The greatness of 2009 Bordeaux has been written about at length. From Robert Parker's huge barrel and bottle scores, to praise from critic and merchant alike since the first tastings from barrel in 2010. The vintage has widely, and appropriately, been judged as one of the region's greats. Now, with over a decade in bottle and several other recent contenders for "Vintage of the Century", just how good are the top wines in this celebrated, warm year?
In March we had the opportunity to find out at a dinner featuring the five left bank first growths, and five of the highest-rated super seconds and equivalent: Lynch Bages, Montrose, Ducru Beaucaillou, Léoville Las Cases and Pichon Baron.
Ten wines of this quality is about as much as one can do in order to give the wines the attention they deserve and it is important to drink the wines, with food, rather than follow an academic route or taste them blind. As useful as blind tasting can be, it often leads to over-caution in scoring or a desire to consider the wines purely academically rather than for their intended purpose: to be drunk with joy. And that, really, is 2009's great strength; these wines are absolutely delicious to drink.
The discussion on the wines was engaging and varied, as we commented on the merits and pitfalls of the vintage. William Kelley recently wrote an excellent, free-to-read essay extolling the virtues of modern Bordeaux, and how far the viticulture and winemaking has come in a short space of time. Indeed, these wines were made during the peak of his predecessor Robert Parker's powers, and many wines at this time - including some in this line-up - cannot be unwound from the desire to make wines for his palate. In many ways 2009 is now a vintage from a previous era that should be separated from the likes of 2016, and the trio of 2018-2020. I would love to see how some of these wines would be made today if they were given the same incredible growing season. Concentration, ripeness (or perhaps over-ripeness), glossy textures and at times warming alcohol were evident, even exaggerated in 2009 in a way that wouldn't be expressed by most of the top names in a modern hot vintage (as we have seen in 2022).
Despite the progression over the last decade, these wines are brilliant. The first growths have seldom overhauled their style to appeal to critics, and that is clear to see in the 2009s. Latour, in particular, remains one of the greatest young wines I have had the fortune to follow since its inception - it is unquestionably a perfect wine and one with a long life ahead of it. Montrose is the buy for those looking to balance quality and price - it really is a first growth in all but name. While many wines tasted of the vintage first in their youth, cloaked in puppy fat, as they age they seem to be revealing their individual personalities much more - a great sign for the top terroirs as warmer vintages become the norm. All the wines are ready to drink now, though some more than others. There is clearly no rush to drink the top names from the northern Médoc, though I'm not sure this would be the case on the right bank.
2009 remains a great vintage in Bordeaux - the wines transcend the style of the time and remain a 21st century version of the 1982s. Where they rank in recent vintages remains a matter for debate, ranking year-by-year is always a little reductive and can vary whether the conversation is about the quality ceiling or floor. I prefer to think of vintages in tiers, and 2009 remains in the top tier on this evidence.
Stephen Browett's excellent blog from the Ten Years On Tasting of the 2009s, held here at Farr Vintners in 2019, van be seen HERE.
Mid-deep ruby in the glass. A layered, rich and sweet nose of wood spice, cassis, forest fruit and roasted coffee here - this is seductive and ripe. The same profile follows on the palate, which is framed by succulent, soft tannins. This is a fleshy, spherical Ducru with notes of charcoal, and toasted spices. There is no need to wait here, this vintage is open for business. Long and smooth on the finish, which is accented by more liquorice, coffee and wood spice. 96 points
Leoville Las Cases
Still a deep, rich ruby colour. One of the most youthful wines in 2009, this Las Cases is true to type with pure blackcurrant fruit, tobacco and a hint of woodspice on the nose. The palate is direct and chalky, still youthful and vibrant. The structure is signficant for the vintage, with chewy depth building through the mid palate. Precise and tight, this opens up in the glass and does benefit from some air if you are planning to drink it now. Despite the structure the fruit is a delight, pure, ripe and not overdone. Very long on the finish, this is a wine to hold if you're looking for a 2009 to age in the long-term. 97+ points
Deep ruby in colour with ripe, fine cassis fruit on the nose. Super purity of dark fruit is laced with hints of dark chocolate and cedar. The palate is very classy, focused and pure yet framed with persistent, chalky tannins. Taming the ripeness of the vintage, this is solare yet has a deftness, it is not at all heavy and the Cabernet tones are chalky, lightly savoury and fine. This is ready to drink, but it will only get better with more bottle age - for now it is all about purity and precision. 97 points
The 2009 Lynch Bages is a knockout vintage at this estate. Saturated ruby colour with a big, smoky nose of cassis and forest fruit, it has the graphite and cedar tones to retain superb typicity of Pauillac. The palate's bombastic fruit is matched by rich tannins in perfect balance. Chewy and profound, this needs a little more time in bottle to reach full flight. Despite the intensity of fruit and power of structure, everything is well proportioned. The fruit continues to shine together with well-measured wood spice and cedar on a very long finish. A wine that continues to greatly impress every time we try it from bottle. Excellent. 98 points
A standout wine of the vintage, Montrose 2009 rivals and at times beats the first growths. Still a deep ruby-purple colour in the glass, the fruit on the nose is powerful and dark yet impressively fresh witha graphite edge to notes of blackcurrant and cedar. Smoky on the palate with hugely intense yet focused cassis fruit, this is structured and dense. Grippy and earthy as Montrose should be, it has as much character of the property as it does the vintage. One of the tightest wines at this stage, it deserves more time in bottle but with food it is already delicious if you like a bit of bite in your wine. Unerring and profound on the finish, this may well warrant one extra point once it hits its apex. It will take over a decade to get there, and should be one of the longest-lived 2009s in Bordeaux. 99+ points
A rich, smoky and powerful wine with an immediately hedonsitic nose of kirsch, cassis and bonfire. The palate follows in the same vein, with deep and powerful fruit, a glossy texture and notes of barbecue, liquorice and incense. This is a full bodied and quite heady wine, bold and intense with a real signature of the vintage. It can be drunk now, with the tannins melting into the wine and great, layered complexity from all the exotic spice and toast. Long, rich and oily on the finish. 98 points
Still a deep ruby colour. The fragrance and precision on the nose here sets it apart from the pack. Dried violets, cassis, cedar and fine pencil shavings make for an alluring bouquet. The palate is still linear and focused, with silky smooth but persistent tannins framing pure black fruit. Very fine, with a subtle balance and effortless grace that is hard to achieve in this vintage. Very long with a great future ahead. 98+ points
Latour 2009 is one of the great young wines I have had the luck to follow closely from barrel to bottle. It is - in my view - the wine of the vintage in 2009. Still an opaque ruby-purple in the glass, it brings vintage and terroir together beautifully. Powerful cassis fruit drives the nose which is still primary, showing flecks of sophisticated wood spice, cedar and liquorice. Despite the solar nature of the vintage, there remains a stony, savoury restraint. The palate is broad shouldered yet highly refined, the bold structure meticulously cloaked by the sheen of ripe black fruit. Expansive blackcurrant, briary and dark cherry tones are bolstered by spices that add to the complexity at this young stage. Powerful yet always controlled, the wine almost coils through the mid-palate, the fruit winding around the structure; it must be one of the only 2009s that is yet to reach its prime. Focusing on the finish with tannins persistent yet slick against the fruit, this sublime Latour will drink well for many, many decades. Brilliant. 100 points
The 2009 is a powerful, smoky wine that is impressive in its power and richness. Seductive on the nose with notes of incense, coffee and black fruit compote, you can sense the warmth of the vintage without falling into excess. The palate is impressive, this is full bodied, richly smoky and dense in black fruit. Chalky and chewy with a gloss over the tannins, it is a real crowdpleaser. At this stage the toastiness is prominent together with the fruit, I expect with more time in bottle this will integrate nicely and the more refined tones of cedar, leather and undergrowth will offer a profile closer to classic northern Medoc. For now this is an impressive and hedonistic Mouton with a very long and spice-led finish. 98 points
A subtle and refined wine for the vintage, the 2009 Lafite is pure in blackcurrant and cedar tones on the nose. The palate is gentle and beautifully proportioned with an effortless and deceptive intensity. Still quite compact with the fruit focused and enveloped by cashmere tannins, the pure black fruit is equal to that of the nose. Hints of graphite and cedar come through with the oak wonderfully integrated into the wine. This is subtle and refined, perhaps not the boldest or loudest in 2009, but the eveolution and precision in the glass means reveals its class. It should only improve with further time in the bottle. 98 points