2004 was one of the worst Bordeaux vintages in recent years and the wines of Médoc and Graves are sometimes worth avoiding. However, general sweeping statements are usually a mistake and they are in this case too: many of the top producers made very good wines in 2004 – even in Médoc.
In Pomerol and St. Émilion, the vintage wasn’t as bad as it was on the left bank. Whereas it was far from being ideal, many Pomerol producers still managed to create great wines and, particularly interesting for impatient people, many of them are ready to drink already.
Château l'Évangile’s 2004 wine is one such example. It’s still bright and fresh but it is starting to open up, especially if you give it a few hours in the decanter. It’s about to enter the ‘dead phase’ though, a period that many wines experience for a number of years: once the fruit phase vanished, the harsher tannin notes take over and the wine goes into a kind of hibernation before eventually emerging as the wine it was supposed to be enjoyed as. I guess this phase will take over in the next two to three years and the wine will stay in this phase for ten to fifteen years before emerging a ripe and ready Pomerol in around 2030.
The producer itself is making waves. Whereas Lafleur and Pétrus might be Pomerol’s flagships, the Rothschild dynasty (Lafite branch) purchased the l’Évangile estate in 1990 and its vineyards neighbour those of both Pétrus itself and Cheval Blanc in nearby St. Émilion. The winery’s produce is going from strength to strength with every vintage gradually improving. The 2005, 2009 and 2010 wines from Château l’Évangile were some of Bordeaux’s best for those vintages according to leading Bordeaux specialists and the Château is starting to emerge as a real alternative to the leading wines of the right bank – it retails for a fraction of the price of Cheval Blanc and Lafleur and, compared to the prices of Pétrus, well, it’s a bargain.
Deep, ruby red with a youthful lilac hue.
Lots and lots of blackberry with a whole host of other forrest fruits in the background: wild raspberry, wild strawberry, blueberry and even redcurrant. This is a hint of sweetened, dried plum and this is held together with vanilla in oak, plentiful tobacco and a cedar wood feel.
The blackcurrant is, predictably, the first note on the tongue with a youthful burst of ripeness and freshness – it is in fact so sweet that you might initially feel the wine to be a touch too young but, when it gives way to the rest of the fruit: Cassis, red plum, wild strawberry and even a decent helping of rhubarb, the wine slowly falls into place with the red fruits working together to form a luxurious compote. This eventually runs into a touch of wood with tobacco, pepper, smoke and even leather to finish off the wine – the fruit lingers long in the mouth long after the finish has vanished.
The promise in this wine is very interesting. The unusually ripe fruit together with the background role of the tannin (at the moment) is proof that the wine will keep for decades. An underlining and reassuring acidity holds it together and the fruit will soon take on a background role. It’s interesting to drink wines before the ‘dead phase’ takes over although this wine is far from its prime. One to look out for in future: it’ll be more affordable than the 2005, 2009 and 2010 wines but no less better at defining the estate and Pomerol AOC itself.
As the proud home of both Ornellaia and Sassicaia, Maremma is one of Tuscany’s most-prized production regions. In the last 50 years together with Bolgheri, it has altered the Tuscan wine world, taking away importance from the wines of Montalcino and Montepulciano.
Another major producer in Maremma is Monteverro. Owned and operated by Georg Weber since 2003, the Tuscan producer has experienced international success in its short history. Regularly put in the same league as the top wines of the region, the first wine retails for upwards of 70 euros. This second wine is made up of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet France, 20% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot.
Plum red in the glass with a clear-brown hue.
The nose is rather reserved. There are notes of both blackcurrant and Cassis and yet these are almost hidden behind fresh herbs, oak and cigar tobacco.
The attack is smooth and silky: there are profound notes of forest fruits – mainly blueberry and wild strawberry. The body too is smooth with red cherry and blackcurrant. This leads onto a finish which is quite heavy on the tannins but eventually gives way to vanilla and smoke.
Whilst the wine is already showing off some fine fruit, it probably is a tad young. With a few more years in the cellar, those hefty tannins are likely to let up a little and expose a touch more of the finely composed silky body and character-defining structure.
Château Montrose is a second Grand Cru Classé producer in the commune of St. Estèphe on the Bordelaise peninsula of Médoc. Its wines are known the world over and sought-after on nearly every domestic market ensuring prices stay high, availability low and limits the availability of ripe, ready-to-drink wines in the typical retail environment.
A personal comment about Montrose: the wines are often quite a lot “bigger” than those of neighbouring producers and those in Pauillac, Margaux and St. Julien meaning they take rather a long time to come into the drinking window. Whereas some of the top claret from the late nineties is already in fantastic drinking condition, Montrose wines are take a touch longer to reach maturity. But, when they do, wonderful things happen.
This 1994 Grand Vin de Montrose is a typical Médoc blend: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc.
Deep ruby red with a purple hue.
There’s rather a lot to take in at once on this wine. Firstly there’s Cassis and a whole bunch of red and black berries: blackcurrant takes a prominent role but there are some sweeter elements in there as well: raspberry for example. The fruit is remarkably sweet altogether in fact and reminds of compote, were it not for a large sense of woody, high-quality tobacco hanging around in the background. This hints at vanilla but contains darker notes: espresso, leather and walnut wood.
The attack is as big as is expected but not overpowering. The berries slowly ease into focus rather than hitting you all-of-a-sudden. The first on the scene is blackcurrant but Cassis comes pretty quickly after that. Raspberry doesn’t really appear in the taste but redcurrant does and so too do red plums – the body feels like eating a spoonful of expensive French jam. The finish though takes away all that sweetness with rather hefty but not-unpleasant tannins: they, in themselves have a fair amount of character to show: a touch of vanilla but a lovely smokey, freshly-roasted espresso feel and a unique sense of bitter chocolate.
A ripe, extremely well-made claret offering perfect drinking right now. Give it an hour in the decanter though because, as with all Montrose wines, it takes a while before the harshness of power opens up to let you in. If you have any of this lying around: drink it in the next five-ten years. If you’ve seen it for sale somewhere and you can trust the dealer and their cellar, buy it!
Knipser is one of the biggest and most important names in the Pfalz. Alongside a whole host of varietal specific white wines, the winery is famed for its red wines: particularly those based on Pinot Noir, locally known as Spätburgunder. Over the years though, the company has experimented with a handful of exotic varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for example.
This fresh red is based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and a handful of Cabernet hybrids which make it very different to how German rosé is commonly produced. Its youth makes it very fresh – this is perfect food wine and also ideal for drinking outside in summer or late spring.
Pale, pastel-pink like cooked Salmon.
The nose feels rather zingy – alongside the typical red berries (Cassis, raspberry and strawberry) are citrus notes and those of fresh herbs.
The attack is floral and rather fruity – quite sharp actually but this is probably due to the wine having only just been filled into bottles. The body is of red fruit: strawberry, Cassis and creamy raspberry bonbons. A certain amount of pear also comes though and the finish is crisp and slightly metallic.
A very fruity wine but decently done. The dryness and crispness of the finish means that it has classic appeal despite its fruity body. The finish is the defining characteristic of this very modern wine that reminds of well-made French rosé.
Second wines from famous Bordeaux estates are always a sensible investment if you wish to get in touch with the world-famous terroir without spending a fortune. Often first wines are unaffordable and, particularly in good vintages, stretch into the many hundreds of euros per bottle. 2005 was a great year in Bordeaux, particularly in the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated production regions on the West bank of the Gironde.
Château Montrose is one of St. Estèphe’s finest producers and most famous names. The first wine in 2005 costs almost 100€ whereas the second wine costs around 30€. The Château itself is one of the second Cru producers of Médoc and Graves – this courtesy of course doesn’t extend to second wines: these are, more often than not, completely unclassified. The best fruit is used in the first wine whereas the second wines are often made with grapes deemed not quite good enough for the top product.
To open a 2005 first wine now would’ve been pointless. Particularly Château Montrose is known for its power and a 2005 first wine would’ve been closed and rather wasted right now. I thought the second wine might be a bit more approachable which it was, still far from its peak though…
Ruby red with a bright pink hue.
There was lots going on the nose but it was partially masked by a huge wooden element in there. Cassis, forrest fruits and some red plums were available but they only popped-up briefly. The wood was very dominating: it brought lots of dark aromas to the wine.
The attack was nice and tart but the fruit was never able to develop. Blackcurrants, plums and blueberries were there but as soon as they were hinted at, the wood kicked in bringing espresso, dark chocolate, tobacco, vanilla and leather. The tannins weren’t as harsh as expected but still very prominent.
A mistake to open this wine now: whilst it does offer excellent potential, I’m guessing it’ll reach its drinkability stage in five or six years. The notes are there to make this a fine wine, it just needs time.
I often find the Cru Bourgeois are overlooked when it comes to Bordeaux. Lead astray by the ridiculous classification act of 1855 (which has remained pretty much unchanged since its introduction), consumers commonly label the Cru Bourgeois wines as forgettable – not real Bordeaux. Thankfully, this often has an effect on their prices: wines are usually considerably cheaper than their classified neighbours and, in good vintages, it is a great idea to stock up on Cru Bourgeois.
2004 was a bad year for Bordeaux: probably one of the worst vintages in the last 20 years: top-end wines seldom show real character and a glance at the prices alone (compared to the 2000 and 2005 vintages) show just how much the Châteaux of the right bank would like to forget the vintage. Nevertheless, a handful of vintners still managed to pull-off good wines – particularly the wineries of Haut-Médoc AOC and Médoc AOC were able to create wines that weren’t hugely noticeably different from previous vintages. In some cases, the 2004 wines were better than those of 2003 and 2002 (both average Bordeaux vintages).
One such winery is Château d’Aurilhac of Haut-Médoc. This 2004 is a Cabernet-dominated affair with a splash of Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the final wine. Unlike many other Haut-Médoc wines, it feels warm and youthful, most probably thanks to the limestone-pebbled soils of the Château’s estate.
Ruby red with a pink hue – amazingly still showing its youth after eleven years.
Lots of black berries but also a fair amount of Cassis. Blackberry, black cherry and a handful of red berries are immediately noticeable. A toasty oak and vanilla sense is in there as well and so too is freshly-ground espresso.
The attack is a bright red and black fruit note with lots of blackcurrant and a decent serving of Cassis. Amazingly, a certain amount of acidity is still there and the long fruit body is thick with cherries and hints at plum. The finish is woody, smoky and brings with it dark chocolate, tobacco and espresso (not to mention a hint of vanilla).
This wine tastes about five years younger than it is. You’d never be able to tell that it was from a poorer vintage and it is quite a good example as to how good some Haut-Médoc can be: especially after a few years in the cellar. Serve with lamb roast or grilled game.
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry