The ten-year tasting of Bordeaux’s 2009 vintage is probably the most highly anticipated review for a number of years. Parker’s en primeur scoring of the vintage in Spring 2010, where he rated a staggering 18 wines the perfect 100 points, broke all records and moved markets.
The market timing for such a great vintage was spectacular, with the 2009 en primeur releases coinciding with the entry of a new wave of Chinese consumers into a prevailing bull market. The quality of the 2009 vintage helped drive extraordinary price heights which the market then struggled to maintain.
The industry’s current top critics tasted the key 2009 Bordeaux wines recently, at the vintage’s ten-year anniversary, and the first scores have just been published (15thMarch, 2019). Notably, the man who established 2009 as possibly ‘the greatest vintage since 1982’ will not be publishing his professional view at this key stage, or ever again. We commented recently on Parker’s rating of the 2009’s. The table shows the updated scores on Parker’s 100 point wines of the vintage just published by Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perotti-Brown MW and Neal Martin, now of Vinous.com:
|Beausejour Duffau Lagarosse||100||–||91|
|La Mission Haut Brion||100||100||97|
|Smith Haut Lafitte||100||–||94|
Parker – Robert Parker Jnr, Wine Advocate
LPB – Lisa Perotti-Brown, Wine Advocate
NM – Neal Martin, Vinous.com
Neal Martin, Parker’s original successor at Wine Advocate, is without doubt a more parsimonious wine reviewer than Parker, with under 30 100-point scores in his archives. For context Parker scored more than half that at 100 points in just this vintage. Anyone expecting similar heights from Neal Martin was setting themselves up for disappointment. He comments on the vintage; “2009 was Mother Nature’s astounding, dribbling run through the length of the growing season, weaving past tackles from frost, rain and rot, that ultimately led to the ball being placed on the penalty spot. All man had to do was score the penalty and as we all know, especially if you are an England fan, the ball does not always end up in the back of the net. So whilst Mother Nature had played its part in furnishing vignerons with a surfeit of splendid, superlative-ridden fruit that does not necessarily translate into superlative-ridden wine…in terms of consistency, 2009 falls short of 2005.” Lower scores from Martin on Cos d’Estournel and Pavie in particular are no surprise to those who follow his writing, but in the context of his generally lower scores, 2009 still counts as a spectacular vintage.
Martin highlights Latour 2009 (our favourite at one of the tastings both critics attended in February) as the only wine he was tempted to bestow anything near the perfect score on, and suggests that another five are “orbiting around planet perfection”.
Lisa Perotti-Brown is a little more effusive in her praise, and in any other context, ten 100 point scores from the Wine Advocate’s current Bordeaux specialist, she awarded Cheval Blanc 2009 100 points, upgraded from Parker’s 99 point score, would be seen as extraordinary. Both critics are happy to endorse Parker’s view that 2009 is certainly one of the greatest vintages since 1982.
The wine trade (including ourselves) is known to describe 2009 as a “Deckchair Vintage”, where winemakers only had to show up to make great wine – of course, we know that this is unfair on the vignerons! The vintage crop was rich in both quality and quantity affording winemakers the opportunity to maximise the attributes of their ‘grand vin’ by selecting only the finest lots to go into it. The First Growths also used all of this bounty to really progress the quality of their second and even third wines.
This strategy paid dividends as all of the First Growth 2009 second wines have increased in value since release, as buyers sought the exceptional quality of the wines produced by these great houses but without the grand vin price tag. Liv-ex reports that Petit Mouton leads the way up 220% and currently at its market peak at £2,400 (12 x 75cl), Pavillon Rouge has grown 92% and Carruades Lafite up 41%.
This landmark ten year tasting is perhaps an opportunity to look again at the Parker effect and whether his successive critics enjoy any similar level of influence over the market. As referred to above, Parker’s original scores at this vintage release had a significant impact on the market. A more recent example can be seen following a tasting of wines from the 2009 vintage at the Magdelena Restaurant in Baltimore in 2016, after which Parker published his opinion in the Hedonist Gazette. He commented that wines such as Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Cos d’Estournel and Montrose were all living up to their 100 point billing and that the Cos was a “monumental wine that may well go down in history as this vintage’s 1947 Cheval Blanc.” But perhaps the key illustration of Parker’s influence was as a result of his ‘unofficial’ rescore of Pape Clement 2009, which he upgraded from his original rating of 95 points to 100. Shortly after the publication Liv-ex announced a 35% increase on its trade price, up from £835 to £1,130.
In terms of any influence on trade and values when the rescores were published on Friday 15thMarch, there has been no immediate response over the weekend and trading levels have remained within current norms. It’s early days yet but what is not in question is that wines awarded 100 points by Parker will have growing collector appeal as their global supply reduces and those from his highest average scored vintage are an important focus for investors.
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