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2007 done, 2005 to come

I’ve just finished adding my Bordeaux 2007 notes to the main Winedoctor site, ending up as always with my notes on Sauternes. My personal opinion is that, for the cellar at least, these are the only wines worth hunting down; many are absolutely delicious.

I have had quite a lot of feedback on my 2007 notes from individuals in the trade, people who have tasted the wines, including a number who were at the 2007 UGC tasting. Views of my report tend to place it in the “tough but fair” arena, although at yesterday’s Bordeaux 2005 tasting marathon at the Institute of Masters of Wine it was clear that there are certainly others who are more enamoured with the vintage. Largely though it seems to me that these opinions come from those who have reviewed the wines without consideration of price. This is a reasonable approach, although not a very pragmatic one, as although I would agree that these wines may provide “useful” drinking in restaurants during the coming decade I think they will also offer very poor value for money.

Except for the Sauternes, of course, which are delicious. Have I written that enough times now?

As for 2005, the wines at yesterday’s tasting ranged from sublimely wonderful to coarse and confected, but I have to confess that overall the standard was extremely high. Yes, a number of wines do have a little coarseness to the tannins, and some have rather sweet, confected fruit, but a number of these characteristics will fade with time, and the majority had the substance to go the distance.

Perhaps most interesting was the Pichon-Lalande and Pichon-Baron duo, neither of which, in the context of a great vintage, shone yesterday. In truth Pichon-Baron was really very good, just not quite where I expected, and this may come good with time. Pichon-Lalande though was showing very strangely, with confected marshmallow toast on the nose and cooked fruit on the palate. A duff bottle, you suggest? No, because I returned later in the day and tried both Pichons again, and both were true to the earlier assessment. This is notable as 2005 is another vintage where Pichon-Lalande seems to be dividing opinion, as it did in 1990, which was panned by Parker but which finds fans elsewhere, and to some extent in 2000 as well – where there are diverse opinions from Bordeaux critics including Parker and his writer Neal Martin.

My only previous taste of Pichon-Lalande was of a barrel sample in April 2006, shown in London rather than at the primeur tastings in Bordeaux, and it was stonkingly good, so much so that I gave it 19+/20, first-growth territory in anyone’s book, but certainly so looking at the scores I was dishing out at yesterday’s 2005 affair. But yesterday’s wine was a completely different kettle of fish. Or kettle of toasted marshmallows and cooked fruit, anyway.

I learnt the obvious way from Lagrange 2003, tasted at the 2003 UGC event, that wines can go through weird phases. On that occasion 2003 Lagrange was a hotch-potch of aniseed and cherry cola, on the whole quite upalatable, to put it politely. Of all the reports from the tasting I could find, the wine divided opinion 50/50, half noting the same weirdness as I had, half failing to make any such comment on this aspect of the wine. That is a statement itself worthy of some discussion, but sticking to the matter in hand, one year later I had a chance to revisit the wine, the note now residing in my Lagrange profile, and it was just fine. So wines which show poorly early on in their life can spontaneously recover it seems. So what will happen with Pichon-Lalande 2005? Unfortunately opportunities for me to revisit these wines after four years of age are few and far between, so I am glad I made the most of this opportunity, but it means for now my opinion of Pichon-Lalande 2005 will be a reserved but critical one, with all the above caveats.

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