Last month, The Sampler on Upper Street in Islington had the brilliant idea of bringing over some Bordeaux 2009 barrel samples for customers to try. The only other way of trying Bordeaux en primeur wines that I am aware of is at the Bibendum tasting usually held in early April, which unfortunately clashed with footie this year. If you don’t know the Sampler wine shop then it is definitely worth popping down there early evening to have a go on their fancy sampling machines which allow you to taste, for a small charge, a selection of wines on sale, including some fine and rare bottles.
I tasted the following wines (prices are the Samplers estimates):
Malartic Lagraviere Blanc, Pessac (£300)
Lovely sweet floral nose, quince, hay and vanilla, gorgeous. Palette light with touch of spice good acidity, quite long with a touch of heat at the end. *** (But at this price I would go for the ’08 which was also great, or an earlier vintage.)
Brown Rouge, Pessac (£170)
Leafy berry laden nose with a hint of green peppers, light fruitiness on the palette, balanced, ripe, a little tannin but not aggressive – cool, but not very long. **
Malartic Lagraviere Rouge, Pessac (£300) (now available at £285)
Dark colour, more closed nose, light berry fruit, very sweet with a hint of something flinty underneath. Cool on the palette, balanced and complete, mouth coating tannin but not aggressive. Nose develops still sweet with a touch of classic Pessac bell pepper (the one that you find in a donner kebab!). Interesting, complex and engaging, again round and tasty on the palette, quite long. Delicious. ***+
Domaine de Chevalier Rouge, Pessac (£350)
More bell pepper on the nose, spicier, edgy, rougher and bigger. More body and breadth, soft fruity and spicy with more aggressive tannin, mouth coating and lip smacking. Warmer tasty and long. This is a spicier bruiser of a wine. ***+
Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge, Pessac (£500)
Nose more closed and tough to get going, on palette cool, refined but concentrated and big. The refinement of Malartic and power of Chevalier, best of both worlds. Nose developing sweet fruit, touch of bell pepper, vegetal notes underneath a solid core of mouth filling fruit, spicy and complex with a lingering tasty finish. **** (Sadly this has since received high Parker scores so will be expensive).
Langoa Barton, St Julien (£480)
Slight scents of chutney/relish on the nose, then stoney with notes of plaster dust, developing with deeper and persistent fruit and limestone mix. Cool, compact, quite smooth on the palette, restrained and closed, ends with mouth puckering tannin, quite long. Langoa’s do take time to open up, so one would have to trust on past performance on this one. All the right things in place except is there enough fruit? **++ (Pricey for EP better to go back and buy previous vintages ’01 and ’04 are great)
Pedesclaux, Pauillac (£200)
Fruity, compact nose, light cassis in the mouth, balanced, tasty. **
Sweet and sour notes on the nose, fruit with those salted yellow pickles you get with Sushi, fuller palette, fruit, cool balanced and tasty, not very long but a good drinker. **+
Sweet nose, slightly floral, balanced palette, cool and sweet, tasty. **+(good value?)
Sociando Mallet, Haut Medoc (£280)
Closed nose, bit imbalanced in the mouth and rather short with chunky tannin. Just hasn’t come together yet. Disappointing, as this is usually an excellent wine. *+?
La Tour Figeac, St. Emilion (£300)
Wider softer merlot nose, tasty but light bodied and rather tannic. The 2008 barrel sample last year was much more exciting, complex and approachable, and I’ve had lovely older vintages of this wine so again disappointing. **?
Batailley, Pauillac (£350)
This wine was officially out, but I was kindly allowed to sample the dregs of the half bottle which were clear but slightly dusty. Lots of fruit, compact, pure and solid Pauillac. This should be great.
For what it’s worth
My personal view is that 2009 is a chance to pick up some fantastic wines for the cellar in the £200 – £400 price range (look for wines that other critics liked, Jancis, Decanter etc. but which weren’t singled out by Parker such as the Malartic Lagraviere & Batailley above or Haut Batailley). Then I think there will be a jump in prices up to £600 – £800 without much in between. For instance Duhart Milon was released at £270 last year and has sold out already at £600 this year! Also, while the left bank is universally agreed to be unique in terms of quality, the right bank is apparently more patchy and much better value will be had by going back to ’08 and older vintages. For example, a normally great value Pomerol Rouget was released at £220 last year and is £340 this year, but almost certainly not 50% better.