Bordeaux 2004 – you can get value claret!
Classed-growth Bordeaux prices have gone bonkers in recent years. It has become prohibitive for many wine lovers and it feels like those with the money are treating these masterpieces as articles of visual art as opposed to a sensation for the nose and taste buds… but maybe I’m just jealous; in fact I know I am.
I have very few bottles from the 1855 classification in my personal collection; there are a handful that I picked up on my trip to the region in the summer of 2013 a couple of others I have picked up over the years when the price has been right. I have gone to other locations to get my fix of Cabernet Sauvignon, whether exploring the New World or the lesser-known satellites of Bordeaux. But sometimes, only the real thing will do.
I recently attended a horizontal tasting of seven wines from the 2004 vintage at the West London Wine School and was suitably impressed by the wines… and the prices. I have written a dozen times that we place far too much emphasis on stellar vintages in the wine world; the most important factor should always be the producer. 2004 was descried as a “classic” vintage by the Bordelaise… but these guys know how to make great wine whatever the conditions. So if the prices of 2005, 2009 and 2010 are giving you heart palpitations, look out for 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008… there are some (relative!) bargains to be had and it is still possible to affordably drink classed growth claret.
Château Prieuré-Lichine 2004, Margaux 4CC (The Wine Society £35.00)
The first time I’ve tried a wine from this château, which is produced from 80 separate parcels spread across wide area in Margaux. The nose is earth and cherries upfront, ahead of the blackcurrant, sweet baking spice, a touch of cedar and just a hint of hard green herbs. The fruit on the palate is clean and pure but there is a stalky-green note in the background. The tannins are grainy and the structure is good but there’s just not enough acidity to bring the whole thing together. Great nose, decent palate. 90 points
Château Rauzan-Segla 2004, Margaux 2CC (The Wine Society £45.00)
An extremely elegant and gentle nose where the black fruits creep up on you rather than whack you between the eyes. As well as the blackcurrant and black cherries there is a delightful wash of vanilla and a regal polish to the aromas. The texture is silky-smooth and acidity is crisp and fresh; seep black fruit and dark spice, serious concentration and a classy earthy finish. Deceptively powerful and entering its drinking window; a very good wine. 93 points
Clos de Marquis 2004, St Julien (Fine & Rare £42.00)
The second wine of Château Leoville-las-Cases, a château that believes it should be a first-growth and an ego to go with it. On the nose the fruit comes across as jammy and over-extracted as well as a little musty. There is plenty of expensive oak and spice but not one that gets me salivating. The texture is delightfully elegant and there is plenty of black fruit… but not a lot more. Approachable but linear – I would be happy if it cost £15! 88 points
Château Leoville-Barton 2004, St Julien 2CC (The Wine Society £45.00)
Lots of rich and pure blackcurrant on the nose with sweet spice, cedar, hint of graphite and even a touch of eucalyptus. The same pure fruit comes through on the palate, but the palate is delicate and elegant. Layer upon layer of fruit and spice, all balanced by a thrilling acidity. Lots of classic Barton here – a great example of a craftsman making a quality wine in a mediocre vintage; great stuff as usual 93 points
Château Grabd-Puy Ducasse 2004, Pauillac 5CC (The Wine Society £33.00)
Aromas of broody dark fruit and some gravelly notes, with a touch of dark spice and something a bit savoury – bay perhaps? Warm alcohol on the attack and some quite unpleasant astringency – a real lack of acidity. There is some rich dark fruit there, but very little to get excited about. I just can’t get excited about this at all – the only dud of the tasting. 82 points
Château Batailley 2004, Pauillac 5CC (The Wine Society £29.00)
Pleasant blackcurrant and sweet spice on the nose with a lovely earthy undertone and a touch of pencil shaving. Lovely concentration on the palate with cassis-like fruit and a chunky body. Powerful and concentrated, very Pauillac, great value. 92 points
Château Clerc-Milon 2004, Pauillac 5CC (Berry Brothers £58.00)
Rich fruit with an underlying earthiness, even a hint of roasted meat. There is plenty of dusty, dried spice and as well as a fresh hit of mint. Supple and silky on the palate with luxurious and concentrated black fruit all nicely balanced with good acidity and a minty freshness. There is plenty of life ahead of this baby and plenty of enjoyment to be had. 93 points