Our take: Bordeaux 2006

(by peter & susie)

Every year, the Institute of Masters of Wine holds a claret tasting featuring wines from the vintage four years on.

Last year, Susie was lucky enough to taste through the 2005 vintage (Lafite being her wine of the day, rated at 9.5/10, with overall quality very high). You can read her report here.

This year, we both struggled our way through the 2006 crop – a decidedly mixed bag, not without its highlights, but generally lacking in charm and core elegance.

It was clearly not a great year on the right bank, where wines from St Emilion and Pomerol varied from green to overblown (alcohol levels above 14% being common-place), with little in the way of revitalising freshness and refinement in evidence.

Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux emerged as our favourite communes, with Mouton our favourite wine of all (there was no Latour, Petrus or Ausone on show). This came as something of a surprise for us, as Mouton isn’t traditionally thought of as one of the better First Growths. But we felt that its natural opulence, on this occasion, served it well in a vintage that otherwise tended to the lean style.

All in all, 2006 seemed to be a revealing vintage – one in which the true character or aims of a property shined through, for better or worse. It made for an illuminating, if not always enjoyable tasting.

Selected tasting notes are as below. Initials in brackets correspond to the taster: Susie (SB) or Peter (PR), with both scores available for every wine. For the top wines, and where we’ve disagreed significantly, both our notes are included. As ever on this site, the idea is to give you the benefit of two different viewpoints…

Château Haut-Brion 2006, Pessac-Léognan – (SB) cedar wood/leather, scented plum spice and meat, lovely complexity on the nose. Very fine texture, still so young but yet velvety/meaty an long. Needs some time, slightly hot finish, 8.5/10. (PR) elegant dried and fresh fruit, cassis, dusty graphite, dried herbs, warm earth perfume, seems evolved already. Fine, dusty tannin, savoury, good fresh acid, a bit austere on the acidity actually, but very long, fine and focused. Slightly awkward. 7.5/10

Château Margaux 2006, Margaux (13%) – (SB) totally different to Haut-Brion: much more earthy, fruit somehow darker, also there’s a floral note. Palate is complex and shows better balance than HB. 9/10. (PR) toasty, elegant, quite expressive, tobacco, cedar and warm earth, much more scented than the HB, more friendly and inviting. Full but elegant palate, sctend, earthy and oaky, savoury; fresh acid but balanced, very fine, maybe lacks a touch of concentration on the finish to be really good. But it’s still lovely and loveable. 8.5/10

Château Lafite Rothschild 2006, Pauillac (12.5%) – (SB) Nose more restrained than the Margaux or Haut Brion. Palate is perfumed, creamy blackberries, still yong with firm tannin but good potential: 8.5/10. (PR) super elegant, restrained, gentle perfume of warm earth, dried herbs, tobacco and graphite, roasted pepper, dried flowers; becomes creamy in the glass. Mouth-filling but fine and savoury, perfumed, layered, fresh acid. Like the Margaux, not the completely overwhelming experience of a really good vintage, seems to lack a certain something on the finish, but hugely cultured, savoury, elegant, complex wine, vg: 8.5-9/10

Château Mouton Rothschild 2006, Pauillac (13%) – (SB) meaty, leathery, really classic. Lovely elegant texture, perfume and mix of savoury/sweet flavours, spiced plum, fine tannin, love this: 9.5/10. (PR) opulent, oaky, dense dark fruit, really showy and impressive, oriental spice, oaky. Rich attack but savoury core; layered, fine, quite big and plush in style in the context, but has the flesh and density on the finish that the others don’t. So in this company, it looks the best. 9/10

Château Cheval Blanc 2006, St Emilion (14%) – (SB) restrained but complex scented, plummy aromas, tannins still very tight and it needs lots of time. But overall quite disappointing: 7/10. (PR) inky, pencil lead nose, very different aromatic register from the left bank First Growths. Open, plumy, broad. Palate shows fresh acid, green pepper notes – focused, linear, defined. But it’s hot on the finish and awkward and austere. Doesn’t work: 7/10

Château la Mission-Haut-Brion 2006, Graves (14.5%) – (PR) ripe fruit, gingerbread, plum. Fluid, but SO hot on the finish. Napa-esque. Why? 4/10

Château Palmer 2006, Margaux (13%) – (SB) good meaty claret, needs lots of time, lovely complexity – one to keep and lay down: 9/10 (PR: 7.5/10)

Château Gruaud-Larose 2006, St Julien – (SB) really good punchy leathery aromas, a proper claret, lovely texture, smooth and fine, peat notes and tobacco, great: 8.5/10 (PR: 7.5/10)

Château Leoville-Barton 2006, St Julien – (SB) intense but restrained aromas, nice creamy smooth fruit, quite modern but harmonious and long-lived, with a slight exotic/chocolatey note: 8/10 (PR: 7.5/10)

Château Batailley 2006, Pauillac – (SB) quite closed nose but much more interesting palate. Savoury spice and tobacco, full and appealing with plenty of rounded tannin: 8/10 (PR: 7/10)

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2006, Pauillac – (PR) nice elegant savoury maturing fruit, meat, dried herbs and flowers. Sleek and savoury palate with fresh acid, cedary notes. Refreshing and lifted on the finish, just lacks a certain something on the end. But good in the context: 7.5/10 (SB: 8/10)

Château Haut-Batailley 2006, Pauillac – (PR) good earthy meaty dark fruit perfume. Polished, sleek attack; spicy savoury palate, quite classic, lots of personality. Not trying too hard, though, and as such that makes it one of my favourites from this commune, First Growths excluded: 7.5/10 (SB: 7/10)

Château Lynch-Bages 2006, Pauillac – (PR) complex nose: interesting combination of meaty dark fruit and florality, graphite. Savoury, full palate, quite rich but without the real structure of the true greats. A glimpse of Pauillac greatness. 7-7.5/10 (SB: 8/10)

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2006, Pauillac – (PR) polished plush creamy nose, cedary hints, touch of toasty oak. Very firm, quite austere. But savoury, fine, needs time. Not too dissimilar to Lalande but maybe a bit more to it for me: 7-7.5/10 (SB: 7.5/10)

Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2006, Pauillac – (SB) more interesting, cedary, and with good fine tannins. Really great complexity: 8.5/10 (PR: 7-6.5/10 – quite austere, needs time, a bit thin?)

Château Calon-Ségur 2006, St-Estèphe – (PR) perfumed cedary elegant red fruit. Savoury, dry, not trying too hard, firm tannin – but will resolve – all balanced. One of the best from this commune because it’s not trying too hard: 7-7.5/10 (SB: 8/10)

Château Cos d’Estournel 2006, St-Estèphe – (SB) really peaty and pungent, take no prisoners style – love it, so much personality and such length. Rustic, robust, moreish – needs a big casserole. 8.5/10 (PR: toas, feral, dense dark fruit, ginger. Smooth flow across palate, dense tight fine tannin, quite sinewy and bold style, very savoury and dry, fresh acid…just seems to be over-reaching itself a bit, trying harder than its terroir can give…impressive style, but doesn’t totally convince: 7.5-7/10)

Château Angélus 2006, St-Emilion (14%) – (SB) really concentrated cassis aromas, loads of fruit and alcohol, all a bit too much: a velvet and cream bomb: 6.5/10 (PR: 6/10)

Château Figeac 2006, St-Emilion (13.5%) – (PR) ripe open plum aromas. Good fluid palate, some rich savoury juicy grace, for which it stands out in the right bank context. But still quite lightweight: 6.5-7/10 (SB: 7.5/10)

Château Monbousquet 2006, St-Emilion (14%) – (SB) really bright perfumed floral damson. Like a new world red with old world wood/savoury note. Impressive but lacks subtlety: 7.5/10 (PR: 6.5/10)

Château Pavie 2006, St-Emilion (14%) – (SB) nice savoury/meaty style, but alcoholic and firm tannins but not bad – needs time? 7.5/10 (PR: green yet ripe…stalky, hot, angular, drying. 5/10)

Château Clinet 2006, Pomerol (13.5%) – (SB) perfumed dried furit, very good smooth texture and savoury undertone, much better style on the right bank: 8/10 (PR: mute, grassy nose; spicy, some nice savoury tannin and cedary notes but doesn’t quite hang together: 6.5/10)

Château la Conseillante 2006, Pomerol (13.5%) – (SB) interesting leafy/creamy aromas, palate is a little obvious and creamy but quite a seductive style: 7.5/10