Thursday 27 March 2014

Bordeaux 2004 Ten Years On

Bordeaux 2004 has always been an unassuming vintage. It was swamped by the hoo-hah around 2003: while that year was all excess, 2004 was unremarkable in all but yield. The weather was fine, with decent rainfall and plenty of sunshine, and good conditions for harvest. Some said that the vines remembered the drought and heat of 03 and over-compensated, but whatever the reason, yields were extremely high, and those producers who couldn’t put in time in the vineyards in July and August, controlling yield by dropping fruit, ran the risk of dry tannins and green flavours. As Stephane Von Neipperg of Canon La Gaffeliere said at the time, ‘Those who did no green harvest produced high yields, and consequently tended to overextract in order to concentrate the middle palate and avoid having dilute wines.’ The market was sluggish (the US had splurged on 2003 and wasn’t really in a mood to buy, and China was but a twinkle in Gary Boom’s eye).
Talking of whom, here we are again at Bordeaux Index, the dynamic wine merchant in London’s Hatton Garden of which Boom is the founder. Its neighbours are the jewellers and gem merchants who have traded here for hundreds of years. It's the sort of street where stocky men in tight suits stand in the shop doorways, cracking their knuckles. BI seems very at home.

Every year Bordeaux Index shows some 70 wines 10 years on, and this morning the 2004s are lined up.

I’ve come to the tasting with high expectations. The 04s are much-loved for their restraint. Oz Clarke told me recently he bought more 04s than any other vintage, ‘because it tastes like Bordeaux.’ The best wines have classic claret profiles – restrained fruit with sharp edgy tannic grip dissolving to a wonderful refreshing juicy finish.

There are a few disappointments – I know Palmer is highly praised by many but I didn’t find the perfume that characterises the property. Brane Cantenac was thin (dodgy bottle, we wondered?). The wines that were lacking were not so much over-extracted but simply dull – hollow in the mid palate and finishing on a dying fall. Giscours, for example. You couldn’t fault it for 90% of its length but then it was like the last step of a staircase unexpectedly missing. Some have drying tannins which just aren’t going to get any sweeter.

But the highs were very high indeed – and remember also the wines are reasonably priced, by and large. You don’t need to buy Chateau Palmer at £1,300 a case when you can have Talbot at £420.

These wines are still young, and many are closing off for a long hibernation from which they’ll emerge full of charm, but at the moment are tight and surly. I thought the St Juliens very fine, Margaux patchy, Pauillac excellent. I liked the St Emilions and many Pomerols. The first growths are splendid.’

In his introductory notes to the tasting, Michael Schuster says, ‘”Classic” is a description which is likely to remain with [these wines]. In the traditional sense of the word, meaning whose overall proportions and flavours are restrained and moderate… and in a world increasingly filled with heavyweights, that, in my view, is a virtue.’

Quite. The best wines of this vintage taste classic. Like Bordeaux.

(all prices in bond, case of 12)

ST EMILION Grand Cru Classé, 1er GCC

Grandes Murailles £270
Lovely dense sweet tarry nose with licorice. Bright sweet fruit on palate and soft tannins becoming juicy and with grip. Damson, fresh ripe plum. Tannins dusty and ripe, clove and cinnamon

Pavie Macquin £550
Some rotted notes alongside agreeable dry tannins – slight touch of cabbage and tinned peas on the palate moving to sweeter dark fruit notes. Slightly hot

Larcis Ducasse £395
Tightly-wound at first opening into breathy freshness with sour cherry and plum, open and fresh but perhaps hollow  on the mid palate. Finishes on a dying fall

Canon la Gaffeliere £550
Closed discreet nose with nice evolved sweet cassis notes and mown grass and nutmeg. Perfumed. Delicate. Really classic palate full of life and freshness but with this sharp tannic edgy grip leading to juice. Very fine

Magdelaine £395
Interesting dry pot pourri perfume, very classic palate with restrained blackcurrant, damson and dry tannins becoming juicy. Nice finish but falls off slightly.

Troplong Mondot £400
Really lovely opulent nose with violet perfume, mown hay turned over in the field, damp earth. Open, breathy palate, dense sour food-friendly tannins but a drying length

Clos Fourtet £500
Fresh and lean nose with licorice and tobacco. Bright, very lean, very classic, full of interesting meaty damsons and dark fruit. Tannins almost in the back seat but present throughout. Good long juicy length

Canon £450
Marmite and savoury notes first on the nose, then damp earth, then on the palate this sour, earthy, juicy classic profile, tannins still on the way to releasing juice. Puts me in mind of a rack of lamb dripping with juice

Figeac £700
Grass, late summer grass on the nose. Bright, peppery notes on palate, blackcurrant, incredible dry tannins going into juiciness, very soft almost disappearing length. General impression of savouriness and freshness and grip to the tannin

Angelus £2,400
Lovely opulent nose, violet perfume and hints of rot – ripe mulberry lying in the orchard grass, drowsy buzz of wasps. Dry present tannins but releasing  juice throughout the palate, dry at end but a gripping pent up dryness that will be released slowly, with a rack of lamb. Powerful

Ausone £4,200
Very bright very fresh tannins following blackcurrant fruit – power (heat) and refreshing, structured acidity and tannins. The whole like a teetering delicate scaffold, robust enough to stay standing but possessed of an airy weightlessness. Very fine.

Cheval Blanc £2,900
Fresh open & interesting – very charming – good tannic heft becoming juicy, still some primary oak characters, earthiness, dark fruit. Full of life and good length


Gazin £450
Savoury nose, damson and hint of clove and herbs on palate, bright, dense young and dry tannins, still juicy, lovely pot pourri and preserved spiced fruit on palate, sweet juicy length

Nenin £450
Savoury sweet nose, very open slightly undistinguished palate with perhaps one dimension too few. Tannnins lacking grip but good finish – just the mid-palate lacking

Clinet £600
Intense nose, mulched blackberry and truffley autumn earth, open and fresh, then palate delicate and charming with the softest most integrated tannins and superb juiciness leading to more grip and a strongly defined end. Fruit is dark, sweet, not brooding but charming  - plum, damson, blackberry

Clos L’Eglise £475
Fresh and juicy blackberry palate with fresh tannins and acidity. very nice, agreeable, not complex

La Fleur Petrus £1,250
Really attractive floral nose  - violet and mown grass – missing something on the mid palate – some tannic grip?.

La Conseillante £750
Open fresh attractive perfumed above – where is the mid palate?

Trotanoy £800
Good fresh bright and very juicy at the end – but a slight fall off at the finish – not exciting

Petrus £14,000
Lovely chocolatey dense nose – full of power and fine tannins, earth, chocolate and brisk acidity. The palate is initially dry then tannins detonate to juiciness leaving the palate invigorated. Lovely

Potensac £170
For the first time I have an impression of oak – too much of it, drying under the top lip and dominating. Don’t see a great future for this

Poujeaux £250
Fresh with grip. Lean, fresh, dense blackcurrant fruit, falling off at end to a dying fall


Malartic Lagraviere £360
Fresh and open, breathy palate. Attractive, full, perfumed (old sandalwood and cedar) all in a very low key

Smith Haut Lafitte £515
Big earthy truffley NW style nose – very fine open beginning  to the palate with violet perfumed dark damson-blackberry fruit. Very juicy, very attractive  without a complex end palate

Dme de Chevalier £420
Savoury nose. Open palate not intense but full of restrained fruit (can you be full of something and restrained?). Juicy and incredibly charming, offset by good strong dense chalky tannins that carry the whole thing through. Power and finesse.

Haut Bailly £500
Lovely cool elegant nose and the same for the palate – sour plum and sour cherry, hint of salt and savouriness – low key and classic. Lovely strong restrained length. Classic – it tastes like Bordeaux

La Mission Haut Brion  £1,150
Power. Bright fruit and superb acidity leading to grippy fresh tannins. Intriguing – length not massive but will go on – delicate

Haut Brion £2,600
Closed – juice and power under the radar – spice and perfume – giving nothing away. I’ve not had this wine before (not since 2005) and everyone pays tribute to its freshness, perfume and power. This bottle was simply not opening up to me. A great shame


Du Tertre £300
Very attractive nose and lovely entry, fresh, open and incredibly juicy (almost too much so). Length carries on forever, impression of roundness and fullness, opulence

Giscours £420
Fresh nose, open and delicate palate, lots of juice, lots of attraction, long and sweet but again a slight feeling – is this it? Where is the grip on the mid palate?

Malescot st Exupery £400
Same as Giscours. Nice and open and juicy but slightly closed, not exuberant in any way, prematurely stooped

Brane Cantenac £400
Savoury barbecued beef nose, full dense tannic rush to start and going into – what? – some fruit, some acidity, but the fruit dies quickly. Disappointing  dry finish. I would drink this asap. I wonder about the bottle

Lascombes £550
Nice strong savoury nose, disappointingly angular palate.Oak tannins predominate

Rauzan Segla £450
Fine sour palate – classic blackcurrant straight off the bush. Nice freshness, nice finish though short

Pavillon Rouge £990
As Rauzan. Agreeable, fun, but in the end it’s not going to make the evening

Palmer £1300
Expecting perfume off this one – none of that – sharp tannic  edge, drying length. Closed for the duration. Come back to it

Margaux £3,000
Green, peppery, sweet tannins, lovely end palate, lots of green hay and spice; hot and ripe but balanced and concentrated. Exotic and powerful

Gloria £275
Savoury, meaty nose, full of life, (more than Palmer) much more vibrant and alive – good strong tannic length that is just getting juicier.

Clos du Marquis £300
Fresh and open, full of life, slightly astringent tarry note to early palate -  dense sweet juicy tannins, uncomplicated but very charming. Some oak still needs integrating but tannins will get juicier ** buy

Talbot £420
Really attractive perfumed tarry nose reflecting the decayed grandeur of the chateau itself. Can I detect cigarette smoke amongst the preserved damson and plum? Palate restrained but very precise – lots to like

Beychevelle £780
Fine delicate fruit, lots of juice, fine fruit but it’s more compote than fresh – it’s a ghostly essence of blackcurrant rather than the full cassis rush. Length short

BranaireDucru £400
Nice fresh nose with sour plum and licorice. Very bright fruit (damson) and good breathy length, it seems,  though there’s a fall to dryness

Gruaud Larose £400
Full and fresh, ballsy and uncompromising – but surely a wine at 10 years old shouldn’t have such teeth-furring dryness? Juice kicks  in at the end but still…

Leoville Barton £480
Elegant, restrained, with tannic dryness and juice and leading to sweet blackcurrant  and a nice dry length. Drinking beautifully now

Leoville Las Cases £1025
Lovely blackcurrant nose – very bright and hopeful – intense and restrained palate with dryness leading to some sparse wintery juice


Pichon Longueville Comtesse £800
Fine tarry nose with blackcurrant fruit – dense – full of character – quite restrained and tarry – dense tannic length but with juice

Pichon Longueville Baron £850
Powerful young feeling to this wine. Overwhelming intensity of fruit and and inky, opulent tannins. Excellent

Mouton £3,050
Dense sweet intense juicy very ripe tannin. Juicy fresh fruit  - blackcurrant and blakberry.

Lafite £5,300
Strong fresh but with really powerful overlaying tannins.intense – more power than you’d ever expect with this velvety, soft, perfumed nose. Still green notes on It – attractive

Latour £3,600
An aroma of chocolate, coffee and dense sweet fruit – cassis and briar – gives way to a palate for which the three words which spring to mind are tannin, power and tar, followed by concentrated gouts of more cassis and an earthy violet perfume. Superb


Cos d’Estournel £800
Beguiling sweet nose with damson and christmas plum… tarrry palate,  opulent and full of life

Montrose £530
Very fresh open bright palate – lots of juice early on, lots of charm, full of interest. Nice length, with spice and dense, concentrated fruit power

Top 5 Best Value
Clos du Marquis
Du Tertre
Grands Murailles
Malartic Lagraviere

Top 5
La Mission Haut Brion
Cheval Blanc
Canon la Gaffeliere

1 comment:

  1. Great notes. ...just picked up another 04 LMHB for a prayer here locally in Orlando fl....popping it tomorrow with another geek...'04 is probably my favorite vintage of the 2000's....great classic clarets...leading the way was an incredible SHL red...pure blackberry slate, gravel and leather...brilliant..other subsequent bottles of SHL were not as expressive bit still very nice...also excited to here about Montrose and Lbartom...cheers