I attended, on Saturday night, courtesy of Birmingham Wine School and Rob Price, a tasting of six 2005 clarets . ’05 has been heralded (rather prematurely, as we are only 15 years in) as the vintage of the century. Hot, but not too hot, summer months with rain at the right time produced well-balanced, firm and rich wines with considerable ageing potential. It was interesting to translate those notes into tangible wines.
The top two for me were Paulliac’s Pontet-Canet and St Julien’s Leoville Barton, both of which commanded a retail price of £125 per bottle. I also liked d’Issan, a Margaux – a bit cheaper at £92. So, not everyday drinking wines, but a great opportunity to compare and evaluate the styles.
The d’Issan (owned by the Cruse family) was a big, powerful wine, showing blackberry fruit and structured tannins. As it gained oxygen it developed an earthy style, becoming drier compared with the other two wines’ fruit sweetness. It was very popular with my fellow tasters, possibly because of its approachability at a relatively young age.
The bio-dynamically produced Pontet Canet had a wonderfully complex nose, all dark fruit and menthol. The palate was smoothed tannins and had loads of restrained power – a horse straining to be let free – yet was still drinking well now. To do so would have been a crime, however; this will go on 20 – 25 years yet.
The wine that was way too young to drink now was the Leoville Barton. Slightly menthol on the nose with subtle blackcurrant notes, this wine was obviously still in its shell. The tannins were obvious although some fruit sweetness was present and, as the above, the mood of restrained power was hard to avoid. Another 20 – 25 years await this teenager.
The other wines tried were Calon-Segur (St Estephe) – sweeter, not as powerful and will probably be drunk earlier (£80); Forcas-Dupre (Listrac) – okay, a lighter style than the others (£17); and Merlot dominant Monbousquet (St Emilion) – softer tannins, lighter than the others, quite approachable now (£38).
It’s the first time I had a chance to consider such a range of clarets over a length of time. I really enjoyed it and would do it again. Another five years, perhaps?