in the following report, the email wasn't offering any of these wines. Interesting comments, too, on producers like Parker-favorite Pavie and a wine popular on this board, Leoville Barton.
The 2005 Bordeaux Report
The 2005 Bordeaux vintage will be the most sought after in history. More wine drinking nations and consumers have come on-line since 2000 and the vintage has already been hyped to a nearly absurd level. This fact alone coupled with an almost certain applause from influential US critics in a few weeks time will make many of the wines almost impossible to get, regardless of price. Is the hype justified? I will explore this topic in depth over the next several pages, hopefully to aid your search for the nectar that suits you.
One thing is very clear – 2004 is far better than originally thought and even though we have none to sell, I would advise those of you that are actually drinking these wines (and not purchasing for speculation – except for Chateau Margaux and a few other Margaux wines that will certainly increase in price post-Parker) to purchase as many 2004 wines as your wallet will allow. This vintage has immense appeal in the pocketbook as many wines are trading for a fraction of their 2003 and eventual 2005 counterparts. Like 2001, 2004 is a vintage that collectors will wish they had more of ten years down the road. Is there really that big of a difference between 2004 and 2005 Lafite to justify $300 in price? In a word, no. I think you will be able to wait for your favorite bottle scores to come out prior to purchasing the 2004 wines as demand will be very low – if you want a safe bet, stick with the Margaux appellation.
On to 2005...
Where to begin? This vintage is a perplexing one with a style that has really never been seen before. 2005 was a drought vintage that was uncommon in its cool nights and warm sunny days (I did not say “Hot sunny days” a major difference between this drought year and others like 2003), these are most accessible young Bordeaux ever produced but they still possess fantastic natural acidity, amazing freshness and gripping tannins that are ripe and in many cases polished. The wines differ from 1982 in their acidity levels (1982 was always very low in acidity) and probably have more in common with 1989 yet have more nervous verve and freshness. The wines of 2000 are somewhat more masculine as the 2005s have a polish and elegance despite their huge stature. While some may tell you this was an across the board success, I am not so sure. For me, the Left Bank was far more consistent (although not as one-sided as 1996) and while the Right Bank had a great vintage as well, there is room for caution. There are many top Right Bank wines that are quite troubling with natural alcohol levels in the 15.5-16% range (no, that was not a typo). All of the vintners I spoke with that had wines in this class told me the same thing – that alcohol would be evaporated through natural ageing or “other” in the hope that the resulting wines would be closer to 14%. As most of you know, 14% alcohol and Bordeaux rarely mix so stay tuned. There are examples of historic vintages with high alcohol levels (1929, 1947, 1959, etc) and all are considered to be some of the best modern vintages in history so stay tuned. While this may be true, winemaking was different then and I’m concerned about modern techniques and their resulting influence. In fact, we cannot be sure how these wines will age as there is no true predecessor - no matter what the critics tell you.
Is this a great vintage? I’m far more inclined to say “yes” over a vintage like 2003 and it will certainly be critically swooned over for its balance, depth and incredible freshness (on the Left Bank) and massive size, extract and weight on the Right Bank (a la 1947 or other Port vintages) but are the wines really worth so much more than their 2001, 2002 or 2004 counterparts? In the modern world of Bordeaux where the American public ignores vintages that are merely “very good” and runs to purchase anything at any price from a “great” vintage, it seems to be a moot point. In addition, I would look very strongly at older wines with proven track records at lesser prices than the 2005s will be on release. Does this mean I’m sitting this vintage out? Not on your life.
To give you a better snapshot of the vintage, I’ve decided to include the results of an informal poll I took during the week as well as my own favorite wines, etc. Instead of giving you one view from one palate, I asked many influential winemakers, negociants, importers, critics from around the globe and an auction house director or two. I compiled the results and they are quite interesting. I asked everyone for their Top Five wines in order regardless of price; Their Top Five Other Wines to Purchase taking everything into account (price/value, etc), their Most Overrated, their Sleeper of the Vintage and This Year’s 2003 Montrose. I also asked for comments, to be printed anonymously (if they were concerned about backlash) and most gave them to me.
I tasted all of the wines at least twice and in some cases five or more times from different samples. The results are as follows. Please do not reprint or post these notes and/or comments on any chat room or other – they are for Garagiste email list members only:
My Top Five Wines:
Leoville Las Cases
My Top Five Other Wines to Purchase
La Mission Haut Brion
My Most Overrated
Leoville Barton (eek! This wine will almost certainly receive a score in the mid-upper 90’s so point chasers take note – if you actually want to drink this wine, buy Shiraz instead).
My Sleeper of the Vintage
Left Bank: Haut Bages Liberal (open your wallet here and don’t look back)
Right Bank: Nenin (Bonus: Magdelaine)
This Year’s 2003 Montrose:
Left Bank: Cos d’ Estournel (but Ducru Beaucaillou is very close), Palmer (1983/1989 again?)
Right Bank: Angelus, Clos Fourtet
Comments: I’m tempted to say Angelus is the wine of the vintage but I won’t.
Wine I was not as impressed with as the critics (although all should get mid-upper 90s scores but beware before plonking down $200 or more): L’Evangile, Troplong Mondot, Canon La Gaffeliere, Pavie Macquin, Cheval Blanc, Peby Faugeres, Quinalt L’Enclos, Duhart Milon, Pape Clement, Lynch Bages.
Wine I was more impressed with than the critics: L’Eglise Clinet, Angelus, Beausejour Duffau, Calon Segur, Clos Fourtet, Clos de la Cure, Grand Puy Lacoste, Haut Bages Liberal, Montrose.
Wine I will reserve judgment on until next year (with another year in barrel): Lafite, Margaux, Ausone, Pavie
The Group Poll Results (approximately 25 people, all with top palates – all wines were tasted more than once)
The Top Five Wines:
Cos D’ Estournel
The Top Five Other Wines to Purchase
La Mission Haut Brion
Forts de Latour
The Most Overrated
The Sleeper of the Vintage
Left Bank: Sociando-Mallet
Right Bank: Canon La Gaffeliere
This Year’s 2003 Montrose
Left Bank: Ducru Beaucaillou
Right Bank: Vieux Chateau Certan (I would agree, the VCC is incredible in 2005)
Comments from the group: “These are the best wines I’ve tasted since the 1989s – too bad they will cost 10 times what the 1989s did”. “How can these wines increase in value? I guess they said that about 1982 Las Cases as well...”. “The 2005 Pavie is so disgusting I felt like I was drinking ether. So, 100pts?. What was it - 16.5% alcohol?”. “I’m not sure if it’s me or my palate, but where’s the Bordeaux? I know many will say that great wines taste great from the get-go, but many of these are ready for bottling now! Except Lafite and Haut Brion which I found to be exceptional, I’m not sure what is going on. As an example, The D’Issan was like drinking liquid cherry velvet – at this stage! Not that that’s a bad thing but they just may be too open” (as a side note: this comment was from one of the most respected palates in the world so, modesty aside, this is quite interesting). “Don’t you dare tell anyone how good the Bahans or Forts are – I need to buy some first”. “The worst wine I tasted was the Petit Mouton – what is going on there?”. “The Forts de Latour is better than Mouton”. “Ausone missed it this year – it’s another 1982, which disappoints more than the score would suggest”. “Cheval is a tough call for me – I want to think it’s great and I’m sure it will get a huge score but it just isn’t”. “Why would I buy any of the First Growths when I can buy 1986 Leoville Las Cases or comparable wines for less that are just as good or better – and they are a known commodity after ageing”. “2005 Cos d’ Estournel is better than 2005 Lafite and the vineyards are so close they almost touch each other”. “When will someone speak up that a portion of Lafite’s vineyards are in St. Estephe? It drinks more like a St. Estephe anyway”. “The big surprise for me? The 2004s”. “In my opinion, if you have 2003 Lafite you better sell now – it’s probably only going to get a 96-98 from Parker and people will be up in arms as opposed to Latour’s certain 100pts and Margaux’s almost certain 98-100pts. I mean, isn’t the 2001 or 2002 Lafite a 95 or 96 Parker wine as well with a cost of $150+/- at retail? With the same score the value on the 2003 will plummit.”. “Don’t let the critics fool you, Margaux is a distant 4th this year in the First Growth race. The order is certainly Lafite, Haut Brion, Latour, Margaux and then Mouton”. “Don’t let the critics fool you, Lafite is a distant 4th this year. The order is certainly Margaux, Latour, Lafite and then Mouton”.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov