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Ah, Spring, The Vintage of the Century Is In the Air!

Last November when we were in Burgundy, we were impressed with the 2008 red wines.  They showed better balance and richness than the 2007s tasted from barrel the year before (our review will follow shortly – stay tuned).  But nearly everywhere we went, when tasting 2008s and expressing a positive opinion, the reaction was “just wait for the 2009s.”  Later, this year we will go back to Burgundy and taste some of the 2009s.  But even without tasting the wines, it seems obvious, given the quality of the harvest, that there will be many lush and concentrated Burgundies of great appeal.  And, more recently, at the opening tastings of the 2009 Bordeaux, the cry is echoed.  Here are just a few of the early proclamations:  “a great vintage like 2005  or better,” “the best young vintage I have ever tasted,” “Best wines ever.”  So it looks like we are in for another “Vintage of the Century.”  Again?  OK.  In my 40 years of tasting wines, I have only heard this about 10 times.  Wow!  I am not that old!!

But, as consumers, what can we learn?  First, every “Vintage of the Century” is proclaimed as a result of having healthy, fully ripe grapes at harvest.  Second, do these vintages always turn out as great as the early proclamations would support?  Here, the verdict is less clear.  But, remember, these  proclamations are usually made for the Bordeaux region of France just as it is this year with the 2009s.  Why Bordeaux?  Simple.  It is a very large area capable of producing some of the greatest and most age worthy wines in the world.  And, importantly, the wines are sold by the owners to the trade and then to consumers via “futures” offerings long before they are bottled.  Hence, the promotion of the most recent vintage begins just after harvest and then kicks into high gear early the next year when thousands converge on Bordeaux to taste the young wine and issue their evaluations.  In fact, in the very early days, the “futures” wines were often sold before the grapes were harvested to allow producers the funds to buy new oak barrels.  Today the “futures” sales are all about  the money.  Everyone in the food chain from producer, to negociant, wholesaler and retailer wants to sell them as soon as possible to get the cash.  The buyers hope the wines will be as good as promised and that they will go up in price.  That’s the gamble.

But what about wines from other areas in France?  Funny, you should ask.  But the first of the 2009 wines from France are just now arriving.  And, guess what??  Yes, the perfect ripeness of the grapes seems to be reflected in other areas as well, such as the Loire Valley and Beaujolais.  This should mean terrific wines that are simply delicious and very appealing.  Here are two.  Our advice to you is to buy the wines you like in this vintage.  Expect wines from Beaujolais and the Loire Valley to be especially good.  In Vino Veritas!

Loire Valley White

chanteaux [1]The 2009 Couly Dutheil Chinon “Les Chanteaux,” light yellow color, has a lovely perfume, hinting of citrus and pineapple, with a faint herbal, mineral nuance.  It is very crisp, yet rich with pineapple and citrus flavors, accented by a faint stony, mineral quality.  This is a striking wine with great grip and finesse.  Delicious now, it should continue to improve with a few years bottle age and prove to be a memorable example of Chenin Blanc.  Don’t miss this if you are looking for a food friendly wine that dances on your palate rather than attacking it!  I love this wine! 3stars $17.99 BEST BUY Imported by Frank-Lin International, San Jose, CA.


charmeuses [2]The 2009 Louis Tete Morgon “Les Charmeuses,” deep, purple-tinged color, has an intense perfume with floral nuances and hints of blackberries and cherries.  It has lots of flavor and great fruit, again with blackberry and cherry flavors, with good grip and backbone.  It is a delicious wine for its youthful fruitiness but, no doubt, will keep for many years.  If this is a representative example of the 2009 Beaujolais as I think it must be, then use this as a guide and try other 2009s.  You may find many new, best friends! 2stars $10.99  BEST BUY Imported by Frank-Lin International, San Jose, CA.