Every year, we hear of another great Bordeaux vintage that somehow beats the last one. It always coincides with the newest barrel tastings in Bordeaux at this time of year(so right now, they’re tasting 2011 wines out of the barrel), and the release of the wines that were made about two years ago (in this case, the 2009 vintage coming onto the market).
Ramp up the marketing! PR the hell out of this one boys! “Vintage of the Century” has become a joke. But despite the cries of wolf, sometimes there actually is a wolf. And 2009 is just that. The real deal.
Take your pick of wine critic, and you’ll get pretty much the same answer when it comes to 2009 Bordeaux wines. Everyone likes it. The wines are easy to drink when young, so everyone can drink them right away, not just the collectors with big cellars and plenty of time. But the wines are also structurally sound, and ready to age for decades. And the best news of all for the majority of us, there are plenty of bargains to be had. With the vintage as good as it is, everyone is making great wine at al price points.
Perhaps the biggest critic of all is Robert Parker, Jr. He readily admits to saying vintages are great. That’s part of his job after all. On the flip side, he isn’t afraid to call out a bad year either. Good or bad, we haven’t heard such exclamations of praise from him about a vintage like 2009. He sums it up in the February 2012 issue of The Wine Advocate:
In short, 2009 is the greatest vintage I have tasted in Bordeaux since 1982, of which it is a modern-day version, but greatly improved. It is more consistent (many chateaux that were making mediocre wine in 1982 are now making brilliant wine) and of course, the yields are are lower, the selection process is stricter, and there are any other number of factors, from investments in the wineries to impeccable, radical viticulture, that have resulted in extraordinary raw materials.
Let’s break it down. 1982 was pretty much Parker’s favorite vintage of all time. And he says 2009 is “a modern-day version, but greatly improved.” That’s like saying like you love one of your kids more than the other. Maybe mom has had one too many drinks around Christmas, and she let it slip this year. 2009, mom loves you more. But 1982, she still loves you too. It’s just…different, 1982.
A lot of what this new love boils down to technology and wine making knowledge. Parker mentions investments in the wineries, and refers to various new approaches to viticulture. Both of these two forces combined are the big reasons why you can find more great wine from almost anywhere today. We know how to control the vines to produce better fruit. We have better technology (stainless steel fermentation tanks, for example) to control the wine making process, thus creating better wine.
These principles are no different in Bordeaux. Have one of the best vintages ever? Combine it with the best viticultural practices and wine making technology, and you’ll get the best vintage ever. 2009. And since these aren’t trade secrets, most wineries are able to create some really great stuff.
Parker also mentions in his article that, “…everyone thinks that all Bordeaux is overpriced, when in fact, the reality is just the opposite.” The top of the line stuff? The $2,000 bottles? Oh heck yes, they’re overpriced. Parker has been saying that for quite a while now (he elaborated further in his column). I’ve blogged about it myself. But his point is that is untold value in Bordeaux. The stuff under $25 is great in 2009. Because of this perception that Bordeaux is overpriced, the small wineries have a tough time moving their product. A tough time for them means lower prices for us.
Next spring, there will be a new vintage of the century to stock up on. Many reviews are saying that 2010 is going to be another blockbuster (but supposedly another actual wolf, not a lie) — less drinkable early on, but one to age. A different kid for mom to love for another reason.
I hope to have the chance to drink some of the top-tier bottles from this 2009 vintage for many years to come. I can tell you that for the next year, I’ll be on the lookout for 2009 Bordeaux in every wine shop I enter. With the selection available, it should be easy to rarely taste the same bottle twice.