By Manos Angelakis
Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux
One of the first major wine events in New York City was the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting in late-January. There were 105 wineries from Bordeaux – mostly well known second and third tier grand cru wineries – showing the 2009 vintage.
In 2009, Mother Nature smiled on France’s winemakers - every region enjoyed a beautiful growing season. The red wines we tasted were from very good to excellent. Some areas, particularly Right Bank appellations such as Pomerol and St. Émilion, as well as Margaux, were hard hit by hail in the spring. Yet the weather during the summer was impeccably warm, dry and sunny. Talking to some of the vintners that were presenting at the tasting I understand that the fruit was perfect and thick-skinned, so that great wines resulted. Sugar levels in the grapes were high. Even in the north of the Médoc which is normally cooler and the grapes ripen more slowly, sugar levels at the Merlot harvest were 13.5 degrees and the ripest parcels were at 14.7 degrees. Naturally comparisons with the outstanding 2005 are being made, and several proprietors admitted they weren't sure which would turn out to be the greater vintage for the first decade of the 21st century. Only in 2005 was the weather in the summer, similarly hot and dry as 2009. But the difference between day and night temperatures in 2009 was even higher than in 2005. As a result, maturation was accelerated while cool nights preserved high acid levels and an aromatic complexity. With the exception of some beneficial rain in the third week of September the weather remained hot and sunny until late October. This gave the winemakers plenty of time to wait and pick their grapes under optimum conditions.
Marriott Marquis’s Grand Ballroom was filled to capacity; there could have been over 1,500 trade and press participants tasting the wines at one point. In this tasting, there were also a number of wineries showing dry Bordeaux whites that were good, but did not quite have the freshness of the 2006 or 2008 vintages. On the other hand the dessert, highly aromatic wines of Sauternes/Barsac showed a honeyed sweetness, especially at the long finish. Château Climens, Château Doisy Daëne and Château Suduiraut were exceptionally balanced and unctuous. The reds had a great concentration of opulent, dense fruit and exceptional quality of very high yet superbly soft and ripe tannins. 2009 is a year to lay down a case of your favorite Bordeaux château because this vintage will keep developing over the next years.
To your health!
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