Special Report: Bordeaux 2005 Tasting Notes

The following notes are based on barrel samples tasted (unblinded) at the chateaux, at an unblinded tasting organized by the Cercle Rive Droite de Grands Vins de Bordeaux, an association of Right Bank producers, an unblinded tasting organized by Bill Blatch, a respected négociant, or at blind tastings organized by the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux. In most cases, the final blend had not been made. The samples were supposed to be “representative,” but as Alain Raynaud, Président of the Circle de Rive Droite pointed out, “we can not guarantee the samples.”

Alter Ego de Château Palmer (Margaux) 2005: Forward and charming, this other wine from Château Palmer’s vineyards is rich and ripe, with attractive, smoky elements and mild tannins. 89

Château l’Angélus (St. Émilion) 2005: The most amazing asset of this powerhouse of a wine is its grace and a finish that seemingly lasts forever. A gorgeous combination of intensity and finesse, the fruit slices through the tannins effortlessly. 96-98

Château d’Angludet (Margaux) 2005: Bright black fruit and ripe balancing tannins make another winning wine from the Margaux district. 90

Château d’Armailhac (Pauillac) 2005: This property has been on a streak since at least 2000 and it continues with the 2005. A blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 29 percent Merlot, 10 Cabernet Franc and one percent Petit Verdot, the 2005 is fresh with layers of minerals and black fruit. Tannins are certainly evident, but not intrusive. 90-92

Château Ausone (St.-Émilion) 2005: Wow! The vines average 50 years of age and sit atop a unique terroir, which helps explain how this classy wine can be filled with such a combination of ripe, lush black fruit and roasted flavors, minerals and earth. There’s an extra dimension here that lights up your taste buds. The flavors are fresh, not heavy, and the tannins are silky, not aggressive. The texture is luxurious. Naturally, there’s just a perfect balance of oak with every other component. 100

Bahans-Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Representing more than half of the harvest at Haut Brion, the second wine is stunning, in part because they included a large portion (30 percent) of very high quality Cabernet Franc that just didn’t make into the final blend of Haut Brion. The best second wine of all, it is harmonious, suave and spicy, but extraordinarily powerful and concentrated without being out of bounds. 95

Château Balestard La Tonnelle (St. Émilion) 2005: Slightly overripe and hot, this powerful wine will appeal to some, but for me, the burn of the alcohol detracts. 85

Château Batailley (Pauillac) 2005: A great roasted nose correctly predicts a wine packed with minerality and balanced by fine, not overbearing tannins. A long, sweet fruit finish completes the picture. 92-94

Château Beauregard (Pomerol) 2005: Densely packed, this wine comes across to me as over-extracted and dominated by tannins. But those who appreciate this style will love its power. 85

Château Beaumont (Haut Médoc) 2005: Plush and forward, this charming Cru Bourgeois has milder tannins and should be delightful to drink relatively soon after release. Judging from pricing of past vintages, it should be a great buy. 86

Château Béau Sejour-Bécot (St. Émilion) 2005: A massive wine both in terms of ripe sweet fruit and tannins, it is remarkably well balanced. The tannins are ripe, not aggressive. Luscious black fruit flavors trail off in the finish. A fabulous accomplishment! 95-96

Château Belair (St. Émilion) 2005: Black dense fruit follows a great nose before an onslaught of tannins saturates your mouth. But the fruit ultimately wins, blasting through into the finish, where there are notes of juicy black licorice. It may lack the elegance of Magdelaine, another Christian Moueix property, but it is balanced and not over the top. 92

Château Berliquet (St. Émilion) 2005: Plenty of power and a long, sweet, concentrated finish suggest greatness. Lacks only the beautiful balance of the best from St. Émilion. 90-92

Château Beychevelle (St. Julien) 2005: Tasted blind with a variety of wines from the Haut-Médoc, the class of the AOC was apparent immediately. But big tannins almost masked the bright fruit and its lack of elegance made it disappointing compared to many others from St. Julien. 85

Blason d’Issan (Margaux) 2005: This, the second wine of d’Issan, represented 40 percent of their production in 2005 and explains why the grand vin is so good. Blason will be a killer value because it’s supple, has an intriguing meaty character, and should not be expensive. 88

Château Bourgneuf-Vayron (Pomerol) 2005: Ripe tannins balance the mineral-infused spicy flavors in this luxuriously textured wine. With the 2003 selling at retail for $35, the 2005 could be a great buy. 92-93

Château Bouscaut (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Bouscaut, never one of my favorites, made a fabulous wine in this vintage. Big and bold, it’s still firmly planted in Pessac-Léognan with layers of earthiness, ash and a fresh finish. 93-94

Château Branaire-Ducru (St. Julien) 2005: This Branaire will require patience because its power and elegance is underpinned by substantial structure. Ultimately, though, it will deliver great enjoyment. 91

Château Branda (Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion) 2005: This sweet, herbal, lush wine has moderate complexity, length and balance. It should be a great value because the wines from the satellite communes of Saint-Émilion are rarely expensive. 89

Château Brane-Cantenac (Margaux) 2005: Plenty tannic, this plush wine filled with black fruit is long, rich and balanced. A great nose and spice in the finish add an extra dimension. 91-93

Château Camensac (Haut Médoc) 2005: There’s plenty of ripe black fruit and density to balance the plentiful tannins. It should be another good buy. 86-87

Château Canon (St. Émilion) 2005: A giant wine loaded with juicy black cherry fruit draped over sturdy but ripe tannins. Despite its size and extraction, it’s a balanced wine. 93-95

Château Cap de Mourlin (St. Émilion) 2005: Another monster-sized wine from the Right Bank, the tannins obscure the considerable fruit in the middle. The nose and finish suggests this wine might evolve nicely. 88-90

Château Carbonnieux (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Another classically structured wine from Pessac-Léognan, Carbonnieux contains the right balance of earth, plummy fruit and attractive smoky elements. An intense wine, it retains elegance. With the 2000 and 2003 still selling for $35-40 in New York, the 2005 should be well-priced for what it delivers. 93-94

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Typical ash and earth of Pessac-Léognan intertwined with juicy fruit complemented by firm structure bodes well for this captivating wine. 92-94

Carruades de Lafite (Pauillac) 2005: The floral notes — violets — and the elegance of the wine scream Lafite. The tannins here are just slightly coarser, but only when tasted side-by-side with the grand vin. You can see why the first wine, Château Lafite-Rothschild, is so wonderful because they remove what most people would consider perfectly fine wine to make Carruades. Again, compared to the price of Château Lafite-Rothschild, this will be a great buy. 90

Château Certan de May de Certan (Pomerol) 2005: A pretty, floral nose gives way to ripe, balanced sweet fruit, which shines brightly despite the considerable tannins. 92-94

Château de Chantegrive (Graves) 2005: Ripe fruit mixed with a hint of the earthiness of Graves makes this forward wine a good buy for relatively early drinking. 85

La Chapelle de la Mission (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: The second wine of La Mission is a great success in 2005. Comprising 43 percent of the production, it is a stunning blend of 30 percent Merlot, 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Cabernet Franc. Ripe and full bodied, it is remarkably suave for its size. 92

Château Cheval Blanc (St. Émilion) 2005: Pierre Lurton, manager of Cheval Blanc, says: “Excuse my excitement, this is a grand, grand Cheval & that combines the elegance of 1998 and the power of 2000.” It is certainly a grand wine with a fabulous nose, explosive black cherry fruit and a succulent, slightly gamey, meaty finish. The tannins of this exotic wine are nicely polished. 95-97

Château Citran (Haut Médoc) 2005: This Cru Bourgeois delivers considerable complexity, hints of black cherries, refreshing acidity and supple tannins. 88

Château Clarke (Listrac) 2005: This meaty, chewy, dense wine has plenty of stuffing to balance the tannins. This could be a great buy. 90-92

Château Clerc Milon (Pauillac) 2005: A blend of 48 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 percent Merlot, 10 percent Cabernet Franc, one percent each of Petit Verdot and, believe it or not, Carménère, Cler Milon is another winning wine from Pauillac. Full of minerals and cassis wrapped in fine tannins, it’s a delight. 90-92

Clos les Lunelles (Côtes de Castillon) 2005: A blend of 80 percent Merlot and 10 percent each Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is fragrant, but the new oak has yet to integrate and detracts at this stage. Can wine from this humble AOC stand up to this much aging in new oak? 85

Clos de Marquis (St. Julien) 2005: Technically not the second wine of stable mate Léoville-Las-Cases because it comes from its own distinct vineyards across the road. Its polished, classy style is apparent in this vintage. As expected, more forward and less intense than its neighbor, it’s long and still packs plenty of structure. 88-92

Château Clos de Sarpe (St.-Émilion) 2005: By all rights this is not my style of wine. It underwent a seven-week maceration in new wood and weighs in with at least 14 percent alcohol. Nonetheless, this powerhouse still emphasizes mouth-filling fruit. Oak and tannins are present, to be sure, but very much in the background. 92

Cos d’Estournel (St. Estèphe) 2005: More polished than Montrose, perhaps because the vineyards border Pauillac, but less distinctive, this Cos has power and tannins at the expense of elegance at this stage. The nose is wonderfully expressive, but the fruit is buried under a ton of tannin. 88

Cos Labory (St. Estèphe) 2005: With hints of earth in the nose and drying tannins in the finish, its origins in St. Estèphe are clear. Lacking balancing ripe fruit, it comes across as an austere wine. 84

Château Coufran (Haut Médoc) 2005: Firmer tannins and more structure means more patience, but you will be rewarded because there’s plenty of ripe, plush black fruit. 86-87

Château la Couspade (St. Émilion) 2005: Despite the heady, captivating nose, the formidable tannins suffocate the fruit. A little peeks out in the finish, but overall the tannins dominate. 87

Château Le Crock (St. Estèphe) 2005: Located between Château Montrose and Cos d’Estournel, the 2005 Le Cock is a luscious blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cabernet Franc, and 5 percent Petit Verdot. Very ripe fruit, especially in the finish, balances the significant tannins. It should be a great buy. 87-89

La Croix de Beaucaillou, (St. Julien) 2005: Consumers should seriously consider buying the second wines of those properties whose grand vin fetches prices that exceed their budget. Tasted side by side with Ducru, La Croix de Beaucaillou only lacks the polish and power of its big brother. Tasted by itself, it is a lovely wine with excellent depth, balance and great finish. 88

La Croix de Gay (Pomerol) 2005: A great nose and meaty flavors hit you just before the tannins grab your tongue. Fortunately, lovely sweet fruit emerges in the finish. 88-89

Château Croizet-Bages (Pauillac) 2005: This herbal, light wine lacks everything a Pauillac should deliver, especially in this vintage. 75

Château Dassault (St. Émilion) 2005: Intense but ripe tannins grab your attention, but underlying them, the fruit persists. Another example of power over elegance. 90

Château Dauzac (Margaux) 2005: Here’s a winner from a lesser-known Cru Classe. Dense and lush black fruit explodes through the tannins. Smoky and gamey notes add complexity, all with the plushness of Margaux. 91-94

Domaine de Chevalier (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: A classic example of Pessac-Léognan, Domaine de Chevalier delivers on the palate what the fabulous nose suggests: a jumble of burnt earth and layers of ripe fruit. It’s long and harmonious. 95

Château La Dominique (St.-Émilion) 2005: This long, perfumed and layered wine conveys less power than many others from the Right Bank, but it still has plenty of punch — this is still the 2005 vintage. The harmonious balance and elegance make it a winner. 90-92

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou (St. Julien) 2005: Owner Bruno Borie is justifiably proud of is 2005 Ducru. He noted the weather was absolutely perfect. The seven-and-a-half percent more sunlight than average (due to less rain and fewer cloudy days) allowed for more photosynthesis and better ripeness, especially for Cabernet Sauvignon. (It was first time the chateau also harvested olives). He noted that “the Merlot and Cabernet were very similar to one another. One could taste the terroir, but not necessarily the varietal,” which he thinks this is the definition of a great vintage. Their blend, one-third Merlot and two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon, turned out to be their ideal blend without even trying. Rather big for Ducru, it is nonetheless well balanced, long and complex with an intriguing meaty component. It’s a wine with a formidable combination of power and structure without aggressive tannins. It’s a marvelous Ducru and easy to see why Borie is smiling. 95-98

Château Duhart-Milon (Pauillac) 2005: Yet another impressive Pauillac that has the potential of being affordable. It delivers minerality with finesse. Rich black fruit covers its firm tannins nicely. 90-91

Château l’Évangile (Pomerol) 2005: A great nose signals delights to come. A roasted, gamey quality mixed with dark black fruit fills the mouth. The ample tannins are firm, not green nor drying, and balance the other elements. 91-94

Les Fiefs de Lagrange (St. Julien) 2005: The second wine of Château Lagrange, Les Fiefs, always a great value, is especially so in 2005. It of course lacks the exquisite polish and elegance of the grand vin, but has pure fresh fruit flavors and exceptional length. 88

Château de Fieuzal (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: A winning wine, Fieuzal has great penetrating earth, smoke and fruit. Its length and balance is exceptional. 95-96

Château Figeac (St. Émilion) 2005: The gorgeous nose and seemingly endless finish are the clues that this will be a great Figeac. In between is a dense, tannic but balanced wine, full of lovely black cherry fruit, that is remarkably fresh. The wine has finesse despite its size. 92-95

Château Fleur Cardinale (St.-Émilion) 2005: Attractive floral nose, but the wood tannins intrude and put it out of balance. 83

Château de Fonbel (St.-Émilion) 2005: Made by the Vauthier family, the owners of Chateau Ausone, this is a classically structured, wonderfully refined wine filled with plump black fruit. 88-90

Les Forts de Latour (Pauillac) 2005: Latour’s second wine in 2005 is as stunning as some producers’ grand vin. It has explosive flavors, great length and harmony. It only lacks the extraordinary elegance of Château Latour, but at a fraction of the price, it is a savvy purchase. 93

Château Forcas-Dupré (Listrac) 2005: In 2005 many of the properties further from the river in Listrac and Moulis made very good wines that are likely to be priced for normal people. Forcas-Dupré delivers pure ripe fruit with remarkably supple tannins. A longish finish completes an attractive picture. 87-89

Château Forcas Hosten (Listrac) 2005: It’s reassuring to see so many excellent wines from Listrac because they never command the prices of the wines from better known villages. This Cru Bourgeois has produced a wine with ripe, sweet black fruit offset by firm but fine tannins. Should be a good buy. 86-88

Château de France (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Riper and meatier than many others from Pessac-Léognan, it nonetheless retains the expected smoky elements. A juicy, fresh finish and balanced tannins harmonize nicely. It should be a good buy since I have seen the 2000 selling for about $35 in New York. 90-92

Château Franc-Mayne (St. Émilion) 2005: The beginning and end of this wine — the nose and finish — are gorgeous while the middle comes across as burly and overdone. It’s not my style, but will appeal to many consumers who relish this kind of intensity. 88

Château Le Gay (Pomerol) 2005: Lush blackberry-like fruit and roasted flavors sit atop, but are not hidden by, firm structure. 90

Château Gazin (Pomerol) 2005: Big and dense, it borders on over-extraction, but manages to pull it off by providing a great perfumed nose and luxurious finish. 92

Chateau Giscours (Margaux) 2005: This property is back with a bang. Big and solid, the firm, ripe tannins support the intense fruit through to a lovely juicy black cherry finish. Another property where the price tag may lag the quality in the bottle. 92-94

Château Grand-Mayne (St. Émilion) 2005: A great nose of toasty oak and ripe fruit should spell great things to follow. But alas, to my taste, the searing wood tannins dominate. Wonderful ripe fruit elements tantalize in the finish. It’s not my style, but I’m sure it has its admirers. 85

Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse (Pauillac) 2005: This fifth-growth, a less well-known property, made a wonderful wine in 2005. There is plenty of tannin, but the dense roasted fruit flavors blast through and persist, making for a balanced, long wine. What a pleasant surprise. 90-92

Château Gruaud Larose (St. Julien) 2005: A fabulous wine, Gruaud Larose in 2005 hit the mark. Its class is apparent immediately from a fragrant lovely roasted nose. Plush and filled with minerality, it has great length and balance. 92-95

Château Haut-Bailly (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Concentrated and ripe, Haut-Bailly still retains the signature earthy burnt ash quality of this locale. Lovely balance holds it all together. 90-95

Château Haut-Bages-Libéral (Pauillac) 2005: A great success in this vintage, this fifth growth has an exotic nose of Chinese spices. On the palate it shows very ripe cassis flavors more than the typical minerality of Pauillac. Lush, with moderate tannins, it is nicely balanced with a long, layered finish. There is an exciting extra dimension to this wine. 93-95

Château Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Amazingly, it comprises less than half of the total production, the remainder going into the second wine, Bahans-Haut-Brion. A massive wine, but beautifully balanced, the nose is filled with an ash/black fruit mixture, characteristic of Pessac. Ripe and succulent, the layers of fruit are never ending. Not quite the size of La Mission, it is more elegant and refined with brighter fruit in the finish. I prefer it to La Mission because of the extraordinary finesse and length for a wine of its size. 100

Château Haut-Carles (Fronsac) 2005: Fronsac and other “lesser” AOC turned in some excellent wines as long as the producers resisted the urge to over extract and try to “balance” the ripe fruit with too much oak aging. Haut-Carles succeeded nicely to produce this very ripe, lush and balanced wine packed with black fruit. Somewhat simple at this stage, it should evolve nicely 87-89

Château Hosanna (Pomerol) 2005: A delicious wine infused with penetrating flavors of meat and minerals that practically overwhelm the formidable tannins. And like so many of the Moueix wines, there’s freshness in the fruit that gives the wine buoyancy. 92-94

Château d’Issan (Margaux), 2005: Said Emmanuel Cruse, d’Issan’s Technical Director: “It is the best vintage we ever had.” This is a powerful yet suave wine. Balanced and filled to the brim with succulent black fruit, it has slightly meaty undertones and polished tannins. It has the quintessential velvet quality of Margaux. Although prices for d’Issan have risen, they still lag behind quality. 93-95

Château Kirwan (Margaux) 2005: Silky and plush, the supple ripe tannins coat the mineral-infused flavors. There’s plenty of structure in this ripe and balanced wine to guarantee wonderful evolution. 90-92

Château Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac) 2005: Rarely as concentrated or as overt as Latour, Lafite always sneaks up on you to wow you with its elegance and finesse. A subdued wine, it impresses with its length and suaveness. Floral notes mingle with minerality. Fine, almost silky tannins complete the package. 96-98

Château Lafon-Rochet (St. Estèphe) 2005: Although it has a great nose of ripe fruit and earth, drying tannins strangle its flavors. The lush fruit in the finish suggests it will come together with time, but consumers will require patience. 86-88

Château La Lagune (Haut Médoc) 2005: Always reasonably priced, the 2005 La Lagune should be a great buy. A lovely black fruit nose, moderate tannins and a lasting finish make for a balanced wine. 90

Château Lagrange (St. Julien) 2005: Ever since Marcel Ducasse assumed responsibility for the property in the early 1980s, the wines have just gotten better and better. Fortunately, the prices have not kept pace with the quality. Let’s hope that continues for the 2005, which is a terrific wine. It’s a bundle of minerals and cassis wrapped in a velvet coating. It has more in common with the wines of Pauillac than usual, but that may just be the character of the vintage. Elegance and polish trumps shear power. 93-95

Château Lalande-Borie (St. Julien) 2005: A Cru Bourgeois, Lalande-Borie is a juicy, somewhat forward but still concentrated, solid wine that I expect will offer good value. 86-88

Château Langoa-Barton (St. Julien) 2005: Ripe dense fruit in the finish manages to peek out through powerful tannins. This wine will come around slowly. 89

Château Larmande (St. Émilion) 2005: This fragrant, voluptuous long wine is beautifully balanced by firm tannins that don’t overwhelm the gorgeous fruit elements. 94-96

Château Lascombes (Margaux) 2005: Plush and lush, long and layered, this is a wonderful wine. Here is another property whose price has not yet caught up with its quality. 90-93

Château Latour (Pauillac) 2005: Wow! Certainly powerful and concentrated, but this wine is not heavy. It’s actually suave. There’s plenty of tannin, of course, but they are fine, not intrusive, and balanced by the extraordinary layers of mineral and cassis flavors. This is the epitome of power that does not sacrifice elegance. 100

Château Latour à Pomerol (Pomerol) 2005: Fortunately, there is sufficient spicy, plummy fruit here to match the considerable tannins. Though meaty and dense, it has a freshness about the fruit, which lifts and balances the wine. 94-95

Château Léoville-Barton (St. Julien) 2005: A massive wine with tannins and structure to match, it delivers a great nose, layers of mineral infused flavors and a substantial finish. 90-92

Château Léoville-Las-Cases (St. Julien) 2005: Wow! Like an ice-cutter slicing through the Polar icecap, the slightly roasted, concentrated, juicy cassis flavors push the considerable tannins aside. The minerality reminds you the vineyard abuts Pauillac. This polished, big (yet not heavy) wine will require two decades of aging, but will reward those who wait. 95-98

Château Léoville-Poyferré (St. Julien) 2005: It’s ironic that with Michel Rolland, the “master of Merlot,” consulting for the property, Didier Cuvelier, the Managing Director, opted to reduce the amount of Merlot going in the grand vin to achieve balance and elegance. They have already included five percent press wine and may add more, so the blend, 64 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 26 percent Merlot and 10 percent Petit Verdot, is not yet final. With a core of fruit surrounded by fine tannins, it is amazingly long and well balanced. It is a classic wine from St. Julien, combining the power of Pauillac with the suaveness of Margaux. 93-95

Château La Louvière (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Always reliable, La Louvière’s 2005 possesses typical burnt ash, black fruit, a hint of spice and good length. 89

Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac) 2005: There’s nary an astringent tannin to be found in this lush, balanced wine that is filled with roasted flavors and minerality. Long and refined, it’s a great success! 95

Château Lynch-Moussas (Pauillac) 2005: An advantage of tasting blind is the lack of prejudice against producers such as Lynch-Moussas, whose wines frequently disappoint. The 2005 has a captivating nose, is packed with sweet fruit and a refreshing purity, all nicely framed by firm tannins. 90-91

Château Magdelaine (St. Émilion) 2005: Another smashing success from Christian Moueix, who told me they harvested earlier in 2005 to preserve freshness. They managed to combine the rich, lush flavors from the ripe Merlot with fine tannins to produce an exceptionally classy, long wine. 93-94

Château Malartic-Lagravière, (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Alfred-Alexandre and Michèle Bonnie have invested time and money here and it shows in the quality of the wines. Earthy and exotic fresh fruit flavors show beautifully, especially in the finish. But this wine, like most from the vintage, needs ample time. 90-92

Château Marbuzet (St. Estèphe) 2005: The Marbuzet is a tight wine with distinct chocolate elements and the characteristic stickiness and earthiness I associate with St. Estèphe in the finish. 87-88

Château Margaux (Margaux) 2005: Paul Pontallier describes the 2005 Margaux as “huge density without heaviness & the quintessential Château Margaux.” Château Margaux accounted for about 40 percent of the production and Pavillon Rouge 54 percent. All I can say is Wow! A great nose precedes mineral-infused flavors and a ripe finish buttressed by fine tannins. The balance of flavor and tannins is perfect. It is incredibly long and suave with great depth and layers upon layers of flavor. Pontallier says this is the final blend. 100

Marojallia (Margaux) 2005: The only “garage” wine in the Médoc, this is a huge, dense tannic one with roasted flavors and none of the elegance or velvet suaveness I associate with wines from Margaux. 85

Château Marquis d’Alesme (Margaux) 2005: This obscure third growth delivers a fragrant stylish wine with a juicy, long, succulent finish housed in moderate tannins. Should be a good buy. 90-92

Château La Mission-Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: The Merlot was wonderful in 2005, according to Jean-Philippe Delmas, the new director, who just took over from his father Jean-Bernard Delmas. That explains why there is such a high (69) percentage in this wine. La Mission is a powerhouse with exquisite concentration and an engaging meaty and roasted quality. Balanced and massive, the tannins are supple. Despite the increase in new oak aging (87 percent of the wine went into new barrels instead of the usual 70-75 percent), the oak is not apparent. 96-97

Monbrison (Margaux) 2005: Lush plum-like flavors and supple tannins equal a great success for this Cru Bourgeois. It should be an excellent value. 88-90

Château Montrose (St. Estèphe) 2005: A great nose of very ripe fruit, earth and herbs herald a wonderful wine. When grapes ripen sufficiently in St. Estèphe, as they did in 2005, estates such as Montrose can make monumental wines with an attractive, slightly unpolished component. Fine tannins support the spicy, long and lovely finish. 95

Château Moulin Riche (St. Julien) 2005: The second wine of Château Léoville-Poyferré, this blend of 45 percent Merlot and 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon is spicy and powerful, but quite forward. 88

Château Moulin Saint-Georges (St.-Émilion) 2005: Located directly across the road from Ausone and run by the same family, this blend of 80 percent Merlot and 20 Cabernet Franc is a remarkable wine. With a lovely roasted nose, its plump fruit is layered and the oak well integrated even at this stage. Fruit pours through the firm structure and ends in a succulent finish. In 2004, it sold for about 20 percent of the price of Ausone, making it a fabulous bargain. 92-93

Château Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac) 2005: A blend of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 14 percent Merlot and one percent Cabernet Franc, the 2005 comes from the smallest crop in 30 years (excluding the frost years of 1991 and 1997). Delectable red fruit flavors mix with minerality to produce this classy, polished wine. Less tannic than many a young Mouton, but still plenty tannic and certainly dense, the finesse of the wine ultimately shows. 95-97

Château Nenin (Pomerol) 2005: Now made by the winemaker from Château Léoville-Las-Cases, the quality of the wines from this property has increased dramatically. Still, the 2005 is not as polished as some. Ripe and lush fruit is balanced by big time tannins, but a slight bitterness in the finish detracts. 86

Château Olivier (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: The intense fruit and tannins are balanced and allow the region’s distinctive earthy, slightly dusty character to show. 90

Les Ormes de Pez (St. Estèphe) 2005: This beautifully balanced Cru Bourgeois delivers ripe exotic fruit flavors intermingled with attractive earthy nuances. A sweet long finish seems to dissolve the firm tannins. 90-91

Pagodes de Cos (St. Estèphe) 2005: This, a very good second wine of Cos d’Estournel, has fine tannins supporting very ripe, meaty flavors. 90

Château Palmer (Margaux) 2005: Palmer continues its recent ascent. A big step was the introduction of another wine, Alter Ego in 1998. In 2005, for the first time, they used small plastic bins for the harvest to minimize bruising the grapes. They also used a double sorting table, both before and after destemming, discarding any damaged fruit. Palmer usually sells off five to ten percent of its wine in bulk, but in 2005 kept it allbecause the quality was so high. About one-third of the production, 4,000 cases, went into Alter Ego. The remainder will be bottled as the grand vin. Thomas Duroux, the General Manager, echoed others when he characterized the 2005 vintage as “drought without heat which kept the freshness (acidity) in the wine.” It is a dense, long, fabulous wine filled with minerals. Lush and velvety, the tannins are unobtrusive and perfectly integrated. It has incredibly length and polish. 95

Château Pape Clément (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: Lots of toasty oak. The tannins try to mask the powerful fruit, great finish and nose. They don’t succeed, but they do however mask whatever nuances and elegance might be there. A different style of wine, it is less expressive of Pessac-Léognan’s unique terroir. It will take ages to come around. 90

Pauillac de Château Latour (Pauillac) 2005: Oh my, and this is Château Latour’s third wine. A lovely nose of minerals and fruit and an elegant finish will make this an excellent buy. 87-88

Château Pavie (St. Émilion) 2005: How do you rate a wine that’s well made, but in a style you don’t like? Pavie’s team clearly pays enormous attention to detail and spared no expense in producing this wine. It comes down to a matter of style. To me, the aggressive tannins, from both the grapes and the oak, obliterate the nuances and elegance I expect, and find, in other great wines.

Château Pavie-Decesse (St. Émilion) 2005: Like Château Pavie, this property, owned by Gérard Perse, is very hard for me to rate for the same reasons. From a vineyard barely one tenth the size of Pavie, situated entirely on the limestone plateau, Perse gets slightly more than half the average yield of 2005. The concentrated, very ripe grapes are vinified as they are at Pavie: long maceration in wood vats, then aged in new oak barrels for two years. The result is a super concentrated wine overwhelmed by tannins. To me, it’s like a chef who concentrates a sauce too much and loses the nuances that make you want to taste it again and again.

Château Pavie-Macquin (St. Émilion) 2005: This is a huge wine with a heady perfume and ripe fruit that plows through the tannins. What it lacks in elegance, it makes up in size. It has incredible power without being over done and actually maintains its balance. 92-93

Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux (Bordeaux) 2005: Although made entirely from sauvignon blanc, it is so ripe and complex it tastes as though there is some semillon in the blend. An opulent wine with great texture, it’s one of the finest wines made entirely from sauvignon blanc that I have tasted. 95

Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux (Margaux) 2005: Perfumed and velvety, Pavillon Rouge, Château Margaux’s second wine, has great richness, undoubtedly because of the large amount (48 percent) of ripe Merlot in the blend. The remainder of the blend is 48 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and four percent petit verdot. 90

Le Petit Cheval (St. Émilion) 2005: A great second wine of Cheval Blanc, the 2005 Petit Cheval is fragrant with mouth-filling, succulent fruit. The tannins are in the background because there’s so much else in the foreground. 90-92

Petit Mouton (Pauillac) 2005: An astonishing 16 percent of Mouton’s crop was sold off, leaving 20 percent for Petit Mouton, Mouton Rothschild’s second wine, which explains why it’s so good. With less cabernet sauvignon (60 percent) than the grand vin, it’s more forward, but still quite tannic and tough at this stage. Excellent fruit and complexity in the finish indicates to me it will round out nicely and could be a good buy depending on the price. 88-89

Château Petit-Village (Pomerol) 2005: There is enough going on in this moderately tannic, dense wine to keep it lively. Gamey elements mixed with minerals and spice makes it exotic. 89-91

Château Pétrus (Pomerol) 2005: Massive, concentrated fruit and tannins make this wine almost impenetrable at this stage, but its glory is apparent in its fragrant nose and haunting finish of black fruit and licorice. Remarkable for its size, it’s more remarkable for its balance. 95-100

Château Phélan-Ségur (St. Estèphe) 2005: Roasted and ripe, even succulent, flavors make this a noteworthy wine. A great success for this Cru Bourgeois. 91-93

Château Pibran (Pauillac) 2005: The insurance company, AXA, purchased this Cru Bourgeois in 1987, the same year it purchased Pichon Baron. Located near Grand-Puy-Lacoste, on the “other side” of Pauillac, the vineyard is planted evenly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The 2005, a blend of roughly two-thirds Cabernet and one-third Merlot, is infused with ripe fruit and mineral flavors, but not surprisingly is less layered than many of the Cru Classé of Pauillac. Nonetheless, its meaty, smoky nuances and balance make for a fine wine, which will likely be a good value. 88-90

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron (Pauillac) 2005: With great texture, elegance and power, the 2005 Pichon Baron is a mini Château Latour. It’s a quintessential Pauillac with intertwined minerality and cassis-like fruit flavors supported by fine, supple tannins and a persistent finish. The wine, a blend of roughly two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and one-third Merlot, has a freshness that Jean-René Matignon, the Technical Director, ascribes to the “magical combination of cool nights and warm, but not too warm days.” A great success! 95

Château Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac) 2005: Maybe I expected too much from this, one of my favorite properties, in 2005. Mind you it was very good — full of minerals, smoky and gamy elements — but it lacked the excitement and elegance of past vintages. 90

Château Picque-Caillou (Pessac-Léognan), 2005: The nose expresses the ash and earth of the region. Rich fruit and firm but balanced tannins complete an attractive package. 88-90

Château Le Pin (Pomerol) 2005: The 2005 Le Pin is remarkably silky and with a stunning elegance and a long, suave finish. The opulent fruit splays the tannins apart. All the Right Bank wines should be so balanced! 95-97

Château Pontet-Canet (Pauillac) 2005: An exotic wine with boisterous fruit and tannins to match, it remains balanced but lacks its usual refinement. At this stage, its power and tannic structure overwhelm whatever elegance is there. Still, it has good length. 87-88

Château Potensac (Médoc) 2005: Also made by the team from Léoville-Las-Cases, this Cru Bourgeois exhibits round lush fruit supported by intense but fine tannins. At this stage it lacks complexity, but in my experience, it always does when it is young and blossoms beautifully with a few years of bottle age. 86-88

Château Poujeaux (Moulis) 2005: Lush blackberry-like fruit overwhelm the tannins in this marvelous wine from Moulis. 88-90

Château Le Prieuré (St. Émilion) 2005: Fragrant and fresh, Le Prieuré is almost delicate tasted next to some of the massive wines produced in St. Émilion in 2005. But it has great depth and length to accompany its lushness. 90

Château Prieuré-Lichine (Margaux) 2005: Gorgeous ripe fruit cut through the tannins like an icebreaker, which results in a harmonious wine with a long juicy finish. Again the price lags behind quality. 93-95

Château Rauzan-Ségla (Margaux) 2005: Lovely freshness, a lush minerality and ripe balanced tannins make this velvety wine a classic Margaux. 91-94

Réserve de la Comtesse (Pauillac) 2005: Despite the slightly coarser tannins all the second wines have compared to the grand vin, this second wine of Pichon Lalande is still very good and should be another savvy purchase for relatively early consumption. Moderate tannins support rather than dominate the smoky, slightly jammy elements. 88

Château La Serre, (St. Émilion) 2005: A Moueix property, La Serre produced a very ripe, yet balanced and not overwrought, long spicy wine. 90-91

Château Siran (Margaux) 2005: Less explosive than many from Margaux, it nonetheless has rich black fruit, length and polish buttressed by firm tannins. 88-90

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte (Pessac-Léegnan) 2005: Substantial tannins can’t mask the smoky, ripe layered fruit and aromatic nose. It will need time as most of the 2005s will, but will reward the patient. 90-92

Château Talbot (St. Julien) 2005: Fragrant and slightly less dense than many of its neighbors, it nonetheless possesses ample lush fruit, which should assure it will evolve well. 88

Château du Tertre (Margaux) 2005: This plump, fresh, silky wine will reward consumers sooner than many from this vintage, but will not fade for at least a decade. It has remarkable suppleness and charm. 90

Château La Tour Carnet (Haut Médoc) 2005: This relatively unknown Cru Classé shows its true promise with a great nose, lush and juicy fruit, all supported by moderate tannins. 90

La Tour Haut Brion (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: A classic mixture of burnt ash and attractive earthiness, it is a polished wine. La Tour Haut Brion is less concentrated that La Mission, but more elegant. 92

Château La Tour Martillac (Pessac-Léognan) 2005: A lovely example of the quality of the wines from this AOC, it has plummy fruit and ash mixed, a vibrancy in the finish and fine tannins. 90

Les Tourelles de Longueville (Pauillac) 2005: Christian Seely, the Directeur Général of the AXA properties, said that one of the ways they improved the quality of Pichon Baron was to siphon off grapes from less well-situated parcels and vineyards and use them for Les Tourelles, their second wine. Most of the grapes for Les Tourelles come from a specific vineyard heavily planted with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Hence, with 70 per cent Merlot and Cabernet Franc, it is stylistically entirely different from Pichon Baron, which is predominately Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2005 Les Tourelles is very ripe, forward and lush and will be a crowd pleaser, but not a wine to age for decades. In fact, it will be delicious to drink while waiting for the 2005 Pichon Baron to mature. 88-89

Château Troplong-Mondot (St. Émilion) 2005: Overdone, over-extracted and just plain over the top, this is not my style of wine.

Château Trotanoy (Pomerol) 2005: A truly great wine with floral elements, minerality and exotic earthy flavors all rolled together. You barely notice the tannins, quite an achievement since they are substantial. 95

Château Trottevieille (St. Émilion) 2005: Another heady, ripe wine with massive fruit and plenty of tannin and extract, but it’s not over the top. 92-93

Château Valandraud (St.-Émilion) 2005: Packed and dense, no doubt because the slightly lighter wine went into their second wine, Virginie de Valandraud. It has great power and a lovely fresh finish. At this stage the wood tannins distract, but time will integrate them better. 92

Château Valandraud Kosher version (St.-Émilion) 2005: Always less intense than the regular Valandraud because they can’t work with the wine every day; they must observe the Sabbath. They also use a closed fermenter. It is the best kosher wine I have ever tasted. Elijah will be very happy. 90

Château Vieux Château Certan (Pomerol) 2005: Alexander Thienpont, manager of the estate, reports that the Cabernet Sauvignon suffered in Pomerol from lack of rain, so their 2005 is a blend of 80 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet Franc. The result is a splendid wine, long, meaty and suave. It is a perfect balance of power and elegance, avoiding any hint of over-extraction or astringent tannins that plagued other Right Bank estates. 95

Virginie de Valandraud (St.-Émilion) 2005: A remarkably good second wine, it is long, succulent, spicy and balanced. 90

May 2, 2006