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2009 Bordeaux vintage is a splurge

Friday - 5/18/2012, 7:04pm  ET

Wine of the Week

Scott Greenberg, wine columnist, the Washington Examiner


Scott Greenberg,

One of the things that really sunk in about the past decade in Bordeaux is that for the first time in recent memory, Bordeaux did not experience any "off" vintages. Not a single one.

Of all the good-to-great vintages, 2009 seems to be the best of the bunch, with a perfect combination of a gentle, cool winter, a warm spring and an even rise in temperature throughout the summer months.

As a result, both red and white grapes developed beautiful flavors that made spectacular wines. The bad news; wine prices for this vintage have pushed the limits of most consumer's budgets. But, as with all things Bordeaux, buying these wines now to enjoy five to ten years down the road could actually be a tasteful investment.

Let's start with the best value of the vintage, the 2009 Chateau Meney from the Saint-Estèphe appellation features all the things I look for in a Bordeaux wine, including scents of black fruit and earth on the nose. The palate reveals straight forward flavors of black plum, dark currants and cedar. The medium-bodied frame displays a touch of licorice and abundant acidity provides a solid finish. $39

St. Julien may be the smallest of the four famous appellations of the Haut Medoc, but it is known for producing some big Cabernet Sauvignon based reds, like the 2009 Gloria. It sports a charming nose of red plum, orange peel and earth. The firm tannins hold the abundant red and black fruit flavors in place like a traffic cop, allowing the flavors to stop on the tongue long enough to back up for the next sip. The linger finish offers up a touch of spice and minerality. $49

Rochet takes its name from the rocks that are found in the limestone subsoil that creates the landscape of the vineyards found on the property of Lafon-Rochet in the Saint-Estèphe appellation. The 2009 Château Lafon-Rochet, is made up mostly of cabernet sauvignon with a quarter of merlot and then smidges of petite verdot and cabernet franc blended in. The nose is full of bright cherry and smoky cedar that leads to flavors of dark black fruit, plum and dark cherry on the beautifully balanced palate. Soft tannins hold up the long finish where hints of earthy minerals linger for over half a minute. $55

Rauzan-Ségla, located in the Margaux appellation, has always been known as a high-end "Second Growth" Bordeaux property, but they really stepped up their game - and the quality of their wines - when the House of Chanel took over as new owners in 1994. Since then, pardon the pun, they have been making fashionable wines. The 2009 Château Rauzan-Ségla, cabernet sauvignon based wine has a healthy dose of merlot blended in and has a nose that shows off scents of violets and red cherry. The charming mouthfeel is delicate but delivers plenty of dark and red fruit flavors across the entire palate. A touch of Indian spice and minerality on the long, clean finish is charming and memorable. $99

I have had the pleasure of knowing Daniel and Florence Cathiard, owners of the lovingly renovated Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, for over a decade, so I am thrilled that their 2009 Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte is getting so much attention. Flavors of dark plum, smoky cassis, blackberry jam and roasted coffee all compete for space on the palate, but it is the remarkable balance between tannins, fruit and acidity that makes this a near-perfect wine. The seductive and delightful finish persists for well over a minute, leaving an indelible memory on the tongue. A genuine splurge at $179

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