Bordeaux 2006 - Ten Years On
Tuesday, 26 April 2016 by Stephen Browett
Every year, for over a quarter of a century now, a group of wine merchants and writers have got together to taste a Bordeaux vintage as it reached 10 years of age. When I joined the group in the early 1990’s the tastings were held at the home of the late Bill Baker, wine merchant, wine taster and gourmet extraordinaire. The tastings were also held sometimes at The White Horse Inn at Chilgrove where Barry Phillips had built up a legendary wine list. More recently, the tastings have taken place at Farr Vintners and this year was the first time in our wonderful new offices where we have a magnificent tasting room over-looking the River Thames.
Last year we tasted the forward and user-friendly 2007’s a year ahead of schedule and next year we will taste the backward and serious 2005’s two years late. However in 2016 we were back to the traditional “Ten Years On” and tasted the 100 top red wines of Bordeaux in the 2006 vintage. It was an all-day tasting held on Friday April 22nd.
As ever, the tasting was blind with the wines served, in random order, in geographical peer groups. Tasters included Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate, Jancis Robinson MW and Derek Smedley MW. No doubt their detailed tasting notes will appear soon.
The conclusion of the group was that 2006 is a good to very good vintage. It is a bit more serious than 2007 with wines that have more structure and grip but it’s not a great classic vintage. It’s also better than 2002 and 2004 and on the right bank better than 2003 too. The good news is that the wines (which were rather tight in their youth) have softened and are now ready to drink. There was no wine that we tasted that was either too young or too old. The biggest successes are to be found in the Medoc with the group voting Lafite as their wine of the vintage.
Saint Emilion - A mixed flight with our old friend Le Tertre Roteboeuf an easy winner. The purity of floral, sweet red fruits and touches of leather and earth make for an almost Burgundian feel, but the palate brings a power, length and structure that you would expect from this wine. From those others in the flight, the better wines showed good purity of cherry fruit and crunchy, firm tannins that will allow them to age well. Some however had too much extraction leading to dry, papery finishes.
Pomerol - Some attractive fleshy wines but no great ones. Gazin was the surprise winner from a tightly bunched group of scores. The best wines all showed plump red fruits and hints of earthy, cedary undertones whilst managing softer tannins. Impressive performance by the rank outsider Certan Marzelle beating many of the top names with riper, plumper, more exotic fruit and a fleshy body that makes it excellent for drinking now. This was certainly one of the best value wines in a vintage where there were few surprises in the blind tasting rankings.
Pessac-Leognan - La Mission Haut Brion pipped stable-mate Haut Brion to the winning post – at not much more than half the price this looks like a good deal. Outside these two, an impressively dense Pape Clément was highly scored, showing a high level of ripeness and the firm structure that will allow it to go the distance. As a flight the wines were smoky and showing more maturity on the nose than the palate, giving some very complex aromatics despite only being 10 years old. The best wines have the structure and texture to continue to improve over the next 5-10 years.
Medoc - Cantemerle showed well and is a wine to look out for, bearing in mind the modest price of this reliable classed growth. Along with Certan Marzelle it certainly looks good value in the context of 2006.
Margaux – No big surprises here this year with Chateaux Margaux and Palmer the winners. Much like the Pessac-Leognan wines these wines were aromatically mature and complex with lots of earthy, dried flowers rising from the glasses. The palates showed good management of tannin with fine, sappy textures that allowed ripe and floral fruit to show through. There was more consistency in the appelation than there has been in previous years. Prieuré Lichine showed very well, with excellent concentration and deft acidity to lift a floral wine that was quintessentially Margaux.
St Estephe – No real surprises here either with Cos d’Estournel an easy winner followed by Calon Segur. The northernmost of the big communes held its reputation for firm wines dominated by blackcurrant fruit. The noses on the wines were less developed than many other flights, showcasing the potential for longer term ageing here. The wines generally had impressive intensity to pair with their structure. A very impressive performance by the moderately priced Meyney to finish third, looking very Montrose-like in its flavour and structure profile.
St Julien – Again no surprises with Leoville Lascases coming out on top followed by Leoville Poyferré. All the Saint Juliens are good, classic clarets that will drink well over the next 5-10 years. This flight further showcased the consistency in the northern Medoc, which seemed to have more power, intensity and structure. Many of the better scoring wines came from this flight, which had very little variation in the average scores for the top half dozen.
Pauillac – Probably the best commune. Lafite won the day (followed by Mouton) but the Super-Seconds were all very good – especially the 2 Pichons and Lynch Bages and Les Forts de Latour. Purity of black fruit, hints of cedar and fine but firm tannins were the hallmark of this flight. The intensity and length was cranked up a notch with the most ageworthy wines likely to come from this commune. Cabernet Sauvignon really was king for the 2006 wines, and at best they show excellent purity, ripeness, and power that we have come to expect from Bordeaux in strong vintages.
Wine of the Vintage : Lafite
Close to First Growth Quality : La Mission Haut Brion, Leoville Lascases, Leoville Poyferré, Palmer, Cos d’Estournel, Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande, Lynch Bages, Pape Clement.
Bargains of the Vintage : Certan Marzelle, Prieuré Lichine, Cantemerle, and Meyney.