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Bordeaux 2005 - Here we go again!

Is the world ready for yet another "perfect" wine vintage? Apparently at least its most well-heeled consumers are. One month after the wine trade got its first taste of the 2005 vintage from Bordeaux, prices are going insane, report our friends at

"The wine world is going crazy for bottles of Chateau Petrus 2005," spokesman Jim Brough told me in an E-mail note this morning. The Wine-Searcher vendor databases currently show Petrus, which consistently ranks among the world's priciest wines, selling for $30,000 a case, $2,500 a bottle, which works out to about $80 for a discreet sip.

The 2005's are only available "en primeur" at this point; they're aging in barrels at the wineries, not yet bottled, and won't be available for another two years. Consumers who lay down big bucks for Petrus today won't take delivery until 2008.

Meanwhile, though, there's no dearth of publicity about the wines. There's little disagreement that the vintage was top-tier, and that prices - driven by scarcity, and by rave reviews from the usual suspects - will be unprecedented.

"With the 2005 vintage being viewed as an all-time great, prices are almost certain to be mouth-wateringly high," Financial Times writer Adam Jones reported from Paris. And that's just the price that exporters pay at the source. "Prices paid by consumers," he went on, "will be even more stratospheric."

The critical voices, however, aren't quite singing in chorus about yet another round of what appear to be ripe, intense and extracted wines from a region traditionally valued for elegance and finesse. The American writers Robert M. Parker Jr. (Wine Advocate) and James Suckling (Wine Spectator) were predictably smitten. Parker, according to Wine-Searcher's Brough, described the 2005 Petrus as "A dense purple color ... followed by a promising nose of sweet black and red fruits interwoven with pain grillé, mineral, licorice, and mocha-like characteristics." Suckling's Spectator report called it "Astounding. This is wonderfully concentrated with fabulous fruit, chocolate and berry character. Full-bodied, with chewy tannins and a long, long finish. My head is spinning."

British writer Neal Martin ( showed a bit more reserve, however, writing, "The nose is very muted and takes some coaxing before aromas of blackberry, woodland and a little espresso emerge. Superb definition. The palate is more masculine than I expected with some unresolved tannins that will surely meld together with barrel ageing. Stunning focus ... Broody on the finish. A Petrus virgin might wonder what all the fuss is about, but I think there are the components here to make a magnificent wine. But it will need patience."

The always reliable Jancis Robinson listed Petrus in the second tier of 2005s ("Almost as great," trailing a short list of stars rated "Greatest wines"). Robinson cautioned against judging all of 2005 Bordeaux on the basis of the top performers. "[T]he top properties ... can afford to tend and thin every vine individually in order to ripen even the late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon fully and opulently. But the layers of cash-strapped producers beneath this level, particularly those making Médoc and basic Bordeaux, cannot afford such luxury and too often were forced into harvesting sometimes under-ripe Cabernet ... While the heat of 2003 helped to ripen Cabernet in even the less glamorous areas of the left bank, many producers really struggled in the dry but much cooler 2005 vintage."

Of 2005 prices, Robinson frankly added, "There will be a very nasty scrap for allocations of the top wines to merchants and the potentially even nastier business of allocating them to the most faithful, or perhaps most affluent, customers. There will also be no shortage of retailers claiming that all 2005s are simply stunning and that all you need to do is buy into their cellar plan."

Not London's respected Berry Bros. & Rudd, which bluntly challenged some of Parker's ratings:

" ... news of Robert Parker's scores of the 2005 vintage spread like wildfire across the world sending Bordeaux into a mixture of joy, confusion and, in some cases, outrage - Berrys' Fine Wine Director, Simon Staples, says he is bewildered at some of his preferences."

Said Staples, "While we largely agree with Parker's assessment of 2005, we are slightly bewildered that he has given very high ratings to many wines, most of them on the Right Bank, which we found over-extracted, over-oaked and totally un-Bordeaux in style. Some of his scores for these wines are at the same level, or in some cases way above, some of the marks for those which we consider to be the truly great classics of this vintage. We are concerned that the wine lover who buys solely on Parker's points is going to be desperately disappointed if they are expecting traditional Bordeaux."

Realistically, few of us are going to be buying, or even tasting, 2005 Petrus; prices will likely drive all but the most affluent (or crazed) wine collectors out of the market for this and other top-rank Bordeaux. But I thought you'd enjoy this quick look at the way the high end of the wine market operates ... and a cautionary concern about vintage hype trickling down. I'm not saying that everything you'll read about 2005s from around the world will be hype, but "buyer beware" is almost always good advice.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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