The 2009 Bordeaux Vintage
Post by Chuck Hayward
There is general agreement that the weather conditions leading up to the the harvest for 2009 were perfect. Winemakers and government technocrats charged with weather statistics have continuously referenced the best of the past century's greatest vintages. All point to a warm summer devoid of rains followed by a perfect fall that allowed grapes to be picked under ideal conditions. Stories abounded in the area that sorting tables were not needed because the fruit quality was so high.
At the beginning of each year, those involved in the Bordeaux trade look forward to Bill Blatch's Bordeaux vintage report which has extensive analysis of the weather leading up to the harvest along with initial observations on the finished wines. He summarizes that "in 2009, there were no extremes, just good regular heat at the right times, with everything coming in the right order: the vine amply nourished by ground water during its growing period, then...starved of water--very progressively--during the ripening and concentration of its bunches through the rest of the vineyard year."
As always, though, the tendency is to compare the current vintage with past ones. Here, Blatch declares, "A decade with no off-vintages--Bordeaux has never experienced that before--even those all time great decades..had a few misses." Many observers, however, would dispute that statement given the quality of vintages like 2002 and 2007. The Bordeaux wine trade, however, is not talking about a vintage of the decade. IN addition to years like 1982 and 1961, the '09s are being compared to harvests that few people have ever tasted as a finished wine or from a cellar many years later. The vintage comparisons most bandied about are 1929 and 1947 due to the high alcohols and lower acid levels.
So what does all this mean to collectors and Bordeaux wine enthusiasts? What is interesting about the absolute best vintages from Bordeaux is how rare they are. Since the 1980s, vintages rated 95+ by Parker and the Wine Spectator only occur about three times a decade. In the past decade, the 2000 and 2005 harvests are confirmed as the best with 2003 controversially included by a few; it's been some time since we had a top vintage.
More importantly is how the market will react to the quality of the vintage and the prices that will be set. There are oodles of unsold wines from 2007 and 2008 yet to enter the market but their prices are relatively high and their quality not so much. What we do know is that the demand from emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe will be increasing over the next decade. And when you are dealing with the truly great vintages such as '61 and '82, the demand for years such as these will be immediate and continue for decades to come.