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01.26.2009

The Best 2006 Bordeaux: Tasting the Union des Grands Crus

ugcb_logo.gifEvery Spring the wine world begins to buzz with the anticipation of tasting through the latest vintage of Bordeaux. I've never been to the En Primeurs tastings, but I would like to go sometime to see the pomp and circumstance, but not really to taste the wines. Young Bordeaux are some of the most difficult and unpleasant wines to taste in the entire universe, especially when they're not made particularly well.

A tasting of the 2006 vintage a few days ago, sponsored by the Union de Grands Crus des Bordeaux, was a both a good reminder to not open any of my own Bordeaux for a few more years, as well as an insightful view into particulars of that vintage in the region.

In general, I'm not impressed. The last time I tasted through a significant cross section of Bordeaux was for the 2002 which seemed to be more consistent in its quality.

The 2006 vintage in Bordeaux was variable due to some unexpected weather at various points in the growing cycle -- cool early on, some heat spikes in August, and then some rainfall around harvest time. Crop yields were down in general, and this was apparently a year where the decision on when to pick your grapes could have a dramatic impact on the quality of the wine that you produced. Some got their grapes in during beautifully sunny, dry weather, while others battled rains into September.

Overall, the vintage, to my palate, has resulted in some extremely tannic wines, many of which lean towards the bitter side of the spectrum. Not surprisingly, as a group the wines continue to be marked by a surfeit of new oak, regardless of whether the wines are structured to accommodate this choking dose of wood. grand_crus.jpg The result are wines whose true character are obscured by vanilla and toast, as winemakers in the region seem obstinate in their insistence on new, toasty oak.

It didn't register at the time I was tasting all these wines, but on reflection it seems that the Right Bank wines were more to my taste in this vintage than the Left (which is not my usual order of preference, as I generally favor Margaux over others).

The red wine that most impressed me of the tasting was the Chateau Angelus, which struck me as being clearly the best made wine in the room, but still was not as extraordinary as it has been in better vintages. With time, however, the 2006 will clearly be a fantastic wine.

The white wines of Graves, Pessac-Leognan, and Sauternes (albeit via the somewhat limited view that this tasting afforded) seemed quite good, with excellent acids and great flavors. When it comes to favorites in this department, there's simply no contest. Both Chateau Climens and Suduiraut were in rare form.

In short, I wouldn't recommend anyone rush out and buy these wines when they hit the market here in a couple of months, unless you're in the habit of squirreling away a few top bottlings for a couple of decades, and aren't short of cash to do so. If I was going to spend more than $50 on a bottle of Bordeaux right now, I'd be buying the 1996 vintage at auction.


2006 Bordeaux Grand Cru Red Wine

RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2006 Château Angélus, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. $190. Where to buy?
2006 Château Beau - Séjour Bécot, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. $60. Where to buy?
2006 Château Beauregard, Pomerol. $45. Where to buy?
2006 Château Canon - La - Gaffelière, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. $75. Where to buy?
2006 Château Grand - Mayne, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château Haut - Bailly, Pessac-Léognan. $60. Where to buy?
2006 Château Kirwan, Margaux. $45. Where to buy?
2006 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan. $65. Where to buy?
2006 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac. $115. Where to buy?
2006 Château Rauzan - Ségla, Margaux. $70. Where to buy?

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2006 Château Beychevelle, Saint Julien
2006 Château Cantenac-Brown, Margaux
2006 Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Clinet, Pomerol
2006 Château Croizet-Bages, Pauillac
2006 Château d' Armailhac, Pauillac
2006 Château de Chantegrive, Graves
2006 Château Figeac, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château Giscours, Margaux
2006 Château La Couspaude, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château Larcis Ducasse, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château Malartic - Lagravière, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Ormes De Pez, Saint Estephe
2006 Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Petit-Village, Pomerol
2006 Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac
2006 Château Smith Haut-Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Troplong Mondot, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Clos Fourtet, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan

RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2006 Château Batailley, Pauillac
2006 Château Beaumont, Haut Médoc
2006 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
2006 Château Canon, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château Chasse - Spleen, Moulis en Médoc
2006 Château Clarke, Listrac Médoc
2006 Château Clerc Milon, Pauillac
2006 Château d'Angludet, Margaux
2006 Château Dassault, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château de Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château de France, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Chateau Desmirail, Margaux
2006 Château Durfort Vivens, Margaux
2006 Château Franc Mayne, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château Lafon - Rochet, Saint Estephe
2006 Château Lagrange, Saint Julien
2006 Château Larrivet - Haut - Brion, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Lascombes, Margaux
2006 Château Léoville Poyferré, Saint Julien
2006 Château Lynch - Bages, Pauillac
2006 Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Margaux
2006 Château Olivier, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Pavie - Macquin, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2006 Château Bouscaut, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Camensac, Haut Médoc
2006 Château Dauzac, Margaux
2006 Château du Tertre, Margaux
2006 Château Gazin, Pomerol
2006 Château Greysac, Médoc
2006 Château Gruaud Larose, Saint Julien
2006 Château Haut - Bages Libéral, Pauillac
2006 Château La Tour de By, Médoc
2006 Château Labegorce, Margaux
2006 Château Larmande, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château Latour - Martillac, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Marquis de Terme, Margaux
2006 Château Phélan Ségur, Saint Estephe
2006 Château Pichon - Longueville, Pauillac
2006 Château Rauzan Gassies, Margaux
2006 Château Talbot, Saint Julien

RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2006 Château Branaire - Ducru, Saint Julien
2006 Château Cantemerle, Haut Médoc
2006 Château Ferrière, Margaux
2006 Château Fourcas-Hosten, Listrac Médoc
2006 Château Grand - Puy - Ducasse, Pauillac
2006 Château L' Évangile, Pomerol
2006 Château La Gaffelière, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château La Louvière, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château La Tour Carnet, Haut Médoc
2006 Château Lynch - Moussas, Pauillac
2006 Château Poujeaux, Moulis en Médoc
2006 Château Prieuré - Lichine, Margaux
2006 Château Saint-Pierre, Saint Julien
2006 Château Trottevieille, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2006 Château La Dominique, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
2006 Château La Lagune, Haut Médoc

2006 Bordeaux Grand Cru White Wine

WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2006 Château Climens, Sauternes et Barsac. $90. Where to buy?
2006 Château Suduiraut, Sauternes et Barsac. $70. Where to buy?

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2006 Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan. $50. Where to buy?
2006 Château Doisy Daëne, Sauternes et Barsac. $38. Where to buy?

WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2006 Château Bastor-Lamontagne, Sauternes et Barsac
2006 Château Guiraud, Sauternes et Barsac
2006 Château Sigalas - Rabaud, Sauternes et Barsac
2006 Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2006 Château Bouscaut, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château de Chantegrive, Graves
2006 Château de Rayne Vigneau, Sauternes et Barsac
2006 Château La Tour Blanche, Sauternes et Barsac
2006 Château Malartic - Lagravière, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan

WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2006 Château Coutet, Sauternes et Barsac
2006 Château de Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château de France, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Larrivet - Haut - Brion, Pessac-Léognan
2006 Château Latour - Martillac, Pessac-Léognan

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2006 Château Olivier, Pessac-Léognan

WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2006 Château La Louvière, Pessac-Léognan

Comments (10)

David Scott wrote:
01.27.09 at 7:15 PM

Good to see the 2006 Château Beychevelle in there. I bought four bottles of the 2004, before the 91 rating from Wine Enthusiast (not that their ratings hold much weight with me anyway). I'm definitely a left bank kind of guy, although they're producing some semi-intriguing stuff across the river (Cotes de Bourg), like the Tayac, which is usually more affordable. Supposedly there's a small production white from there, not sure what grape it would be though.

Morton Leslie wrote:
01.27.09 at 9:58 PM

Had a '98 Haut Brion last night. It wasn't pleasant. Nice youthful aroma, but tough and rough, and hard to quaff. So, we invest 9 years in the cellar and what do we get? The opportunity to open a bottle which tells us that it will take at least another 9 years? These wines should sell at a discount for what we have to endure.

Albert wrote:
01.28.09 at 10:06 AM

How about the 2005s? I was in the same event at the Hyatt Hotel in Los Angeles last Saturday. Both 2005 and 2006 were served side by side. I was wired after an hour. Now I am seriously considering going to La Paulee in New York.

Alder wrote:
01.28.09 at 10:16 AM

I have not had the opportunity to really taste through the 2005s comprehensively, so I'm not in a position to offer any judgements about them, other than the fact that they're massively overpriced.

Dennis Mitchell wrote:
01.28.09 at 5:12 PM

I taste a lot of Bordeaux and find the 2002s the weakest vintage of the decade, so far. The 2006s are far superior to my taste.

Some questions:

What are readers to make of all these numerical scores when you don't add some sort of characterization of the wines?

How did Doisy Daene get so expensive?

How can it be such a modest vintage when there are so many wines meriting 8.5 to 9.5/10 scores?

Curious.

Alder wrote:
01.28.09 at 5:25 PM

Dennis,

When I report from large tasting events, all I report are scores. There are two reasons for this: 1) large tastings like this are the absolute worst place to make notes about a wine. A proper and accurate tasting note should be made in a controlled environment when possible, and not after tasting 100 other wines. 2) at events like this, part of the value I get (and which readers may or may not agree with) is the ability to compare the relative quality of wine across a great (or in this case ALL the wines on offer). Scoring 120 wines makes that possible, whereas tasting notes on 30 would not. And the time it would take to make tasting notes on 30 would mean that I couldn't taste them all, which is important to me.

Finally, the fact that none of the reds rose above a 9/9.5 on my scale means that this vintage ain't so fantastic in my opinion. Granted, none of the first growths were there and only about 50% of the second growths were, but those that were have been better, and some were better in my opinion in 2002.

May have quoted the wrong price on Doisy Daene in my haste.

Alder wrote:
01.28.09 at 5:30 PM

For Dennis and anyone else who hasn't read it, here's how I score and review wines.

Albert wrote:
02.01.09 at 9:21 AM

From the offer sheet of Wally's Wine for the Los Angeles UGC tasting, the cost of 2006 Doisy Daene is $38.99 if you were a participant, where regular price is $48.99.

Walid Romaya wrote:
02.02.09 at 9:46 PM

Hi Alder,
It was nice meeting you at the tasting at the UDGC event in SF. I tried in vain to taste all the wines (impossible as I was taping my interviews with the winemakers), however, I had a few favorites such as Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere, Chateau Dassault, Chateau La Couspaude and Chateau Coutet (Barsac). So yes I agree that it seemed a better right bank than left bank vintage year but in reality like you said it is so hard to do a proper tasting in such events and that the scores are just relative and a good number of these wines will change significantly before they are drunk. I also talked to a lot of the winemakers and they were overall very conscious of the big shadow that the 2005 vintage has over 2006 and beyond.

Jason Chiu wrote:
11.04.10 at 11:35 PM

This summer, I have tasted six clarets from vintage 2006, and I agree that they are tannic and backwards. Except possibly for Malescot, I would not touch any before 2014. However, I cannot agree they were more erratic and inconsistent than the 2002s at four years. From memory, the notes are

Chateau Talbot - tasted at Saint Julien Restaurant 29.06.2010 - hasn't really integrated, restrained and muted.
Chateau La Lagune - tasted at the chateau 29.06.2010 - monolithic and oaky. Compared to the concentrated and full-flavoured 2005, my favourite from the property, this is unexciting.
Pavilion de Margaux - tasted at the chateau 01.07.2010 - forward, a bit ripe and nearly international.
Chateau Margaux - tasted at the chateau 01.07.2010 - firm structure, red fruit and cassis, great elegance and purity. Though a merely good Margaux.
Chateau Malescot Saint Exupery - tasted in San Francisco 13.07.2010 - plush and a bit more forward than the others, this is the one I would select from this vintage.
Chateau Dauzac - tasted 04.11.2010 at home - red berries and extremely tannic, a bit simplistic.


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