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Bordeaux 2005 - part I

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.

Top Tens

Ten Best Wines - Top 10 Potential Values - Top 10 on a Budget

Ten Best Wines

Very tough to narrow this down to 10. There are others wines that scored as high a mark as some included here, but this is a personal list of my 10 best wines - the ones I'd most like to have in my cellar.

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2005
Beautiful fruit quality here, with a fantastic plummy opulence, ripe red berries and already a cedary background. The tannins are beautifully ripe, and lead a mouth-filling structure, where the sweet and chocolaty ripeness of fruit is exquisitely balanced. A truly impressive La Mission. 95-96/100

Chateau Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2005
Haunting fragrance that is cedary and elegantly mineral, with a beautiful sense of poise and precision. The fruit is fully ripe, plummy and lush, but everything is imbued with that minerality and layered complexity. Huge fruit and big, structured tannins are integrated and managed beautifully along with lovely acidity, to give focus, length and a sense of lightness. 96/100

Chateau Margaux (France) Margaux 2005
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

Chateau Palmer (France) Margaux 2005
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.

Chateau Lafite (France) Pauillac 2005
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

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 Ausone Saint-Emilion 2005
Fantastic opulence layered on here, with a thick cocoa-dusted sweet black fruit character, really intense fruit and immediate impression of depth and svelte quality. The palate also has a lovely fruit quality, with a succulence and glossy, plush depth. Very fine, with terrific minerality at the core and beautiful length. 96/100

Valandruad (France) Saint-Emilion 2005
Super-intense Morello cherry fruit with a fantastic richness and black fruit extraction. Real concentration here, with intense earthy minerality too. The fruit is highly focused - like a funnel of very ripe, sweet-edged dark fruit running through the core of the wine, with plenty of savoury grip and an edge of acidity. Very good length, and seems well balanced despite the extraction. 95/100

Château Cheval Blanc (France) Saint-Emilion 2005
The nose is darker, denser and less expressive that Le Petit Cheval at this stage, with a layering of chocolate and a dark, juicy plum richness. There is a depth of spicy, tobacco-tinged warmth. Beautiful fruit on the palate, with terrific elegance. Though marginally more concentrated than the Petit Cheval, it is elegantly structured and lithe, with slightly more polished tannins, and so it is seems lighter, though more elegant at this stage. Beautiful wine. 95/100

Château Gazin (France) Pomerol 2005
Chocolaty richness with a sensuous, velvety appeal of ripe, dark fruit and coffee notes. Very fine structure on the palate, with lovely mouthfilling density and a massive, sweet and ripe fruit quality married to chocolaty tannins and excellent freshening acidity. Fine length too, in a very impressive Gazin. 94-95/100

Ten Potential Best Values

Not necessarily inexpensive wines, but wines I believe might represent good value for money.

Chateau Gruaud Larose (France) St Julien 2005
Simply brilliant, and could easily have made the overall top 10. 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 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

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

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 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

Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion (France) Pessac-Léognan 2005
Earthier, more gamy, with less brightness to the fruit but a warming depth. Lovely stripe of vivid black fruit on the palate. Fine definition, with a slightly broader base than the Olivier, but a hugely concentrated core. 93/100

Chateau Canon (France) Saint-Emilion 2005
More animal, earthier character rather than the glossy purity and ripeness of the others. Lovely plum skin roughness on the palate, with plenty of grip and a bracing acid quality. A warmth and fudge-like, richness and depth begins to emerge. This a beautiful fruit and great structure. 94/100

Chateau Grand Mayne (France) Saint-Emilion 2005
Much better than Franc-Mayne, with rich, thick, blackcurrant fruit and plenty of glossy, blue-black fruit depth. This is equally polished and pure on the palate, with grippy tannins adding a real edge, but supple too, with a sinewy fruit quality and fine balance. 93/100

Château Petit Village (France) Pomerol 2005
Much brighter, raspberry and cherry fruit quality with lots of elegance and a hint of minerality in this wine. Broader and more plush on the palate, with spice and a rounded berry fruitiness. Slick, supple tannins and a fine acid base are all present and correct. 94/100

Chateau La Tour Blanche (France) Sauternes 2005
Lovely lightness and elegance here, with finely wrought honey and bright orchard fruits and lemon. It really is beautifully poised, with medium body but real sweetness and unctuous fruit, yet a lightness and finesse because of the delicate balance. "Gossamer" is the word that came to mind as I tasted this so I wrote it down, realising that it was a tad pretentious, but in many ways it sums up this wine, and the best of this Sauternes vintage perfectly. 93-94/100

Ten Best Wines on a Budget

Great wines that should be relatively inexpensive - say under £180 to £200 per case (around £15 - £16 per bottle plus tax) maximum. Of course, price are not released as yet and I may be mis-judging price increases for wines like Beychevelle and Lascombes that were £170 - £180 in 2004. Let's hope not!

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 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 Prieuré-Lichine (France) Margaux 2005
A very convincing Prieure 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 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 Haut-Mazeris (France) Canon-Fronsac 2005
From part of the same vineyard as Haut-Mazeris Fronsac, that just crosses into the Canon-Fronsac appellation. These are 100-year-old vines and the nose has a much more plush, chocolaty depth with a plummy fruit quality. Big, warm and mouthfilling, with solid tannins and fruit but fine balance, this is impressive. 91-92/100

Château Chasse-Spleen (France) Moulis 2005
Lovely rounded, charming nose with a touch of spice and plenty of plummy stuffing. Cool and elegant palate, with big, ripe tannins but the fruit to match and excellent balance and length. A fine effort this. 91/100

Château La Tour Carnet (France) Haut-Médoc 2005
Really quite chocolaty on the nose, with a solid, plush layering of fruit that is plummy and dense. There's a roughening background of plum-skin tannins on the palate, but the violetty, dark ripeness of fruit pushes on through in a fairly chunky, but delightful wine. 90/100

Chateau La Tour de By (Médoc) 2005
A certain liquoricy, blue-black dry extract quality, with deep blueberry fruit. The palate is deep-set and big-scaled, with damson and blackberry bittersweetness, tangy acidity and lots of lip-smacking tannin and plum skin fruit. Big, chunky, and delicious. 89-90/100

Château Coufran (France) Haut-Médoc 2005
Solid, vinous, with nice purity of fruit. A certain earthiness and warmth. The palate has a broad stripe of drying tannins, but there is a nice purity of black fruit that continues, and really the balance here is extremely good. A very good Coufran. 89-90/100

Domaine de l'A (France) Cotes de Castillon 2005
Rounded, sweet, and quite charming, yet massive, drying tannic presence on the palate with a lot of earthy, robust fruit and spice. Nicely roughening tannins add a rustic chewiness, but this has length and balance. Impressive. 90/100

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