Wines from the new 2005 Bordeaux vintage may fetch between 10 and 30 percent more than 2004s, with top growths challenging records set by the landmark 2000s, reports Gary Collins for Bloomberg, quoting the buyers attending vineyard tastings this month.
Ideal growing conditions throughout 2005, culminating in dry, sunny days and cool nights during harvest, produced unusually high-quality, well-structured wines with balanced acidity and strong tannins. (For the complete story, go to www.bloomberg.com)
London's leading wine merchants, Berry Bros & Rudd, have released a very favourable 2005 vintage report written by the Master of Wine, Jasper Morris. Bloomberg quotes Berry Bros experts as estimating that the 2005 Chateau Lafite will sell for 2,000-2,500 pounds a 12-bottle case. That's more than double the 990 pounds for its 2004 vintage and a little above the 1,992 pounds at which Berry released its much-vaunted 2000 vintage five years ago. The 2000 Lafites are now priced at Berry at 3,500 pounds a case, reflecting their greater maturity, reports Bloomberg. Berry estimate that the 2005 Chateau Cos d'Estournel, a top second-growth from Saint-Estephe, will be priced between 500 and 1,000 pounds a case at release, compared with 450 pounds for the 2004 vintage, and 500 pounds for the 2000s at release five years ago. The 2000 vintage now commands 600 pounds.
Excerpts from the 2005 Vintage Report by Jasper Morris, MW, for Berry Bros & Rudd (for the complete report, go to www.bbr.com ). Do note the names. They may be worth more than a good look on your next visit to London.
Local expert Bill Blatch describes 2005 as "a text-book harvest for all of Bordeaux. The sun shone almost permanently and the showers came exactly when and where required to add the final touch, and all this after a dry hot season, during which what little rain there was fell just before all the vital sequences of the vine's cycle. What more could we have asked for?"
Rainfall: Eleven of the twelve months from November 2004 to October 2005 were below average for rainfall (April being the exception); the overall figure of 476mm being 48% below the norm. This deficiency had the positive effect of concentrating the grapes by reducing the juice to skins ratio. Most of the negative aspects of drought were avoided thanks to useful showers at the right time: April for budding, late May to encourage flowering, July 27-28 to kick-start véraison , September 8-12 to refresh the Merlot on the eve of final ripening and the same for the Cabernets on September 25. Sauternes got its own beneficial shower on August 31 to encourage botrytis .
Sunshine: When the rain was not falling, the sun was shining, encouraging unprecedented degrees in all grapes.
Temperatures: Despite the hours of sunshine, the heat was never excessive as it had been in 2003. Only June ( 2.7º) and beneficially October (3.0º) were much above the monthly average. August and September were approximately the norm, and indeed the cool nights leading into harvest maintained acidity and have given the wines a striking and welcome freshness. With low yields, thick skins, concentrated juice and fully ripe grapes, the whole balanced by enough acidity from cool September nights to keep the wines fresh, what more indeed could we ask for?
THE LEFT BANK This is a truly outstanding vintage for the Cabernet based wines of the Left Bank. Time and again proprietors told us that they were thrilled with the quality of their Merlot this year but that even so the Merlot could not compare with the glorious Cabernets -- reaching 13% alcohol naturally for the first time at many estates.
St Estephe Cos d'Estournel, Montrose and Calon Ségur have all produced brilliant wines in 2005 and we tasted many very good examples at lower levels (Ormes de Pez, Le Crock). The clay-rich soils of the commune retained water well during this very dry summer, and both Cabernet and Merlot were hugely successful.
Pauillac We were especially impressed by the wines at the commune's St Estèphe end -- Lafite is outstanding, Pontet Canet is the best we have ever seen and Mouton the best for many years. There are many other stunning wines -- the awesome Lynch Bages and top efforts from Grand Puy Lacoste and Batailley.
St Julien The near uniform success story continues through St Julien's classed growths: Gruaud Larose and Leoville Poyferré batting above their stations; Beychevelle much improved. The roll call of success includes Léoville Barton, Léoville Las Cases, Branaire and Talbot. Don't ignore Clos du Marquis either.
Margaux Drawing consistent conclusions from this vast commune normally flummoxes us, but we were pretty impressed across the board. Both Margaux and Palmer are transcendentally sublime, and every wine seems to show the essence of its terroir -- you only have to compare the refined elegance of du Tertre with the more substantial weight and structure of Giscours, under the same ownership, to see this effect at work.
Pessac-Leognan The big smile on the face of Prince Robert de Luxembourg when he showed us his Haut Brion 2005 tells the story. And if we rightly fell in love with the 2004 Haut Bailly, how much more glorious is the 2005? And then Domaine de Chevalier . . Certainly a brilliant vintage for this region, with powerful concentrated white wines as well as exceptional reds.
THE RIGHT BANK 2005 is an outstanding year for the Right Bank, but perhaps is fractionally less consistent overall. The Merlot ripened well and early, but it was important not to allow the ripeness to become exaggerated. For many producers the Cabernet Franc was outstanding too, but there were a few reported troubles with drought in relation to this more obstinate grape. Talking of obstinate, there are still a few too many producers playing the over-extraction card, especially in St Emilion.
Pomerol We might have feared the effect of drought on the free-draining gravel plateau of Pomerol, but we could not see any evidence in the wines. La Conseillante was humbling, neighbouring Evangile equally sublime and Vieux Château Certan has produced an extraordinary wine, albeit almost entirely Merlot for once. Christian Moueix's wines have benefited from his predilection for harvesting earlier rather than later, and using a soft pedal in the vats.
St Emilion The great names -- Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Angélus -- have produced some extraordinarily fine wines, with Ausone surely a great contender for the wine of the vintage. Berliquet and Moulin St Georges look like smart tips at a more affordable price level.
Sauternes The fine series of Sauternes vintages over the past ten years continues with an outstanding performance in 2005, not dissimilar in style, and not far behind in quality, from the unmatchable 2001s.