Bordeaux 2005 — An Excellent Year!
What more can you say? Vintage reports of great vintages are almost always boring — fine weather during flowering and fruit set, followed by fine summer weather, not too cool nor too dry, hot or wet, followed by fine conditions for harvest. Done — the wines virtually make themselves and winemakers head off to the bank. It’s the post-mortem as the wines age, especially in a benchmark region like Bordeaux, where the going gets interesting and the comparison to other great years begins to take place. A great year to buy as much as is reasonable and sock it away for a decade or two.
How good is great? Often it becomes a matter of style, balance, and longevity, and invariably one region slightly outperforming another for top honors. Maybe a few over-extracted Saint Émilions? Perhaps the only error to be made was trying to go one better than nature in the cellar. But 2005 is solid across the board, with warm, sunny growing conditions and cool nights in August and September to keep sugars in check, preserve acidity, and allow enough hang time for perfect maturity. Rich wines with plenty of ripe fruit, richness and alcohol, but with a freshness and equilibrium that keeps everything in balance. The heavens aligned in 2005, and these are superb wines that deserve a spot in any serious Bordeaux cellar.
It was one of the driest years on record, with many châteaux reporting 40-60% less rainfall than normal. Not since 1949 had it been this dry between bud break and harvest. The dry conditions virtually eliminated any worry of rot or mildew and resulted in small, concentrated grapes with thick skins. It was warm but not hot like 2003, with the even heat creating fresher fruit notes in the wines, and the cool nights in the later part of the season contributing to the fresh acidities.
The warm conditions made harvest timing one of the main concerns of the vintage, especially with early ripening Merlot where balancing acids and sugars was a bit tricky as harvest arrived. Timing was key, and many went earlier rather than late, a decision that preserved crucial acid and gives 2005 part of its unique and excellent style. In the end, a good-sized crop of phenomenally ripe, balanced grapes was the result, and the wines show it in their purity, richness, and world-class quality.