Château Giscours 2009
I once read somewhere that one of the joys of wine is that it provides the enthusiastic imbiber with a never-ending journey; just when you think you know all there is to know, along comes another vintage, another host of new wines from a myriad different regions ready to delight and entertain you. The truth is though that because wine is alive and ever-changing, you don’t even need a new vintage to provide this variety. You have only to revisit a previous vintage, either recent or older, to find surprise and joy as you discover how the wines have developed. The 2009 vintage is a case in point. Now only four years old, the manner in which this vintage has developed over this relatively short period of time has been compelling. As if to reinforce this, my experience of the 2009 vintage in a recent tasting – taking in about sixty wines – was strikingly different to my previous impressions.
At the Bordeaux 2009 primeurs it was clear that this was a vintage quite unlike any other I had ever tasted at that stage; at the time that perhaps wasn’t such a remarkable statement, as I had only been attending the primeur tastings for a few years. Now, though, with a few more years under my belt (the 2013 vintage will be my seventh year tasting the primeurs in Bordeaux, and my eleventh year of detailed vintage assessments, which really began with 2003 Bordeaux) this thought remains true. No vintage tasted since even remotely resembles 2009. It was a vintage in which the year ruled above all; every wine had the same voluptuous, cream-and-velvet texture, and every ounce of tannin and acidity was buried deep within the core of each wine, so that these vital structural elements became almost invisible. Everything tasted fat, globular and a touch sweet. It took some confidence (or maybe just stupidity) to say that I thought some of the wines were great, so well-hidden were the structures. It also took a little confidence to criticise some wines on the right bank for their rather robust alcohol levels, when most were heaping praise upon them.
In 2011, two years on, in meeting the vintage again at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux and the Grand Cru Classé tastings in London it became clear that the wines were firming up. They still showed a charming and rather voluptuous character, but now they had structure too, the seams of fruit parting to reveal precise acidity and a wrapping of tannin. It was all very reassuring to see, giving me confidence that many of these wines really were destined for greatness.
In 2013, now at four years of age, the wines have moved on yet further. They are still packed with texture and substance, but they seem to have a much better balance on the palate now. More notably, the wines now display more traits that seem true to the commune, appellation or even château in question; so whereas before a wine from this vintage was most obviously a 2009 above all else, in many cases there are now other features apparent that tie the wine to its place of origin as well. The wines of Margaux are starting to taste more like those of Margaux, Pomerol feels more like Pomerol, and so on. I find this development rather pleasing. Unfortunately it means that some over-baked St Emilions are starting to taste more confidently like….. over-baked St Emilions.
One of the most charming wines on display in this recent tasting was the 2009 from Château Giscours. This is a wine that a critic who adores over-ripe fruit, feverish levels of alcohol and bruising textures will abhor; this wine carries a savoury edge which is very prominent at times (and so perhaps a little more than an ‘edge’ then). In particular this savoury character, despite the warmth of the vintage, owes much to a streak of green methoxypyrazine running through the wine. At first I wasn’t at all sure, but returning to it later in the day I found it increasingly convincing, the texture and many aspects of the flavours reflecting the sun of the vintage, but the front and middle of the palate somehow maintaining a fresh acidity and greener streak to boot. Like all good critics I decided I should open one from my cellar to double-check my thoughts, before I publish my new Bordeaux 2009 report, coming in January 2014. So here goes.
The 2009 Château Giscours was decanted and left for an hour before drinking, over the course of several hours, and returning to what was left the following day. In the glass the wine certainly has a very dark and regal colour, in keeping with what we already know of this vintage. The aromatics are indeed very savoury; there is a very tense blackcurrant-skin character to the fruit at first, a very primary characteristic coming from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Behind this, though, there are those greener notes as well, with green peppercorn and a touch of mint, even segueing into a twist of green capsicum at times, although for the most part it was not really that overt. This paradox of dark fruit purity and green peppercorn translates onto the palate, where the generous texture of 2009 shows through, and yet there is freshness and tension too, the blackcurrant fruit cool and smoky, the texture velvety and sweet. The greenness remains nicely intertwined with the body of the wine, and it holds some genuine appeal for me. This wine is long, and richly imbued with ripe tannins. If you miss the good old days when Bordeaux was about more than fat and forward fruit, and you don’t mind this coming with a touch of green, then this is certainly the wine for you. I will be tucking my other bottles away in the depths of my cellar for now, but I look forward to revisiting this wine in the future. 17.5/20 (23/12/13)