Using the wide-angle: A macro assessment of the '09 vintage

by Chuck Hayward

Using the wide-angle: A macro-assessment of the '09 vintage

Post by Andy Frieden | Tuesday, March 30th

There is rain, wind and sun coming in cycles throughout the day. It's March in France and the French call it the ‘jubilee’ season. For us, it is just wet and cold weather, which makes it a challenge to travel from one appointment to the next. But thankfully, there is joyous work at each stop— this is en primeurs week in Bordeaux and we're here to taste.

I know there was one in here somewhere with plus concentration...

One of the places we get to sample the most number of wines in a single setting is at a negociant-hosted tasting. So setting out from Libourne, we battled Bordeaux's legendary traffic and arrived at one of the top negociant firms in the land. The owner's son  greeted us on arrival and ushered us in to get down to business. This is not a fancy tasting room at a picturesque romantic Château organized by winery marketing personnel— at a negociant tasting there can be anywhere from 100 to 300 wines open and our job is to taste, evaluate the vintage and to share our recommendations and tasting notes with you.  (We'll be posting our TN's shortly after we return from en primeurs).

While it's a lot of work to focus on that many wines in one shot, I actually look forward to this type of tasting every year. Here's an opportunity to compare and contrast wines both within and between appellations. This is an invaluable experience, as it allows me to take an overall look into the vintage by tasting the top, classified growth Chateaux wines from both banks in one sitting. When tasting wines within an appellation— side by side between the left bank and the right bank— patterns, styles, intensity of fruit, and overall structure within a region can emerge. This is a macro approach to tasting and it gives us the opportunity to make intelligent vintage assessments and buying decisions.

At no other time during the trip will any one single tasting event give me a chance to clearly identify what the vintage looks like more than a visit to a negociant— and we have scheduled three of them this year! This is what we're here for as these insightful tastings allow me and my colleagues to confidently recommend a Bordeaux buying strategy tailored for you. Indeed, the 2009 vintage is turning out to be a vintage for the ages and will provide an excellent opportunity to buy wines for a lifetime of enjoyment. Exciting stuff!