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Bordeaux 2000 report

James Handford MW

The Weather
Jack Frost did not spoil the 2000 party. Bud burst and flowering were more than a week early and so that came as a big relief. The main threat was mildew as it remained humid throughout spring and in May the temperature was a little higher than average. Dry weather came in time and so little damage was done (mildew affects leaves and not fruit). July and August were dry and warm even tropical though with little or no rainfall and encouraging even maturation. September brought a few showers heavier in the Southern Médoc but none too heavy to alter what was fast becoming some wonderfully balanced and structured fruit.

Harvest of red grapes began around 14th September on the Right Bank and 20th on the left. The Cabernet started coming in on the 28th and continued into the second week of October. Vendangeurs developed their tans but for a day or two of scattered short storms at the end of September.

So there were plenty of smiles at the harvest festival but perhaps for the slight reduction in overall yields in comparison to 1990 and the better recent vintages. Over the past 10 years white wine vineyards have been planted with Cabernet and Merlot but this potential increase is countered by reducing yields to increase quality.

The Wines

Médoc and Graves
Many wines are profoundly true to their appellation. Margauxs are fine elegant and persistent Saint Juliens and Pauillacs are rich and supple. Saint Estèphes are black and a little harsh now but will develop well and the Listrac-Moulis reds are deep and inky. Of course there are exceptions where cultural and winemaking philosophies dilute the virtues of terroir and I fear that the market may interpret these as better rather than different.

There are some outstanding structures to the wines. Many show a complexity of tannin that is a joy in itself. The acids are fresh and give a great natural feel. They will also result in more even and lengthy maturation. That means less chance of disappointment in 10 or 20 years time and a large plateau on the drinking window graph.

There was a little over-maturity, often cited as the cause of so much variation in the eighties. By the same token some had underachieved in the concentration department – still going for too much volume I suspect. However, the general quality was excellent.

Though the Merlots did well the Cabernets ripened better than in 1990. This is reflected in the blend at some properties and will result in vins de gardes (wines for long ageing) similar to 1986. Indeed many have likened the vintage to 1989 and 1990, but with the structure of 1986. To me there is a fresher feel crisp and cool natural acids that is typical of modern winemaking and compares to 1996 and 1997 but with more concentration than 1989 or 1990.

There is a far greater concentration of great wines in the Médoc with some bargains to be found amongst the lower growths and Haut Médocs. Though the genuine finesse of the big guns is yet to be matched there is a handful of lesser wines coming ever closer to true greatness.

Saint Emilion and Pomerol
In Saint Emilion the producer’s lot is a very happy one. In 1998 and 2000 the Cabernet Franc has ripened quite beautifully and proves what a fine red variety it is and indeed why it is one of my big favourites. The combination of ripeness and floral aromatic tones is most seductive. This year though Merlot is on song too making these reds the most interesting of the vintage at all levels.

Poor old Pomerol enjoyed its best year in 10 but is overshadowed by its neighbours. I have a little feeling that time will show these to be equally as good. They are certainly ripe, but are they over-ripe? It is too early to tell but there is no doubting that Pomerol 2000 will be delicious in the short and medium term and that the Thienpont wines le Pin and Vieux Chateau Certan are amongst the best of the vintage.

Tasting notes
It is most important to be aware that these samples were prepared from barrels and the wines are not yet finished. Appearances are important though may be deceptive as the wines will be racked (cleared) further and the shade will develop before bottling. The absolute colour, however, is important and a good indication of quality. In their extreme youth wines are often ‘closed’. This means that the structure encases the aromas. At this stage this is a good thing. On the palate I look for depth concentration complexity (number of flavours) and length. There may be a feeling for fruit rather than an abundance of flavours. These qualities also give an indication of how long each wine needs to be kept.

For a balanced cellar select wines from different villages in the Médoc as well as one or two St Emilions. Then try a case or two of the more modern styles. Some Fifth Growths and Cru Bourgeois are on very good form in 2000 and will certainly never be cheaper.

The market
Same advice applies … buying en Primeur is the best way to ensure that you have stock of the clarets that you want to drink. Having said that Bordeaux has suffered recently from increased sales in other wine regions. Though sales have doubled since 1990 much of that growth occurred during a short period in the middle of the decade. On the positive side the market is ever extending. The weight of numbers and the array of nationalities in Bordeaux this March are clear evidence of that. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the best wines are getting better.

Many factors that slowed sales (though not necessarily prices) do not exist now. The market is more diverse and the Bordelais have more experience of their international markets. Fewer traders are loyal to established contacts and merchants are better equipped to distribute smaller quantities to more clients. The biggest single indication of the immediate future are the polite request by négociants to cool prices down from the 2001 vintage. It sounds as if they are happy to milk the 2000 though.

The bandwagon stays in the rails though more people are squeezing into fewer carriages.

James Handford
Master Of Wine

Château Léoville Poyferré 2000, Saint Julien
These wines in Saint Julien are not only lovely to taste; they are very good looking too. The Poyferré has a more juicy fruit nose and a full, ripe Cabernet style that has been accentuated by the new oak. Very supple and with savoury complexity and some spice. Softer that its neighbour, Léoville Barton, but equally round and fine. 2013 to 2020.

Château Léoville Barton 2000, Saint Julien
Now here is a lavish glass of wine. Almost black in appearance and, though closed on the nose, but for a hint of wood, this year’s Barton gives us the expected weight of black fruit, chewy acid and a great blend of firm and ripe tannins that will allow the wine to mature well. The fruit gives fat, currant, and prune centre with a generous helping of leather and spice with some cedar wood notes. Sounds good and it will be even better if you can keep it for 15 years. A classic Léoville Barton.

Château Lagrange 2000, Saint Julien
Really attractive plum, purple colour with a soft, vanilla oak, currant and leather nose. There is very big structure to this wine and a very natural acid feel too. The ripe Cabernet feel epitomises the vintage and the tannins are rounded. Great length and fairly full in concentration, this down to some unusually harsh selection. Very good and drinking from 2010 to 2018.

Château Beychevelle 2000, Saint Julien
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot. Mid-cherry red with hints of blackness and a little opaque, an appearance that hints at a great wealth that is vindicated on the palate. There is enormous complexity of black fruits, spice, nutmeg, and some pepper. Though the concentration is only fair, the length is good and balanced. Very good and will drink well from 2012.

Château Talbot 2000, Saint Julien
The pundits seemed a bit undecided about this one. My first impression was of a great example of a wine from a great village in a great vintage. However, at this stage, when something appears to be out of this world, it probably is and so I have to reserve judgement on a wine that appears a little too sweet and rounded.

Château Lynch Bages 2000, Pauillac
This year’s Lynch Bages shows just the depth and concentration that you would expect. Quite opaque in colour, signs of opulence on the nose and a huge structure of crunchy new oak and acidity to balance the ripe fruit characters. This will take a little time to pull together but it is worth the wait, I assure you. 2013 to 2020

Château Pichon Longueville Baron de Longueville 2000, Pauillac
Mid red and quite black in colour and perhaps the sweetest and ripest example of Saint Julien yet. It is one of those wines that, in its youth, is so intense that it is hard to bear. The length is fabulous and even, with pastille fruit, leather and so sweaty notes. A wine of rich complexity and a classic expression of the ripeness of this vintage. 2015 to 2023

Château Latour 2000, Pauillac
77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Profound, red purple with some blackness. Almost completely closed but for a delicate hint of cassis. But there is huge depth and mouth-fill with some harder and some ripe tannins. Indeed the diversity of tannins generates complexity in itself, never mind the cedar, spice, cigar box and cassis fruit flavours. Raw now, but raring to go. 2014 to 2028.

Château Pontet Canet 2000, Pauillac
Soft red with a subtle but enticing nose of spice, cedar and nutmeg. The Pontet is pure with cool, black fruits and a hint of minerals. Perhaps a little understated in comparison with its illustrious neighbours but, nevertheless, an ugly ducking that’s worth adopting. 2010 to 2016

Château les Ormes de Pez 2000, Saint Estèphe
Fairly deep black, purple in colour and the nose is very closed. This is explained by a very tight structure and good blend of grape acid and tannin firm the wood. Concentrated and lively, balanced and mouthwatering – a good recipe for a fine wine for the future. 2009 to 2014.

Château Grand Puy Ducasse 2000, Pauillac
Soft pastille red colour and, though it gives nothing on the nose, it opens into a beautiful flower of concentrated prune, berry, leather and cinnamon. The length is even and gentle and the balance fine. This is very good indeed and wins the battle of the Grand Puys. 2007 to 2014.

Clos Fourtet 2000, Saint Emilion 1er Grand Cru
Soft pastille red and a little more open on the nose than many – gentle, strawberry toffee to begin, filling out in the mid-palate and with near perfect balance. Very well put together and the taste goes on and on. 2009 to 2018.

Château la Dominique 2000, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Another St Emilion that is slightly more delicate in hue but that has real class. On the nose there is some red fruit and vanilla and in the mouth it shows that coolness that is a real hallmark of quality in these wines. There are supple blackberry and raspberry ripple tastes of super length. Charming and quite wonderful. 2009 to 2019.

Château la Mondotte 2000, Saint Emilion
Quite refined compared to recent years but that is not to say any less concentrated. Clean and thick red, black colour with some green notes on the nose. This though is not mirrored in the mouth where berry and cassis fruit abounds and delicacy and finesse combine uncannily with depth and concentration. Perhaps the best Mondotte yet. 2011 to 2025.

Château Canon la Gaffelière 2000, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Certainly a more definite purple that many others from this appellation and with a closed nose. But to taste this has a perfect coolness, with chocolate, coffee and a hint of mint. This is elegant and enchanting with black cherry and plum fruit of great length and harmony. Fine. 2011 to 2018.

Château Angélus 2000, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Thick, red in appearance and very tight on the nose. This was one of the first St Emilions that I tasted and it quashed any rumours that the Right Bank might not be so good as the left. Delicious, rich, ripe and velvet textured plum fruit and chocolate notes with a dash of vanilla and of great length. 2012 to 2020.

Château Troplong Mondot 2000, Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Very deep red, purple and with a disguised, but clean nose showing some plum pudding and prune characters with cool notes too. This explodes on the palate, offering a mass of piercing black cherry fruit, char and tobacco with some spice and a tiny taste of mint. Excellent and hugely complex and one of the great keepers of the vintage. 2014 to 2022

Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2000, Pessac-Léognan
This Chateau has become one of the great stars of the region in recent years and so it comes as no surprise that the 2000 is deeply coloured, offers absorbing, currant and blackberry fruit flavours on the nose with some char. It is big, ripe and quite fat with some leafy currant fruit too. Lovely balanced length. Although this is clearly in the modern, juicy, new oak style, it is very well constructed and will improve over eight years.

Château Margaux 2000, Margaux
80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. As at many properties, the proportion of Cabernet is a little higher than normal in the premium blend. It is not that the Merlot is poor, but that the Cabernets are so ripe and delicious. The Margaux is thick and opulent to look at, though of a refined, red/purple hue with little blackness. The nose is meagre, but fine and focused, of fresh, blackcurrant fruit and some leather and anise from the wood. Enchanting, soft, sweet cassis and red berry fruit dominate the palate. Lovely richness and Reubenesque opulence. A wine that I can still taste after 2 minutes. 2010 to 2030.

Château Haut Bailly 2000, Pessac-Léognan
Soft, cherry, plum red colour and quite opaque, the Haut Bailly has fine but beautifully complex aromas of brioche, vanilla, ripe plum and cassis. Fairly hard tannins now but the underlying quality and texture of the fruit make this an excellent choice for the medium and longer term. 2005 to 2012.

Château Beaumont 2000, Haut Médoc
Soft red black and showing a little blackcurrant character on the nose. I enjoyed the ripe and classic Cabernet style that is fairly persistent. Tannins are softer than in recent vintages and so I can heartily recommend this for drinking from 2004. Very good indeed.

Château Belgrave 2000, Haut Médoc
I was first impressed by this Fifth Growth Château in the 1997 vintage. It is always a challenge to make the best of an average year but in a good vintage this has become the star of the lesser wines. Incredible weight and suppleness, some complexity of cedar and anise. This wins you over with its sheer concentration and, though it would be a shame not to keep one or two bottles, it will impress in the first 5 to 7 years of its life.

Château Gruaud Larose 2000, Saint Julien
Very bright and clean, deep purple and showing an overt, freshly pressed Cabernet smell. Very distinctive in its primary fruit character and there is more complexity to come. In the background are the seeds of diversity with a touch of new leather and spice. Fair length and there is more structure to come as the wine lies in barrel. More difficult to predict but unlikely to be ready before 2012.

Châtau Quinault 2000, St Emilion
I have never been a great fan and the simple and pulpy purple appearance along with a dominance of new oak does not encourage me to change my view. However, it is impossible to ignore the length of black fruit and soft oak flavours of this wine. They combine well with a certain coolness and bright acidity. Very good but still not a long term wine. 2009 to 2014.

For details of Handford's 2000 Bordeaux offer, see:

Handford Fine Wine
12 Portland Road, Holland Park, London W11 4LE
Telephone: +44 20 7221 9614 Facsimile: +44 20 7221 9613

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