Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hype of 2009

With most of the big name wine critics such as Robert Parker, James Suckling and James Molesworth (well not all the big names as Joe Roberts was in South America) heading to Bordeaux recently to taste the much hyped 2010 vintage barrel samples, I thought that it was time to try the previous "vintage of the century" from one year prior. Both 2009 Bordeaux and Beaujolais were even more critically acclaimed than initial prognostications of Bordeaux 2010. Driven by demand in China, the top chateaus of Bordeaux have reached record prices to go with the record scores. Robert Parker gave 2009 Beaujolais its best vintage rating ever, at 97 pts. Parker even had to add asterisks to his scores indicate that the 2009 Bordeaux wines were some of the best Bordeaux he had ever tried. It seems obvious that almost any of these wines should be exceptional!

However, most regular consumers, including myself, will never drink those top Bordeaux wines lauded by these elite critics. Beaujolais is another story. While many people probably think of the colorful bottles of Noveau that hit the shelves every November, top Beaujolais are more economically accessible than even moderately priced Bordeaux. To see what all the hype was about with the 2009 vintage in these two regions, I headed to my local liquor store to buy one bottle of each type.

2009 Grand Bateau, Bordeaux

This blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon is as entry level of a Bordeaux as one can get. At under $10 retail, this type of Bordeaux is what most consumers will have experience with. Not to be confused with Chateau Beychevelle, the classified chateau in St. Julien, as this bottle is adorned with an image of the same boat that adorns the grand vin. Unfortunately, this wine does not approach the quality of such a wine and isn't even listed on the Beychevelle website. It is a dark, almost beet-like purple color and smells very grapey, no doubt because it is so young, but I also smell notes of blackberries and cocoa powder. It is even less complex once you taste it. I struggled, but associated flavors of dark chocolate and tobacco with this wine, but can only describe it as little more than tannic purple water. I will definitely have to move up the ladder with my next 2009 Bordeaux purchase.12.5% abv Purchased $10. Fair/Average (tasted 2/24/11)

2009 Domaine du Vissoux, Cuvée Traditionnelle vielles-vignes, Beaujolais

This Gamay is more than a step up from your quaffable Beaujolais Noveau. While it is a dark crimson in color, it has very light cranberry and strawberry aromas behind the powerful floral bouquet. There is also a hint of earthiness on the nose that is almost Pinot Noir-like. In the mouth it is tart. Cranberries, tart strawberries and even lemons dominate. The earthiness is still present will a bit of mushrooms showing through. While a bit tart (which should fade with some bottle age) this wine is tasty. I look forward to trying more 2009 Beaujolais.11.5% abv Purchased $16. Good/Very Good (tasted 2/26/11)


  1. I thought the Crus were a revelation for 2009! Who woulda thought that Beaujolais could be that good? I tasted and purchased some Vissoux Brouilly Pierreux; Fleurie Les Garants; and several other Crus from Fessy and others. All were flavosome, well balanced, svelte, and a real eye-opener as to what the Crus could be.

  2. Tom, I make no attempt to judge the entire vintage on these two wines. The Beaujolais was very good, and I would expect that the crus to be even better. I have a few 09 Dubeouf Jean Descombes that probably need a bit more time before they will show their best. I look forward to trying other 09 Bojos.

    The Bordeaux on the other hand was a flavorless disappointment. Again, hard to make sweeping generalizations about an entire vintage, but that is what the big critics seem to be doing these days (see Blake Gray's 07 Napa Cab piece).

  3. I agree. Judging an entire vintage is definitely outside the scope of most oenophiles, unless they are doing large horizontal tastings like you know who.

    My choice was to browse numerous European/British taster/purveyors as well as Will Lyons, a WSJ wine writer. And of course, who could discount Duboeuf's proclamations of "vintage of HIS lifetime?

    I've tasted/consumed probably a dozen different Crus, and without a doubt, for this wine enthusiast, they offer something dramatically different than their perceived, confected personality.

  4. Tom, glad to hear that you've enjoyed the 09 Bojos and thanks reading and commenting!