Revisiting The Bordeaux 2005 Vintage

In Event Reports by ashepherdiwfs

The second part of our revisiting of mature Bordeaux wines, all from the great 2005 vintage, was generously provided from the cellar of Richard Jackson. What a treat for those fortunate members of IWFS London Branch who attended! Regrettably, Richard was not even able to be there himself this evening, although his two sons were with us on his behalf. Jeffrey Benson led the tasting.

These wines that we had the privilege of assessing and appreciating include three first growths that have received superlative professional reviews at tastings during the last fifteen years.

The growing season in 2005 was exceptionally hot and dry, yet with just enough moisture to nurture the vines. There was no drought. Indeed there was a welcome rainfall on the Right Bank in mid-August, and in September. Harvesting took place during August and September under ideal conditions of warm sunny days and cool nights. Grapes were small but mature, which has resulted in very concentrated and naturally rich wine, with high but ripe tannins, fruit and fresh acidity. In general the wines have taken a while to get through their closed period and open up.

For starters we tasted Pavillon Rouge, the second wine of Château Margaux, notable in its own right. Nearly equal Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and a tiny amount of Petit Verdot, from mainly young vines. Stylish, nicely balanced and smooth. A tannic structure, and a blackcurrant nose and taste.

Château Rouget Pomerol: 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc. 50% new oak for 15-18 months.

The nose is a rich violet Merlot, and the Merlot dominance in the taste is attractive.

Château Chasse Spleen Moulis-en-Médoc Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel: 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot. 40% new oak for 12-15 months.

Less tannic than the previous wine. The fruit and tannins were nicely balanced.

Château Gruaud Larose St-Julien 2ème Cru Classé: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot. Some new oak for 18 months.

A spicy as well as herbal nose. Structured soft tannins. Full bodied and rich, earthy taste with a lot of fruit.


The wines up to now had not needed decanting. All the following wines benefited from decanting.

Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild Pauillac 4ème Cru Classé: 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot. 50% new oak for 14-16 months. The average age of the vines is 30 years.

This is a classy full-bodied wine. Still appears young and tannic, and should drink well for years to come. A classic intense bouquet, including lots of blackcurrant, also in the concentrated taste, softened by the Merlot, and a nice sting on the long finish.

Château Cos d’Estournel Saint-Estèphe 2ème Cru Classé: 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc.  50% new oak for 14-16 months.

This was a delicious wine enhanced by the Merlot, which resulted in a reduction in the tannins, which were well integrated. The earthy, mineral flavour of St Estèphe showed through the sweet ripe, mature, concentrated fruit. It is easy to drink now, and should continue to be drinkable for another twenty years at least.

Château Ducru Beaucaillou St-Julien 2ème Cru Classé: 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot. 75% new oak for 18 months to two years.

This wine has a high reputation, and we found it a star: aristocratic, elegant. Powerful and multi-dimensional, well balanced, with fine tannic structure, rich, mature, concentrated fruit yet with very good acidity, so that it is drinking well now, and will go on for many more years. A really super wine.

Château Margaux Margaux Premier Cru Classé: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot. 100% new oak for two years.

This was exceptional, absolutely gorgeous now, will get better and continue for years and years. Beautifully scented, including blackcurrant, spices, flowers. Although high, the tannins are subtle, silky and integrated. The Cabernet Sauvignon gives a welcome hint of austerity. Amazingly complex, dense and concentrated, building to a long finish. What a pleasure!

Château Latour Pauillac Premier Cru Classé: this vintage is probably about 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the balance mainly Merlot with a small percentage of Petit Verdot. 100% new oak for about two years.

The Cabernet Sauvignon dominated, with associated body and power, and a dryness and austerity on the finish. The wine will not lose its concentrated tannins. We found this to be an excellent wine, which had peaked.

Château Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac Premier Cru Classé: Nearly 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, just under 11% Merlot, and a fraction of Petit Verdot. 18 to 20 months in 100% new barrels.

Intense, complex, fragrant nose, graphite, cedar, berry fruit. Well structured, medium-bodied, fruit on the palate, with high, ripe tannins, and a soft, elegant, long finish. Brilliant, superior, a huge wine drinking well and for ageing.

It is clear from this and the first tasting that 2005 remains an outstanding vintage. Many of the top wines will continue to develop and drink well for several years to come. The tannins vary, but generally the wines are excellently structured and balanced. Both this and the previous tasting were a wonderful experience, greatly enjoyed by all of us present.

Rachel Burnett