River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Bordeaux 2005 - Judgement Day

December 2007

A welcome return of Giles and his expert wine assessments.


My apologies for the breakdown in communications, but even my liver needs to take a break sometimes! Anyway, a summer of (near) abstemiousness has left me raring to go and what a time I've chose to return, for yesterday I attended the Union des Grand Crus 2005 Bordeaux tasting at Covent Garden. And what a tasting it was....

Whenever anyone talks about Bordeaux these days, phrases such as "over priced", "over hyped" and "is it a drinkers' or a speculators' vintage" inevitably crop up. Never was this more so than with the 2005 vintage. After weeks of rumour and boast, trading began last year with prices that were in many cases quite astonishing, with price hikes of 100% not unheard of. Did this put off the collectors and investors? Not a bit of it! Even wines such as Ausone (which opened at an eye-watering £8000 a case) flew off the brokers lists driving the price to a record-breaking year £15000+ within a year. Other wines have shown strong, if not quite such mountainous, climbs and to the surprise of some many are still on the way up.

Right, that's the vulgar side of things out of the way, now on to the big question, are they any good? Yes! Yes with thumping great bells on! Of the hundred or so wines I tasted yesterday, most of which were so tannic that I felt like I'd had the inside of my mouth plastered, only a handful were anything other than glorious, and those were ones which simply need more time.

To give you an overview, the reds of 2005 are characterized by wines that are massive, powerful, and replete with sweet fruits, glorious levels of extract and tannins so large that you don't so much drink the wines as take a slice. Wines that stood out as truly extraordinary included the Leoville Barton, Talbot, Pape Clement, Beychevelle and Lascombes, all of which rank with the finest young Clarets I have ever tasted.

The dry whites, often unfairly overlooked gems, were equally mesmerising. The Graves (the wines from the commune of that name which lies to the immediate south of the city) were breathtaking. Those that rely on Sauvignon Blanc, such as Smith Haut Lafitte and La Tour Martilliac, were as vibrant, zesty and tangy as any the New World can boast, but come with a minerally complexity and potential to age that even the best of the New World cannot match. The wines with Semillon in their blend are delightfully fragrant, rich and succulent with bold notes of ripe peaches, pears, tropical fruits and limes. Stunning now in a few years they will be absolutely glorious. As I remarked to Oz Clarke on the Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, "This is too good to spit!" - a sentiment he wholeheartedly agreed with!

And so to the desert wines. Many people are wary of Sauternes and their like; finding sweet wines an acquired taste that they've yet to acquire. This is a real shame and invariably it's because their drinking them with the wrong thing, i.e. deserts! To get the best out of these beauties try them with pate, blue cheeses or fruit. Deserts wines with deserts are too much of good thing and invariably end up fighting each other for your attention. Anyway, lesson over, onto the wines. These are without question the best sauternes I've ever tried young. Admittedly I haven't tried the 2001's, but I'd bet these are just as good. Huge, unbelievably rich and opulently sweet, the sugar levels of sugar are so high it makes your teeth itch, but this is balanced by super-fresh acidity that leaves the mouth clean as a whistle. Amazing! Stars on the day were the La Tour Blanche, Suduiraut and Rieussec, though if you've £4000 going spare, the d'Yquem must be a legend even for this legendary wine.

Of course the really good news - the really good news for us ordinary wine lovers - is that the quality of this vintage is going to carry through to the 'lesser' wines. Personally I can't wait for the likes of Majestic and Laithwaites to get the Cru Bourgeois and best of the petite chateau on their lists. Wine such d'Angludet, La Tour Du By, Potensac and La Clarriere should all provide sensational drinking for under £15.

Well, I'm off to sand my tongue, but I'll have more soon and in the meantime if you'd like any of your wine questions answered then please e-mail me on giles.luckett@talk21.com.

More soon!


Giles Luckett

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