Bordeaux 2009…..Bring it on!


teamAfter a glorious weekend recovering from what I have to say was a completely exhausting week in Bordeaux (and several bottles of reviving Burgundy to aid the process), I can sit down now and actually format in my mind what we experienced and after assimilating that, what’s going to happen next.

Let me briefly explain the process that we have at BBR when we are buying En Primeur Bordeaux. Essentially, there is the same core to our buying team of six as there was 10 years ago (above); Alun Griffiths MW (Buying Director), Nick Pegna (MD of BBR Hong Kong) and myself are still hanging on in there (just!), but aided in the last few years with the new blood of Max Lalondrelle (BBR Bordeaux Buyer), Mark Ross ( BBR’s Commercial Manager) and the long-suffering Catriona Felstead (Manager of our Marketing Department and Studying for her MW) .

It really is a team effort, we all write about each wine, each give it a score out of 20, and if it gets an average of 15 or more it’s a potential buy. The buying decision is then based on how much it costs and, in a year like 2009, whether or not can we find the wine.

bigsi copyBordeaux works in a very strange way, in that if we have not bought a wine the year before, we may be unable to source any this year if other merchants follow their “allocation”. There are numerous chateaux this year that we have not bought before and we shall do our best to secure them, but sadly there are no guarantees – but I’d prefer to tell you about wines we think are great rather than just what we should be able to offer!

The dynamic of the buying team works remarkably well. I think we agreed with each other on 95% of the 300 or so wines we tried last week. Now, I’m not saying six experienced pallates are collectively better than one American critic of course………………..but it’s a lot more fun and I’d hate to do it on my own. We also try and get to make personal visits to as many chateaux as six days allow; I think it was 55 this year. Here you get to taste with the wine maker, ask questions, understand the philosophy of the maker, hear about new techniques, processes etc. rather than tasting them en mass in a room with hundreds of samples. It really does focus the mind on the few wines that the Chateau has to offer. We tend to just stick to the vintage of the time, even when glorious older wines are offered (that’s tricky to say no to!) but that really does take you off-piste and doesn’t help your fatigued palate.

Right, enough waffle. 2009 is brilliant! There, that was easy, I don’t know what I was procrastinating about. Is it better than 2005? Across the board? No. The dry whites are a little too generous, plump if you will; delicious to drink this summer and next but I’d be concerned about their freshness beyond that. The Sauternes are generally a little light, with a few exceptions, and quite a lot of the cheval_blancMerlot-dominant wines of the right bank, who left their grapes on the vines a tad too long, are off balance with very harsh, high alcoholic levels. Also the lesser red wines of 2009 are not as soft and yummy as their counterparts from 2005. However, and this is a HUGE however, having said this, certain chateaux have crafted some truly exceptional wines that match, top and, in a few cases, eclipse their amazing 2005’s. In many cases 2009 will be the finest vintage certain chateaux have ever made.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not certain, but my instinct says that this is not going to be a swift, painless and cheap few months that lie ahead of us all. I say this as a wine lover and as a merchant. Virtually every Chateau will await Parker’s declaration at the end of this month (don’t get me started on this debacle!!) and the very best will await the unveiling of their new babies at VinExpo held in Hong Kong at the end of May. Some will get it spot on, others will completely miss their price and timing of release slot, and others will release at the right price and double it overnight. It’s going to be a blast. What I do know is that whatever happens, those who buy will end up with some totally sublime wines in their cellar and at all price points. I have compiled three lists of wines from our endeavours:

Full tasting notes for each of the wines will be up on over the next few days (watch this space). If a wine you like is not on the list we may not have tasted it or it didn’t make the cut, but please let me know and I can check our collective notes.