Grapelive Special Report

Bordeaux 2008 “Left Bank” Gems
By Kerry Winslow

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Regional Tasting Report

I got a chance to sample finished bottle examples of 2008 Bordeaux in late January, and here are my best wines from the “Left Bank” of Bordeaux.

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Pauillac

2008 Chateau Lynch-Bages Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac, Red Bordeaux.
I have had 1961 Lynch Bages, and a few other top vintages, and while making no claim as being an expert on the Chateau, I find the 2008 the best vintage bar none of Lynch Bages, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great value in top Bordeaux. With out question this vintage rivals any First Growth, and I would put it right up with Latour and ahead of Mouton by far, and at one-tenth the price of Lafite, the 2008 Lynch Bages seems like a steal! While other critics, most note worthy Mr. Parker, had mentioned the quality of this wine in their barrel tasting notes, I got it straight from finished bottle, and was even more impressed than I thought I could be, this is an amazing wine and a wine that could go the distance. The nose is smoky, deep and mineral laced with pencil shavings, cassis and dark flowers leading to a remarkablely pure palate that screams of powerful Cabernet in very much the same fashion as a great Chateau Latour does with black currant, blackberry, crème de cassis, bitter chocolate, tobacco, mineral spice, licorice and gun powder. Gripping ripe tannins, natural acidity and great length make it clear this is a serious Bordeaux that has more to give and a long life ahead of it.  This Lynch Bages is the best deal in Pauillac by far, with only Pontet-Canet coming close.
($150-200 Est.) 95-96 Points, grapelive

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2008 Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac, Grand Cru Classe, Red Bordeaux.
Pontet-Canet, an 1855 Cru Classe Growth, should be almost be consider a First Growth these days and since 2000 has rivaled Lafite, Mouton, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Latour for outright quality. This intensely farmed and cropped estate is pure class and quality with a make up of about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and a touch of Petit Verdot, all which add power, charm, complexity and grace to the final cuvee. I thought the 2001 Pontet-Canet was fantastic, and in my own opinion might have been the best wine of the vintage bar none, and the 2008 is right up there, and was almost equal to the mind-blowing 08 Lynch Bages, and I feel both Lynch Bages and Pontet-Canet blow doors on the First Growths when price is considered. The 2008 Pontet-Canet is vivid and vibrantly flavored with loads of blue and black fruits surging across the palate with boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry, plum and rich crème de cassis and currant notes. This Pontet-Canet is more fruit driven than the heroic 2000 and more balanced as well with ripe tannins and almost perfect oak shadings. There is a background of sage, vanilla, graphite, smoke and coffee grounds all of which heightens the fruit core and frames everything in classic fashion.
($125-175 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

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Saint-Julien


2008 Chateau Leoville Barton Cru Classe, Saint-Julien, Red Bordeaux.
The powerful and tightly wound Leoville Barton may end up the finest of Saint-Julien for the vintage, as it is hard to imagine any of the others to come together to match this wine for quality, even if it might take ten years to reach its potential. This classic Bordeaux is a rival for anything out of Margaux and Pauillac and should be seriously considered by collectors and Bordeaux lovers that what quality cellar worthy claret for the long haul. The powerful tannins and fresh acidity are perfect foils for the richness of the fruit, even if the wine is tight and stark now, as it should all come right in a few years in bottle. The depth and color are as good as it gets, while the intense black fruits grabs equal attention and the smoky oak holds it all together. I have no doubt this wine will be a classic, and maybe even a legend down the road. This Chateau is close to 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives it that massive power, 20% or so of Merlot, and a tiny bit of Cabernet Franc, usually about 3% per vintage, all of which means length and structure, though the Merlot helps round things out and gives body. This vintage like most saw about 50% new French oak, though the fruit shines and almost no oak is showing at this early stage, which bodes well for the future of this wonderful Bordeaux. Of all the Saint-Julien’s this one stood head and shoulders above the rest in this tasting. (January 2011)
($100-200 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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Margaux

2008 Chateau Brane-Cantenac Grand Cru Classe, Margaux, Red Bordeaux.
From what I tasted, I think Margaux had the worst year in 2008 of all the Bordeaux regions, though I adored the rich and lovely Brane-Cantenac and think it almost surpasses the 2000 vintage even. I did a tasting panel of 2000 Bordeaux, and the Brane-Cantenac scored very well and most serious critics have been watching this Chateau rise again in class and, I think, seen it elevate to stellar heights, only a few clicks behind Chateau Margaux. With some of the greatest history in the region, not to mention the outstanding soils, Brane-Cantenac is an elite Chateau that makes one of the great wines of the world. The first wine is made up of about 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc and the 2008 tastes pure and focused with smoky, earthy black fruits and dark opaque color, while ripe tannins keep everything in check. Best to give this rich and elegant wine some time to fill out and come together, even though it really delivers even now, lush blackberry, currant, licorice, plum and cherry load the palate and mineral, cedar and sandalwood come through in the background.
($75-120 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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Pessac-Leognan (Graves)


2008 Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte Grand Cru Classe de Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Red Bordeaux.
This vintage again is a stellar effort from Smith Haut-Laffite and showcases the wonders of Graves and is again one of the stars of the year when you factor in price with quality, as the Smith Haut-Laffite gives a lot of pleasure and class for the buck. I think Pessac did remarkablely well in 2008, only slightly out shined by Saint-Emillon for best of the vintage. While there was a few Pauillac and Pomerols that wowed too, I found overall that Pessac-Leognan and Saint-Emillon had the best overall regional consistent quality for Bordeaux, and Smith Haut-Laffite scored very high in my notes against all comers regardless of fame and address! This pure and minerally Bordeaux is all about cool clear fruit, balance and elegant length with blackberry, plum and savory currant, plus earthy leather, mint and pencil lead. The very dark garnet color seduces you and the rich mouth feel keeps you smiling, while it can age, it seems a crime not to enjoy this Bordeaux in its early days.
($80-120 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive


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2008 Chateau Haut-Bailly Grand Cru Classe, Pessac-Leognan, Red Bordeaux.
For those that can no longer afford Lafite or Haut-Brion, there can be no other choice than the outstanding Haut-Bailly, a Chateau that has now every right to claim itself one of the best, no just for value, but for total quality. I must say, the 2000 Haut-Bailly rocked my world, and on tasting the 2008, my feelings haven’t changed, and for me this is a Chateau to look to for top Bordeaux. Especially if you are going to drink it, and not solely buy to resale, as Haut-Bailly is right up there with La Mission Haut-Brion and a third of the price! The wine is made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, about 60% and with 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc adding to the blend which is known for its terroir driven flavors and lengthy elegance. The 2008 Haut-Bailly gives layers of black and blue fruits, mineral earthiness, smoky sweet oak from 50% new barrels and subtle tobacco, mocha, licorice and pencil lead. This chewy Bordeaux needs some short term cellaring to fill out and soften up, even though it is world class already!
($75-100 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


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Please note, as of March 2011, many of these wines are still available at Futures prices, so shop early to get the best deals.

Most of these are available at: www.sfwtc.com