No doubt you are aware that Bordeaux prices reached all-time highs for the widely hyped 2009 vintage. In fact, the region’s top collectible wines are mostly extraordinary in ’09, even if they’re beyond the means of most collectors. But this splendidly satisfying vintage can offer outstanding value if you’re willing to venture beyond the swanky addresses. Don’t make the mistake of skipping 2009 just because the first growths cost a thousand bucks a bottle (!) and up.
The nearly ideal growing season of ’09 yielded fleshy, ripe wines with glossy textures, ripe tannins and enough acidity to maintain energy. Very few wines will hurt your teeth right now, and a surprising percentage of them are appealing already or will be drinkable within the next three to five years. Even wines that are normally herbaceous and austere boast extra texture and seductive appeal in 2009. And it bears repeating that beyond the top hundred or so names in Bordeaux, most properties still sell their wines at reasonable prices, and in 2009 many of these chateaux made the best wines they’ve turned out in a very long time.
Here are some of my favorite outperformers in 2009; you should be able to track down all of them for $40 a bottle or less. These are not merely bargain Bordeaux: all of them merited outstanding ratings (i.e., 90 points or higher) in my recent coverage of the ’09 vintage in the International Wine Cellar. Good luck finding Napa Valley cabernet of equal quality and class in this price range.
Château Bernadotte Haut-Médoc ($30), under the same ownership as Château Pichon-Lalande, has made one of the sleepers of the vintage. The wine’s ripe nose displays redcurrant, mocha and cedary oak scents accented by a peppery nuance. On the palate, it’s lush, ripe and concentrated, with a subtle perfume. The suave tannins will not get in the way of enjoying this wine early, but there’s no rush to drink it.
Domaine de l’A Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux ($35) is owned by talented consulting enologist Stéphane Derenoncourt. His classic 2009 features slightly high-toned aromas of blueberry, spices, truffle and chocolatey oak; a dense, sweet palate featuring very ripe cassis and black cherry flavors; and a long finish with chewy tannins.
Château Haut-Bergey Pessac-Léognan ($42) entices with aromas of black raspberry, graphite, charcoal, tobacco and crushed stone. It’s lush and thick on entry, then densely packed and fine-grained in the middle, with excellent energy and definition to its concentrated flavors of black cherry, licorice and minerals. There’s excellent volume and sweetness here but the wine’s youthfully medicinal character argues for at least four or five years of patience.
Château Joanin Bécot Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux ($30), offers aromas and flavors of dark cherry, licorice, mocha, minerals and flowers. It’s plush, ripe and seamless, delivering lovely sweetness yet maintaining a light touch. The long finish features suave tannins and excellent grip. This has to be the silkiest and best wine to date from this property.
Château Larrivet Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan ($40) struck me as an almost southern style of Bordeaux, with liqueur-like aromas of black cherry, strawberry, mocha and smoky roasted herbs. Its ripe, expressive flavors of red fruits, mocha and herbs are complicated by leather and underbrush. Harmonious ripe acidity and a subtle saline quality give lift and interest to this sexy wine, which is one of my sentimental favorites in 2009.
Under new ownership as of 2008, Château Poujeaux Moulis ($40) has made one of its finest wines in years. Aromas of cassis, blueberry, graphite and smoky oak are lifted by a floral element. On the palate, it’s broad, rich and enveloping, with a restrained sweetness to the pliant flavors of dark berries, spices and graphite. This layered, minerally wine finishes with firm, building tannins that coat the front teeth and boasts splendid density and texture for Moulis wine.