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Bordeaux 2005 - Part III

by Tom Cannavan

Given that these are not finished wines, please bracket all scores by + or - 2 (so 93 = 91-95) and note that 96 is the highest score possible.

Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe



The first few minutes of the main Union des Grands Crus tasting of Left Bank wines worried me a little, as with one or two exceptions there was an aggressive edge to several of the wines, with rather rustic, gripping tannins that somewhat overpowered the fruit. But as the tasting progressed, leading from the Crus Bourgeois of the Haut-Médoc to the Grands Vins, the wines became (generally) more and more impressive. Whether this was because the terroir expressed itself better, or simply that the estates could practice - and did practice - better winemaking, is hard to say. Probably it is a combination of both, with the grand estates having the resources, equipment and money to select very carefully and to take steps during fermentation to control and monitor extraction.

Margaux - Saint-Julien - Pauillac - Saint-Estèphe

Margaux


Pavillon Blanc du Chateau Margaux (France) Margaux Blanc 2005
A lot of oak dominates the nose at present, with cedary, spicy notes, and extremely ripe, buttery fruit with lanolin and white fruit character. On the palate it is fantastically opulent and ripe, with melon and nectarine richness, and an almost tropical, pineapple chunk sweetness of fruit. It has huge intensity and body, and great length, in a wine that is currently a touch overpowering but undeniably profound. 93/100

Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux (France) Margaux 2005
Very rich red berry and tobacco scented nose. Fruity, full and open, the fruit density is excellent on the palate, with supple, racy tannins keeping the palate fresh, and a touch of chocolate. The acidity is good here, and a slight leanness will fill out, as there is plenty of fruit and lovely spicy, coffee oak just touching the finish at present. A delightful Pavillon. 93/100

Chateau Margaux (France) Margaux 2005
Paul Pontellier was very upbeat about his 2005, which is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, because "In really great vintages the Cabernet Sauvignon from our gravel soils is extraordinary. Most of our Merlot cannot marry with it. We had only one small parcel that we could use; so only 37% of our production is Margaux this year. This is the wine I have always dreamed of making at Margaux - incredibly powerful and intense, yet also light and elegant." He has succeeded in that, with a real density at this stage that is pretty impenetrable at first (more so than Latour) and such a massive framework behind the nose of tannins and fruit and searing acidity, yet there is finesse and a real sense of purity and focus. This is for the long haul, but is spectacular. 96/100

Alter Ego de Palmer (France) Margaux 2005
Very seductive, perfumed, with fresh but sumptuous berry fruit with a Parma violet edge of ripeness and chocolaty depth. Fantastic fruit sweetness on the palate too, really lush and ripe, sitting on top of expansive, silky tannins and a lovely silky acidity and texture. A forward and flattering wine, but just gorgeous. 93-94/100

Chateau Palmer (France) Margaux 2005
Fascinating to see Thomas Ducroux very much in charge here, as I'd previously met him conducting a blind tasting of Ornellaia, where he made the wines until 2004. Palmer is spicy, tightly wound and meaty on the nose, with lovely fragrance and a superb density and plushness of fruit. The palate has beautiful purity, with a really fine, silky texture and terrifically plush and mouth-filling fruit. Huge structure ere too, with chocolaty, ripe tannins and a backbone of acidity, yet that opulence and already harmonious, integrated fruit makes this a real star of Margaux. 96/100.

Clos Margalaine (France) Margaux 2005
The second wine of Margaux's first garagiste wine, Marojallia. What a fragrance from this wine - intense red berry fruits, floral notes, espresso and concentrated black chocolate notes. The palate is huge, with massive sweetness of fruit, a plush tannic depth and great length and persistence. Not terribly Margaux, so could score 80-odd, but some wine in its own right and must rate 93/100

Marojallia (France) Margaux 2005
Not a Cru Classé, but a garagiste Margaux from Thunevin, the same stable as Valandruad. Real intensity and fabulous aromatics already, with plush, bright, full fruit, sweet plums and a touch of floral lift and elegance. Solid fruit on the palate - real density here that is mouth filling and rich, but doesn't totally swap the finesse. Structured and rich, once again this is not as expressively Margaux on the palate as on the nose, but is undeniably impressive wine. 93/100

Chateau Brane-Cantenac (France) Margaux 2005
Red berry fruit, spicy, but attractively plush. Very smooth, rich, coffeeish with quite lithe fruit and tannins. Very nice sweetness, open and attractive but quite light and attractively structured. 91/100

Chateau Cantenac-Brown (France) Margaux 2005
Slightly less fragrant and open, but also has very nice fruit. Elegant cherry and cool red fruits on the palate, with tannins a touch on the dry and inky side. 90/100

Chateau d'Angludet (France) Margaux 2005
Very subtle, very restrained nose - not the same perfume or openness as some. Good red fruit emerges on the palate, with a certain richness and density. It is supple too, with some charm and balance, the structure quite delicate. 88-89/100

Chateau Dauzac (France) Margaux 2005
A very good Dauzac, with coffeeish, warming, toasty, plush sweet red berry fruit. Open and generous, there is plenty of sweet fruit here, with a touch of coffee to the tannins and a delicious acidity. 90-91/100

Chateau du Tertre (France) Margaux 2005
Brightly focused but quite luxurious quality, with some nice spice and floral notes, a certain silkiness and cherry acidity. This is quite gentle and bright, but is really appealing and balanced because of that with structure fine and gently persistent. 91/100

Chateau Durfort-Vivens (France) Margaux 2005
Nice sweet, rounded quality on the nose. Quite subdued and lacks a little aromatic interest. Very dry and inky on the palate - too much extraction here has dulled the wine. 86/100

Chateau Ferrière (France) Margaux 2005
Cool, clean, cherry fruit, but a rather lipsticky quality coming through. The palate has a savoury character and though the fruit is quite swamped by a stripe of inky tannic dryness, there is better balance here. 89/100

Chateau Giscours (France) Margaux 2005
Cool, restrained, pure red and blackcurrant fruit. Silky wood note and quite plush. On the palate very cool and focused, with a real cassis purity. Elegance here again, despite a dry, grippy tannic base. 91-92/100

Chateau Kirwan (France) Margaux 2005
Elegant blue/black, cool fruit, with a touch of violet perfume. Palate is gripped by big, solid, dry tannic extract. This is a touch over-extracted, but it does have decent length and the fruit struggles through. Could improve. 89-90/100

Chateau Labégorce (France) Margaux 2005
There's a chocolaty richness apparent on the nose here, with plenty of plush berry fruit. It is quite silky on the palate, but a racy acidity keeps it crisply defined and there is a polish to the tannins that means this is balanced and supple. 92/100

Chateau Lascombes (France) Margaux 2005
Espresso beans and coffee on the nose immediately suggest richness and ripeness, with mocha-chocolate notes and a touch of kirsch-like brightness. It has good fruit too, with very chewy, rich tannins, but the fruit is there to amply match. 93-94/100

Chateau Malescot Saint-Exupery (France) Margaux 2005
Vinous, cherry and plum fruit. Quite dense and ripe fruit on the palate, with a certain richness and sweetness just about holding off the inky extraction. Decent balance in the end. 89-90/100

Chateau Marquis d'Alesme-Becker (France) Margaux 2005
Bright cherryish fruit, a little bit paint-boxy, but fragrant. The palate is brightly focused too, with a real cherry and raspberry edge to the fruit. The tannins here are nicely managed, supporting rather than dominating, and with clean acidity this is one of the lighter Margaux, but very attractive. 90/100.

Chateau Marquis de Terme (France) Margaux 2005
Overripe nose with a lush, intense fruitiness that is almost minty. Chocolaty palate with good fruit, and a rather raw touch of oak. Drying, sandy tannins begin to grip. A bit disjointed. Hard to assess. 88-90/100

Chateau Monbrison (France) Margaux 2005
Vinous, earthy, with some cherry fruit. Not a terribly seductive aroma, but a hint of complexity. On the palate there's a lush, chocolaty richness to the fruit and a touch of coffee, with quite a supple structure. Developing charm. 90/100

Chateau Prieuré-Lichine (France) Margaux 2005
A very convincing Prieuré Lichine, with bright, focused, very forward cherry and lush berry fruit. A flattering wine that is plummy and rich on the palate, with some roughening plum skin tannin and lip-smacking acidity. Quite forward and precocious, so may not have the staying power, but totally delicious. The finest Prieuré-Lichine I have tasted. 91-92/100

Chateau Pouget (France) Margaux 2005
Quite smoky, ripe and rich on the nose, with a meat-stocky note. On the palate there's more of that slightly Bovril-like character that hints at over-extraction. Big, grainy tannic presence dominating the fruit at this stage. 88/100

Chateau Rauzan-Gassies (France) Margaux 2005
There's some coffee and solid blackcurranty ripeness here, in quite a svelte wine with black cherry fruit on the palate and dry, assertive tannins. This ends a touch dusty and without quite the fruit sweetness I'd hope for. 90/100

Chateau Rauzan Ségla (France) Margaux 2005
Immediately plush, ripe and forward, with a really sensuous appeal, fragrance and plummy richness. It retains plenty of elegance on the palate, with loads of dry extract, but the concentration of fruit is equal to it, and it never loses than classy yet quite opulent depth. Very impressive Margaux. 94/100

Chateau Siran (France) Margaux 2005
Cru Bourgeois must suffer coming straight after Rauzan-Ségla. Rather reserved, not nearly so fragrant. A meaty palate, with modest fruit buy quite harmonious if a touch dry and over-extracted. 87/100


St-Julien

Chateau Beychevelle (France) St Julien 2005
Finesse from the first sniff here, with an aromatic brightness coupled to a ripe cassis fruit quality. Plenty of tannins here - more structure than is normal for Beychevelle, but there is such luxurious sweetness of fruit too and elegant acidity. 91-92/100

Chateau Branaire-Ducru (France) St Julien 2005
Quite estery and bright, with cherry fruit and a rather watercolour paint-box quality. Palate is lean and lithe, with good fruit and a supple tannin structure. Quite good balance, and this seems reserved and tight. A tough one to assess, but 90-91/100

Chateau Gruaud Larose (France) St Julien 2005
Typical Gruaud nose with a perfume of gamy, ripe, slightly bloody fruit and plenty of cedar and blackcurrant. Big, lip-smacking tannins, with a mass of Morello cherries giving fruit and acid bite, and masses of fruit to match the big, savoury tannins. One of the St-Julien stars with excellent length. 94-95/100

Chateau Lagrange (France) St Julien 2005
Nicely tempered, elegant blackcurrant fruit, with a touch of spice. Sweet, ripe fruit on the palate, with good concentration and the sweetness playing against savoury, grippy tannins and acids. 91-92/100

Chateau Langoa-Barton (France) St Julien 2005
Plums, bright cassis fruit and terrific vibrancy. The fruit is really dense and glossy, continuing onto the palate where there's a chocolaty depth and very good structure, with layers of solid tannins, a touch of creamy wood and good acidity. 92-93/100

Chateau Léoville-Barton (France) St Julien 2005
Not dissimilar to Langoa, perhaps just a touch more density or plushness, and very smooth, pure and concentrated fruit on the palate. Cassis character, with a powerful tannic substance and really good fruit. Definitely not head and shoulders above Langoa by any means, but possibly just shading it. 93/100

Chateau Léoville-Poyferré (France) St Julien 2005
Bloody, gamy, beautifully fragrant nose with solid, almost jammy blackcurrant fruit quality. Rich, smooth and deliciously ripe on the palate, with a creaminess to the texture and fruit, and high drinkability. Good structure, but in a more open and flattering style. Another really delicious Poyferré. 93/100

Chateau Talbot (France) St Julien 2005
Lighter, racier, with cherryish fruit and a certain floral/rose-hip quality. Nice bright, focused fruit, this seems lighter than some but I am really enjoying its lithe, pert fruitiness and charm. A very good performance for Talbot. 91-92/100


Pauillac


Carraudes de Lafite (France) Pauillac 2005
The second wine of Lafite is quite closed, but has very intense blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, with a note of blue/black, liquoricy fruit firmness. On the palate this is very dense, dark and pure. The difference between this (which accounts for 60% of Lafite's crop) and several of the wines I've tasted this week is that the tannin structure, whilst still massive and forceful, is still somehow supple and elegant, and integrates with the blue/black, tight fruit and structural acidity beautifully. 92/100

Chateau Lafite (France) Pauillac 2005
Almost 89% Cabernet Sauvignon this year, almost 11% Merlot and just a touch of Petit Verdot. There's a dimension of meaty, meat-stock aromas on the nose that is a little unusual, but is probably just the stage of this wines development given it will not complete its barrel maturation for over a year. It has a terrifically muscular density whilst retaining an edge of minerality, and layers of plush plum and cherry fruit with a cedary edge emerge. The palate has huge presence: sheer concentration and structure, with focused, supple tannins dominating, but real breeding and harmony, with the definition of the black fruit character and acidity and silky texture combining beautifully. 96/100

Pauillac (France) Pauillac 2005
This is effectively the third wine of Chateau Latour, made from younger vines of the estate. It has robust, earthy fruit on the nose and a certain chunky, rugged appeal. There is very solid, ripe fruit on the palate, with a good, solid texture and nice balance of chunky tannins and cherryish acidity. 88-89/100

Chateau Les Forts de Latour (France) Pauillac 2005
The second wine of Latour has something meaty and quite smoky on the nose, with a really ripe cassis fruitiness. Lots of weight, depth and structure on the palate with a fine quality of racy, lithe cassis fruit, and quite big, leathery and solid tannins. This is very powerful and plummy, with an earthy depth and nice savoury balance. Good length too. 92/100

Chateau Latour (France) Pauillac 2005
Fantastically deep and plush, with a masculine character on the nose that is meaty and extracted, with a tarry depth of black fruit. A massive, brooding presence is obvious here, with the palate coated in ripe, thick black fruit and a certain core of minerality. Amazing power and concentration here with liquorice, spice and tobacco notes. A very big-scaled wine and quite monolithic at this stage, but the breeding will surely come out. 96/100

Chateau d'Armaillhac (France) Pauillac 2005
Quite subdued, but a very solid black fruit nose with a certain richness and plush depth. The palate is really savoury and svelte (better than Clerc-Milon) with lots of dry extract, but racy and elegant tannins, 91/100

Chateau Batailley (France) Pauillac 2005
Nice violetty, fragrant nose, with damson and ripe black fruits. A touch of vanilla. Very fine, racy mouth-filling palate, but a little lean perhaps. Pretty, harmonious, and well-handled structure. 90/100

Chateau Clerc-Milon (France) Pauillac 2005
Much more ripe, blackberry and cassis nose, with a little earthy note too. Seems quite lean too, though there's a litheness and elegance about this. Good fruit and well-balanced. 91/100

Chateau Croizet-Bages (France) Pauillac 2005
Bright, cherryish, very crisply delineated fruit. There is a hint of tobacco and nice cassis core. Has a juiciness and vibrancy on the palate, with a lot of raw oak at present, but there is stylish fruit there, a hint of plushness and depth, and good overall balance. A touch short perhaps. 88-89/100

Chateau Duhart-Milon Rothschild (France) Pauillac 2005
Dramatically dark, blue/black glossy cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Intense and liquoricy, with a kirsch-like, bright edge. Deep and concentrated on the palate, there's a nice freshness about this again, though it lacks the lightness and elegance of Carraudes perhaps - though does add a layer of broad, juicy plum fruit. Lovely bite, with firm tannins and acidity. Will have staying power. 91/100

Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse (France) Pauillac 2005
A touch floral, and even a touch soapy at first, and seems less substantial than some. The palate has a lovely ripeness though, with solid tannins that are a touch dry, but the fruit and acids are there. 89/100

Chateau Haut-Bages Libéral (France) Pauillac 2005
Classic nose here, with already some pencil-shaving nuances but mostly violetty fruit with cassis and plum. Oak is as little raw on the palate, but it is savoury and has fine fruits, with solid tannins and a fine orange acidity. 91/100

Chateau Lynch-Bages (France) Pauillac 2005
Really lovely fruit quality, with fine, supple, ripe black fruit and an elegant, quite cedary wood. Again, the oak is a touch raw, but this has such lovely fruit and plum-skin savoury tannins, with crisply-defined acidity into the finish playing against pure fruit. Very promising. 93/100

Chateau Lynch-Moussas (France) Pauillac 2005
A touch of game, plenty of blackcurrant and a little high, violet note of superripeness. Smooth on the palate, with a glossiness to the fruit and some dry tannic extract. The palate is coated with tannin, but this is not excessive, balanced as it is by the thick fruit and crisp acidity. 91/100

Chateau Pichon-Baron (France) Pauillac 2005
Lovely nose here, that is very classical with pure, seamless blackcurrant fruit and an earthy, elegant warmth hinting at tobacco. It is quite subdued compared to some, but very classy. Dry, savoury tannins sweep across the palate, but there is such fine sweet fruit and structured acidity, that the impression is of a brooding, but seriously good wine with massive potential. 93-95/100

Reserve de Comtesse (France) Pauillac 2005
Second wine of Pichon-Lalande. Very ripe, rounded, shiny berry fruit with plenty of stuffing and power. Black, thick, cassis fruit and a powerhouse of chocolaty tannins beneath. Good acidity helps temper the opulence of this wine, which is already delicious. 90/100

Château Pichon-Lalande (France) Pauillac 2005
Rounded, immediately more graceful than the Reserve de Comtesse, with a certain minerality and earthiness. Solid, ripe black fruit, which is weighty on the palate and nicely juicy with a certain tension between the taut, supple tannins and sexy damson and black chocolate fruit quality. Very silky, delicious and long. 94-95/100

Chateau Pontet Canet (France) Pauillac 2005
Very pure cassis fruit. Lovely quality here that is open and generous, forward and full, yet there's a raciness on the palate and some structure beneath the plush, forward personality. Lots of breadth and roundness, but sufficient structure to age. Delicious and gorgeous. 93/100


St-Estèphe

Chateau Cos Labory (France) St Estèphe 2005
Quite fragrant, cedary, with rounded black fruits. Mouth-filling blackcurrant with a nice precision to the fruit. Quite supple even though there is a lot of extract. 90/100

Chateau Lafon Rochet (France) St Estèphe 2005
An extra element of ripeness and concentrated fruit here, which is pure, glossy and focused, almost chocolaty. There's a very pure, intense blue/black fruit on the palate and the tannins, though a touch dry and very muscular and dense, a better balanced by sweet, thick fruit and good acidity. 92-93/100

Chateau Les Ormes de Pez (France) St Estèphe 2005
Vinous, dark, earthy, with a very ripe density of fruit beneath. Very dry tannins here, but a nice plum skin roughening grip that is lip-smacking and dense. Good fruit too, with a flood of black plum and cassis. Very attractive. 91/100

Chateau Phélan Ségur (France) St Estèphe 2005
Quite subdued on the nose, with tight, earthy, quite mineral scents but not overtly fruity at this stage. Pure black fruit on the palate, though very muscular and robust, with plenty of extract and fruity stuffing. Will need time. 90-91/100

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