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Ten Years On: tasting top Bordeaux 2007

Top red Bordeaux 2007

Fruitless it may be, but I couldn’t help speculating recently how the 2007 Bordeaux red wines would have turned out if this vintage had come a year later or if the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and ensuing global financial crisis had come a year earlier. The prompt was a ‘Bordeaux 10 Years On’ tasting that fine wine merchant Bordeaux Index generously puts on in London every year. The wines are high-end, largely classed growths up to and including the first growths and their Right Bank equivalent, so it’s a fascinating exercise whatever the calibre of the vintage. This year it was the turn of the 2007s (strictly speaking then, more of a nine-and-a-bit years tasting) and there were 73 wines.

No one thought 2007 was a very good vintage at the time, although it was better than anyone could have hoped at the end of August, after a difficult flowering and a cold, wet July and August. A fine, dry September turned a potentially very poor vintage into a respectable one. The grapes didn’t have the ripeness, concentration and structure of one of the better vintages, but they were mostly ripe enough and were balanced by low tannins and acids. In theory, Merlot was less good than Cabernet – the Cabernets, being later ripening, had more to gain from the good September weather – but I found the Pomerol flight one of the best of the tasting. Saint-Emilion was less consistent, as was, among the Left Bank communes, Margaux.

How would the vintage coming a year later or the world’s economic woes coming a year earlier have made a difference? The wines would have been produced with the modesty their gentle ripeness and structure deserved. Instead of which, some cellars went in for putative body-building long extractions, too much press wine and lavish use of new oak. Bordeaux has moved on since then: there isn’t a winemaker or proprietor who doesn’t talk about elegance now, extractions are gentler and new oak is used with more discrimination. I daresay the retirement of Robert Parker is not insignificant.

Idle speculation over, here are some of the highlights of the tasting which, despite the caveats above, was one of largely very enjoyable, drinkable wines. There isn’t one that you couldn’t drink already, although the best have plenty of life in them.

  • My top wines, in order, were Château Pétrus, followed by Château Latour, then Château Lafite-Rothschild (the latter in magnums).

  • My best-value votes went to Château Langoa-Barton and the cheapest wine in the tasting, Château Potensac.

Chateau Petrus

Highlights below, commune by commune, wines listed in preference order within each commune:

  • St Emilion: Château Cheval-Blanc, then a fleshy, unforced Château Angélus and an honourable mention for the very pretty and much cheaper Château Canon.

  • Pomerol: Châteaux Pétrus, Le Pin, Lafleur, Eglise-Clinet, Vieux Château Certan, Le Gay and La Conseillante.

  • Pessac-Léognan: Châteaux Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion and, at a fraction of the price, a perfumed, silky Domaine de Chevalier.

  • Margaux: Château Margaux, then Château Palmer (although I noted “not the usual Palmer presence and perfume”).

  • Saint-Julien: Châteaux Léoville Las Cases and Léoville-Barton; the cheaper sibling wines of these two, Clos du Marquis and Langoa Barton, respectively, were also both good.

  • Pauillac: Châteaux Latour, Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Pichon-Longueville Baron, Les Forts de Latour and, markedly cheaper, a fragrant, elegant Pontet-Canet.

  • Saint-Estèphe: Cos D’Estournel.

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