We’re only a few years into the new millennium, but already 2005 is being billed as the vintage of the century for red Bordeaux. Such pronouncements are not uncommon, and should usually be treated
with suspicion but, in this instance, they seem fully justified, according to leading wine critic Simon Woods writing for Square Meal. ‘This was a remarkable year’ he says ‘that has produced wines
that will go down in history as some of the best ever made in the region.’
Weather-wise, it was a dream for growers. It was remarkably dry throughout most of the growing season, so fungal diseases were never a problem, and there was another consequence of the arid
conditions, according to Christian Seely of Pichon Baron, Petit Village and Suduiraut. ‘Our winemaker has this theory that in wet years, the vines get their nourishment from the roots close to the
surface, whereas in drier vintages, the water comes from deeper down, where the mineral content is higher, and this makes for more complex wines. It was dry in 2003, but it was also hot, which
stressed the vines. However in 2005, it was dry but cool, so the grapes kept their acidity, which is why the wines are so wonderfully fresh.’ It did warm up in early September, and Merlot ripened a
little too quickly in the heat, losing some of that freshness. But there were no such problems for the later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, and the result was a healthy crop of small, thick skinned,
intensely flavoured grapes.
Then it was just a matter of softly-softly in the cellar. Given the concentrated flavour of the fruit, lengthy macerations were unnecessary, although a few wines, particularly from St-Emilion, have
the rather hard, dry tannins that suggest over-extraction. But overall, the quality is high – spectacularly high. The wines reflect their terroir and are complex, rich and concentrated, yet have
amazing vitality and freshness that makes them a pleasure to taste even at this early stage.
Has there ever been a vintage like this? Some say it is like 2000 but with more concentration and freshness; others say it has the exuberant drinkability of 1985 with the backbone of 1986; others
still draw comparisons with the great earlier vintages of 1961, 1949 and 1947. But what is clear is that the rise in standards of winemaking throughout the region over the past 20 years has enabled
many châteaux to make their best wine ever.
There is a lot of money chasing the the top chateaux wines which means prices are or will be high and allocations small. However, if you’re less of a trophy hunter and are simply looking for very
good wine, then the good news is that there’s plenty to go round. Six members of the Bibendum team travelled to Bordeaux in spring to taste the wines, and they’ll be more than willing to provide
recommendations if your initial choices are no longer available. For further information log on to the above website.
BUYING EN PRIMEUR: SIMON WOODS’ TIPS
A quick look through the Bibendum list shows hundreds of clarets from earlier vintages, so why buy en primeur? There are two main reasons:
1) Availability – While some châteaux measure their production in tens of thousands of cases, others, especially in Pomerol and St-Emilion, make considerably less. Worldwide demand, especially for
the 2005s, means that if you don’t snap up certain wines as soon as they are released, you’ll struggle to find them at a later stage.
2) Price – Even if you do track down the wines at some point, chances are that the prices will have escalated. It’s not unheard of for wine prices to double only a few weeks after first release.
Buying en primeur from a reputable company such as Bibendum ensures that you pay the in-bond price per case now, and when the wines are shipped in 2008, you’ll pay duty and VAT at the current