Massive 2005 Bordeaux Retrospective (Long)

It’s funny how things can come full circle. I clearly remember the release of 2005 Bordeaux and all the hype surrounding it. I remember Robert Parker raving about the strength of the vintage and how it would go down in history as one of the greatest that Bordeaux had ever seen. I also recall the Wine Spectator toning in, with James Suckling confirming what we had all been told, and I clearly remember buying that issue off of a newsstand.

I looked at the wines—I didn’t have the option to taste them—and decided not to pull the trigger. Even with a daughter that was born in 2005 (i.e. a great birth year wine option). In the end, it was fear. Fear that I was buying in to the “Hype Machine” of wine critics, fear that I would never enjoy these wines, and fear that they would not appreciate in value, even though all the pros swore they would. And so, in the end, I did not buy.

Recently I was given the chance to taste through a large number of perfectly stored 2005’s. I was allowed to take my time with them, in a relatively quiet and very relaxed setting. To say that I was impressed with what I found would be an understatement. Below are my notes, (I know there are a lot), but I organized them by location and I hope if you have any interest in reading them, that you can just scroll to the wine you’re looking for. Also–and I think this is pretty relevant–is that I had no recollection of the previous scores going in, so these are as unbiased as I think you can get.

What’s more, if you’d like to read through this on my blog, there’s a bit more of a story plus lot’s of great pictures. You can find that at: The Cellar Table: Was It Worth All The Hype? A 2005 Bordeaux Retrospective

  • 2005 Château Pape Clément - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan (3/30/2015): The nose showed dark, intense fruit with savory herbs, spice, savory brown sauce, sweet balsamic tones and spicy floral notes. On the palate, it was supple and smooth with noticeable weight to its dark spiced fruit, plum, espresso, stone and minerals; turning more savory-spice over time. The intensity continued into the finish with dark fruits and balsamic tones lingering long. (96 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Bahans Haut-Brion - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan (3/30/2015): This was meaty and dark with crushed wild berry, currant and spice, hints of animal musk, and violet floral tones. On the palate, it showed soft, supple textures with brisk acidity and a display of cherry, plum and saline minerality. The finish was slightly rustic with its chewy tannins and mouthwatering acidity, yet quite enjoyable and a pleasure to drink. (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Smith Haut Lafitte - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan (3/30/2015): The nose showed intense red berry and floral perfumes with cedar, spice, undergrowth, minerals and animal musk. On the palate, I found soft, velvety textures which seemed to soothe the senses. Ripe, crushed dark fruit, with inner floral tones, soil, undergrowth, and minerals prevailed even as fine tannin mounted. Although in its early drinking window, the Smith Haut Lafitte is still an infant in terms of evolution and should continue to improve in the cellar for another 10-20 years. (94 pts.)
  • 2005 Château La Fleur de Boüard - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol (3/30/2015): The nose was so layered and intense, showing dark berry, eucalyptus, spice, dark wood, tea leaves, almost herbal yet dark, and rich, with an earthiness coming forward though minerals and stone. On the palate, soft dark red berry fruit with silky textures coated the senses. Hints of fine tannin lingered long on the finish, yet this is still so enjoyable now. (94 pts.)
  • 2005 Clos l’Église (Pomerol) - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol (3/30/2015): The nose showed red and blueberry fruit, soil and minerals, with intense and lifting aromas. On the palate, smooth dark fruit expanded across the senses with heavy-silky textures displaying seamless balance. Structure set in on the finish and begged the question of just how long this will mature in the cellar with its large scale fruit kept in perfect check. (95 pts.)
  • 2005 Château la Bienfaisance - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (7/29/2014): The nose was dark and moody, showing rich cherry, stemmed strawberry, and plum mixed with moist soil, graphite and hints dark coco. On the palate it was angular, yet with enough intensity to hold as flavors of red and black fruit coated the senses in waves. The finish showed youthful tannin and it’s acid structure, yet the fruit continued to linger turning more dry and autumnal. It was a beautiful wine in need of another ten years in the cellar. (93 pts.)
  • 2005 Château L’Arrosée - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (3/30/2015): The nose showed bright cherry with finessed earthy floral aromas, minerals and hints of spice in a truly pretty yet elegant expression. On the palate, silky textures made themselves known with weight and balsamic mystique as black cherry and dark spice notes greeted the senses in very ripe yet perfectly balanced display. Dark spiced berry, a hint of bitters and savory herbs informed the long, soothing finish. This is wonderfully enjoyable already, yet should continue to evolve for many years in the cellar. (94 pts.)
  • 2005 Château La Confession - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (3/30/2015): The nose showed crushed berry and herbs with a dark wood tone that draws you in. With time in the glass, it gained sweetness to its red fruits along with floral tones, undergrowth, and a hint of roasted root vegetables. It was finessed on the palate with silky, acid-driven textures and flavors of tart berry, herbs and cedar. Still structured and youthful throughout its medium-long finish with lingering berry and herbal tones, yet there’s no shame in opening one now, as its balance provides a wonderful drinking experience. (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Beau-Séjour Bécot - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (3/30/2015): The nose showed crushed, overripe berry, dark undergrowth and soil tones, with minerals and dark earth. On the palate, it displayed tart red fruits with moderate tannin still in control. Notes of plum, red berry, dried flowers, and minerals rang true into the finish. In fact, at times this reminded me a little of Nebbiolo. The long finish showed minerals, tart wild berry and dried floral tones. This is quite austere, yet I am truly intrigued to see where it will go over the years to come. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (3/30/2015): The nose showed plum with crushed berry fruit, spice box, and red floral tones, which turned sweeter with air and picked up a contrasting and pleasurable note of undergrowth. On the palate, I found medium-weight textures, with saline minerality driving currents of dark red berry across the senses. The Canon seemed to play a sweet-and-sour act, which provided a very enjoyable experience, as the textures started small and expanded. Long on the finish with saturating red berry tones, minerals and spice. This is so pleasurable now, yet should continue to evolve beautifully (94 pts.)
  • 2005 Château La Gaffelière - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (3/30/2015): The nose showed the savory side of Bordeaux with dark berry fruit, undergrowth and earth tones, turning more floral with coaxing, along with a mix of fresh-turned soil and minerals. On the palate, smooth, silky textures with notable weight ushered saturating dark fruits across the senses leaving a coating of fine tannin in its wake. This wine is just a baby still with so much potential, expanding with time in the glass. It finished tart and structured, yet there is so much potential here. (94 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Fombrauge - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (3/30/2015): The nose showed pretty, candied red fruits in a perfumed display of dark red berry, sweet herbs, whole butter and spice box. Slightly restrained on the nose yet likely to open soon. Dark berry fruit with silky textures gained weight on the palate with tannin mounting at each sip. Dark fruit turned to red berry and minerals throughout the tannic finish. Does this need time, or will the tannin outlast the fruit? Only time will tell. (90 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Monbousquet - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (3/30/2015): What a gorgeous, haunting, intense and almost savory nose, showing pretty dark berry, crushed-mulled fruit and spice with sweet herb and dark balsamic tones. On the palate, silky textures gave way to red fruits with hints of pepper and building tannins toward the close. It was long with saturating dark fruit on the finish followed by bitter tones and gruff tannin. (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Pavie - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (3/30/2015): The nose was dark, mysterious and alluring with sexy red fruit, spice, hints of cedar wood, balsamic tones, sweet berry, and intense currant. It was smooth and fleshy on the palate, soft even, with ripe red fruits and a gorgeous mouth feel. The long finish was laced with palate-staining red fruit and black plum. The 2005 Pavie has a beautiful drink-me-now personality. (97 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Kirwan - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (3/30/2015): – The bouquet seemed to reach up from the glass with dark red fruits, cedar, intense dusty spice notes, and a rich mix of sweet herbs. On the palate, silky textures gave way to dark fruit, dusty spice, stony minerals and hints of cedar with a coating of tannin contrasted by brisk, mouthwatering acidity providing a truly enjoyable experience. Nothing seemed out of place as this finished on dark fruits with hints on tannin. This is perfectly enjoyable now and should continue to evolve for many years to come. (94 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Lascombes - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (3/30/2015): The nose showed dark berry, floral tones, earth and minerals with hints of sweet herbs. This was immensely pretty to say the least, as it turned darker and sweeter with air. On the palate, I found soft textures giving way to dark, mature fruit tones with hints of plum and savory herbs. It was immediate yet delectable on the nose and palate, finishing with dark fruits and inner floral tones. (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Palmer - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (3/30/2015): The nose was bent inward on itself with dark fruits and intense minerals, yet it seemed to pull you in more than blossoming outward from the glass. On the palate, the 2005 Palmer showed intense, dark, saturating fruit and spice with saline minerals driving weighty textures in vibrant currents across the senses. It’s a thrilling wine to taste now on its textural complexities alone. Although it’s nowhere near ready now, you can easily sense the greatness in this glass. Give this another 10-15 years in the cellar. Simply gorgeous! (97 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Rauzan-Ségla - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (3/30/2015): The nose showed cedar and spice up front, followed by dark red fruits, undergrowth, floral tones and herbs. It was silky-smooth on the palate, with dark red fruit and remarkable finesse leaving an impression of seamless balance. The finish showed dried red berry, mineral-laden soil and undergrowth with fine tannin in a truly classic expression of Bordeaux. Bury this in your cellar and reap the rewards for decades to come. (94 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Duhart-Milon - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (3/30/2015): The nose was dark and inviting, showing ripe black fruits, tobacco, herbs, spice and wood tones. On the palate, I found velvety, weighty textures giving way to dark balsamic, inflicted fruit in a smooth and intense performance. The finish was medium-long with dark fruits. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Pontet-Canet - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (3/30/2015): The nose was dark and rich, showing intense red berry, minerals, soil, herbs, cedar and tobacco. Still incredibly youthful on the palate with firm textures moving in dense waves across the senses, giving only a brief glimpse of this wine’s massive dark red fruits, spice, herbal tea tones, minerals and soil. The Ponet Canet’s structure remained in control throughout the finish, yet there’s so much balance and intensity here, hence its potential. (95 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (3/30/2015): The nose was incredibly pretty with dusty floral tones, cedar, crushed red berries, herbs, and gaining sweet spice with time in the glass. On the palate, it displayed smooth, soft textures and terrific density with ripe dark red berry fruit, which glided effortlessly across the palate, leaving sweet tannin in its wake. Dried berry and mineral tones lingered on the senses throughout its beautifully finessed finish. (94 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Cos d’Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (3/30/2015): The nose was stunning with deep dark fruits, espresso and minty herbs, sweet berry, then turning almost savory with dark florals, smoke, soil and saline-minerals—just gorgeous. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with velvet weight as intense dark red fruits saturated the senses, along with spice, bitter cocoa, sweet herbs, and minerals. The finish was dark, almost haunting, with a coating of tannin enveloped in rich fruit. The 2005 Cos d’Estournel is still incredibly youthful, yet worth peeking in on and sure to be amazing for a decade or two to come. (97 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Calon-Ségur - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (3/30/2015)
    The nose was stunning, showing dark red fruits, fresh tobacco, brown sugar, exotic spice, and herbaceous tones. On the palate, I found silky textures, which quickly gave way to dried black cherry with gripping tannin, hints of earth and herbs, followed by a wave of perfectly balanced acidity. Still youthful tannin clenched the palate throughout the finish, showing incredible potential for the long haul. (93 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Phélan Ségur - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (3/30/2015)
    The nose was deep and dark with dried cherry, blueberry skins, notes of olive and gravel dust. On the palate, it showed silky textures with firming tannin, turning its dark red fruits to dried florals and mineral tones. The finish was quite youthful and closed in upon itself, but ultimately, this is still quite enjoyable today. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Branaire-Ducru - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (3/30/2015): What a pretty nose, showing a mix of red berry, darker fruits, cherry, minerals, spice and cedar. On the palate, it displayed juicy textures with high-toned brambly fruit and minerals, while gaining flesh and soothing richness with time in the glass. Fine tannin coated the senses through the close yet took nothing away from the experience. This was an excellent performance and a pleasure to drink, with years of cellar potential. (93 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (3/30/2015): The nose was intense, showing bright cherry, with spice, baked confectionary notes, sweet crème, savory burnt butter and tobacco. On the palate, I found a display of silky, smooth textures with hints of tannic grip, more wood than varietal, yet beautifully balanced with ripe saturating dark red fruits and spice. Fine tannin resonated on the powerful finish contrasted through lasting fruit and hints of tobacco. (93 pts.)

Thanks for the interesting read. I went long on 05 Bordeaux, so I’m pleased by your report. It is amazing how 05 was forgotten so quickly.

I wonder where 2005 will ultimately end up in the pantheon of legendary vintages? I think it’s superior than 2000 and I prefer 2005’s style to the über lush 2009. It’s better than 95 and 96 on the whole probably. Same for 85 and 86. That leaves 82, 89, 90 and 2010 by my score, plus the old ones like 61 and 59 and older. I haven’t had many 2010s yet, so hard to judge other than by the general acclaim.

In the end, I will be plenty pleased if 2005 is a worthy successor to 82-89-90 or hits the heights of the best 85 and 86. Will it get there? Too soon to tell from what I’ve tasted, though th raw materials are so impressive in 2005.

This past month has been a real eye-opening experience for me. Being someone who never spent a lot of time tasting Bordeaux, for no other reason other than being so involved in other regions. However, now it’s more than my passion for wine that drives me, it’s also my job. I can say that through all of the regions and wines I’ve been lucky enough to taste through, 2005 Bordeaux takes the cake as the most exciting. I think you’ll be very happy with your stocks.

Pat, Eric -

I went long on 2005 as well. I think it is a superb left bank vintage. I’m still backfilling on it, for example, recently grabbing some Montrose and Sociando Mallet. My three favorite left bank vintages in the last 10 years are 2005, 2010 and 2004. I prefer them over the supposedly warmer vintages of 2000, 2003 and 2009. Mind you, I have wines from those vintages as well. My views on some of the more classically-structured left banks are similar to Eric’s notes here. These notes are very helpful data points to me.

Where I depart are the modern wineries, especially the right bankers. The 2005 vintage may have been the death-knell for me and St. Emilions. I cannot comfortably afford the greats like Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Figeac, but the vast majority of right bank Chateaux have done a hard turn to the modern. I have recently tried a handful of right-bankers, including Monbousquet, Fleur Cardinale, La Confession, La Clotte, etc., and found them close to undrinkable for my palate. The overwhelming presence of ripe fruit, heavy and astringent wood and off-putting alcohol was the common thread. I also put some of the modern left bankers, like Lascombes and Meyney, in that same category.

BTW, I recently had the 2005 La Louviere and 2005 Lanessan as well. These are classic wines, well-balanced, and yes, a bit leaner than what appears to be trending in Bordeaux. I bought more of these, and fortunately, pricing has not moved much.

Thanks Eric, for these detailed notes. I hope my comments are only considered a counter-point not a criticism; I have to acknowledge that my palate is more narrow than most.

So I guess L’Arrosee can be drunk, Branaire ducru maybe and Smith Haut Lafitte needs to wait. Thanks

Robert, your description of the right bank Bordeaux you’ve had recently is similar to the one bottle of 2005 Pavie I had blind a couple of years ago, and with more recent bottles of the 2009 and 2000. They each showed among the harshest tannin I’ve ever experienced in a young wine, far more than any of the better wines from 1995 or 1996 showed on release (all of the first growths and pretty much every other highly regarded wine from those vintages), or than any top 1986 showed in the early to mid 1990s, including Mouton, Gruaud Larose, and Montrose. The Pavies were even more harshly tannic than 1995 and 1996 Montus wines were on release.

In addition to being incredibly tannic, the Pavies were very ripe with noticeable heat but with a green streak that works for me in less ripe wines where it integrates into the savoriness (Chinon and Bourgeuil, for example), but which sticks out unpleasantly and which is very unusual when the fruit is very sweet.

Eric’s description of the 2005 Pavie as soft suggests some combination of massive bottle variation, confirmation bias based on ratings and expectations (which can’t describe my experience on the 2005 as I had it blind and the person who brought it tends to the AFWE style, though it may account for my perception of the 2000 and 2009), or significant sensory differences in how Eric and I perceive tannin. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough experience with other 2005s to have any idea which may be the correct explanation or explanations.

That said, thanks to Eric for the comprehensive notes.

Never had the 2005 Pavie, but the tannin levels were off the charts in 2005 and one can imagine a wine maker potentially screwing that up (with too much hang time, too long a maceration, too much new oak?). The successful 2005s I’ve tried (and there are many) have these tannins, much more so than any young Bordeaux I’ve every had… BUT the tannins are usually incredibly fleshy and soft, not hard and iron-esque, like many 2000’s were on release.

One great thing about 2005 Bordeaux for a AFWE like myself: the acids are quite brisk. These aren’t Italian-level, dissolve-the-enamel acids, but they’re high for a ripe vintage in Bordeaux. To read about it, this may have been created by the drought conditions combined with only moderately high temperatures. All together, high acids to go with perfectly ripe fruit and those epic tannins sounds like a nice recipe for balance and depth.

I checked my holdings and I have far more 2005 Right Bankers than I realized. Fortunately, many of these were inexpensive so not big deal if I don’t like them:

  • Les Grands Marechaux Cotes de Blaye 2005
    Aiguilhe Cotes de Castillon 2005
    Clos les Lunelles Cotes de Castillon 2005
    Joanin Becot Cotes de Castillon 2005
    Puygueraud Cotes de Francs 2005
    Haut Carles Fronsac 2005
    Vieille Cure Fronsac 2005
    Barde-Haut St. Emilion 2005
    Bienfaisance St. Emilion 2005
    Chauvin St. Emilion 2005
    Destieux St. Emilion 2005
    Figeac St. Emilion 2005
    Fonbel St. Emilion 2005
    Gaffeliere St. Emilion 2005
    Grand Corbin Despagne St. Emilion 2005
    Grand Mayne St. Emilion 2005
    Monbousquet St. Emilion 2005
    Pipeau St. Emilion 2005

Thanks for the great TNs.

For my palate, the 05 may be one of the top five vintages of all time, one of the most concentrated and structured. Having said that I think the 09 and 10 are two greatest vintages ever. Some of the 10 are even bigger and 09 are so sexy without losing freshness, a better version of the 90. Only the time will tell but I am very confident.

Trust me, I’m happy to hear the counter-point. I really try to keep an open mind when it comes to the use of oak, but tend to swing toward the less oaky styles, yet I have to admit that many of the St. Emilion were just so gorgeous on the nose. In most cases these are really young, yet a few were just perfectly drinkable. The Kirwan is a really good example.

I wouldn’t say the L’Arrosee has peaked, but there’s no harm in checking in on it. Smith Haut Lafitte absolutely needs time but was GORGEOUS and Branaire was very pretty, yet can go the long haul.

Wow, it does sound like we had some very different bottles. The wine was big, no doubt, but the tannin was not harsh. There are a lot of wines in this mix that came across as way too young to touch, but the Pavie wasn’t one of them.

My view of the '05 Pavie is similar. Seemed like there was a glimpse of something immediately on release, but I have not enjoyed my more recent tastes (others opened it, not me). I’m afraid that your list reminded me of some other recent '05 right bankers that I really did not enjoy either, the Barde Haut, Vieille Cure (and I have a lot of this), De-Stew and Aiguilhe. I’ve never liked Clos les Lunelles.

Pat, what left bankers do you like?

The 05s are barely ten years old. Some of the top 05s are open but not all. IMO, it is unfair to be too harsh this early. At this stage, the wines shed the primary fruit sweetness which accentuate the acidity and tannins.

I absolutely LOVE these Bordeaux vintage retrospectives! Thanks, Eric, for your ‘hard work’…

My concern, Kevin, is more of the oak and alcohol than the acidity and tannins. It’s pretty rare that I have experienced such overt expressions of oak and alcohol dissipate or integrate with more maturity. If anything, I have more typically experienced these characteristics becoming more pronounced as the exuberant fruit softens.

Thanks for the wonderful report.

I purchased a fair bit of 2005 (manly left bank). I attended quite a few tastings when they were released and the vintage looked superb.

I have my preferences and tend mainly towards left bank. Only right bankers I purchased were Ausone, Cheval, VCC, L’Evangile, VCC, La Fleur Petrus, La Conseillante, Canon la Gaffliere and Troplong Mondot (not sure why I purchased the Troplong!).

I am not a fan of Lascombes, Pavie, or Monbousquet. Kirwan and Malescot are also leaning towards modern style but still nice.
The wines I have liked Cos, Montrose, Pichon Baron, Pontet, Lynch bages, Ducru Beaucaillou, Rauzan segla, Palmer, Haut Brion, Haut Bailly, VCC, L’Evangile, L’Eglise Clinet, La Fleur Petrus, Conseillante.

My favorite Left Bank Bordeaux that I can afford (not necessarily from the 2005 vintage):

  • Pichon Lalande (maybe my favorite, but alas too expensive these days, but I have a decent stash)
    Grand Puy Lacoste
    Pichon Baron (getting more modern since '05?)
    Cos d’Estournel (up through 1996 only)
    Cordier Stable in the 1980’s (Gruaud, Talbot, Meyney)
    Lagune (though Parker’s recent 95-pt scores make me nervous)
    Sociando Mallet (I own more of this Chateau than any others)
    Duhart Milon (but has become silly pricey)
    Gloria (really upped its game)
    Branaire-Ducru (I hope it hasn’t gone to the dark side)
    du Tertre (mid-modern style, but still Bordeaux and always an excellent value)
    Lafon Rochet
    Tour St. Bonnet (the 1989 was my first case purchase)

Some classic producers that surprisingly leave me cold (I more admire than enjoy usually):

  • Leoville Las Cases (never seems ready, though the '96 is epic)
    Leoville Barton (never seems ready, but on a roll since 2000)

I guess I avoid the modern fruit bombs, which thankfully are less common on the Left Bank. What are your favorites?

Sheez, Pat, that list might as well be mine! Some great stuff there.

Those are some very well written notes, Eric. Thanks for taking the time to post them. I am a big fan of the '05 Bordeaux, having first tasted them at the UGC tasting in January, 2008. We bought mostly Left Bank, and a few from the Right Bank. To me, it is a vintage to selectively backfill, along with the 2010’s.

To Robert A, if you like the 2004 Bordeaux, you may want to try some of the 2006’s like Phelan Segur. Leans more to the traditional side and it won’t beat up the budget.


26 wines, 8 point spread. I’m not a pointy guy, but really?