Vi­brant Vin­tage

With age comes bril­liance across the board for the full range of the 2005 Bordeaux. James Suck­ling re­vis­its one of the re­gion’s great­est vin­tages in the 21st cen­tury so far

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

The 2005 vin­tage was a great year for Bordeaux. When I tasted the wines (red and white, dry and sweet) in spring 2006, from bar­rel and only a few months old, I was ready to com­pare the vin­tage to mod­ern clas­sics such as the 1982, 1989, 1990, 1995 and 2000—they were that good. Of course, 2009 and 2010 weren’t har­vested yet, but to­day I can say with con­fi­dence that 2005 is in the same league as th­ese mar­vel­lous mod­ern vin­tages.

What I didn’t ex­pect a couple of months ago, when I joined a small tast­ing of about a dozen 2005s in Beirut with fine wine im­porter Vin­tage Wine Cel­lar, is that they would have evolved so in­cred­i­bly well. The reds are ab­so­lutely spec­tac­u­lar—their beauty and bal­ance is breath­tak­ing, un­der­lin­ing the great­ness of mod­ern Bordeaux, where the wines have un­par­al­leled pol­ish and class.

Wine af­ter wine showed a pre­ci­sion and grandeur that I hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced in a top vin­tage of Bordeaux 10 years af­ter the har­vest—and I’ve been tast­ing the great reds of the re­gion pro­fes­sion­ally for 34 years. The word “ra­di­ant” pops into my head when I think back to the Beirut tast­ing. Over my three days in the city, I drank other bot­tles of 2005 Bordeaux dur­ing meals as well; their en­ergy and char­ac­ter were cap­ti­vat­ing. I have to ad­mit it all seemed some­what sur­real in a city that re­mains the Paris of the Mid­dle East, de­spite the ob­vi­ous tur­moil in nearby places such as neigh­bour­ing Syria.

The 2005s I tasted in Beirut in­cluded: Château Gis­cours (94 points), Château Rauzan-ségla (96), Château Léoville Poy­ferré (93), Château Lynch-bages (96), Château Grand-puy-la­coste (96), Château Cos d’es­tour­nel (99), Château Che­val Blanc (98), Château Calon Ségur (94), Château Mon­trose (96), Château La Con­seil­lante (97), Château La Mis­sion Haut-brion (99) and Château Mou­ton Roth­schild (98).

Prices for the above wines and oth­ers are rel­a­tive bar­gains, con­sid­er­ing many are sell­ing at or near the release price. Top wines are less ex­pen­sive than just a year or two ago. For ex­am­ple, Mou­ton Roth­schild sold for as much as US$9,000 for a case of 12 bot­tles, but cur­rently trades for about US$6,000. The 2005 Grand-puy-la­coste, one of the most pop­u­lar wines of the Beirut tast­ing, sells for about US$100 a bot­tle. That’s not much more than what it sold for in 2008, when it first came out in bot­tle.

Look­ing back at how I rated those wines in the past—some, such as Grand-puy-la­coste, hadn’t been rated since their release—they were all at the same level of qual­ity or even bet­ter. The vin­tage is really evolv­ing fan­tas­ti­cally, yet at the same time con­tin­ues to dis­play that unique fresh­ness and bright­ness I first ex­pe­ri­enced when I orig­i­nally tasted them, from bar­rel al­most 10 years ago and then a few years later on release in bot­tle.

Here is what I wrote in 2008 af­ter tast­ing 1,000 wines in Bordeaux: “Th­ese young wines se­duce you from the start with their com­plex aro­mas of ripe fruit, min­er­als and light earth. Th­ese en­tic­ing aro­mas seem to con­stantly evolve in the glass. They are mes­meris­ing, like sub­tle per­fume on a beau­ti­ful woman. You fall in love with them the mo­ment you taste them.”

I cer­tainly fell in love with the 2005s all over again. Don’t miss them.

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