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Apr 1, 2006 06:32 PM

2005 Bordeaux En Primeur

  • m

Touring a number of Médoc Cru Classés last week, I had the chance to taste a handful of 2005 Bordeaux barrel blends. These samples had been assembled as close-to-final blends for the tasting held in Bordeaux that Wednesday for the top negociants. They will be offered for the first time to the wine trade and media starting tomorrow (April 2) to kick off the en primeur campaign for the 2005 vintage. This was my first visit to this part of the wine world and my initial exposure to tasting infant Bordeaux wines.

In a lecture at Bordeaux University's School of Oenology, Professor Denis Dubourdieu described the 2005 vintage in the Medoc as a continuation of the drought and exceptionally dry. While drier than 2003, temperatures were not high. The grape vines adapted well to the water shortage with reduced growth of the canopy surface and evapotransporation except for the youngest vines on the driest soils. July and August had normal temperatures with cool nights that preserved acidity and supported synthesis of phenolic components. September and early October were exceptional and without rain providing a long autumn season free from mold. From earliest harvest to latest harvest in the same village could be three weeks with the extremes of styles shown in the wines. The vintage is marked by richness of sugars due to the opportunity for later harvest and moderate yields. Winemaking difficulties were minimal with the exception of some malolactic fermentations not yet complete as of March. For more comments on the vintage, check Prof. Dubourdieu's website, and click on "news".

I also had the opportunity to meet Vintek negociant, William Blatch, to learn about his career and the role of the negociant in the Bordeaux market. His first report on the 2005 vintage in Bordeaux is linked below.

Here are my brief tasting notes on the five samples.

2005 Chateau Lascombes barrel sample (Margaux) - 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot. Opaque purple-black with violet rim, red berry, fruit gum and floral nose, minerality obscured by succulent and highly extracted fruit, licorice and some cedary notes showing through soft cherry, red currant and blackberry fruit, great freshness and verve, plump medium-heavy body, firm polished tannins (matured on lees), warm finish of medium-long length. EXCELLENT minus potential

2005 Chateau Brane-Cantenac barrel sample (Margaux), 13.8% alcohol - Overt nose with violets, black plums and blackberry primary fruit, luscious and rounded in the mouth with fine-grained tannins, marked minerality, intense and incredibly well-focused for such a young wine, ripe but not overdone, elegant carriage with a feminine step, soft and silky finish with some alcoholic warmth. EXCELLENT potential

2005 Chateau Lynch-Bages barrel sample (Pauillac) - Thick and generous nose and palate with sumptuous blackberry and red currant fruit laced with anise, toasty oak shadings and stony minerals, many layers fan out from initial attack, new wood character and oak tannins not well-integrated yet (proportion of new oak increased to 80% from 70% this vintage), plummy and voluptuous mouthfeel with rich ripe tannins that extend the length through a long, warm alcoholic finish. EXCELLENT potential

2005 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron barrel sample (Pauillac) - Explosive on the nose and palate, far more winey and deep than expected, many dimensions of black fruit, spicy earth and torrefaction, quite flashy and open-knit from high proportion of new wood with a definite oaky signature, voluminous and mouthfilling, very ripe impression and almost jammy in the finish. OUTSTANDING potential

2005 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild barrel sample (Pauillac) - 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot. Striking precision and elegance showing unmistakable first growth breeding and stature, seductive reglisse and peppery spice mingled with cassis, blackberry, and lead pencil minerality, primary and inky at this phase but not at all overextracted, opulent or oaky (despite 100% new French oak treatment), youthful and graceful acidity that lifts and lengthens, far more expressive than expected, well-concealed medium-bodied structure underpinning the deliciously ripe fruit with fine-grained tannins that coat the mouth with velvet, alcohol tucked in well, slight chalkiness in the end, magnificent persistence, depth and length. OUTSTANDING plus potential



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  1. Hello, many thanks for the notes, and congratulations. I was considering purchasing some '04 futures, but now will save for some '05s, not that I'll be able to get any of these chateaux! I searched CH to check if you or anyone posted tasting notes on '00 Bordeaux and didn't get anything. Were there some I missed? Still giving mine a couple of years more, minimum. thanks again

    8 Replies
    1. re: moto

      You should start drinking your 2000 Cru Bourgeois, but you're probably best off waiting a couple of years or more for your classified growths. As for 2004, it was a huge harvest, and there's a ton of unsold inventory in the system right now. So I would expect the 2004's to be released close to or maybe even below future prices, and to start getting discounted once the 2005's get released.

      1. re: Malik

        thanks for the helpful reply. We've started to enjoy some of the cru bourgeois and I'm sure some of the second labels would drink well now, but I keep running across bottles while sorting the basement that are probably passing their prime, so there's no hurry. I appreciate your advice on the '04s. You're probably one of the many wine biz insiders who post here, I've enjoyed your SF notes, but in case you didn't know, our benevolent dept of homeland security might force the French to stop using the nice wood crates to ship wine. cheers

        1. re: moto
          Melanie Wong

          The only reason to buy wine on a futures basis are 1) you want to lock in your supply allocation before release, and 2) you feel the price will appreciate considerably. To echo Malik's excellent comments, 2004 produced huge quantities of wine, one of the largest ever in Bordeaux. In some communes, the regulated limit on yields was raised for this year because the crop was unexpectedly large and of good quality.

          2004 is in the shadow of 2003 and being overlooked as the wine world eagerly awaits the 2005s. The wines are being bottled now and there's a lot of angst that much of it has not been purchased by negociants yet. Many merchants have taken a minimum allocation, just enough to ensure that they'll get a good crack at 2005. I would expect many opportunities to taste the finished wines in the SF area where you live and you can judge for yourself before buying.

          At nearly every chateau I visited on my recent visit to the Medoc, 2004s were poured, so I tried many more of those than 2005s. The wines have lively acidity and brisk, ripe tannins. At Leovile-Poyferre, the red cassis fruit sings through beautifully.



          1. re: moto

            I'm not in the business, just an avid consumer. And yes, the second labels should be starting to drink well. Remember that in good Bordeaux years like 2000, it will take a long time before most wines are past their prime. So you should take into account whether you prefer your Bordeaux young or more mature. For the best properties (2nd growths and the likes), I prefer to wait until they start developing secondary aromas, which might take 10 to 12 years for this vintage.

            I used to like those wooden cases, but I've found that the similarly shaped cardboard boxes (i.e. the ones with two rows of six bottles lying flat) are more convenient for my storage lockers. Plus they're lighter and don't have sharp corners. So the loss of wooden boxes won't be a big deal for me.

            1. re: Malik

              Here's a link to today's article on Bloomberg with some predictions on pricing for 2005.


            2. re: moto

              What's the reasoning behind prohibiting wooden crates?

              1. re: Bob Stanley

                hello, as I understand it, the crates give an excuse to homeland security to hassle the importers and lengthen inpection delays, so it wouldn't be a prohibition, more of an induced 'voluntary' concession to streamline inspection. Recently a famous pianist who travels with his own German Steinway came to the U.S., had his piano taken apart--homeland security people, not Steinway technicians-- for inspection and damaged (a vintage instrument of course). The wine folk cringe at the idea of having their 'concertos in a bottle' banged around and bullied more than necessary.

            3. re: Malik

              I had the 2000 Greysac, a cru bourgeois, recently. Like other 2000s I've tried in the last 6 months, it is a bit closed in right now. I would wait a bit longer, as even this "small" wine has the stuffing to age more.