We (the Grand Jury Europeen; GJE) just concluded a broad tasting of wines from the 2006 vintage in Bordeaux. As many of you know, the GJE tastes wines blind, so that all we know is that we have around 34 wines in front of us with only numbers, and whether the wine is left bank or right bank. Only after we have evaluated the wines, written a note, a score, and turned in our sheets, do we find out what the wines were for that series. Each series–averaging around 34 wines–goes for 1/2 day–usually the tasting is 2 hours or so, then a debriefing for another hour, then lunch, etc. It’s quite challenging!
As a broad overview (and I think most participants would agree with my perception), the beauty in the wines is in the wines from the left bank. The right bank wines were often less appealing, more hard, tannic, somewhat over-oaked, and some appeared to have some greenness to them. The wines from the left bank had more finesse, were more inviting, and offering more pleasure at least now in their drinking. Let’s put it this way: After a day of tasting right bank wines, many tasters ended the day with a hint of a scowl; after the left bank tasting, we ended the day with a smile. There are some quite lovely wines in the 2006 vintage. I will post some notes on specific wines once I get the list of wines paired with numbers emailed to me–I did not write down the key during the session. But overall, some winemakers got it really right in 06, and those who did, made lovely wines that I would characterize as somewhat feminine, inviting, and had a soft lushness that was quite nice. The majority, perhaps, though tried to tame the flaws of the vintage (raw materials) with a heavy hand on the oak and manipulation. Those wines tasted of oak, oak and more oak covering who knows what fruit underneath. For some reviews, I wrote “too much manipulation” and even “almost seems chemically altered.” The wines which were over-manipulated outnumbered those that were done “right” but–after tasting something like 150 wines–there is a good number to choose from that were done right. Also, once Francois Mauss has the data from all tasters (around 15 to 20 tasters) analyzed, I’ll post a link to his cumulative report. Probably in a day or so I’ll have my list to comment on more specifically.
Some wines showed remarkably well, though. Perhaps the surprise of the tasting was everyone’s reaction to Chateau Pape-Clement (disclosure–room assignments were made for the members and I got assigned to stay at Pape-Clement but as the wines were tasted blind, that wouldn’t have had any influence on my rating). At the debriefing, this wine created a lot of buzz. Many thought it a wine of stature with breeding. We all loved it–as one GJE member stated: “I found myself thinking its not to my typical style, but I couldn’t help but liking it. In fact, I loved it.” My own note on the 2006 Pape Clement was: "Nice cedar and spice on the nose. Well structured but quite tannic. Impressive finish that lasts. A very, very nice wine with good aging potential. 94 points…
We also tasted 2005 and 2006 Sauternes, which I’ll probably post separately about in the next few days. But as I said in one other recent post, most members preferred the 06 vintage for current drinking. Personally, I rated d’Yquem and Climens highest.
We had the pleasure of a number of great lunches and dinners, including a lovely lunch at Chateau Smith Haute Lafitte, in which the Cathiards served us two wines blind. Turned out one was the 2000 Mouton and the other the 2000 Smith Haute Lafitte; it was interesting to hear preferences when the two wines were compared blind! A dinner at Domaine de Chevalier (about which I already posted some details) was stupendous which included the 1949 and 1969 Domaine de Chevalier en magnum, and the 1931 Niepoort port, in double magnum. A dinner at Chateau Malartic Lagraviere was incredible, for our being served a flight of 2002 Bordeaux–Malartic, Mouton, Ducru Beaucaillou, and Haut Brion. The 1990 Ch. Calon-Segur was drinking beautifully, as was the 1989 Ch. Malartic-Lagraviere served from double magnum.
I’ll try to write up some of these fun times in some separate notes giving a bit more info on the wines, but I thought it might be fun and interesting just to chat about the 06 vintage for a bit. Specific notes to follow once Francois sends me the full list of wines paired with the numbers so I can “unlock” my notes.
By the way–on the plane on the way home, I read John Gilman’s assessment and review of the 06 vintage. I really enjoyed reading his thoughts and agreed with much of his reactions to the vintage. His assessment, in many areas, was similar to my own and to comments I heard from other members at the tasting.