Recently I had my first glimpse of the celebrated 2009 Bordeaux vintage. The famous négociant Bill Blatch was in town, showing a range of some 16-18 petit chateaux. Sometimes referred to as Mr. Bordeaux, Bill is an Englishman who has lived in the region since the mid-1970s. After starting out as a broker of Classified Growths, he decided to focus on small properties with the potential for quality, and devote his efforts to bringing that quality into the realm of reality.
In fact, the tasting was probably going to be my only look at the 2009 vintage, since the wines have skyrocketed in price and are prohibitively expensive. First Growths have topped out in the range of $1000 per bottle, and most of the purchases have been by wealthy collectors in places like Hong Kong. With that background, it was a pleasure to taste through Bill’s wines—tank samples prepared with an eye toward early bottling, heavy on Merlot and designed to sell in the $10-25 range.
Among the whites, a perennial favorite is Chateau Roquefort, a 90/10 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Crisp and fragrant, with good acidity and nicely defined citrus flavors, it displayed notes of tropical fruit on the finish. Also impressive was Chateau Guiraton from Graves, a Sauvignon/Semillon blend with a dollop of Muscadelle, which had pungent grapefruit flavors and a firm mineral backbone. Both should retail for $16.
The reds ranged from reasonably priced to downright cheap. The bargain of the day was Chateau du Pin from Entre-Deux-Mers ($11), a rich, full-bodied blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. Other standouts included Chateau Moulin de L’Esperance from Premiere Cotes de Bordeaux ($15), beautifully ripe and balanced, and the Tradition Cuvee from Chateau Roland La Garde in Blaye ($18), filled with blackberry fruit and soft but assertive tannins. We finished with his blended AOC Sauternes, La Fleur d’Or ($30), naturally sweet with good balancing acidity.
For those who are interested in the technical details, Bill puts out an annual Bordeaux vintage report which is well-researched and insightful. He’s also the author of a blog on Sauternes called Bordeaux gold (www.bordeauxgold.com), which gives an insider’s view of the world’s greatest sweet wines.