Bordeaux 2009 - Vintage Report

“ The 2009 is an incredibly exciting vintage of opulence, power, and richness, yet the better wines have a precision and delicacy that is unprecedented.” - Robert Parker,  April 2010.

Weather Conditions

A dry year, with a consistently fine and bright summer and cool nights. April began wet and cool but this was all the rain there would be - in fact there was almost no rain from 1st May until September. This long drought period benefitted the vines which had to work hard in search of the groundwater reserves built up in the Spring. So from May onwards there followed a seemingly endless phase of dry, sunny days and by contrast, relatively cool nights – the perfect combination to ensure slow even ripening and balance-giving acidity. By the end of August, sugar levels in the grapes were actually higher than in 2000 and 2005. As the warm dry weather continued into September acidity levels began to drop off. The question was whether to pick early to preserve freshness, but with the forecasts looking bright, most decided to wait for the tannins to ripen fully. The harvest period was long and Chateaux were able to wait patiently to harvest plot by plot, throughout September and late into October.

The wines

There are well-made wines in every appellation with plush, ripe Merlot and beautifully balanced Cabernets. This is a winemaker’s vintage where timing and gentle treatment were key. The best wines of 2009 are characterised by:

-   Exceptional purity and focus to the fruit. Less aromatic complexity and opulence than in 2005 but incredible concentration of direct blue/black fresh fruit - juice vinified.

-   Velvet-like tannins. Perfect phenolic maturity in the grapes resulting in incredibly smooth textures where tannins are (initially) almost imperceptible. Huge structure. In some instances, the wines were the most concentrated and structured ever made in Bordeaux, with levels of acidity, tannins (IPT index) and alcohol the highest recorded.

-   However, 2009 is far less uniform in quality than either 2005 or 2000.

Right Bank

In St Emilion, the early-ripening Merlot from sandy soils sometimes struggled with high potential alcohols before full tannic ripeness had been reached and so there are some wines with port-like tendencies, or with brutish tannins. The best are richly textured but elegant, from limestone soils or from Pomerol’s cooler clay soils.

Left Bank

The most successful are those that marry their excellent quality Cabernet fruit and Merlot ripeness with superb texture; the least successful hot and over-extracted, finising dry and bitter. The Medoc will offer some excellent wines at all price levels and some cru bourgeois are worth serious attention this year. Second wines (often where all that plump, ripe Merlot ended up) are also set to offer very good, richly fruited wines for early drinking.

Dry Whites

Another good vintage for dry whites with a lot of ripe fruit, and good acidity. Perhaps less typical generally but the best retain their minerality and focus.

Sauternes

A little late rain resulted in lots of good quality botrytised fruit and a quick harvest.  A great vintage, probably the best since 2001.  2009 is similarly marked out by its racy acidity and (in contrast to the exotic lusciousness of 2007) a beautiful floral character to the fruit.