2008 Vintage UGC Event held Jan 2011
January 26, 2011 — Mostly from UGC Bordeaux Tasting, Boston, MA with input from Michaela Norrman, who contributed her tasting notes from the Los Angeles UGC Event co-sponsored by Wally’s Wines.
With its panoramic views of the inner harbor and nearby piers, the Wharf Room at the posh Boston Harbor Hotel provided the perfect venue for the representatives of the >100 Bordeaux Chateaux to showcase their 2008 vintage before an energetic crowd of wine buyers, restauranteurs, bloggers and other wine industry professionals. In sharp contrast to the windswept snow outside, the warm and enthusiastic atmosphere inside the ballroom, coupled with the impeccable service by the hotel staff, made for a very pleasurable tasting experience.
It is difficult to pigeonhole the 2008 vintage in Bordeaux. On the one hand, the wines lack the overt fat and muscle of the 2005, yet on the other hand, the wines have plenty of concentration and charm, and many of the best wines are anything but thin. Most can be characterized by an abundance of red fruits in their flavor profile, good concentration, and adequate tannin to allow for 10+ years of development. What they are not is the fruit bomb-like 2003’s – not a single wine that I tasted could be classified as over-ripe. On the lower end of the totem pole, a few of the wines exhibited some green elements, but by and large these under-ripe characteristics were not in evidence in the better wines of the vintage. A few Chateaux were guilty of over-extraction, and some others wine were unbalanced, with the most frequent culprit being tannins that were too aggressive and rough. However, those winemakers that used a deft touch produced lovely wines that will age gracefully for some time. Overall, the vintage appears less consistent than 2005 or 2000, where nearly everyone made successful wines. However, it is not the minefield that is 2003, in which so many of the wines are overly alcoholic, imbalanced and full of over-ripe fruit, while others are an essentially a perfect marriage of fruit, structure and accessibility. One thing seems certain – the top wines of 2008 (and there are many of them) are not far off from their older counterparts of 2000 and 2005. In my mind, what separates the 2008’s from those two stellar vintages of the last decade is the considerable number of Chateaux whose wines are off the mark and do not approach the heights that they are capable of reaching in the very best vintages. Luckily, careful selection of the best 2008s will reward the shrewd consumer with many age-worthy wines that are the near-qualitative equals of the very best wines from these Chateaux, all for a mere fraction of the prices that those top bottlings normally command.
What follows are tasting notes on 50+ red wines that were sampled, many of them several times, at the UGC event. Scoring is done on a 100-point Parker scale. The wines are arranged alphabetically within each appellation. A good percentage of the wines were re-tasted at a private event in early February, with consistent notes. Happy hunting!
Highly aromatic nose of loam, smoke, red raspberries and oak. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied with red raspberries, earth and a touch of oak. Flavors linger for 15 seconds on the finish. This is just a notch below the 2005 in quality, but still a very good wine. This will drink well early. WB 90.
Domaine de Chevalier
Soaring, noble aromatics of smoke, pipe tobacco, sweet raspberry. Red fruit on the entry, with some underbrush and very light toast on the medium-bodied frame. Twenty-plus second finish, with refined tannins gently gripping the palate. A clear step up from the Carbonnieux. This will benefit from some bottle aging, and is far better than what the estate produced even 10 years ago. WB 93.
Chateau de Fieuzal
Smoky spices and tobacco on the nose. Medium-bodied, with red currants, orange rind and a hint of oak. Falls off a cliff on the short finish with some unrefined tannins briefly clinging to the palate. WB 86.
Very dark red. Noble nose of smoke, dark cherry tobacco and cassis jumps out of the glass. Red and black fruits in the mouth, with a beautifully round mid-palate serving as exhibit A of superior winemaking. Medium-bodied, with a long finish marked by fine-grained tannins that arrive very late. This superb Haut-Bailly needs a minimum of 10 years in the cellar, but it has all the elements of a star in the making. WB 95.
Smokey, modern nose with tobacco and black raspberry. Rather fruit-forward on the palate, with plums, cherries and earth in evidence. Medium- to full-bodied and a bit short on the finish, this Haut-Bergey is not in the same league as the 2000, but is a good, modern Pessac nonetheless. WB 90.
Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion
Deep red with some purple evident. Sweet tobacco and some serious smoke and plums on the rather effusive nose. Silky in the mouth, but linear and rather four-square at the moment, with plums and cassis making their presence known. Finishes with a good burst of fruit on the 15- to 20-second finish. A qualitative equal of the 2000 and 2005. WB 91.
Smoke, underbrush and black tobacco on the nose. Darker in color than most of the other Pessac reds, almost purple-ish. Medium-bodied with black cherries and toast in evidence. Finishes with big tannins and a healthy dose of toasty oak. I wonder whether the oak will ever be completely integrated here. WB 88?.
Ruby red. Subdued nose of smoke and plum. Rather lean on the palate, with some cherry red fruits in evidence. Finishes short and abrupt. WB 84.
Dark Red. Very modern – toasty oak, vanilla, and coffee on the nose. Lots of extract, big body, dark fruits and drying tannins throughout. Best on the long finish that really fans out. Of all the wines tasted in this appellation, this one has the least Pessac character. Nonetheless, could be very good if it comes together. Needs lots of time. WB 92+.
Very dark red. Smoke and tobacco on the very reserved nose. Full-bodied on the palate, loaded with black cherries, loam and tons of vanilla oak. The long finish is very drying. In the style of the 2004 at this estate. If oak fully integrates, this could be even better than current assessment. WB 91+?
Very dark red. Powerful and noble aromas of violets, raspberry and asian spices. Medium to full-bodied in the mouth, with dark plums, licorice and mocha, all presented in a package of notable refinement. A good, rather than great vintage of Angelus, but still one of the better St Emilions of the vintage. WB 93.
Purple. Smoke, incense and flowers dominate the aromatics here. Refreshingly cool in the mouth, with dark berries, chocolate and minerally overtones abundantly present. Finishes with medium length and some dusty tannins. WB 91.
Ruby-red. Red cherries, smoke, and lavender on the nose. Red currants, wood, vitamins on the decidedly medium bodied palate. Quite refined, with no sense of heaviness, and flavors that linger for 20+ seconds on the finish. Not forced at all. WB 92.
Darkly colored, with lots of oak and violets evident on the nose. Slightly rough around the edges on the palate, with a medium body, black raspberries, toasty oak and considerable tannin which is even more evident on the 15+ second finish. WB 90.
Chateau La Dominique
Very dark, nearly opaque red. Here too the Cabernet Franc asserts itself with lavender, dried herbs and some cassis on the nose. A smooth entry with dark fruits leads to a medium-bodied palate that is quite minerally and spicy. Lots of oak evident on the finish – if it gets better integrated (and this is a big if!), this wine will merit a higher score. WB 90+?
Clear medium red. Restrained aromas of flowers and red raspberries. Some spice on the palate, with considerable tannin and an underlying herbal streak. Not in the same league as the stellar 1982, 1990 or 1998. It may ameliorate with some years in the cellar, but that’s far from a sure thing. WB 86+?.
Deep red. Nose heavy on the Cabernet Franc components, with violets and exotic spices especially strong. Shockingly sweet and suave in the mouth – nearly compote-like sweetness that’s followed by a long, minerally finish with high quality oak and very fine grained tannins that arrive quite late. The latest installment in a string of excellent wines from this Chateau. WB 94.
Chateau Franc Mayne
Ruby red. Medium-intensity nose of fresh flowers and incense. Sweet berries on the medium-bodied palate, a little monolithic in comparison to the better St. Emilions of the vintage. Finishes with adequate length and a touch of minerals. WB 89.
Chateau Grand Mayne
Deep, dark red. Noble aromas of violets, mocha, and dark cherries. Deep and vinous in the mouth, full-bodied with black raspberry, chocolate and plum notes that eventually lead to a long, minerally finish with fine tannins coming on quite late. A very impressive young wine. WB 93.
Chateau La Gaffeliere
Dark red with hints of purple. Chocolate, plum and spice on the nose. Medium-bodied and refined on the palate, with plums, sweet red cherries and exotic spices making up the flavor profile. High degree of refinement and a deft winemaking hand go al long way here. WB 93.
Deep garnet. Wild strawberry, dried herbs and a hint of mint can be found on the nose of the 2008 Larcis-Ducasse. Silky-smooth in the mouth, with a medium body and lots of red raspberries and sweet chocolate. Finishes fairly long with some oak poking through at the very end. Thoroughly modern-styled, and unabashedly hedonistic. WB 93.
Nearly opaque red. Aromatics of cassis, chocolate, spices and violets distinguish the nose of this St. Emilion offering that hails from the Côte Pavie. Powerful and dense, full bodied in the mouth with good complexity of flavors, ranging from mocha, licorice, and plum to roasted herbs and a hint of exotic spice. Suave and refined, with a strong minerally streak that is seemingly omnipresent all the way to the long, resonant finish. WB 94.
Inky purple/red. Nicely-delineated aromatics of lavender, spices and subtle vanilla and camphor. Very powerful in the mouth, with a dark berry essence and underlying minerality that just won’t quit. This shows an exhilarating sweetness/acid balance and a very long, complex finish. This superb wine really demands at least ten years in the cellar. WB 95.
Light ruby red. Rather flamboyant nose of plums, mocha and flowers. Quite sweet on the palate, with a good density and red cherry-dominated flavors. Lingers for 15 seconds on the finish. This will provide immediate pleasure. WB 90.
Intense aromatics of violets, lavender and plums. Full-bodied on the palate, with raspberry coulis, licorice and figs all in abundance. Finishes with a burst of fruit that lingers on the palate for more than 30 seconds. A very impressive Clinet – quite possibly the finest vintage here since the otherworldly 1990! WB 95.
Ruby red. Raspberries and smoky plums on the moderately intense nose. Good fruit density on the palate, with dark plums, blackberries in evidence and adequate acidity. Some oak and tannin still need to be resolved on the 20+ second finish. This should really come together after about 5-10 years in the cellar. WB 92.
Chateau La Conseillante
Deep garnet. Aromatically complex nose of red raspberries, violets, mocha and subtle oak. Light- to medium-bodied on the palate, almost deceptively airy, yet at the same time packed with red fruit and herbs. Best on the long, very minerally finish that really fans out like a peacock’s tail. A dead ringer for the 2001 tasted at a similar stage. This will really be stunning should the wine gain weight with bottle age. WB 93+.
Chateau La Lagune
Deep red with purple tinges. Camphor, spice and smoke on the nose. Medium-bodied and very dry on the palate, with lots of extract but a rather rustic style. Medium length finish. WB 90.
Translucent red. Rather reserved red berry- and herb-dominated nose. Very green on the palate, with a strong sense of underripeness. A disappointment in the context of the vintage. WB 80.
Dark red. Margaux berries and smoke make up the aromatic profile of the 2008 Cantenac-Brown. Red currants, cherries and dried herbs on the decidedly medium-bodied palate. A 15-second finish caps off this decent, but by no means standout, wine. WB 88.
Chateau Du Tertre
Red with hints of orange. Smoky nose with camphor, plum, mocha and spice – aromatically, this could be from anywhere. Red-fruited mid-palate, not overly complex at this stage, but not overdone either. By no means a blockbuster, but a nice enough drink. WB 89.
Ruby red. Elegant nose of red cherries and subtle flowers. Medium-bodied, reasonably refined on the palate, but a bit four-square at the moment. A nice, early drinking wine. WB 89.
Garnet. Penetrating nose of spices, cassis and flowers. Medium- to full-bodied, with red and black berries, plums and herbs dominating the taste buds. A note of bayleaf makes itself apparent on the 20+ second finish and adds complexity. Not for fans of very ripe meritage blends. A notch below the very successful 2000 vintage here. WB 90.
Nearly black in color. Aromatics are highlighted by cassis and toasty oak. Full-bodied and loaded with dark fruit. Very fruit-forward with a short, 10 second finish with nice licorice notes but also loads of toasty oak. Far too modern-styled and overextracted for me. WB 84.
Deep red. Cranberry and bell pepper on the nose. Light- to medium-bodied, with raspberries and green herbs in evidence. This should be drunk upon release, and does not seem fully ripe. WB 82.
Dark red. Powerful, aromatic nose of red cherries, cassis, and incense. Sweet on the entry, with black raspberry, mocha, and licorice on the medium-bodied palate. Medium-length finish with some toasty oak showing through. WB 91.
Ruby red. Cassis, lavender, and oak all make their presence known on the flamboyant nose. A smorgasbord of red and black berries on the medium-bodied palate, with some minerality for good measure. As approachable as this is now, this will really benefit from some time in the cellar. This chateau is making some of the best wines that are coming out of the Margaux appellation. WB 92+.
Deep, dark red. Dark, brooding nose of flowers, black cherries and high-quality toast. Similar on the palate, with cassis, toasty oak and considerable stuffing. Finishes with medium length and considerable tannin. Today this has all the elements of an overextracted, overoaked wine. If it ever comes together, it could merit a significantly higher score. WB 90+?
Dark garnet. Modern nose of red raspberry, asian spices and a hint oak. Medium-bodied and quite complex on the palate, with red cherries, licorice, sweet plums and minerals. Flavors really linger on the 20-25 second finish. Not a heavyweight by any means, but what great balance here! WB 93.
Smoky, musty nose with licorice, red cherry aromas – really stands out among the other wines tasted. Masculine and dark in the mouth, with lots of cassis and dark plums, a full body with fine-grained tannins on the medium-length finish. A unique wine. WB 92.
Cassis and violets on the somewhat subdued nose. In the mouth, chunky red and black raspberries, drying tannins and lots of stuffing. The overall sensation here is that of a big-framed wine that is lacking some polish. A Medium-length finish is all bitter chocolate at the moment. Wait and see on this one. WB 90+?
Chateau Langoa Barton
Dark red in color. Some red cherries and hints of blackberries on the nose. Medium bodied and rather stern on the palate, just a notch below aggressive. Certainly too austere for current enjoyment, and probably will always be marked by an excess of tannin and paucity of fruit. WB 85.
Chateau Leoville Barton
Nearly impenetrable red. Reserved nose dominated by cassis and oak, with hints of lead pencil. Serious, somewhat stern on the palate, with strong minerality, black cherries and slight oak char. Long finish of 30+ seconds. This is reminiscent of the 1995 here, and will require 10+ years for the tannins to subside enough to provide enjoyment. This one is for lovers of traditional claret. WB 92.
Deep ruby-red. Very effusive on the nose, with currants and tons of vanilla in evidence. Silky-smooth on the palate, nearly full-bodied with copious black cherries, cassis, plums and licorice all present. Long finish with omnipresent tannins. This modern-styled cellar-worthy concoction is miles away from its classically-styled, reserved neighbor Leoville-Barton. WB 94.
Very dark, nearly opaque red. Aromatic nose of camphor, violet, spice and berries. Big, bracing tannins permeate the palate, as do dark fruits, dried herbs and oak. A 25+ second finish saturates the palate. This up-and-coming estate has really been on a roll since the 2003 vintage. WB 93.
Medium intensity red. Redcurrant and asian spice note, and a slight mustiness on the nose. Medium-bodied on the palate, with a bright red fruit character and intense underlying minerality. Some oak is evident on the medium-length finish. Solid wine that needs five years in the cellar to come together. WB 90.
Cedary, aromatic nose that screams Pauillac. Medium-bodied on the palate, with cassis, licorice, minerals and a smidgeon of high-quality toasty oak. Flavors linger on the palate for more than 20 seconds after wine is swallowed. A very nice, traditional-styled Pauillac. WB 91.
Ruby-red with hints of purple. Aromatics of smoke, cassis, lead pencil and a hint of violets. Medium- to full-bodied, with cassis, dark chocolate and minerals all present on the palate. Finishes with a 20+ second burst of fruit and tannin of reasonable polish. WB 92.
Deep red. Aromatic nose redolent of cassis, with interspersed hints of cedar and flowers. Smooth on the entry, with mostly red fruit and a hint of oak on the medium-bodied palate. Slightly shorter and less dense than Clerc-Milon, but quite nice nonetheless. WB 90.
Very dark red. Rather reserved on the nose, with cassis aromas being predominant. Medium- to full bodied on the palate, with dark fruits and toast in evidence. Some tannin is pokes through on the medium-length finish. A good rather than great vintage here – closer to the 1999 than to the 1989. WB 91.
Translucent red. Fruity nose with gentle, freshly picked raspberries and hints of dried spices. Medium-bodied on the palate, with rather four-square sweet red cherries in evidence. Falls off a cliff on the short finish. This simple, but pleasant claret ought to be consumed over the short term. WB 85.
Very deep red. Noble, effusive nose of cassis, black plums and flowers. Full bodied on the palate, with a panoply of fruit, licorice and minerality and high-class refinement that really separates the 2008 Pichon-Baron from the pack. A very long, complex finish of at least 40 seconds is a fitting crescendo for this first-rate claret. Superb! WB 96.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Lighter in color than the Baron. Highly complex, aromatic nose of plums, smoke, asian spices and violets. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate, with red cherries, cranberries and chocolate all beautifully delineated. Silky-smooth, liquid cashmere-like texture effortlessly glides across the palate, leading to a long, resonant finish that leaves the taster without any doubts about the noble pedigree of this wine. WB 96.