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Bordeaux 2005: 28 leading wines rated

Bibendum’s 2005 en primeur Bordeaux tasting, 26 April 2006

Clare Villars of Haut Bages Liberal pouring her wine

If you’ve been reading the wine press at all over the last month, you won’t need me to tell you that Bordeaux 2005 is a very special vintage indeed. In the short time that I’ve been tasting young Bordeaux, this is the best I’ve seen. But the real sign of a vintage’s success or otherwise is to read the body language of the Château owners as they pour their wines. They could barely contain their enthusiasm, and without them saying anything you could sense they were thrilled to be showing these infant wines.

Generalizations about vintage style are quite difficult these days, because as much as a factor of the vintage, the style of the wine is a choice of the winemaker and their own philosophy of wine. But if I’m pressed, I’d say that what makes this vintage special is the freshness and purity of the fruit, successfully marrying ripeness with good structure (from the tannins and the acid). On the whole, these are complete wines. I’ve noticed that phrases such as ‘pure’ and ‘well proportioned’ kept popping up in these notes.

As you read my impressions, I hope I make it clear about the different styles of the wines. I’m neither a die-hard traditionalist (although this is my instinctive leaning) nor an iconoclastic modernist. There’s room in Bordeaux for both traditional and modern - it's a big region - and I’ve tried to mark on overall quality aside from stylistic choices.

The scores given are a range, which I feel reflects the uncertainty associated with assessing baby wines, still in the cask.

Gruaud Larose 2005
Georges Pauli is very happy with this vintage, and especially because he’s made 250 000 bottles of what looks set to become a stunning effort. On the nose there’s no trace of oak: it’s all perfumed, violetty, pure fruit. The palate is structured with firm tannins and shows lovely forward fruit, too. It’s nicely proportioned despite its massive concentration. A brilliant wine. 94–97

Cantenac Brown 2005
A bold, dense, structured, almost earthy style. Concentrated and currently fiercely tannic. A lovely burly wine with great concentration of fruit. 93–95

Pichon Baron 2005
Lovely freshness to the fruit here: it’s rich, intense and vivid with more red fruit than black. Lots of concentration on the palate: a big style with masses of fruit and tannin. Quite classically styled despite the intensity. 93–95

Leoville Barton 2005
Lovely forward dark fruits nose: fresh, focused and perfumed. The palate shows a bit of roasted oak and a lovely weight of pure fruit, with great concentration and firm tannins. Spicy finish. Oak is a bit prominent at the moment. 92–95

Haut Bailly 2005
Veronique Sanders says that her grandfather thinks this is one of the best Haut Bailly ever made – and she thinks it’s like a wine ‘we never did’. It has amazing balance and purity. Quite elegant and perfumed. The palate is on the light side but shows lovely clean, pure fruit with nice structure (fine but firm tannins allied with good acid). A bright, pure style of good potential. 92–94

Langoa Barton 2005
Lovely vivid pure sweet red and black fruits nose. There’s some chocolatey richness, but it’s in balance. The palate is concentrated and pure with nice oaking and smooth, firm tannins. A really nice wine. 92–94

Chasse Spleen 2005
Lovely definition of fruit on the nose: quite pure and focused. Elegant yet robust. The palate is concentrated with lovely purity of fruit. A very pretty, well defined wine with nice elegance. 92–94

Smith Haut Lafitte 2005
Deep coloured. Lovely fresh perfumed red and black fruits nose, which has some sweetness. The palate is structured with lovely vivid bright fruit. Brilliantly proportioned: a lovely wine. 92–94

Brainaire Ducru 2005
Quite a distinctive, fresh style. Deep coloured. Really bright, focused fruit with high acidity and a really fresh character. With the combination of acidity, tannins and fresh pure fruit this should age brilliantly. 92–94

Lafon Rochet 2005
Deep, rich nose of dark fruits with creamy, roasted oak. The palate has ripe, fresh acid with concentraed, pure bright fruit. Lots of tannin. A lovely bold, structured wine that’s nicely defined. 92–94

Pavie Macquin 2005
This striking wine is likely to be quite controversial, and while I suspect traditionalists will hate it, the quality is there. Seriously intense nose of raspberry jam—vivid, perfumed and quite sweet. Very intense palate with massive concentration of fruit, pure and bright, with good structure. Unusual but lovely, in its style. 92–94

Cantermerle 2005
Good value. Nicely proportioned wine with appealing sweet dark fruits nose, and a fresh spicy edge. The palate is concentrated and rich with pure fruits combined with firm tannins and good acidity. 92–94

Pape Clément 2005
Sweet, opulent, rich oaky nose but still with lovely freshness to the ripe fruits. The palate is savoury, dense and structured with lots of extraction and nice fruit intensity. It’s certainly a big, rather oaky wine, but the quality of the fruit shines through. 91–94

Sociando Mallet 2005
Very rich, sweet, dark roasted spicy nose. The palate shows a lovely concentration of sweet pure fruit with oaky warmth and firm, fine tannic structure. A lovely wine. 91–93

Fombrauge 2005
Inky dark. Sweet, ripe oaky nose with lovely intensity of fruit. The palate is concentrated, bold and quite oaky with sweet fruit and firm tannins. A big wine. Rich and modern with lots of fruit. 91–93

Deep coloured. Nice sweet dark intense nose with good depth of ripe fruit. The palate is concentrated and dark with rich, deep fruit and smooth, spicy, firm tannins. A powerful wine. 91–93

The immaculately turned out Stephan von Niepperg of Canon La Gaffaliere and Aiguilhe

Canon La Gaffalière 2005
Containing a high proportion of Cabernet Franc (45%). Pure, elegant sweet ripe fruit on the nose. The palate is structured and quite elegant with nice fruit and good savoury structure. A classically styled wine. 90–93

Aiguilhe 2005
Good value. 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc from limestone soils. Very deep colour. Wonderful purity of fruit on the nose, with a lovely minerally edge to the dark fruits. The palate is concentrated, rich and dense with lovely purity and nice spiciness. Brilliant stuff: modern, but lovely. 90–92

Feytit Clinet 2005 
This Pomerol is smooth, dark and rich with sweet liqueur-like fruit on the nose. Bold palate combines lush fruit with some firm structure and good acid. A nice ripe style. 90–92

Haut Bages Liberal 2005
Sweet perfumed nose is quite pure, well defined and elegant. The palate has a good concentration of rounded, pure fruit with nice oak and structure. A lovely, polished sort of wine. 90–92

Rauzan Ségla 2005
Bright, fresh style with nice fruit. Quite pure and well proportioned. 89–92

Camensac 2005
Lovely freshness on the nose with bright, pure berry fruits. The palate is fresh with lovely approachable berry fruits and good structure. Admirable concentration. 89–92

Ferriere 2005
Lovely bright lush fruit: quite forward and ripe. The palate has lovely weight and structure. A ripe, elegant style that tasty and warm. 89–92

Tour Carnet 2005
Great concentration of fresh, pure fruit with good tannic structure. A nice wine. Delicious. 89–92

Guerry 2005
Delicious in a ripe, modern style. Quite rich and extracted with lots of vivid dark fruits. Sweet and modern. 88–91

De Tertre 2005
Nice bright fresh fruity nose with some chocolatey richness to the nicely proportioned palate. Midweight style—a good drinker. 88–90

Penne Rouge 2005
A deep coloured wine. Sweet and full with nice vivid fruit. Quite well proportioned. A generous style. 88–90

Bois Pertuis 2005
Sweet open forward nose is a bit stewed and jammy. Sweet porty palate. Too pushed. 85–87

Wines tasted April 2005
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