Cru Bourgeois Clarets – polished and renewed for 2009
Of all the world’s great wine regions it is Bordeaux that is dearest to my heart, for the simple reason that the first really good quality wines that I tasted were from there. Many of you are aware that I love Spanish wines and almost anything left of field, but wherever else I roam I am always drawn back to the red wines of Bordeaux. Sadly I have not been to Bordeaux often enough or, as prices have risen, drunk nearly enough of the stuff and I would very much like to put that right.
Well, recently I was in exactly the right place to start that process. Last year I reported in detail on the new Cru Bourgois classification for the Médoc district of Bordeaux. I attended the first unveiling of the new classification last year and the explanation of the new selection process as well as the principals behind it. If you need to catch up on the background my article from last year explains all – read it here.
That first vintage of the newly revamped Cru Bourgeois was the 2008, the new one is the much more exciting 2009. The tasting panels have now done their work and the results are in and 246 wines have achieved the coveted Cru Bourgeois status for the 2009 vintage – three more than last year’s tally. Having seen the unveiling of the new classification last year I was anxious to see how things were progressing. I had a favourable view of the wines last year, but was slightly concerned that as Cru Bourgeois is a guarantee of a minimum quality that it might lend itself to a sort of general sweeping up of otherwise unclassified wine. So I was pleased to be able to taste a good representative range of these wines.
The good news was that overall I was very impressed and I certainly got the feeling that the wines were of a higher general standard than last year, I tasted very few that I would have voted down had I been on a tasting panel. There seemed to be more fruit and greater concentration, a sure sign of the leap in quality of the vintage – although a very few suffered from a touch of greeness. I also detected much more elegance in the wines, with only a few marred by overly showy oak – a personal bugbear. For me claret should be all about elegance, showy red Bordeaux strikes me as missing the point, or trying to sell the wine to people who do not really like old world wines. I always think that a great red wine should be memorable for its balance and elegance rather than its power – especially a wine like a claret that exists for no other purpose than to be drunk with good food. If the wine is too powerful it will swamp the food and the whole balance of the meal will be ruined.
With prices for even very ordinary wine rising to surprising levels of late I was very pleased too by the good value that many of these wines represented. Funny we do not often put the words ‘good’, ‘value’ and ‘Bordeaux’ together, but I think in this instance you really can. Contrary to what you might expect, many of the wines were no more expensive than good quality Bordeaux-like blends from the new world, all of the wines below retail for something between £12 and £18 per bottle.
As you might imagine, the great majority of the Cru Bourgeois of the class of 2009 came from the Médoc – with 99 Cru Bougeois – and Haut-Médoc appellation – with 85 – but almost all the other appellations are represented too. In the past Cru Bourgeois made me think of St Estephe and indeed there are 19 new Cru Bourgeois representing that commune as well as 16 from Moulis-en-Médoc, 13 from Listrac, 9 from Margaux and 5 from Pauillac – only St Julien, the epitome of traditional claret, stands alone. There were never many Cru Bourgeois from there that I can remember and I suppose those few have another sort of fame that allows them to go it alone which makes applying for Cru Bourgeois status of questionable value to them, but is seems a shame to not have any Cru Bourgeois from that famous commune.
Here are some of the wines that impressed me the most – remember the 2009 will not yet be available in the shops:
2009 Château La Cardonne
50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc
Fresh fruit hints dominate the nose with cedar notes and sandalwood.
Plush, smooth rounded palate delivering plummy fruit, clean slightly chalky drying tannins and some lovely freshness making it balanced and lively. Quite tight structure, but clean and balanced, I enjoyed this medium bodied wine and think it will age nicely for 5 years or so – 88/100 points.
Château La Cardonne is available from Majestic Wine Warehouses
2009 Château Greysac
58% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
Fresh fruit, red plums and cherry lift off the nose.
Smooth, supple, fruit and fresh acidity dominate the palate with a little structure added by fine grain smoky tannins.
Nicely balanced and very well knit medium bodied claret – 88/100 points
Château Greysac is available from Majestic Wine Warehouses & Justerini and Brooks
2009 Château Leboscq
62% Cabernet sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 7 % Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot
Smoky nose, black fruit hints below the oak.
Firm, quite hard edged at the moment, but lovely cassis fruit below the firm outer shell of tannins. Rather good, needs time to tame the slightly dominant oak – 88/100 points.
Château Leboscq is available from Majestic Wine Warehouses
2009 Château Loudenne
55% Merlot – 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec
Rich fruit, black and red mixed with some smoke and toasty savoury oak.
Firm palate, lovely fruit, tight acidity, firm, clean fine grain smoky tannins. Fleshy fruit giving rich medium body. Dry and structured. Very good indeed, classy and fine that has real elegance – 90/100 points.
I am glad this wine is living up to its distinguished past.
Château Loudenne is available from Maisons Marques et Domaines
2009 Château Patache d’Aux
60 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 % Merlot, 7 % Cabernet Franc, 3 % Petit Verdot
Black fruit and sugar plums on the nose with tight mineral notes and some toast, but a little dumb right now.
Lovely structure, tight, but elegant tannins, succulent fruit wanting to burst through and fresh, lively balancing acidity.
Very good medium bodied but rich, concentrated and balanced – 90/100 points.
I have known this estate a long time and again its pedigree shows.
Château Patache d’Aux is available from Thomas Hunt and Charles Taylor
2009 Château Preuillac
67% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc
Rich fruit lifts off on the nose, damsons, cassis and spices.
The palate is medium bodied, fleshy and succulent with clean tannins giving support and lovely freshness. Well balanced and drinkable already -87/100 points.
A lighter style, more fruit driven than most of the others, but delicious with it.
Château Preuillac is available from The Society of Vintners
Loads of fruit, fresh damson nose with some cedar notes.
Juicy and supple with lovely fruit firmed up by some discrete tannins and freshness. Very good and enjoyable if simple. Rich medium body. 87/100 points.
Another wine that celebrtates fruit more than structure I think, so possibly an early drinker, but it will give a lot of pleasure – how nice to see some Carménère too.
Château Saint-Aubin is available from High Breck Vitners, Corney and Barrow
2009 Château Tour Saint-Bonnet
45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot
Rich damson fruit dominates the nose together with some cedary notes. The palate has an even balance between bright fleshy fruit and some firm smoky oak spice tinged tannins and oak. Fresh acidity too. Red fruit dominates the succulence right now. Firm oaky coffee notes on the juicy finish. Very good – 89/100 points.
I have known this estate for nearly 30 years and it has nearly always delivered, this seems quite classic and has everything a real claret should – one for purists to enjoy while waiting for their Cru Classés to develop?
Château Tour Saint-Bonnet is available from Hayward Bros Wines
2009 Château d’Arcins
55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45 % Merlot
Lovely bright and seductive cassis nose.
Rich and succulent palate with some really rich cassis fruit, smoky oak, fine grain tannins and nice balance.
Lovely fruit in a hard tannic shell, but not aggressive and will age very well – 89/100 points.
This was a new estate for me, but I was greatly impressed.
Château d’Arcins is available from Nicolas
2009 Château Beaumont
53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot
Smoky oak nose with some plum fruit, both cooked and fresh in the background.
Very good palate rich and concentrated and tight with fine grain tannins. Loads of freshening acidity and nice weight.
Will age beautifully to be quite classic – 88/100 points.
I have had many vintages of this wine and it really does evolve into a classic dictionary definition claret with some 5-6 years. The trick is to grab it while it still has good fruit.
Château Beaumont is available from Stevens Garnier
2009 Château Caronne Ste Gemme
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot
Rich cassis and cedar nose, some smoky oak cuts through.
Rich concentrated palate, very pure and lively good clean acidity, firming yet supple tannins, lovely cassis fruit.
Beautiful balance. 90/100 points.
I have known this estate all my working life and this vintage is a treat, I wish I had a case!
Château Caronne Ste Gemme is available from The Wine Society, Majestic and Jeroboam
2009 Château Cissac
67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot
Classic nose, lovely fruit notes and freshness, smoke, spice etc.
Fleshy and succulent palate, juicy and fresh with clean acidity and a cut of firming fine grain tannins and smoky notes. Very good and elegant – 90/100 points.
Classic claret, makes me think of deeply upholstered leather chairs in a gentleman’s club!
Château Cissac is available from The Wine Society, Tanners Wines, Averys Wine Merchant
2009 Château Fonréaud
52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot
Smoky oak on nose with lovely red and black fruit underneath.
Full and smooth, lush palate, rich fruit, real concentration and depth. Spice, oak and tannins. Fine grain tannins, freshness too. Very good indeed – 89/100 points.
Château Fonréaud is available from Waitrose
2009 Château Anthonic
68% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot
Rich fruit, cassis and damsons, some clean fresh oak spice.
Juicy and clean and fresh, nice balanced, lovely fruit meets smooth supple tannins that leave a touch of chalk and firm oak spice. Very good concentration and balance, needs time, but lovely – 90/100 points.
This property, right next to Château Clarke, is one that I have tried a long time ago and I think it has improved beyond recognition.
Château Anthonic is available from Corney & Barrow
2009 Château Gressier Grand-Poujeaux
50 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 50 % Merlot
Lifted raspberry like fruit notes, cassis too.
Smooth and round with lovely concentration, some rich smoky oak needs taming, but promises very well indeed. Lovely everything – 90/100 points.
2009 Château Paveil de Luze
70 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 % Merlot
Tight nose, earthy notes, fresh fruit and spice, complex.
Tight palate, firm tannins, but not unpleasant, clean with rich red black fruit and some oak spice.
Promising and gets better. Structured and elegant – 89/100 points.
Château Paveil de Luze is available from Ellis of Richmond
2009 Château Haut Bages Monpelou
70 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 % Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc
Lovely lifted fruit first, then earthy notes and oak spice too.
Fleshy then cut by acidity, smooth tannins with just a bite of structure. Very clean, sandalwood flavours. Very good structure and fruit – 89/100 points.
2009 Château Beau Site
A.C. St Estèphe
70 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 24 % Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot
Lovely rich ripe fruit dominates the nose and palate. The tannins are quite firm, but give nice structure that is enhanced by a little freshness of acidity, some spicy oak here too. This needs time – 90/100 points.
I have always been fond of this property and their 2009 is a splendid wine, but it will need a few years as it was arguably the tightest wine I tasted.
2009 Château Clauzet
A.C. St Estèphe
55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc
Lovely texture, svelte and smooth with the rich, ripe fruit balancing the tannins until the finish when they show up a bit more. Also nice acidity giving freshness and balance. Shows great promise for when the complexity develops.Very clean finish with some minerality & liquorice spice. The tannins are not aggressive and the wine is beautifully balanced and integrated – 90/100 points.
I really do rate this property, for me they seem to make wines that have the right proportions of everything and genuinely produce wines that outperform their station in life.
Château Clauzet is available from Goedhuis
2009 Château de Côme
A.C. St Estèphe
50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot
Rich fruit on the nose leading to a palate with soft fruit and smooth tannins. A slightly fleshier style with softer fruit, but still good structure and balance – 90/100 points.