As the curtain quickly drops on the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, and the last cases of that harvest’s 96- to 100-point wines disappear from the cellars where they were bottled, it’s time for a last look at the highest-rated vintage in the history of the Gironde.
On the eve of the en primeur tastings, Professor Denis Dubourdieu stepped to the microphone in front of 300 importers and journalists. It wouldn’t be long before the audience grasped the magnitude of the vintage at hand. Dubourdieu, who headed up the enology department at L’Université de Bordeaux, defined the five elements that make for a perfect growing season.
First, flowering should come early, as it did in the first week of June 2009. Second, the fruit set should be uniform, a byproduct of a hot, dry spring. Next, veraison (when the bunches change color from green to red) must also come early, in the last week of July or first days of August. Each variety, Dubourdieu told the crowd, must ripen fully, requiring just enough rainfall (but not TOO much) in August and September to alleviate hydric stress. Finally, the last weeks before harvest must be warm and dry, but absent sudden heat spikes.
Dubourdieu paused, enjoying the moment. You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium. Then Bordeaux’s most revered — and irascible — enologist concluded: “2009 was five for five.”
After Robert Parker posted his 98-point vintage report and Wine Spectator upped the ante to 96-99 (the highest ever), opening prices on the futures market soared. The top-rated châteaux, recognizing the heightened demand from importers in Shanghai, ignored the weakness of the U.S. dollar and raised prices to unprecedented levels. As it turned out, no price was too high.
The négociants ripped through their futures offerings, raising prices along the way. By the time the dust settled, top châteaux enjoyed a record payday — with Lafite Rothschild reportedly NETTING $60,000,000 euros off of just 112 hectares!
In their youth, the most voluptuous 2009s seemed almost more New World than Old, wines that were so delicious out of the gate that we began to question Parker’s insistence on the age-worthiness of the vintage. But now, after several years of bottle age, one more time “The King” is having the last word. As the underlying minerality that’s native to the soils of Saint-Julien emerges, the 2009 Léoville-Poyferré (100 points), Ducru-Beaucaillou (100 points), and what is more and more being called the Left Bank’s greatest bargain of the year — the 2009 Branaire-Ducru (96 points) — are hunkering down for the LONG haul.
The 2009 Château Branaire-Ducru Saint-Julien is comprised of a luscious mix of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and a smidgen of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Inky purple to the rim, infused with polished aromas of black fruits, violets, graphite, and tobacco. Packed with black-fruit concentration yet velour-like in texture, out of barrel Parker described “an opaque, broad, dense, substantial, impressively structured wine without any hardness. … should last four decades or more.”
96 points from The Wine Advocate. $99/bottle. Fifteen cases are up for grabs, each drawn directly from the cellar where it was first bottled.
Too early to drink it
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