The word was … Napa. Not usually a term of endearment in La belle France. Yet Jancis Robinson, the eminent British critic invoked it repeadtedly, ”I have never written the word ‘Napa’ so often in my tasting notes. Come to think of it, I had never written the word Napa at all,” during spring pilgrimages to sample the primeurs in Bordeaux.
“Napa” in those precincts means means over-ripe, heavily extracted, and high alcohol. That’s not just a style choice, but a near impossibility for most of the left bank. On the western shore of the Gironde, Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be thin and pale at first. This year Ch. Haut-Brion will hit 14 percent alcohol, in what Robert Luxembourg told me may be the best vintage in 200 years.
While approving, Robinson took a nuanced stance outside the general exuberance. In her analysis the driving force in the rich 2009 vintage was not an overextraction conspiracy or trend-jumping, but the weather and site, as it should be. In this case, good weather, lots of warmth and proper rain, but so much warmth it was a challenge. Top vineyards handled it in Bordeaux form but in some vineyards grapes were overripe with flavor and sugar, but underdeveloped in tannin.
In effect she told 2009, “you’re no 2005,” but couldn’t help grinning: “Overall this vintage can offer more sheer pleasure than any I can remember and may well provide delicious drinking throughout its life while we wait for the 2005s to emerge from their tannic corsets.”
And so it went through many reports from the hundreds of wine writers, merchants and critics, from Suckling to Tanzer. Great vintage, but how great – and in the months to come, the bigger question, how much?
For now this vintage shapes up as both delicious and highly-debated, a double treat for the tongue. For more insights on the 2009 Bordeaux vintage, don’t miss this weekend’s tasting and seminars with the likes of importer Jeffrey Davies, consulting wizard Stephen Derenoncourt, Angelus proprietor Coralie de Bouard and more.
They should know. You will too.
And B-21 will have a full stock of 2009 futures, so be ready to place your bets.
- Chris Sherman, The Blogging Nibbler