With the 2015 Bordeaux futures in full swing, It’s gotten me thinking a lot about the world’s most collectible wine. As a wine lover and collector myself, I almost entirely ignored Bordeaux, mainly because of timing. For me, it was the 2005 futures that were being heavily advertised during the formative years of my wine-collecting life. I watched as prices climbed and collectors scurried to buy the very best wines. Many speculated if the inflation could possibly last, while others bought deeply. I, for one, was priced out before I could even jump in. At the time, Italy was my thing, and so Bordeaux got put on the back burner.
Fast forward thirteen years, and I found myself tasting through a large horizontal of 2005 Bordeaux. As I moved from bottle to bottle, I couldn’t help but think about how much of a fool I had been. Not only did I fail to buy these wines upon release, but I also misjudged the market, as the 2005 vintage not only maintained its value, it actually continued to increase. That night, I learned a valuable lesson about the staying power of Bordeaux.
These days, I take advantage of any chance I can get to taste mature Bordeaux, even as the region has seen some decline in popularity over the last few years, I believe Bordeaux is on the verge of a major comeback. All it takes is a tasting of vintages’ past and a little faith, as these are wines that truly belong in the cellar.
So as the 2015 futures continue to trickle out, my advise is to watch them closely; maybe even jump in as I should have all of those years ago. Because if you think that Bordeaux has hit a ceiling, think again. These wines will be pleasing palates and appreciating in value for many decades to come.
About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to taste through a large selection of Bordeaux’s best from recent vintages. Names like Hosanna, Haut Bailly, Palmer, Ducru Beacaillou, Pichon Lalande and Mouton Rothschild all adorned the table. Tasting these young wines was a challenge and maybe even a bit of a shame since they were so far away from maturity. Yet it was the potential that was on display. That tense, tightly coiled fruit, like a freight train across your palate, that leaves a searing score of tannin in it’s wake. It’s that same intensity that tricks you into thinking these wine might be too dry or reticent–but that’s simply what young Bordeaux tends to be.
Then to taste these same wines later in the evening, but instead from vintages that were 10, 15 or even 20 years old–it’s a tasting like this that seals the deal for anyone who’s on the fence with Bordeaux.
As these wines age, they soften. It’s not that they gain volume or weight; instead what time adds to Bordeaux is texture, that and the tertiary aromas and flavors that mature wine is known for. As the youthful tannins recede, that same tightly coiled fruit relaxes, unveiling a sensation like silky being drawn smoothly across the palate. The experience continues to heighten as the wine moves through the incline of its drinking window, which can last for decades. It’s an experience like this that seals the deal for a collector like myself, and it begs the question of why I don’t buy more Bordeaux.
On to the tasting notes:
2005 Château Hosanna – Worth waiting for, the 2005 Hosanna was at first quite coy and ungiving, as members of the group quickly passed it up for the 2000 vintage. Yet as it sat in the glass, an evolution took place that firmly placed this wine as one of the best of the evening. The nose showed dark red and blue fruits, along with savory herbs and gravel dust. On the palate, a core of crushed raspberry and currant saturated the senses and left notes of dark chocolate and savory herbs. The finish seemed to go on for over a minute, along with a coating of fine tannin that should guarantee this Hosanna another 20 years or more of positive development. (96 points) at Morrell
2000 Château Hosanna – What a great way to start an evening of Bordeaux. The 2000 Hosanna is a wine that gives and gives yet remains perfectly balanced and elegant throughout. Its alluring and evolved bouquet combined a mix of cedar and spicy with ripe strawberry and chalky minerals. Undergrowth and a hint of blueberry skins emerged with more time in the glass. On the palate, it displayed silky textures contrasted by tart berry fruit, inner floral tones and a hint of sweet pepper. A hint of tannin remained on the long finish, yet the 2000 is already perfectly enjoyable today. (94 points) at Morrell
2008 Château Haut-Bailly – The ‘08 Haut-Bailly showed beautifully and open on this night with an alluring mix of ripe plum, cherry, tobacco and sweet herbs on the nose. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by a hint of rough tannin, yet its mix of blackberry and cherry fruit provided cushion against the ‘08’s austerity and ultimately resulted in a highly enjoyable performance. The finish showed more of the wine’s tough structure, yet it was forgivable after everything this wine gave before. (92 points) at Morrell
2000 Château Haut-Bailly – The nose was intriguing and really seemed to pull me closer to the glass with each sip. Here i found a savory mix of olive and rosemary with intense black raspberry fruit and minerals. On the palate, still-youthful tannin and a bump of acidity created a very taut persona with a twang of bitter fruit. It finished on dried red berries and fine tannin. (91 points) at Morrell
2006 Château Palmer – The turning point of the tasting for me was the 2006 Palmer, a dark and authoritative wine that would probably not appeal to a wider audience, but it was exactly what I wanted on this night. The nose was black as pitch; actually, you may have found notes of pitch buried beneath its wealth of black currant, haunting floral tones, brown sugar, savory spices and tobacco. On the palate, it displayed a series of textural waves that moved the senses, all kept in check by brisk acidity and notes of dried dark fruits and savory herbs. It finished with a display of youthful tannin, earth and inner floral tones. (93 points)
1995 Château Palmer – This is in a wonderful place right now, displaying a dark yet vibrant nose of crushed black cherry, sweet herbs, cedar, smoke and tobacco. On the palate, I found lifted textures with perfectly resolved tannin, possibly decanted too long as a hint of oxidation creeped in, yet altogether beautiful, as dark fruits and tobacco came together along with inner floral and earth tones. It finished on a note of bitter black fruit and dried flowers. (93 points) at Morrell
2005 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou – The nose showed a mix of lush red fruits with sweet floral tones, gravel dust and brown spice. On the palate, it was unbelievably silky and refined, seeming to touch upon all the senses with fleshy dark red fruits and minerals, firming up on the finish, as its youthful tannins saturated the senses. What a beautiful showing, and it’s a wine that will likely continue to evolve for the next two decades. (95 points)
1995 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou – The ‘95 Beaucaillou didn’t show as well as I’d hoped on this night, with an intense dark fruit and sweet tobacco and floral bouquet that seemed to be missed the slight rusticity that I love in these wines. On the palate, I found rich, dense textures with dark red fruits, hints of spice and fine tannin. It finished medium-long on dried fruits. (92 points) at Morrell
1996 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande -The ‘96 Pichon showed a beautiful, mature bouquet with earth tones up front leading to crushed red fruit, dried flowers and spice. On the palate, I found saturating dark red fruits on broad and fleshy frame, as a bump of brisk acidity provided lift. It finished earthy yet fresh with hints of savory herbs and olive. (94 points)
2005 Château Mouton Rothschild – The nose showed an intense core of currant and black raspberry encased in a shroud of tobacco, cedar, spice and graphite. On the palate, it was center-focused with concentrated dark fruits and bitter herbs, as tannin clenched the senses. It finished structured, as tannin saturated the palate, and hints of mineral tinged dried fruits lingered. With everything going on in this glass, it’s almost impossible to imagine this wine at peak. That said, it’s balanced to the core and built like a bomb wanting to explode. (96 points)
1996 Château Mouton Rothschild – Talk about a perfectly mature first growth. The ‘96 Mouton was simply stunning, showing a bouquet of dark soil tones, sweet herbs and olives, then turning more exotic with dusty spice, minerals, smoke and crushed black currant. On the palate, I found intense dark fruits with massive textures that filled the senses and brisk acidity giving way to savory herbs, leather and inner floral tones. Fine tannin mounted on the palate but never seemed to get in the way, especially through its long dark fruit finish. (95 points)
I would also like to take a moment and shout out to Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery, whose service, cuisine and event space made for the absolutely perfect place to enjoy these great wines. This was an incredible evening, and much of that was due to their flawless execution.
Article, photos and tasting notes by: Eric Guido