Bordeaux 2005, assessed from bottle
So popular is the Bordeaux 2005 vintage with the wine trade that the organizers of this yearís Union des Grands Cru tasting at the Royal Opera House had to operate a two-shift system. Given a choice of morning or afternoon tasting, I opted for the 10.30Ė13.30 band, and despite the split shifts, the place was still heaving.
In a crowded environment, tasting is made quite difficult. While the Riedel glasses, the open, airy room and the sunny weather all worked in the tastersí favour at this event, the crowds, the jostling for position near spittoons, and the general noise level meant that the fine discriminations that need to be made in order to assess quality at the highest level were quite tricky.
Add to this the usual bugbear at large tastings Ė the repeated exposure of the mouth to dense, young, tannic wines Ė and you have a bit of noise in the system, which means that the notes and scores I made today arenít my final word. To make this buccal over-exposure less of a problem, I kept my sampling down to a relatively modest 40 wines, even though there were close to 100 on offer (including whites and Sauternes, which I skipped). This was my third tasting of a large batch of the 2005s Ė en primeur in April 06, then a second cask sample session in February this year, followed by this first look at the bottled wines.
Overall impressions? 2005 is a remarkable vintage in Bordeaux, across the board. All the appellations have produced generously proportioned, concentrated, tannic wines that look set for long development in bottle. These are not wines that you want to drink now (although Iíd imagine that more commercial wines made in a lighter style will now be beginning to show their best). I was repeatedly amazed by the density of fruit, usually backed up by firm tannin and good acidity, and not infrequently a fair whack of new oak. It will take a while for many of these wines to begin to harmonize. Some may be so tannic and extracted that they wonít ever achieve real balance, although itís hard to be sure at this early stage.
Iíd also say this is quite an awkward stage to be evaluating the 05s, because they are so tight and tannic. Itís as if they are currently bunched together. In time, Iíd expect them to diverge more and then spotting the real gems amidst the generally high overall level of quality will be easier. Itís important not to be seduced by the wines that are currently more open, because these arenít necessarily the top wines. Some of the wines that are tight and a bit ungainly now will be the swans in 30 yearsí time.
Notes on the wines will follow shortly on the main site. One final thought. Bordeaux is a bit different, isnít it? All the winery owners, representatives and winemakers were wearing suits, or smart dresses. [Many of the guys were wearing expensively tailored suits, too.] There was lots of jewellery. You get the impression that even cellar hands in Bordeaux wear a shirt and tie. No T-shirts, no jeans, no non-conformists. The wines seem to reflect this.