2009 was the year French vineyards could do no wrong. The climate was spectacular and nearly all wine producing regions enjoyed a bumper year that was met with raptures by the critics and consumers. But with 12 years gone and the dust settled, where in France have the wines stood the test of time? And where else in the world enjoyed a good vintage that was overlooked in the excitement?
A decade on and you are still spoilt for choice in France with Alsace, Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy all producing a great number of wines that are still going strong.
Alsace was a slightly overlooked and under the radar region that did well in 2009. The warm, dry summer led to great depth in flavour with much more varietal character than in many vintages. The late harvest, sweeter wines will last a while yet and offer great value.
2009 Jean Becker Riesling Vendanges Tardives Kronenbourg £37 per bottle
Not the most complex of wines but great fun and good value.
Champagne is well-known for being a difficult wine to make given its northerly location and subsequent cooler climate. 2009 was the year one of the riskiest grape varieties grown in this region, Pinot Noir, excelled and as a result so did the wines. Clean, healthy grapes that produced good concentration and freshness.
2009 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Millesime Champagne £275 per bottle
A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay this is an exemplary 2009 but one that offers a little extra freshness and salinity that accentuates the purity of fruit.
Bordeaux was the most celebrated region of 2009. It is however still a young vintage and good value can be found in wines that will offer several decades of drinking to come.
2009 Chateau Boyd Cantenac Margaux Troisieme Cru £55 per bottle
It was difficult to make a bad wine in 2009 and Boyd Cantenac’s efforts are certainly not poor but neither are they complex. This is much more in keeping with full fruited, juicy claret but has a good dose of toasted oak to keep it rounded.
2009 Chateau Giscours Margaux Troisieme Cru £65 per bottle
Giscours is usually fresh and lively with a vibrancy that lasts for many years. The 2009 had all those qualities to begin with but has closed up in the last few years. However, given the magnitude of the 2009 vintage I would expect this to be going through a quiet patch and should emerge again very soon with a subtle freshness that will bring with it a little more complexity.
2009 Chateau D’Issan Margaux Troisieme Cru £75 per bottle
The 2009 d’Issan has all the attributes one expects from a 2009 Margaux: rich, full fruit, a good dose of sweetness and a touch of freshness to bring it back. Luxurious and elegant.
2009 Domaine de Chevalier Pessac Leognan Grand Cru Classe £82 per bottle Domaine de Chevalier has always stood slightly apart in Bordeaux and the 2009 is definitely a vintage that offers something a little different to the mainstream. Dark, savoury and brooding but not heavy, the fruit is sweet and aromatic without dominating or diminishing the finer, savoury notes.
2009 Chateau Calon-Segur Saint Estephe Troisieme Cru £105 per bottle
A fragrant and floral St Estephe that is just beginning to open up. Good ripe fruit with plenty of density but still refreshing.
2009 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac Premier Cru £640 per bottle
Mouton were always going to do well in 2009 with such abundance of exceptional fruit but what sets this apart from others is the savoury, herbal edge that brings a layer of complexity to the glass that only goes to complement the sweeter notes further. Long, fresh and expertly balanced.
Burgundy also enjoyed a good season in 2009 with a warm, dry summer that was very welcome after a number of poor, wet vintages. The reds were upfront with full, ripe fruit that many feared would struggle to age well. This may be the case with some wines but the better producers ensured the balance was correct to allow development and longevity.
2009 Domaine J-F Mugnier Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos de la Marechale Premier Cru £99 per bottle
The 2009 Clos de la Marechale is right in the middle of its drinking window with the tannins soft, the fruit pure and noticeably ripe, and no hint of it drying out as some predicted.
Rhône, both southern and northern did very well in 2009 with the warm, dry summer bringing an early harvest but good concentration of fruit. The Syrah heavy reds from the north probably outshone those in the south but both offer good value and excellent drinking a decade on.
Delas Freres have been a steady and consistent producer since their acquisition by Roederer two decades ago but 2009 was their standout vintage. Full fruit driven flavour that has an intensity and purity throughout the range. The Côte Rôtie and Hermitage are the winners though and offer great value.
2009 Delas Freres Cote Rotie Seigneur de Maugiron £72 per bottle
Dark and perfumed but not lacking in vibrancy this is a great example of the depth of concentration found in the 2009 vintage.
2009 Delas Freres Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage £81 per bottle
The dark, inky black and concentrated 2009 Hermitage is only just settling down but offers a wealth of classic Hermitage character. Great value for such quality and complexity.
Spain experienced a very hot summer in 2009 that brought stress to vines throughout the country. Rioja and Ribera del Duero were lucky enough to receive some rain that helped bring the vintage back from the brink. It is wise to tread with caution in this region though as, although some produced great wines, others were inconsistent and lacked balance. Priorat has always suffered from a lack of rain and the vines spread roots deep into the earth in search of moisture. The hot conditions of 2009 seem to have affected them less and there are some interesting wines to be found that time has helped to soften.
2009 Clos Martinet Priorat DOCa £86 per bottle
Predominantly Garnacha but with small amounts of Cariñena and Syrah for balance. This is an unoaked Priorat that offers a full on flavour but one not masked by traditional notes of oak. Meaty, rich and savoury with a wonderful purity of fruit.
Germany is often overlooked. The wines have less appeal for many people and tend not to fit the mould we are accustomed to. However, 2009 was an excellent year in Germany, possibly one of the greatest and should therefore be given a fighting chance for a second look.
2009 Weingut Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese £53 per bottle
If you ever wanted to get a true understanding of what Riesling is capable of you should try a bottle of Donnhoff’s Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese from 2009. The botrytis was lean in this particular vintage which complements rather than detracts from the purity and clarity of the fruit. Mineral, savoury, saline but with a racy sweetness that lingers and keeps on giving. Exceptional value.
Italy didn’t fare so well in 2009.
Piedmont experienced a tricky, inconsistent year weather wise that led to stressed vines and difficult harvesting decisions particularly. Quality varies wildly with some producers excelling and others failing. A great deal of care should be taken when purchasing from this region.
Bolgheri seems to have come out on top for this vintage thanks to the cooling climate of its coastal location. August saw intense heat which affected the vineyards inland in Tuscany far more than on the coast.
2009 Sassicaia Bolgheri DOC £320 per bottle
One of the most celebrated vintages of the last decade and noted for its concentration and savoury notes that mingle with the sweet to create a more robust complexity than in other years.
2009 Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC £450 per magnum
With the scorching summer heat of 2009 Ornellaia’s expertise at blending to get the best out of the crop was tested and they certainly succeeded. This is well-balanced with great concentration but has retained a freshness necessary to keep it vibrant.
2009 was a spectacular year but also one that created intensity and complexity. I personally see it as a vintage that offers up the opportunity to try something new whether that be region or producer – the chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.