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2005 vintage from Bordeaux lives up to hype


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POSTED: Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It takes a lot to get me giddy. I'm one of those even-keeled, rational types that never gets too high or too low about anything. And I've grown up in the wine business, working my way up from the warehouse to proprietor. Along the way, I've visited many top wineries, met the principals and owners, and of course tasted a lot of great, if not legendary, wines.

But the 2005 vintage from Bordeaux has me the most excited I've been in the last few years.

It wasn't always the case. I visited Bordeaux in Spring 2006 to taste barrel samples of the much anticipated 2005 vintage. Bordeaux had come out with some recent successful vintages — 2000, 2001 and 2003. You have to be wary of hype, especially on the heels of other good vintages — the people from Bordeaux have been known to embellish a little. Also, the exchange rate was the highest it had ever been.

So I went to Bordeaux with some trepidation. When I tasted the wines, it was clear that 2005 was a superior vintage, but I thought the structure of the wines would not allow the wines to be approachable in their youth. I still preferred the 2000 vintage — also excellent, and much cheaper.

Fast forward to last month, when I was able to taste the finished wines for the first time. I was surprised by how approachable they were and how they'd come together in such a short time.

We didn't open any of the big names, like Latour or Haut Brion — we instead focused on the no-names that were affordable — but all the wines were a lovely combination of power and finesse. For the quality, the prices aren't out of line, especially since wine prices have risen dramatically in the last couple of years across the board.

Below are some the no-names that really got me excited. Give them a try — they are worth it!

Guibot La Fourvieille ($28.99): Pure pleasure. Immediately out of the bottle the wine shows a nice nose of ripe crushed berries with some floral notes. On the palate, sensuous with pretty red berry fruit, a little earth and very fine, ripe tannins. Very supple, round and smooth. This is the type of bottle that doesn't totally wow you, but it brings a smile — and before you know it the bottle is gone.

La Tour de Mons ($32.99): The Margaux appellation is rarely the sweet spot of any vintage. But when Margaux hits it, it really does well, and 2005 seems to be that vintage. La Tour de Mons, a Cru Bourgeois Superiore, is fantastic, an example of quintessential Margaux — a blend of power and finesse.

Tour Maillet ($40): The sweet spot of 2005 is Pomerol, a small region that may produce the best merlot-based wines in the world. This wine is pure merlot and has sweet black fruit, very dense and concentrated, but not heavy. The tannins are fine and integrated. This is a beauty. You don't EVER see Pomerols at this quality for this price.

Escurac ($22.99): An incredible steal! This is a fairly big and robust wine for its stature. The fruit profile is definitely black currant and blackberry. A touch of leather and tobacco add interesting nuance and complexity. There is some earth, and the oak gives it a toasty quality. A typical good quality Bordeaux that offers a lot of drinking pleasure.

Tour Haut Caussan ($26.99): This wine needs about 30 minutes to open up. When it does, it is lovely. A Cru Borgeois Superior, it has intense red currant fruit with some earth and mineral tones. Well-integrated oak is just right, and gives a cedar quality. Fine tannins provide a satisfying finish. An intense, yet gentle wine.

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Jay Kam is president of Vintage Wine Cellar.