By The Glass
2005 is year for excellent red wines
WHILE IN Bordeaux in April, I was astounded by the quality of the wines from the 2005 vintage. They were so fresh and intensely flavored. To put it in simply: The best wines of 2005 were the best young cabernets and merlots I've ever had.
These wines will not be released for a couple of years, and only the most fortunate and wealthy will be able to own them. The "first-growths" (Chateaux Lafite-Rothschild, Haut-Brion, Latour, Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild) were all offered at more than $700 per bottle.
With that in mind, many people are snatching up the more moderately priced wines still available from current vintages, as well as some more recent vintages that are less expensive and still great.
Wines on the market now are from 2003, a really hot, dry year with the earliest harvest date in more than a century. Conditions were difficult for many growers (and not only in Bordeaux). The resulting wines, if made well and not too stressed from drought and heat, have a California edge to them. That means plenty of fruit -- up-in-your-face, bold berry fruit aromas and flavors that are not hard to find. They are a great introduction to Bordeaux for people who normally drink California cabernet sauvignon.
I RECENTLY tasted a couple that I thought are great examples for both connoisseurs and neophytes:
The 2003 Chateau Lascombes ($55) is really heady stuff, from the commune of Margaux. Its big, smoky, almost coffee-ground scent is backed with a rich blackberry and dried plum note and a hint of earth. It has a velvety and full texture, and a masculine character that should age nicely. As soon as I smelled it, images of a coffee-rubbed grilled steak and a savory red wine sauce reduction floated through my mind.
The 2003 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre ($45) hails from the commune of St. Julien. If the Lascombes is like coffee, this wine is like chocolate. It also has an almost brute of a scent, filled with blackberry, sweet vanilla and mocha, with a good dollop of spicy, toasty oak. This is no wimpy wine. But what it lacks in delicacy and finesse it makes up for in size, weight and density. It would be fun to taste this next to some of the New World's top cabernets. It would be great with prime rib.
The 2005 Chateau La Rose Tour Blanche provides a peek at the greatness of the 2005 vintage. It has a beautifully fresh and complex scent of plums, cherry and raspberry, with a whiff of cedar. On the palate it is quite seductive, refreshing as red wines go and not the least bit shy. The best part is the price -- about 10 bucks a bottle! It may not be the biggest cabernet in your cellar, but it would certainly do justice to roasted pork chops and even herb-crusted grilled chicken.
For awhile I was a little jaded about Bordeaux. But with these recent finds and after my trip, I have a new fervor and gusto for the region. Cheers!
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier and wine educator with Southern Wine & Spirits. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org