Bordeaux 2009 en primeur — the dispatches!

Over the past month, critics and wine trade buyers have been on the ground in Bordeaux, tasting the 2009 vintage before they go on pre-sale (as “futures”) in the coming months. Even though the wines, now in barrel, have yet to finish their aging and the blend will likely be adjusted between now and bottling, the outsiders flocked in record number this year. Before the grapes were even harvested, some commentators and industry participants had hailed this vintage as superb, everyone making parallels to 2005 and some even invoking the storied 1947.

So how did things pan out in the glass? There is always a dash to opine first and Twitter has allowed that to happen in real time. But before turning to the tweets, this past weekend saw the first summary article, in the WSJ. Freelancer Jacqueline Friedrich writes up a thoughtful piece. In it, she expresses how difficult it is to taste unfinished wines, calling them “raw, hard, closed, astringent and achingly tannic.” Also, instead of handing down iron-clad truths to her readers, she is honest in suggesting uncertainty, “no matter how discerning and experienced the taster, the verdict can be wrong, or wrongish.” Her summary comment as to the overall quality is that they are “pretty damned good, and the best may be mythic.” She then invokes a similarity to the wines of the Rhone and lists five wines–Cos, Pontet-Canet, Palmer, Leoville-Barton, and Valandraud–with no point scores!

On to the dispatches from the Twitterverse! Tim Atkin, until recently wine writer for The Guardian but now at the Times of London, gets the 2009 prize for Best Twitter. Other active and opinionated tweeters included Simon Staples, buyer at Berry, Bros and Rudd in London, Jancis Robinson, and James Suckling and Robert Parker on occasion. Francois Mauss of the Grand Jury Européen also sent in some reactions via email.

@BigSiTheWineGuy Definite mixed bag vintage. No way as consistent as 05. not a Sauternes year. Dry whites or Merlot year.Some superstars
Steven Spurrier (on Decanter): the 2009 was the best vintage that Bordeaux had ever produced.
Francois Mauss: this vintage is the first one, from many years, where the difference between those looking for “power” (to be nice for Parker) and those who did look after finesse, complexity and freshness (i.e. without any work on extraction, having enough faith in the grapes), so where the difference is very sensible.
Update: @JohnBGilman: 2009 Bordeaux vintage- some great wines, but surprisingly inconsistent, w/ some real train wrecks as well- be forewarned & skeptical.

On top/notable wines:
@Timatkin: Provisional scores top #bdx09. Lafite 100. Latour 99. Cheval 100. Haut-B 97. Margaux 98. Mouton 94. Ausone 97. Petrus 98. Yquem 99
James Suckling released some scores. Though not via Twitter.
@Timatkin: Pontet Canet brilliant. Right up there with the very best. A chateau that understands elegance. Biodynamic too. #bdx09
@JancisRobinson; Haut-Brion team show how to handle high alcohol. It’s the most potent ever but still manages to have HB character in spades.
Francois Mauss: whatever may be said around, 2 huge success : Vieux Château Certan and Haut-Brion.
@Timatkin: Lafite amazing. Mouton disappointingly over-oaked and Californian. Cos massive but almost too much. Prefered Pagodes.
@BigSiTheWineGuy Cos grand vin may be unaffordable but this Pagodes is greater than many Grand Vin BUY!!
Update: @JohnBGilman: Most egregious example- 09 Cos d’Estournal- nearly 15% alcohol- pruney & syrupy, w/ a dank palate & tons of raw oak- brazenly crass
@Timatkin: Troplong-Mondot a ludicrous 15.5%. Tertre Roteboeuf 15.6% alcohol. Help!
@Decantercom: #bdx2009 is like ’82. It’s living up to the hype &takes its place in list of great vintages.
@Timatkin: Cheval Blanc one of the wines of the vintage. But Right Bank very variable. Beware hype from the likes of Decanter.

Sauternes/sweet wines
@JancisRobinson: Sauternes 09? Mmmmm. Can this please be the vintage that reminds pple how good these wines are?
@BigSiTheWineGuy Definite mixed bag vintage. No way as consistent as 05. not a Sauternes year. Dry whites or Merlot year.Some superstars
Francois Mauss: sweet wines which have achieved by far the very best in all area.

On barometric pressure:
@RobertMParkerJr: …had 13 days of splendid weather-always better to taste barrel samples when the barometric pressure is high-lucked out…
@JamesSuckling: Beautiful sunny day for tasting…I love high pressure days baby…

On Asian buyers:
@RobertMParkerJr: …word on the street is that the Chinese will be big players for 2009s…we shall see in 45 days or so
@JancisRobinson:Wonder where all these famous Chinese buyers of #bdx09 are? Haven’t seen one myself.
@JamesSuckling: True. Far East bigger for Bordeaux. But long conversation with Acker Merrill boys last night. Chinese won’t buy much en primeur

On prices
@Timatkin: Weird that the Bdx trade waiting for verdicts of two US critics before setting prices when most Europeans don’t agree with their palates.
@TimAtkin: The problem with all these silly vintage of the century comments is they will inflate prices further. Journos short changing punters
@RobertMParkerJr: back from 13 days in BORDEAUX TASTING 2009 &2007,huge international interest in 2009, but prices for “wine futures” won’t come out until May
@JamesSuckling: Starting to hear concern from some negociants and wine producers in Bordeaux on the market prospects for 2009….
@JamesSuckling: Prices for 2009 Bordeaux are going to be really inflated for the top stuff. It’s the way it is going to be…

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12 Responses to “Bordeaux 2009 en primeur — the dispatches!”

  1. Best vintage ever! Again


    You heard it here FIRST!

    Oh… wait a second….


  3. Tyler,

    I would be surprise to find too many “honest” critiques of the vintage as a whole, not just individual wines. IMO the critics cheer, and with the exception of 2005 my opinion of the vintages was diametrically opposed to most of the professionals, at least through 2007.

    From the initial reports it is clear that there would be many unbalanced high alcohol, fruit bombs and that appears to be the case, especially with Merlot. I’m waiting for Chris Kissack’s report, but I’m not surprised by his initial comments.

    This is not a great vintages, as I define by across the board and top down quality. This is a mixed bag vintage with what appears to be some terrific wines and some disasters.

    I’m sure it will be priced as another VOTC. I haven’t bought any Bdx since 2005 and back filled 2001, some select 2002, 2004, and some 1998 that were at some very reasonable prices since no one wanted the wines. Even RB 1998, stored perfectly for 10 years was much cheaper than any of the releases over the past few years.

    IMO, people are nuts to pay these prices.

  4. I’ve just come back from tasting the 2009’s. There are definitely some great wines in 2009 and many inconsistencies, but it is not a vintage of across the board greatness as in other vintages such as 2000 or 2005. The wines in most cases are extremely dense with concentrated, sometimes too ripe fruit. The wines have silky tannins & for the most part are balanced at this time! I believe the classified growths will be priced extremely high with great values at the lower end of the spectrum. The chateau were talking 2005 pricing? I told them our economy is not what it was back in 2005. It won’t really matter as the Far East will gobble up most wines at any price.

  5. Gary, Yes, certainly the top Bordeaux wines seem to have turned into high priced commodities some time a decade or more ago.

    Dean, cool you were there. Are you in the trade?

    Also, Alfonso Cevola, who is with the wholesaler Glazers in Texas but also a wine blogger (On the Wine Route in Italy), has posted a flickr stream with some of his photos from en primeur:

  6. At this moment, we should not discuss about the prices. This will come later and so many factors are playing a role in various ways such as the huge stocks existing around, the ratio $/€, the Parker scores and so many others points.

    We have to speak about the qualities.

    No doubt that those who did realize top wines will put later on the markets real new benchmarks since you have clearly a new style coming out which may be defined as a fantastic finesse with soft high quality tanins and a lenght for time, without loosing the typicity of the terroir and, of course, any fruit in total and pure maturity. Perfect balance. Joy to come.

    Of course, Cos and Palmer and Valandraud will remain the moguls of a style and will have their usual fanatics : great : enough for every taste.

    But then, VCC and Haut-Brion (IMO) will become the 2 stars in the future. Be sure many others wines, also at a very low price level have achieved exceptional results.

    Now, any one may say – and it is OK – that the homogeneity of 2005 is superior : so what ? My target is to find the very best 2009 in various price’ ranges, and I will not put in my cellar some 2009 just because they are from 2009 (idem of course for 2005).

    What I do like in many 2009, it is that we are, at last, out the “boring” style of so many bordeaux, a style which was pushing amateurs to others regions,like Burgundy.

    Read also what Yan d’Agata has writtenon Tanzer : quite a sensible opinion.

  7. It will be interesting to see whether or not 2009 lives up to the expectations, its certainly had quite a few critics excited, we’ll just have to wait a few years to see if they are right!

  8. […] Thanks for visiting! One of the 2009 wines that generated favorable comments at last week’s en primeur tastings in Bordeaux was Pontet-Canet in Pauillac. Over on Twitter, there was some confusion about […]

  9. I was there. I’m a big Bordeaux head. I’m in the trade and own Vintology!

  10. Take a look at Roger Voss’s reviews ( posted each day of tastings with scores.
    My analysis (also on is about the pricing and US/Asian markets. I will be posting interviews next week but essentially experts seem to say the firsts will be high (maybe lower than 2005 on small first tranche), super-seconds will suffer (in US the result of how they played in 2005 – too high and had to be discounted). The rest will be good value and certainly many very good wines at lower prices than Napa (not just cults).
    There were a lot of Americans (relatively speaking). The young Chinese tasters were the “first tranche” at various trade tastings. Ch’NG Poh Tiong had good point about Chinese “locking in” raw materials (en primeur) as they do with minerals etc. Lau Chi Sun notes distinction between mainland China and Hong Kong buyers (Hong Kong always buys en primeur, direct and historically through UK).
    Colin Ferenbach (la Vieille Cure) spoke for many about fury with Diageo and Southern Wine and Spirits bailing out of en primeur. Getting to US market is the key issue below the firsts. That’s the space to watch.
    Vintage is ripe for legit wine investment funds and fund frauds. Attn doctors: Due diligence!

  11. […] tasting is a matter of opinion and others have expressed their views (captured, in part, in our tweet roundup). Writing in the Financial Times, Jancis Robinson compared the ripeness and high alcohols she […]

  12. I thought there were many wines of Breed and Elegance. In St Estephe Ch Montrose on a peak by itseld. With Jean Delmas assisting for nearly 5 years it is what I expect. Pauillac and St Julien very strong across the board. I am getting people who want Lafite and Carruades, I told them to be prepared for a bidding contest with China.
    Farther South in Graves, I thought Mr. Parker was right on. Haut Brion/La Mission are fantastic and the second labels are terrific. Pape Clement, Smith Lafitte, Haut Bailly are wonderful. But some of the minor Chateau are very good and at realistic prices. I left importing and our internet web site has only been up for a year, but the store is over 50 years old. We will offer Futures but it wil be a list of tried and true wines we believe in. I thought Haut Brion was magical, but expect the Clarence de Haut Brion to be expensive after reading they only made 2.000 cases. I have enjoyed your web site for several years, long may you blog.


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