2009 Bordeaux — An Outstanding Vintage: Powerful, Ripe, and Concentrated
An excellent vintage of ripe, solid, full-bodied wines with the color, tannins, concentration, and structure for the top wines to last for decades. If there is any criticism, it is from lovers of cooler, more classically styled vintages, who found some wines to be overly alcoholic and lacking in freshness and acids. But for those who prefer classically styled wines, there are the 2010s! These are solid, beautiful wines built for the long haul, and between the two back-to-back great vintages, each with its own signature style, there should be plenty for everyone. The only real downside was the prices, with the 2009s setting records and the 2010s promptly breaking them.
A cold, lingering winter kept the vines quiet and slow to start, with plenty of rain in January and again in March conspiring to delay bud break. Cold temperatures in the end of March kept things moving slowly, with Right Bank Merlot under way in early April but Cabernets on the Left Bank just starting. But, all in all, it was a pretty good start to the year.
There was ample rain in April, a warm spell in the middle, and more rain towards the end of the month, but May and June were warm and sunny — well above average in total hours of sunshine. But on May 11th, a violent hailstorm came in from the Bay of Biscay, through Cognac and Bourg, through the southern Médoc, including Cantenac, Arsac, and Labarde in Margaux. Another storm hit the next day on May 12th, tearing through the Entre-Deux-Mers and into parts of Saint-Émilion. These two storms were very damaging; not since 1935 was there so much damage reported.
Flowering was early and took place in pretty good conditions. It was completed by June 14th, which is normally the mid-point. It was pretty consistent overall, portending a good-sized, early harvest. June finished warm and sunny, and it was a good a good start to the summer. Hot, dry, and sunny, with even heat building up without the searing peaks of hot years like 2003. Warm but even-handed, and just enough sprinkles of rain from time to time to keep things moving along. A few warm spots in August caused a little stress, with some impediments to ripening. Overall the healthy, ripe crop didn’t require too much thinning or vendange en vert.
Veraison took place between last week of July and the third week of August, early but by no means record-breaking. Threats of rain kept growers antsy, but the storms mostly petered out before reaching Bordeaux, and dry whites were harvested in very good conditions. A few showers on September 2nd through the 4th, and then again on the 15th, 18th, 19th, and 20th actually helped to relieve a little stress on the vines, and there was basically no rain from September 21st until the end of harvest.
Merlots were picked in warmer conditions that held until October 9th, Cabs in a cooler week after October 12th, and harvest was pretty much completed by October 16th.
The warmer-than-average temperatures through the end of harvest sealed the deal, and the only drawback was a late addition of sugars in grapes that were already particularly ripe, resulting in higher alcohols in some wines.
Strong “buy” recommendation for the reds for those who can afford them. Power and ripeness is the name of the game, with fruit and richness that make make them a bit more approachable earlier on than their nervier, more classic 2010 counterparts.