It’s funny how things can come full circle. I clearly remember the release of 2005 Bordeaux and all the hype surrounding it. I remember Robert Parker raving about the strength of the vintage and how it would go down in history as one of the greatest that Bordeaux had ever seen.
I also recall the Wine Spectator toning in, with James Suckling confirming what we had all been told, and I clearly remember buying that issue off of a newsstand.
I looked at the wines—I didn’t have the option to taste them—and decided not to pull the trigger. Even with a daughter that was born in 2005 (i.e. a great birth year wine option). In the end, it was fear. Fear that I was buying in to the “Hype Machine” of wine critics, fear that I would never enjoy these wines, and fear that they would not appreciate in value, even though all the pros swore they would.
And so, in the end, I did not buy.
Little did I know that, seven years later, I would have a chance to taste so many of these from a perfectly-stored collection. A collection that was bought en premier and stored perfectly up until the very night that they were uncorked and poured for me. Now I look back and feel a great deal of remorse. It was a lesson learned; but even today, as I taste through them, I’m contemplating—should I buy 2005 Bordeaux?
The fact is that Bordeaux as a “brand” is not what it used to be. The escalating prices of wines upon release have pushed many fans and collectors out of the market. This is not because of the great vintages, but because of the ones that were simply good or very good, that stayed at their elevated price points. However, there is another reason as well, and that is how many supposedly “GREAT” vintages have followed since 2005. It’s hard for the average consumer to buy a wine based on what it may one day become, as most Bordeaux isn’t ready to drink upon release.
However, at this time, I can confidently say that 2005 was a great vintage in Bordeaux. At some Chateau, it was probably the best they have ever produced. Even with the 2009s and 2010s being hyped and pushed upon us day after day, 2005 is where my money will likely be spent.
Why? Because it truly is classic.
It was a drought year, where all villages throughout the commune turned out consistently great wines. Both the left bank and the right, both Merlot-based and Cabernet Sauvignon, the wines are simply stunning. It was a result of tough skins and austere tannin, with a level of fruit ripeness achieved through a late hang. 2005 was also a moment in time when Chateau throughout Bordeaux had learned from many of their past mistakes. The overt oak of ’89 and ’90 didn’t work. The wines of ’82 could not be recreated in the cellar, and ’61 was pie in the sky. It had to be a result of superior attention in the vineyards, Mother Nature, and a deft hand in the cellar. In 2005, they were ready for a change, and a perfect storm of technique, nature and winemaking resulted in some of the greatest wines we may ever see from the region.
What surprised me most about some of these wines is how approachable they are today. However, others need decades before they come around—yet they are still enjoyable on their potential, their textures and depth alone. Frankly, I am truly excited to see where these wines are going, and if you have them in your cellar, count yourself lucky. If you don’t, then what are you waiting for? Compared to today’s release prices, some of these are relative values. Enjoy!
On To The Tasting Notes:
The Right Bank
Pomerol & Lalande de Pomerol
2005 Clos l’Église, Pomerol – The nose showed red and blueberry fruit, soil and minerals, with intense and lifting aromas. On the palate, smooth dark fruit expanded across the senses with heavy-silky textures displaying seamless balance. Structure set in on the finish and begged the question of just how long this will mature in the cellar with its large scale fruit kept in perfect check. E.G. (95 points) | Morrell
2005 Château La Fleur de Boüard, Lalande de Pomerol – The nose was so layered and intense, showing dark berry, eucalyptus, spice, dark wood, tea leaves, almost herbal yet dark, and rich, with an earthiness coming forward though minerals and stone. On the palate, soft dark red berry fruit with silky textures coated the senses. Hints of fine tannin lingered long on the finish, yet this is still so enjoyable now. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Pavie, St. Émilion – The nose was dark, mysterious and alluring with sexy red fruit, spice, hints of cedar wood, balsamic tones, sweet berry, and intense currant. It was smooth and fleshy on the palate, soft even, with ripe red fruits and a gorgeous mouth feel. The long finish was laced with palate-staining red fruit red and black plum. The 2005 Pavie has a beautiful drink-me-now personality. E.G. (97 points) | Morrell
2005 Château L’Arrosée, St. Émilion – The nose showed bright cherry with finessed earthy floral aromas, minerals and hints of spice in a truly pretty yet elegant expression. On the palate, silky textures made themselves known with weight and balsamic mystique as black cherry and dark spice notes greeted the senses in very ripe yet perfectly balanced display. Dark spiced berry, a hint of bitters and savory herbs informed the long, soothing finish. This is wonderfully enjoyable already, yet should continue to evolve for many years in the cellar. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, St. Émilion – The nose showed plum with crushed berry fruit, spice box, and red floral tones, which turned sweeter with air and picked up a contrasting and pleasurable note of undergrowth. On the palate, I found medium-weight textures, with saline minerality driving currents of dark red berry across the senses. The Canon seemed to play a sweet-and-sour act, which provided a very enjoyable experience, as the textures started small and expanded. Long on the finish with saturating red berry tones, minerals and spice. This is so pleasurable now, yet should continue to evolve beautifully. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château La Gaffelière, St. Émilion – The nose showed the savory side of Bordeaux with dark berry fruit, undergrowth and earth tones, turning more floral with coaxing, along with a mix of fresh-turned soil and minerals. On the palate, smooth, silky textures with notable weight ushered saturating dark fruits across the senses leaving a coating of fine tannin in its wake. This wine is just a baby still with so much potential, expanding with time in the glass. It finished tart and structured, yet there is so much potential here. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Canon, St. Émilion – The nose showed black cherry with undergrowth, salt-cured meats, saw dust, and moist gravel. On the palate, I found silky textures with firm underlying structure, as notes of cherry and licorice soaked the senses. It provide a truly classic feel with its balance of acid and tannin, which coated the senses throughout the finish along with hints of plume, herbs and soil. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château La Confession, St. Émilion – The nose showed crushed berry and herbs with a dark wood tone that draws you in. With time in the glass, it gained sweetness to its red fruits along with floral tones, undergrowth, and a hint of roasted root vegetables. It was finessed on the palate with silky, acid-driven textures and flavors of tart berry, herbs and cedar. Still structured and youthful throughout its medium-long finish with lingering berry and herbal tones, yet there’s no shame in opening one now, as its balance provides a wonderful drinking experience. E.G. (92 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Monbousquet, St. Émilion – What a gorgeous, haunting, intense and almost savory nose, showing pretty dark berry, crushed-mulled fruit and spice with sweet herb and dark balsamic tones. On the palate, silky textures gave way to red fruits with hints of pepper and building tannins toward the close. It was long with saturating dark fruit on the finish followed by bitter tones and gruff tannin. E.G. (92 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, St. Émilion – The nose showed crushed, overripe berry, dark undergrowth and soil tones, with minerals and dark earth. On the palate, it displayed tart red fruits with moderate tannin still in control. Notes of plum, red berry, dried flowers, and minerals rang true into the finish. In fact, at times this reminded me a little of Nebbiolo. The long finish showed minerals, tart wild berry and dried floral tones. This is quite austere, yet I am truly intrigued to see where it will go over the years to come. E.G. (91 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Fombrauge, St. Émilion – The nose showed pretty, candied red fruits in a perfumed display of dark red berry, sweet herbs, whole butter and spice box. Slightly restrained on the nose yet likely to open soon. Dark berry fruit with silky textures gained weight on the palate with tannin mounting at each sip. Dark fruit turned to red berry and minerals throughout the tannic finish. Does this need time, or will the tannin outlast the fruit? Only time will tell. E.G. (90 points) | Morrell
The Left Bank
2005 Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan – The nose showed dark, intense fruit with savory herbs, spice, savory brown sauce, sweet balsamic tones and spicy floral notes. On the palate, it was supple and smooth with noticeable weight to its dark spiced fruit, plum, espresso, stone and minerals; turning more savory-spice over time. The intensity continued into the finish with dark fruits and balsamic tones lingering long. E.G. (96 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan – The nose showed intense red berry and floral perfumes with cedar, spice, undergrowth, minerals and animal musk. On the palate, I found soft, velvety textures which seemed to soothe the senses. Ripe, crushed dark fruit, with inner floral tones, soil, undergrowth, and minerals prevailed even as fine tannin mounted. Although in its early drinking window, the Smith Haut Lafitte is still an infant in terms of evolution and should continue to improve in the cellar for another 10-20 years. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Bahans Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan – This was meaty and dark with crushed wild berry, currant and spice, hints of animal musk, and violet floral tones. On the palate, it showed soft, supple textures with brisk acidity and a display of cherry, plum and saline minerality. The finish was slightly rustic with its chewy tannins and mouthwatering acidity, yet quite enjoyable and a pleasure to drink. E.G. (92 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Palmer, Margaux – The nose was bent inward on itself with dark fruits and intense minerals, yet it seemed to pull you in more than blossoming outward from the glass. On the palate, the 2005 Palmer showed intense, dark, saturating fruit and spice with saline minerals driving weighty textures in vibrant currents across the senses. It’s a thrilling wine to taste now on its textural complexities alone. Although it’s nowhere near ready now, you can easily sense the greatness in this glass. Give this another 10-15 years in the cellar. Simply gorgeous! E.G. (97 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux – The nose showed cedar and spice up front, followed by dark red fruits, undergrowth, floral tones and herbs. It was silky-smooth on the palate, with dark red fruit and remarkable finesse leaving an impression of seamless balance. The finish showed dried red berry, mineral-laden soil and undergrowth with fine tannin in a truly classic expression of Bordeaux. Bury this in your cellar and reap the rewards for decades to come. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Kirwan, Margaux – The bouquet seemed to reach up from the glass with dark red fruits, cedar, intense dusty spice notes, and a rich mix of sweet herbs. On the palate, silky textures gave way to dark fruit, dusty spice, stony minerals and hints of cedar with a coating of tannin contrasted by brisk, mouthwatering acidity providing a truly enjoyable experience. Nothing seemed out of place as this finished on dark fruits with hints on tannin. This is perfectly enjoyable now and should continue to evolve for many years to come. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Lascombes, Margaux – The nose showed dark berry, floral tones, earth and minerals with hints of sweet herbs. This was immensely pretty to say the least, as it turned darker and sweeter with air. On the palate, I found soft textures giving way to dark, mature fruit tones with hints of plum and savory herbs. It was immediate yet delectable on the nose and palate, finishing with dark fruits and inner floral tones. E.G. (92 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac – The nose was dark and rich, showing intense red berry, minerals, soil, herbs, cedar and tobacco. Still incredibly youthful on the palate with firm textures moving in dense waves across the senses, giving only a brief glimpse of this wine’s massive dark red fruits, spice, herbal tea tones, minerals and soil. The Ponet Canet’s structure remained in control throughout the finish, yet there’s so much balance and intensity here, hence its potential. E.G. (95 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac – The nose was incredibly pretty with dusty floral tones, cedar, crushed red berries, herbs, and gaining sweet spice with time in the glass. On the palate, it displayed smooth, soft textures and terrific density with ripe dark red berry fruit, which glided effortlessly across the palate, leaving sweet tannin in its wake. Dried berry and mineral tones lingered on the senses throughout its beautifully finessed finish. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Duhart-Milon, Pauillac – The nose was dark and inviting, showing ripe black fruits, tobacco, herbs, spice and wood tones. On the palate, I found velvety, weighty textures giving way to dark balsamic, inflicted fruit in a smooth and intense performance. The finish was medium-long with dark fruits. E.G. (91 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Cos d’Estournel, St. Estèphe – The nose was stunning with deep dark fruits, espresso and minty herbs, sweet berry, then turning almost savory with dark florals, smoke, soil and saline-minerals—just gorgeous. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with velvet weight as intense dark red fruits saturated the senses, along with spice, bitter cocoa, sweet herbs, and minerals. The finish was dark, almost haunting, with a coating of tannin enveloped in rich fruit. The 2005 Cos d’Estournel is still incredibly youthful, yet worth peeking in on and sure to be amazing for a decade or two to come. E.G. (97 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe – The nose was stunning, showing dark red fruits, fresh tobacco, brown sugar, exotic spice, and herbaceous tones. On the palate, I found silky textures, which quickly gave way to dried black cherry with gripping tannin, hints of earth and herbs, followed by a wave of perfectly balanced acidity. Still youthful tannin clenched the palate throughout the finish, showing incredible potential for the long haul. E.G. (93 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Phélan Ségur, St. Estèphe – The nose was deep and dark with dried cherry, blueberry skins, notes of olive and gravel dust. On the palate, it showed silky textures with firming tannin, turning its dark red fruits to dried florals and mineral tones. The finish was quite youthful and closed in upon itself, but ultimately, this is still quite enjoyable today. E.G. (91 points)
2005 Château Branaire-Ducru, St. Julien – What a pretty nose, showing a mix of red berry, darker fruits, cherry, minerals, spice and cedar. On the palate, it displayed juicy textures with high-toned brambly fruit and minerals, while gaining flesh and soothing richness with time in the glass. Fine tannin coated the senses through the close yet took nothing away from the experience. This was an excellent performance and a pleasure to drink, with years of cellar potential. E.G. (93 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien – The nose was intense, showing bright cherry, with spice, baked confectionary notes, sweet crème, savory burnt butter and tobacco. On the palate, I found a display of silky, smooth textures with hints of tannic grip, more wood than varietal, yet beautifully balanced with ripe saturating dark red fruits and spice. Fine tannin resonated on the powerful finish contrasted through lasting fruit and hints of tobacco. E.G. (93 points) | Morrell
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido