Variable is the best way to describe the 2006 vintage in Bordeaux–except for the dry whites, which are consistently excellent. That’s my assessment after tasting about 250 wines–all barrel samples–in Bordeaux last month. Some properties, such as Château Mouton and Château Lafite Rothschild, made fabulous wines. Some châteaux actually made better wine in 2006 than 2005–Mouton and Cos d’Estournel pop to mind. But the consistency of the 2005 vintage is lacking in 2006. Except for the prices, the consumer had it easy in 2005. All the wines, at all levels, across all appellations and across all price levels, were good. You could close your eyes, point and select a fine wine.
But 2006 is not a ‘point blindly and shoot’ vintage, except for the dry whites. Variability extended across appellations and price categories. Properties with less exalted pedigrees (such as Château Joanin Bécot in Côtes de Castillon, Château de la Dauphine in Fronsac, and Domaine de Courteillac, a Bordeaux Supérieur) succeeded in this tricky vintage and made very good wine. Neighboring estates made over-extracted wines with unpleasantly bitter tannins. Quality was inconsistent even in up-market appellations. Château L’Angelus and Château Canon in St. Emilion and Château Clinet, Château La Croix and Château Feytit-Clinet in Pomerol turned out lush and balanced wines while nearby estates made wines marred by bitter, stemmy tannins.
Winemaking Explains the Variability
How winemakers reacted to the weather during the growing season explains the variability of the wines. A hot July allowed for good early ripening, but a cold August slowed it. Rain descended during the second half of September, including harvest, and set the stage for rot. Winemakers who failed to adjust their techniques and monitor the pace of extraction wound up with bitter, green, unripe tannins. Those who performed a careful selection at the sorting table and performed a gentle extraction during fermentation made balanced wines with plenty of fruit and firm–but not bitter or green–tannins that will require aging.
Paul Pontallier, the General Director of Chateau Margaux, told me that gentle extraction was key in 2006. According to him, ‘some winemakers want to extract everything from the grapes. That may have been possible in 2005 (because the weather delivered fruit in perfect condition) but it was not advisable in 2006.’
The best wines from 2006 are packed with succulent fruit buttressed by firm tannins. To me, they were reminiscent of the wines from 1988 or 1986, two years that produced wines that initially had hard edges, but that have developed into beautifully balanced Bordeaux. Patrick Maroteaux, President of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (and who, along with his family, owns Château Branaire Ducru), aptly described the vintage as ‘classic,’ referring to the balance between the fruit and the tannins. Consumers will just need patience to enjoy this classic vintage.
Selection, Selection, Selection
The top properties made very good to excellent wines in 2006 because they could afford to make the requisite selection. ‘Selection was key in 2006,’ according to Thomas Duroux, General Manager of Château Palmer.
The key was to remove unripe or diseased grapes, a labor-intensive and hence expensive process. In the vineyard, workers spent more time discarding unsuitable bunches. Others scrutinized the grapes as they come into the winery rejecting the unripe or diseased ones before they reach the fermentation vat. Pontallier believes the 2006 Margaux will ultimately be superior to the 1986–one of the top wines from that châteaux in the last two decades–because of the severe selection. ‘If people told me 20 years ago, we would be making the kinds of selections we make today I would have told them they were crazy.’
The final stage of selection occurs after the wines are made when the winemaker determines which barrels are good enough for the grand vin, which go into the second label, and which are sold off in bulk. Marcel Ducasse, the long time Manager Director at Château Lagrange who just retired in April, gave me figures that demonstrated just how important this final selection was in 2006. Lagrange turned out a gorgeous wine in 2006, but to do so, the firm sold nearly 20% of their production in bulk, opting not even to use it in their second wine. By contrast, in 2005, 97% of the estate’s production was good enough for either the first or second label.
Prices and Market
The frenzy that surrounded the release of the 2005 vintage is absent with release of the 2006s. While prices for Sauternes and some Cru Bourgeois have been released, look for the prices of the classified wines to start to appear this week. Most brokers and importers with whom I have spoken believe that the prices of the Médoc Cru Classé and prestigious Right Bank wines will not come down enough from the record levels of the 2005 vintage to induce the American consumers to open their wallets.
One broker described the current American market for the 2006s as ‘dead,’ but admitted that could change depending on the prices of major châteaux. Many of the châteaux owners with whom I spoke in April noted that prices will come down, but perhaps not has much as the American buyers would like because the crop was small and the dollar continues to weaken. Still, Jeff Zacharia, the Bordeaux expert at Zachy’s Wines in Scarsdale, NY (www.zachys.com), one of the country’s leaders in selling Bordeaux futures, has already seen interest in the vintage by his customers. He expects prices of the major châteaux to be released before Vin Expo in mid June.
Unless the prices are reasonable, I advise against buying the 2006 Bordeaux as ‘futures’ except for those properties with tiny production or those that made spectacular wine, such as Mouton. Although the volume of wine produced in 2006 is down, so is demand in America and Britain. It is hard to imagine that the emerging markets of China, Russia and Japan will completely fill the void left if the Americans and the British reduce their purchases of the 2006s. Hence, the wines should still be available over the next few years. The lack of consistency of the vintage–it will never have the cachet of a ‘great’ vintage–and its following and always being in the shadow of the acclaimed 2005 vintage should keep the prices from escalating in the future. With the dollar at record lows against the euro, any rebound in its value will likely offset any increase in price of the wines over the next several years.
The 2006s will need a decade or two for the tannins to soften and the flavors to mature. If you are not prepared to wait, revisit the 2001s, a highly under rated vintage overshadowed by the exceptional 2000, or the 2004 vintage–another under rated that turned out many fine wines.
The Usual Caveat about Barrel Tastings
Most of the wines offered for tasting in Bordeaux the first week of April were what the winemakers called ‘representative blends’ made expressly for the tastings from wines still in barrel. In some cases, they were the final blend (of varieties), but still a sample from an individual barrel. Even in those cases, we did not taste finished wines. The wines still have roughly another year of aging in barrel before bottling. There can be enormous variation from barrel to barrel even if the varietal blending has been completed. That’s why before bottling, all of the barrels will be tasted again–some may be excluded–and the rest combined in a tank to ensure homogeneity. Tasting barrel samples is like looking at a photograph that is slightly out of focus–the overall picture is there, but the details are not. And as the saying goes, ‘the devil’s in the details.’
The notes are less comprehensive than last year and reflect the lack of consistency of the 2006s. I have focused on wines that I recommend people buy or at least taste for themselves when they arrive on our shores in two years. I am happy to respond to individual questions regarding wines I’ve not reviewed here, but may have tasted. E-mail me at email@example.com
The prices of only a few of the wines reviewed have been released. For those wines, prices were supplied by Zachy’s (zachys.com) and MacArthur Beverages (bassins.com), two highly regarded retailers in Scarsdale, NY and Washington, DC, respectively. Check with your local retailer for prices and availability in your area.
After a note on the performance of whites in 2006, you’ll find specific notes and scores on whites below, followed by reviews of reds.
Dry White Wines: Excellent and Consistent
Overall, the dry whites from Bordeaux were excellent in 2006–in many cases better than the excellent 2005s. They are far more consistent than the reds. It is very nearly a ‘can’t miss’ vintage for the dry whites. They have great minerality supported by acidity and vibrancy. There is a welcome range of styles from the linear Malartic-Lagravière to the richer Smith-Haut-Lafitte. I find both styles appealing, but undoubtedly there will be partisans for each. Despite stylistic differences, the vast majority of wines are readily identifiable as dry Bordeaux–not some Chardonnay wannabe.
Earlier Harvest Explains the Quality
Daniel Cathiard, who with his wife, Florence, own Smith-Haut-Lafitte says that one reason the whites were superior to the reds was that two of the primary grapes, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, were harvested in the beginning of September during periods of good weather before the rain and storms started on September 11th. Still, Cathiard emphasized that once again it was selection at the sorting table and the position of the vineyards that determined quality. Those vineyards with the best drainage made the most successful wines, according to him.
Equally important is that making white wine, compared to red wine, involves far less contact between juice and skins, so extraction of hard or bitter tannins–components that marred so many red wines–was not an issue with the whites.
The white wines from Graves and Pessac-Léognan were tasted blind. Pavillon Blanc and Monbousquet were not.
The White Wines:
Bouscaut (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: Bouscaut delivers a fine combination of minerality, freshness and subtle creaminess. The acidity transports the flavors through the finish. 91
Chantegrieve (Graves) 2006: An expressive, vibrant nose leads to bright grapefruit-like flavors on the palate. A fleshy texture and slight creaminess fills out this solid Graves. It should be a great value. 90
Domaine de Chevalier (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: A standout even in this high quality group, Domaine de Chevalier has produced a stunning white wine in 2006. Even though it’s tightly wound, a lemony creaminess combined with minerality comes through, initially on the nose, but then also on the palate and finish. Well focused, this wine should develop well for a decade or more. 94
Fieuzal (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: Another one for creamy lush category, Fieuzal also pulls it off because the balancing citric edge carries into the long finish. A mouth-filling richness is very satisfying–not heavy–because of the bright acidity. 91
de France (Graves) 2006: This property has been making lovely wines–both red and white–for the past few years. A mixture of creaminess and minerality–apparent on the nose–carries onto the palate and makes this a weightier wine. It’s polished even at this young stage. 90
Haut-Bergey (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: The characteristic freshness of the vintage supports a mouth filling citric edge. A lovely texture adds to the appeal. 90
Larrivet-Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: A fullness and richness in addition to the citric edginess adds an extra dimension to this wine, which is not often seen on our shores. It’s worth searching for this classy wine. 92
Latour Martillac (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: Grapefruit and spice predominate in this long, lovely wine. Subtle creaminess means it falls somewhere between the Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Malartic-Lagraviere style, leaning more toward the latter than the former. 91
Malartic-Lagravière (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: The pungency of Sauvignon Blanc sits atop a stony, mineral-like base. This clean, focused wine has a bracing citric edge running through it that keeps it refreshing and bright. 91
Monbousquet (Bordeaux) 2006: A blend of two-thirds Sauvignon Blanc and one-third Sauvignon Gris, Monbousquet is an opulent wine. A great floral nose precedes slight apricot overtones. It’s so richly textured, it almost comes across as sweet. It would be a good match for foie gras, but if you are looking for a traditional dry white Bordeaux you have come to the wrong place. 85
Olivier (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: Château Olivier has fashioned a clean, precise–but not thin–wine in 2006. An ever-so-slight creaminess modulates the otherwise bracing citric edginess. Its length and riveting focus makes it easy to recommend. 90
Pavilion Blanc de Château Margaux (Bordeaux) 2006: This powerhouse of a wine–with an alcohol of just over 15%–resulted from a measly 12 hl/ha yield since half the crop was lost to frost in April. Although made entirely from Sauvignon Blanc, it is unusually rich with a ripe, peachy character and far less of the pungency and acidity usually associated with that grape. An atypical white Bordeaux, consumers will either like it for it richness and power or avoid it for its lack of typicity. Count me in the latter group. 85
Smith-Haut-Lafitte (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: People either love or hate this wine because of its modern, creamy-toasty style. I love it because it’s balanced, not overdone. Made entirely Sauvignon Blanc (Daniel Cathiard says he and Semillon don’t get along) it has a lush, suave texture balanced by a grapefruit-like zing in the finish. They’ve managed to combine brightness of Sauvignon Blanc with richness. It’s a marvelous contrast to the more linear–and equally enjoyable–style made at Château Olivier or Château Malartic-Lagravière. 94
The Red Wines:
L’Angelus (St. Emilion) 2006: Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, who, along with his cousin, Jean-Bernard Grenié, runs L’Angelus, told me that a gentle extraction was critical in 2006. They performed most of the extraction early, during fermentation, when the alcohol (which is a solvent) was low to minimize extracting bitter tannins. It worked. A blend of two-thirds Merlot and one-third Cabernet Franc, the aromas and flavors are very expressive. Dense, succulent black fruit predominates in this fleshy wine and extends into the long finish. It’s powerful, but not over-the-top, and importantly, well balanced. The tannins are firm, yet ripe without a trace of bitterness, making this, like most of the upper end wines from this vintage, a candidate for at least a decade of bottle age. 94
d’Armailhac (Pauillac) 2006 ($37): All of the wines produced by the team at Château Mouton-Rothschild excelled in 2006. D’Armailhac is no exception. It has a great nose, plush minerality and fine tannins. Persistent flavors of black cherry and penetrating acidity combine to keep it fresh. In short, it’s a lovely, balanced wine. 91
Ausone (St. Emilion) 2006: Balanced and long, the 2006 Ausone is a marvelous wine. From the first whiff, its splendor is apparent. Mouth filling black fruit and gamey nuances provide excitement. Firm but polished tannins do not intrude on the long finish. This is another excellent wine from 2006 that will need at least a decade to open. 95
Batailley (Pauillac) 2006: A wonderful combination of floral elements and earthy minerality equals a great success for this property in 2006, and this wine has turned out similar to Batailley’s very fine 2005. It has power and depth, but it is the wine’s suaveness sets it apart from many of the other wines in 2006. 93
Beaumont (Haut-Médoc) 2006: Surprisingly supple for this vintage, Beaumont’s offering is lush–almost forward–but certainly has sufficient structure to keep it interesting. A little one-dimensional at this stage, I suspect it will open up nicely by the time it hits our shores. 86
Belgrave (Haut-Médoc) 2006: This underrated classified growth made an exceptionally well-balanced wine in 2006. Fine tannins lend structure without astringency to this ripe and plumy wine. Its elegance, especially in the finish, is remarkable. Since this property flies under most everyone’s radar, it should be well priced and consumers would do well to search for it. 92
Beychevelle (St. Julien) 2006: Beychevelle was a great success in 2006 and surpassed their 2005 with an alluring combination of fragrant berries and sweet fine tannins. Marvelously balanced, it’s a long classy wine. 93
Branaire Ducru (St. Julien) 2006: Patrick Maroteaux and his team at Branaire have done a marvelous job over the last several years. The wines typically remain under-priced for what they deliver. Only two-thirds of the production went into the grand vin, which helps explain its stature and elegance. With a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and the remainder divided between Petit Verdot (4%) and Cabernet Franc (2%), the 2006 has a haunting, roasted, smoky quality atop the black fruit flavors and firm, but not green, tannins. 92
Brane-Cantenac (Margaux) 2006: Ripe tannins and quintessential Margaux plushness combine with concentrated and exotic fruit and earth flavors to produce this balanced wine. 90
Canon (St. Emilion) 2006: Located high on the plateau near the center of the village, Canon holds an ideal exposure, and the staff used it to great effect in 2006. Their limestone base permitted excellent drainage. They harvested the earlier ripening Merlot, which covers 75% of their vineyards, at perfect ripeness–some came in at over a potential alcohol of 14%–before the rains. Run by John Kolasa, who also oversees Rausan-Ségla in Margaux, Canon has been making very successful wines lately. The beautifully balanced 2006, not a powerhouse, is best described as succulent and silky. Kolasa has perhaps brought some of Margaux’s silkiness to St. Emilion. 94
Carbonnieux (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: Ripe black fruit flavors and a smoky component follow a very expressive–and typical–nose of ash. The tannins are fine and balance the fruit nicely. Lush black fruit and smoke persists into the long finish. 92
Les Carmes Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan) 2006 ($49): A pretty nose and an attractive earthiness peek out from underneath substantial tannins. Alluring black cherry notes in the finish add complexity. 89
Carruades de Lafite (Pauillac) 2006: Lafite was one of the few properties that made an excellent second wine in 2006. Many of the second wines in 2006 were the repositories for the batches with unripe tannins. This one was not. With a lovely floral nose, fleshy texture and fine tannins, it has unusual complexity for a second wine. 90
Cheval Blanc (St. Emilion) 2006: The theme of the 2006 vintage–those who could afford to make a severe selection make great wine–is evident in the Cheval Blanc. Almost 30% of the production was sold off in bulk, not fit for inclusion in either the grand vin or the second label, Le Petit Cheval. A blend of almost 50/50 Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the Cheval Blanc has a luxurious mouth filling ripeness coupled with finesse. A classically structured wine, the tannins lend support without bitterness, but this no early maturing Cheval Blanc. 93
Domaine de Chevalier (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: Always one of my favorites, Domaine de Chevalier put together a well structured, but balanced, wine that will need a decade of aging. Aromatics identify it as Pessac-Léognan and the exotic nature continues onto the palate where it mingles with deep black fruit. Captivating minerality persists throughout its lengthy finish. The tannins are not bashful, but the gorgeous nose and exceptional length convinces me that it will reward those who have patience. 94
Citran (Haut-Médoc) 2006: Lovely cassis fruit, apparent in the nose, carries through onto the palate and into the finish. Nuances of minerals add complexity. The tannins are fine, making for a well-balanced wine. 88
Clerc-Milon (Pauillac) 2006: Another terrific wine made by the team at Mouton, Clerc-Milon has a lush minerality atop cassis-like fruit, all balanced by fine tannins and an uplifting freshness. It’s an exciting wine. 93
Clinet (Pomerol) 2006: Full of meaty, exotic flavors, Clinet was an unqualified success in 2006. An alluring ‘wild’ character combined with sweet, polished tannins adds to its appeal. 92
Clos les Lunelles, (Côtes de Castillon) 2006: Although not as woody or extracted as I had predicted, the oak overwhelms the lovely nose and densely packed black fruit character of this wine. The tannins, while intense, are not bitter. 86
Clos du Marquis (St. Julien): 2006: Often thought of as a second wine of Léoville-Las-Cases, Clos du Marquis is actually a separate vineyard across the road. Some wine from Léoville-Las-Cases’ main vineyards goes into Clos du Marquis–a little Cabernet Franc in 2006, for example–but basically the wine under this label comes from this separate vineyard. The 2006, smooth and supple, has succulent fruit and a subtle chocolate quality. With its clean tannins, it will be ready to drink sooner than many 2006s, but will last for one to two decades. 90
Cos d’Estournel (St. Estèphe) 2006: When Cabernet Sauvignon gets ripe in St. Estèphe, that commune can produce some magnificent wines, such as this one. Despite extraordinary suppleness–especially for a wine from St. Estèphe–there’s no shortage of power, ripeness and complexity. A roasted, earthy quality identifies its origin and gives it its punch, but it’s the length and grace of this wine that makes it outstanding. 96
La Croix (Pomerol) 2006: The blend of 60% Merlot with the remainder split evenly between the two Cabernets, La Croix has a distinctly meaty element, as well as lush black fruit that conveys power. The fine tannins add class. 92
Dauzac (Margaux) 2006: This is a great wine from this under-rated property. A lovely nose of toasty oak and concentrated fruit give way to firm–but not green–tannins and terrific texture. As it sits in the glass, it expands and its considerable complexity reveals itself in the finish. 91
Ducru Beaucaillou (St. Julien) 2006: Bruno Borie told me they used only the grapes from the best sites for this wine–and it shows. A deep, toasty nose accurately predicts the fabulous roasted flavors that follow. The dense fruit is mixed with spice and supported by a healthy dose of firm tannins. This is another powerful style of St. Julien that will need a decade at least to open. 92
Dufort-Vivens (Margaux) 2006: A little oaky at this stage, crushed red fruit flavors emerge and persist in the finish to ultimately create a balanced wine. Ripe tannins accentuate the plushness associated with the wines of Margaux. 88
Duhart-Milon (Pauillac) 2006: Since it is under the same winemaking team as Château Lafite Rothschild, it is not surprising that Duhart-Milon produced an excellent wine in 2006. Lovely ripeness offsets fine tannins. Classic minerality of Pauillac comes through and is amplified by fresh acidity. 91
Domaine de l’Eglise (Pomerol) 2006: More forward than many, the expressive nose and lively black cherry-like flavors and acidity are very appealing. Rich ripeness is nicely balanced by fine tannins. 91
Ferrand (Graves) 2006: Exotic, toasty nuances mixed with fresh, black cherry-like flavor is buttressed by firm tannins. Like so many wines from this vintage, this will need time to soften. But unlike many, it’s balanced now, so it should reward patience. 88
Feytit Clinet (Pomerol) 2006: Jérémy Chasseuil and his team made a terrific wine in 2006 from a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Meaty, ripe flavors stop just short of being ‘over-the-top’ and are balanced by suave tannins. A smoky component adds pleasure in the considerable finish. 93
Fieuzal (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: A shy nose misleads, as the wine is packed with flavor, spice, and an engaging creaminess characteristic of Fieuzal. The tannins are firm, but not bitter, and are appropriate for the fruit. 90
Gomerie (St. Emilion) 2006: The Bécot family made some stylishly elegant wines in 2006, including one from their recently acquired Joanin Bécot in the Côtes de Castillon. The 2006 Gomerie, however, will appeal to those who prefer sheer power at the expense of elegance. Dense and flamboyant with lots of oak showing at this stage, this is not my style of wine, but will not lack for partisans. 85
Grand-Puy-Ducasse (Pauillac) 2006: Expressive black cherry flavors follow a fresh, lovely, almost floral nose. This is a dense wine, with tannins that are a little coarse, but, given the depth of fruit, it should come together well over time. 90
Greysac (Médoc) 2006: Luscious cassis-like fruit emerges from the fine tannins to create a nicely balanced wine. Judging from past vintages, it should be widely available and reasonably priced. 88
Joanin Bécot (Côtes de Castillon) 2006 ($23): The Bécot family purchased this property recently and has upgraded it significantly in a short period of time. The winemaking team must have performed a careful selection and extraction to have fashioned this suave wine. Filled with sweet ripe fruit, it has alluring layers of tobacco and cedar buttressed by fine, pure tannins. Its finesse is particularly evident in the graceful finish. 90
Kirwan (Margaux) 2006 ($44): A lovely deep nose and mouth-filling fruit mixed with dried herbs grab your attention. The long, sweet finish is ever so slightly marred by a touch of greenness in the tannins. Nonetheless, the great aromatics and length suggests this wine will turn out just fine when it’s ready a decade from now. 89
Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac) 2006: One of the best wines of the vintage, the 2006 is a classically proportioned Lafite. Remarkably intense for Lafite, it retains the finesse for which the property is rightly famous. Mouth filling flavors of black fruit mingled with minerals persist and extend into an exceptional finish. The tannins are amazingly unobtrusive. Despite its intensity, it’s not a powerhouse type of wine. Rather, it wows you with elegance. 96
Lafon-Rochet (St. Estèphe) 2006 ($35): A classic example of an excellent wine from St. Estèphe, the 2006 Lafon-Rochet has an alluring earthy component to complement the ripe black fruit. Not as dense as some, it has remarkable balance and freshness in the finish–likely a result of a gentler extraction. 90
Lagrange (St. Julien) 2006: Marcel Ducasse and his team did an admirable job with this vintage, his last before he retires and hands control to Bruno Eynard. Always a model of restraint, Lagrange has firm but unobtrusive tannins that balance flavors of cedar, spice and black cherries. With the hallmark St. Julien elegance, it’s a lovely young wine. Judging from prior pricing decisions, this should be an excellent buy. 92
La Lagune (Haut-Médoc) 2006: This is another property that made a more complete wine in 2006 than 2005. Never a blockbuster, La Lagune has a reputation for making stylish wines. Their style served them well in 2006 and explains how they produced such an excellent wine. The expressive nose, filled with ripe, exotic fruit and herbs, gives way to toasty flavors of grilled meat, all supported by clean fine tannins. The combination of great aromatics and length means this young wine will develop well. 94
Lascombes (Margaux) 2006: Lascombes made an exciting wine in 2006. The silky tannins characteristic of Margaux are an excellent counterpoint to the exotic flavors of plums, herbs and smoke. Great length and freshness adds to its complexity. This property is being resurrected and the price has yet to catch up to its quality. 93
Latour (Pauillac) 2006: The glorious aromas continue as wonderful flavors on the palate. Slightly tarry nuances mixed with minerals, a roasted element, and deep dark fruit is a fabulous combination. Latour is always tannic and tightly wound when young, but the tannins in 2006 lack their usual polish. Nonetheless, the depth and concentration of this wine, along with Latour’s characteristically slow development, suggest that it will turn out just fine. 91
Léoville Barton (St. Julien) 2006 ($69): Brightness and succulence strike the palate and give way to minerality. Firm, clean tannins support without overwhelming. In short, a balanced, well made 2006. 92
Léoville-Las-Cases (St. Julien) 2006: One of the stars of the vintage, the 2006 Léoville-Las-Cases is another wine, along with Mouton, that consumers should buy as a ‘futures’ because its price will escalate as its quality becomes known. Dense and concentrated fruit flavors with alluring toasted and roasted qualities, it nonetheless has clean, fine tannins. The extraction and selection must have been very careful performed, judging from the incredible combination of power and elegance that persist into the finish. 97
Léoville-Poyferré (St. Julien) 2006: A blend of 73% Cabernet, 21% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot, the 2006 Léoville-Poyferré has more in common with Pauillac than St. Julien, with tarry minerality joined by substantial black fruit flavors. The great nose, long finish and substantial tannins in this big and powerful wine suggest it will need at least a decade to open. 92
Lusseau (St. Emilion) 2006: Another property in the Perse portfolio, this wine is a ‘modern,’ intense style of wine. The very ripe fruit quality comes across as plush, and is a counterpoint to the big time tannins. This wine could eventually show some elegance once it settles down, but it will be a long wait. 87
Malescot-Saint-Exupéry (Margaux) 2006: Another winning wine from the commune of Margaux, the Malescot-Saint-Exupéry has everything you’d want in an excellent young wine: a great nose, exotic spiced fruit flavors, firm, clean tannins and that Margaux velvetiness. Fresh acidity keeps it balanced and extends the finish. The winemaking staff must have performed a gentle extraction to achieve this kind of wine. 93
Margaux (Margaux) 2006: Pontallier described the 2006 vintage at Margaux as classic, similar to 1996. In addition to a severe selection (only 33% of the crop wound up in the grand vin), he attributes Margaux’s success in 2006 to their great ‘terroir for Cabernet. When the Cabernet is ripe, we have a great vintage and it was perfectly ripe in 2006.’ The 2006 Margaux, a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% each of Merlot and Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc, is an extraordinary wine. Unbelievably smooth and velvety for its size, the ripe, dark fruit conveys power. Although a lovely minerality adds complexity, it is its silkiness that makes it distinctive. It’s a ‘sneaky’ wine because its true stature catches you by surprise in the finish. 96
Marquis-de-Terme (Margaux) 2006: The commune of Margaux produced many luscious wines in 2006, often from less well-known or under rated properties, such as Marquis-de-Terme, which may make them good buys. The fruit flavors in this wine have a wild, exotic edge to them that complements the wine’s freshness. Good length, balance, and supple tannins complete the lovely picture. This is another 2006 that was fractionally better at this stage than their very good 2005. 93
Monbousquet (St. Emilion) 2006: This is another wine that sacrifices elegance for greater intensity. A powerhouse overflowing with flavor, plush, sweet fruit matches its tannic structure. Although a massive wine, it has better balance at this stage than the 2005. Still, this is a wine for the very long haul. 90
Montrose (St. Estèphe) 2006: Great ripeness, depth and polish are the highlights of the 2006 Montrose. A gorgeous array of black fruit, earth and minerals appear in the nose, continue on the palate, and reappear in the finish. Big time tannins give it structure without bitterness or astringency, but mean this wine is not for near-term consumption. 93
Moulin St. George (St. Emilion) 2006 ($42): Owned by the Vauthier family who also owns Château Ausone, Moulin St. George’s vineyard extends from the bottom of the slope where Ausone’s vineyard stops. As the quality of this property’s wine gets more widespread attention, the price will undoubtedly rise. The 2006 has a captivating nose, ripe fruit, and restrained, toasty oak nuances supported by polished tannins. The combination equals another success for the Vauthier family. 91
Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac) 2006: Superior to their 2005, the 2006 Mouton is, for me, the wine of the vintage. The winemaking team deemed less than half of their production (4%) fit for the grand vin. The bouquet practically fills the room as it was being poured. A powerhouse of a wine, it still has incredible balance and fine tannins. Exotic nuances peek out from a densely intertwined combination of minerality and black fruit. The finish is incredibly long and exotic nuances. If you can afford it, I would buy this wine on a ‘futures’ basis because as its glory becomes known, the price will escalate. 98
Nenin (Pomerol) 2006: Although many Left Bank winemakers insist Cabernet Sauvignon excelled in 2006 because it was less affected by rains at harvest, Pomerol, with in reliance on Merlot, turned out some lovely wines, such as Nenin. A decidedly gamey and spicy character adds complexity to the ripe fruit quality. There’s not a trace of hardness in the tannins. 92
Palmer (Margaux) 2006: Thomas Duroux, Palmer’s technical director, attributes their success in 2006 to selection. The potential yield was 41 hl/ha, but only 37 hl/ha was harvested and then another 10% was declassified. Of the remaining wine, roughly half went into Palmer and remainder into Alto Ego, their second wine. As a result, the tannins are velvety and unobtrusive, allowing the flavors of herbs, tobacco and minerals to shine. Long and elegant, it will develop beautifully and reward those with patience. 93
Pavie (St. Emilion) 2006: A packed powerhouse from Gérard Perse, the enormous black fruit, spice and smoke actually emerges from the dense tannic structure. Unless your tastes run to young, intense wine, don’t even think about drinking this one for a couple of decades. 88
Pavie Decesse (St. Emilion) 2006: Another massive, ‘modern’ style of wine from St. Emilion, it will appeal to those who like deeply extracted powerful wines. I wonder if it will ever develop nuances and elegance. 85
Le Petit Mouton de Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac) 2006: This wine and Carruades de Lafite are the two terrific second wines in 2006. Talk about selection. Only 15 percent of the production went into this wine, while almost three times as much went into a third wine. Not petit at all, Le Petit Mouton has refined tannins and balance. Far more approachable than Mouton, it nevertheless has years to go before it comes into its own. 91
Petit Village (Pomerol) 2006: Petit Village produced a very successful wine in 2006 avoiding the pitfalls of that vintage. Spicy and exotic, it is packed with succulent black fruit flavors mixed with smoky and toasty nuances. Lovely balance and fine tannins–no greenness or bitterness here–makes this a winner. 93
Pibran (Pauillac) 2006: The varietal blend, 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet, is unusual for Pauillac, but Jean-René Matignon who oversees Pibran as Pichon-Baron’s technical director since they are both owned by the AXA insurance group, tells me that the terroir is better suited for Merlot than Cabernet because it is cooler. Plumy Merlot fruit shines through the fine tannins resulting in a softer, more forward Pauillac. 88
Pichon Longueville Baron (Pauillac) 2006: Only 57% of the production went into the 2006 Pichon, which helps explains why it is so good. Juicy, cassis-like fruit atop toasty oak and fine–not astringent–tannins combine to produce an intense, but well-balanced wine. 93
Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac) 2006: Another property that produced a better wine in 2006 than 2005, Pichon Lalande has classic Pauillac minerality and cassis-like flavor combined with an alluring smoky–almost gamy–quality. It’s tightly wound now, and the substantial tannins mean this wine will need a decade or two to mature. 92
Poujeaux (Listrac) 2006: Most properties in Listrac did not fare well in 2006, but Poujeaux was a notable exception. It was remarkable for its plushness, a quality normally associated with the wines of Margaux, not Listrac. That said, it’s still plenty tannic and will need at least five years to come together. A mixture of black fruits and dried herbs danced on the palate and persisted into the finish. 90
Prieuré-Lichine (Margaux) 2006 ($40): Never a powerhouse, Prieuré-Lachine emphasizes finesse and balance and has done so with their 2006. Filled with plenty of dense black cherry flavors and hints of earthiness, it’s no lightweight. But it’s the refinement–so apparent in the finish–that stands out. 92
Rahoul (Graves) 2006: A great smoke–ash–nose is followed by flavors of ripe black fruit and earth. Dense and long, the flavors unfold in the glass. The substantial tannins are clearly noticeable, but not overbearing. It’s likely to be a good buy, but as with most of the wines from this vintage, it will need time to soften. 89
Rausan-Ségla (Margaux) 2006: A more muscular Margaux, Rausan-Ségla’s 2006 retains a lovely texture that adds to its considerable appeal. Deep black fruit flavors are buttressed by ripe tannins in this polished wine. 92
Sainte Colombe (Côtes de Castillon) 2006: I am not usually a fan of the wines in the Perse stable because I find them over-extracted and frequently over-oaked, especially from the lesser AOCs. But this one is not. Rather, it has ripe dense fruit, is fresh and balanced, rather than overdone. The tannins are firm, but clean, without a harsh edge. 90
Smith-Haut-Lafitte (Pessac-Léognan) 2006: One of the stars from Pessac in recent years, Smith-Haut-Lafitte continues to produce classy wine even in difficult vintages such as this. A fabulous nose of minerals, earth and ash immediately grabs your attention. Exotic black fruit bursts through the firm–but not green–tannins. The long, toasty finish and the lovely balance bode well for this wine. 92
Talbot (St. Julien) 2006 ($42): Toasty elements, minerality, black fruit and surprising power tame the firm tannins that show in the finish of this wine. An exotic element persists in the almost tarry–and very persistent–finish. Perhaps this doesn’t show the typical St. Julien elegance, but nonetheless it is a very tasty young wine. 92
Tronquoy-Lalande (St. Estèphe) 2006: This plump wine with supple tannins has an almost New World patina to it, but the earthy, dusty component, especially in the nose, identifies its origin. Polished and ripe, a touch more complexity would make it outstanding. 88
June 5, 2007