Touring a number of Médoc Cru Classés last week, I had the chance to taste a handful of 2005 Bordeaux barrel blends. These samples had been assembled as close-to-final blends for the tasting held in Bordeaux that Wednesday for the top negociants. They will be offered for the first time to the wine trade and media starting tomorrow (April 2) to kick off the en primeur campaign for the 2005 vintage. This was my first visit to this part of the wine world and my initial exposure to tasting infant Bordeaux wines.
In a lecture at Bordeaux University's School of Oenology, Professor Denis Dubourdieu described the 2005 vintage in the Medoc as a continuation of the drought and exceptionally dry. While drier than 2003, temperatures were not high. The grape vines adapted well to the water shortage with reduced growth of the canopy surface and evapotransporation except for the youngest vines on the driest soils. July and August had normal temperatures with cool nights that preserved acidity and supported synthesis of phenolic components. September and early October were exceptional and without rain providing a long autumn season free from mold. From earliest harvest to latest harvest in the same village could be three weeks with the extremes of styles shown in the wines. The vintage is marked by richness of sugars due to the opportunity for later harvest and moderate yields. Winemaking difficulties were minimal with the exception of some malolactic fermentations not yet complete as of March. For more comments on the vintage, check Prof. Dubourdieu's website, http://www.denisdubourdieudomaines.co... and click on "news".
I also had the opportunity to meet Vintek negociant, William Blatch, to learn about his career and the role of the negociant in the Bordeaux market. His first report on the 2005 vintage in Bordeaux is linked below.
Here are my brief tasting notes on the five samples.
2005 Chateau Lascombes barrel sample (Margaux) - 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot. Opaque purple-black with violet rim, red berry, fruit gum and floral nose, minerality obscured by succulent and highly extracted fruit, licorice and some cedary notes showing through soft cherry, red currant and blackberry fruit, great freshness and verve, plump medium-heavy body, firm polished tannins (matured on lees), warm finish of medium-long length. EXCELLENT minus potential
2005 Chateau Brane-Cantenac barrel sample (Margaux), 13.8% alcohol - Overt nose with violets, black plums and blackberry primary fruit, luscious and rounded in the mouth with fine-grained tannins, marked minerality, intense and incredibly well-focused for such a young wine, ripe but not overdone, elegant carriage with a feminine step, soft and silky finish with some alcoholic warmth. EXCELLENT potential
2005 Chateau Lynch-Bages barrel sample (Pauillac) - Thick and generous nose and palate with sumptuous blackberry and red currant fruit laced with anise, toasty oak shadings and stony minerals, many layers fan out from initial attack, new wood character and oak tannins not well-integrated yet (proportion of new oak increased to 80% from 70% this vintage), plummy and voluptuous mouthfeel with rich ripe tannins that extend the length through a long, warm alcoholic finish. EXCELLENT potential
2005 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron barrel sample (Pauillac) - Explosive on the nose and palate, far more winey and deep than expected, many dimensions of black fruit, spicy earth and torrefaction, quite flashy and open-knit from high proportion of new wood with a definite oaky signature, voluminous and mouthfilling, very ripe impression and almost jammy in the finish. OUTSTANDING potential
2005 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild barrel sample (Pauillac) - 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot. Striking precision and elegance showing unmistakable first growth breeding and stature, seductive reglisse and peppery spice mingled with cassis, blackberry, and lead pencil minerality, primary and inky at this phase but not at all overextracted, opulent or oaky (despite 100% new French oak treatment), youthful and graceful acidity that lifts and lengthens, far more expressive than expected, well-concealed medium-bodied structure underpinning the deliciously ripe fruit with fine-grained tannins that coat the mouth with velvet, alcohol tucked in well, slight chalkiness in the end, magnificent persistence, depth and length. OUTSTANDING plus potential