Fourth in a four-part series I finished my five-day exploration of Bordeaux’s 2009 vintage with two blind tastings in St.Emilion. Like its neighbor Pomerol, St.Emilion is weighted to merlot and cabernet franc. But there are top chateaux in St.Emilion where cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon take a leading or equal role, such as Ch. Cheval Blanc, Ch. Figeac and Angelus.
St.Emilion has a pyramid-shaped classification system: at the top is Premier Grand Cru Classe, then Grand Cru Classe, and the base is Grand Cru.
In the morning, I went to Chateau Canon, one of the 14 chateaux classified Premier Grand Cru Classe where I tasted eleven 2009 wines. At Moueix’s office, I tasted their two Premier Grand Cru Classe chateaux.
Of the Premier Grand Cru Classe:
Extraordinary: Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot explodes with minty, blackberry aromas and flavors; it dances on the palate and keeps expanding with aeration. A delicious, vibrant wine. Ch. Troplong-Mondot offers its own eruption of blackberry, black olive and soy sauce aromas. The rich black fruit flavors are mixed with a new oak accent that will please lovers of Napa red wines. A half-hour aeration mitigated the oak accent, letting me concentrate on the delicious fruit, outstanding balance and length. Ch. Beausejour’s delectable blackberry and black cherry aromas and flavors are intertwined with mild coffee accents imparted from its oak barrels; integrated tannins supply suppleness and a long, pleasing finish. Ch. La Gaffeliere serves a bowl of ripe blackberries in a glass; perfectly balanced, the finish is long and savory.
Excellent: Clos Fourtet, Ch. Canon, Ch. Angelus, Ch. Pavie- Macquin, and Ch. Magdelaine are elegant wines of rich blackberry, black cherry aromas and flavors. Hints of mint or cinnamon appear in the nose and mouth, and refined tannins give a long pleasing finish. Any of them could rise to extraordinary by bottling time.
Very Good: Ch. Trottevieille, Ch. Figeac, and Ch. Belair-Monange share a profile of black cherry and mild oak aromas and flavors; they are fruit-filled and balanced. Ch. Pavie is different. Even in a blind tasting, I knew it immediately because of its intense oaky aromas and flavor. It overwhelms the black fruit flavor of 2009, which is no small feat. It has little to do with St. Emilion, and everything to do with the winemaking. It’s not my style, but rate it very good if it’s yours.
Grand Cru Classe tasting:
My last blind tasting was Friday afternoon at Chateau Larcis-Ducasse. On the table were 35 bottles of St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe.
Extraordinary: Chateau Grand Corbin-Despagne’s floral, black olive and blackberry scents surged from the glass and the concentrated black fruit and mint flavors fills the mouth. Velvety tannins give the wine a lush, long pleasing finish. This wine is certainly equal to Premier Grand Cru Classe wines.
Excellent: Ch.Bellefont-Belcier, Ch.Cadet-Piola, Ch.Chauvin, Ch.Corbin, Ch.Destieux, Ch.Dassult, Ch.La Dominique, Ch.Faurie-de-Souchard, Ch.Fleur Cardinale, Ch.Grand-Pontet, Ch.Les Grandes Murailles, Ch.Haut-Corbin, Ch.Haut Sarpe, Ch.Laniote, Ch.Larcis-Ducasse, Ch.Le Prieure, Ch.La Serre, and Ch.Soutard possess delicious flavors ranging from black liquorice, blackberry, black cherry to mint and cinnamon. Integrated tannins, and a long, tasty fruit finish are compelling reasons to want these wines.
Very Good: Ch.L’Arrosee, Ch.Bellevue, Clos St.-Martin, Ch.La Couspaude, Ch.Fonroque, Ch.Grand Corbin, Ch.Larmande, Ch.Ripeau, Ch.La Tour-Figeac, and Ch.Villemaurine have appealing fruit and mild oak scents with tasty black cherry and cherry flavors. They have slightly lighter body and color than those rated excellent, but well-made and very enjoyable.
Good: Ch.La Clotte, Ch.Bergat, Ch.Corbin-Michotte, Ch.Couvent des Jacobins, Ch.Guadet-Saint-Julien, and Ch.Yon-Figeac are aromatic and flavorful wines; a combination of thinner body, aggressive tannins or noticeable alcohol are the weaknesses.
Right Bank Evaluation and Favorites:
Merlot’s predominance in Pomerol and St. Emilion gave me two days of pleasure-filled tastings. Not a single wine rated less than good. The 2009 Pomerol and St. Emilion wines have harmonious fruit and tannins, are consistently well-made, and will reward you for cellaring them.
Like the wines of the Left Bank, they are irresistible. Tasting them takes discipline; drinking them would be more natural. Here are my favorites from the 2009 Right Bank tastings.
Pomerol: Start with the four rated extradinary: Chateaux Petrus, Conseillante, Moulin, and Clos du Clocher. But to get Petrus, I need to win the lottery. Chateaux Trotanoy and Certan de May I’ve collected for decades, and space will be found for 2009 bottles of Chateaux Hosanna, Providence, Latour, Gazin, Clos d’Eglise, Vieux-Maillet, Monregrard La Croix, and Clos de la Vieille Eglise. Oh, Pomerol, why did you have to be so seductive in 2009?
St. Emilion: At the conclusion of the Grand Cru Classe blind tasting, I removed the cover of the bottle that was the best, and it was Chateau Grand Corbin-Despagne. In October, I visited the chateau and Francois Despagne, the owner and winemaker, was passionate about his vineyards and winemaking. I tasted the 2000-01 and the 2004-07, every wine was balanced and flavorful.
Other favorites from the 2009 tastings are Premier Grand Cru Classe chateaux Beau-Sejour Becot, Troplong-Mondot, Beausejour, Pavie-Macquin, and three I have collected for decades, Chateaux Fourtet, La Gaffeliere, and Canon. Grand Cru Classe chateaux Corbin, Destieux, Dassult, Les Grandes Murailles, Larcis-Ducasse, Le Prieure, La Serre, and Soutard should be on everyone’s 2009 shopping list.
On Friday night, I had dinner in St. Emilion at my hotel, Le Grand Barrail, and ordered a bottle of the 2005 Ch. Plaisance, St. Emilion Grand Cru. This minor St. Emilion wine was huge: massive blackberry fruit and firm tannins. After an hour in the decanter, it remained a big, full-bodied wine. That’s the essence of 2005. The 2009s are different. They entice you with their perfume, seduce your palate with their flavors and caress your mouth with velvety tannins. The wines from the Right Bank in 2009 are refined hedonism. Like their Left Bank brethren, the 2009s from Pomerol and St. Emilion are closer to the luxurious style of 1990 than the powerful 2005 and 2000 vintages. And that is an excellent reason to have 2009 in your cellar. They will be in mine.