Coming up with a new tasting theme is always something of a challenge.  What will be of interest to our customers?  What have people not tasted for a while?  What is looking like a good buy?  And, last but not least, as we are, after all, a wine trader, what wines that meet the previous criteria do we have available to sell?  This was our dilemma a couple of months ago when we started planning a tasting to coincide with the week of Vinexpo in Hong Kong.
James Suckling joins Farr Vintners' customers to taste 2006 Bordeaux
After much deliberation we believed we might have a potential answer to all the above - the 2006 vintage of Bordeaux.  We hadn't tasted this vintage for some time, and subsequent to the UK office's recent 04 tasting, thought it would be interesting to see how they would fare.  With the concept and theme decided, we set about contacting the chateaux to put together our line up of some 19 wines from both the left and right banks of the Gironde with a dry white to start and a Sauternes to finish.
2006 seems to have become a rather overlooked vintage, coming straight after 2005 which grabbed all the limelight in terms of quality, albeit at a high price.  I remember first tasting the 2006's in bottle in Bordeaux in 2009 and, I have to admit, found them a struggle.  The wines were incredibly backward, austere and, to be quite honest, so tough to taste. They were neither as obviously "great" as the magnificent, but long-term, 2005's nor as forward and attractive as the early-drinking 2007's. Neither a "collector's vintage" nor a "drinker's vintage" it seemed.
Rufus Beazley of Chateau Latour decants Les Forts de Latour 2006 while Stephen Browett decants Pontet Canet.
It was therefore very interesting to taste a line-up of these wines several years later (made extra special by so many of the chateaux representing their wines themselves) and we consequently had an excellent turn-out of customers of Farr Vintners in our "Fine Wine Lounge" at Hong Kong's Grand Hyatt hotel.
James Suckling was present and we look forward to reading his tasting notes shortly. But here, for now, are the Farr Vintners notes:
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
Fresh citrus fruit notes mixed with almonds and toasted nuts.  On the palate it is quite thick and viscous but with fresh acidity to balance the oily texture. Full fruit flavours with waxy wet wool notes freshened up by a touch of lime and tropical fruit.  More Semillon in style than Sauvignon Blanc. Wonderful length on the finish (we actually tasted an opened bottle the next day and the aroma had in fact remained fresh and even more complex). 16+
Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
A medium colour now showing a little fade at the rim. A lovely smoky nose with hints of spice and black fruit. The palate is starting to open up now with black and red fruits, lovely mineral and graphite character, fresh black vanilla pods, truffles and tar. This has wonderful balance of tannins and fruit and good length on the finish. A top Graves that is just ready to drink and a really lovely example of the appellation and of this great Chateau. A really good bottle. 16.5
Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge
Forward, aromatic nose of dark cherries, minerals and fresh vanilla.  A hint of gun-flint and leather. Good structure, the tannins are nicely rounded but the fruit is rich enough to allow this wine to be drunk now.  Dark black cherries, dark cocoa, minerals and strong fruit. All these spicy elements are wrapped up in a cashmere-like cloak with milk chocolate smoothness. Lovely balance on finish. Smooth, attractive and seductive. Lovely stuff. 16.5
Lilian Barton of Chateau Leoville Barton
They say you can often smell violets in La Conseillante - and this was the case with this wine, as well as kirsch cherries. On the palate there are firm tannins for a Pomerol giving good structure. There is good flesh on the mid palate but a kick of tannin too. Exotic notes of wood-smoke, licorice, a touch of spice, vanilla and  black cherries.  Really good complexity on the finish. Ideally this could do with a couple more years in the bottle. Very good potential. 16+
A bit closed on the nose but hints of saddle leather and spice. Good structure on the palate (the Medoc of the right bank) with red and black plums, cassis and forest floor notes. Some firm tannins at the finish mean that this is not really ready to drink yet but it should continue to develop well. 16
Quite a light, Burgundian-like colour. A soft, fragrant, red cherry nose.  On the palate this is a pure and a typical Saint Emilion. Feminine, charming, quite delicate and very fine. Drinking nicely already this is a charming and sophisticated Canon that is un-forced and lovely. 15.5
The colour shows some maturity. The nose is classic cigar box and blackcurrant. There is good density of ripe, mature Cabernet Sauvignon fruit on the palate yet it is light on its feet. Excellent balance with richness of fruit and tannic structure complimented by vanilla spice. Approaching maturity. Good. 16+
A deep solid-looking colour and a fairly closed, brooding cassis nose. Chunky and a bit un-knit at this stage of its development. Excellent intensity of black fruit with notes of cedar, leather and licorice.  A surprisingly big wine on the palate with dark fruits and firm tannin to give the structure to the spice, cedar, camphor and licorice flavours. A serious, powerful, old-school Cabernet that seems quite firm today but it could be enticed out of its shell by a juicy steak. 15.5+
A deep colour with leather, wood-smoke and cigars on the nose. Smells like an old-fashioned gentleman's club! On the palate this is a big wine and needs some more time, it's got lots of structure and plenty of fruit too - blackcurrants, cherries, toasty vanilla and spice. There is very impressive density here with great class and power. Solid, chewy, firm and masculine. Proper claret that will always have a firm edge to it. It could do with a few more years but will always be dry and dense. Serious stuff. 16.5+
Jean-Michel Laporte of La Conseillante and Frederic Faye of Figeac
A medium-deep colour. A very welcoming, open nose showing all the exotic characters for which Cos is famous.  This wine is amazingly open and sexy and can be drunk now - leather, lots of Asian spices, toasted vanilla, camphor and black fruits - cassis.  A wonderful array of flavours with lovely, ripe tannins. This really is voluptuous and mouth-filling. Dense and solid but so spicy and enticing. A delightful combination of decadent spice and classic Medoc structure. This is touching First Growth quality. Sexy, opulent and absolutely gorgeous. 17.5
By contrast to the Cos, the Montrose is more closed. The brooding nose hints at beautiful dark black fruits, but is still rather closed.  Firm tannins, good acidity, dark black ripe fruits, flint, minerals with an earthy character.  This is a masculine style of wine which needs time but has everything there to be great. Chunky, solid and firm. This chewy black beauty is no charmer but give it time - at least 5 years probably.  16.5+
Ormes de Pez
Mature colour. An open and forward nose with voluptuous bramble fruits.  Very pleasant and forward on the palate - lovely fruit, a touch rustic and earthy, charming, forward. Has a dry edge but is ready to go. Good value and drinking now. 15.5
The Lynch still has a black colour. Lots of vanilla on the nose with big, powerful black cassis fruit.  On the palate this is a really big wine with great density. Real power here with great intensity. This tastes more like a 2005 than a 2006. Solid, still quite brutal with big, firm tannins. Beefy, earthy, chunky. This is the most backward wine of the flight and needs time. Impressive but don't open it yet. 16.5+
Reserve de la Comtesse
Forward and charming nose of lovely red and black fruits.  Also open on the palate and a wine you can drink now with red fruits, a touch leafy with roasted herbs.  Very attractive and sexy. Smooth, quite voluptuous and charming. Slips down very easily. Drink now. Pure pleasure. 15.5
Adrian Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier and Anna Fedou of Smith Haut Lafitte
Slightly closed on the nose but with hints of exotic spice.  On the palate there are dark fruits, smoky oak and lots of vanilla and cream.  Ripe tannins balance the fruit. This is serious but smooth. Ripe, polished, plump and just about ready to drink. Attractive, but still has proper Pauillac character. 16.5
Les Forts de Latour
In 2006 this was 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot. Still a deep colour. Solid and inky on the palate with serious structure and strong cassis fruit. This does not taste anything like a second wine &ndash more like a second growth. Lots of black cassis fruit with leather and licorice. Impressive and still youthful. 16.5+
A dark colour with a huge nose of roasted meat, licorice and black fruit. Despite being decanted 2 hours in advance it is still youthful.  Dark, intense and powerful. This is a wine with power and structure - pure concentrated ripe dark cherries and berries. Big tannins but then again it has big fruit too - the finish is strong and complex. Chunky and dense. Both decadent and structured. Very good, very serious, has so much richness that you could drink it now but it will not be at its best for another 5 years. 17
Roasted meats, beefy with dark ripe fruit and minty cassis.  On the palate this is a big powerful, masculine wine.  Lots of cassis, smoky camphor and lead pencils.  Really lovely sweetness of ripe Cabernet Sauvignon fruit on the finish. A powerful, classically-structured Pauillac that needs a bit more time before it blossoms. 16.5+
A golden colour. Huge legs here with impressive viscosity. Lots of honey, caramel, candied orange peel.  On the palate a lovely cleansing fresh acidity which means the wine is not in the slightest cloying.  Toffee, honeysuckle, orange blossom, barley sugar and ripe apricots.  Very balanced. Multi-dimensional and a really magnificent Sauternes. 17+
Malou Le Sommer of Lynch Bages
The outcome?  I think everyone was generally impressed at the tasting with the quality of the wines.  2006 has turned out to be a classic Bordeaux vintage, the wines certainly have backbone and tannin, however, they also have elegant and ripe fruit (not hot fruit) which does in fact make many of them approachable now, yet will have the ability to age.  The best vintages of the decade for drinking now are probably 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007 but 2006 is not far off being ready. We would certainly drink these wines before the backward 2005's and the still-quite-firm 2008's and the great 2009's. These wines are looking good value for money in today's market and in some instances they are only a little more expensive than the same Chateaux' considerably less good 2013 vintage en primeur.
A huge "thank you" to all the Chateaux for their help in organizing this excellent and useful tasting.