Hooray for Y2K!
“We all waited for the three zeros to come up,” said Sotheby’s Serena Sutcliffe MW a few weeks ago at a 2000 vintage tasting of nine pristine wines from top Bordeaux chateau. “The 1900’s were absolutely stunning, so we had great hopes that with 2000, the same thing would happen. Instead, we were holding our breath as mildew broke out early in the season. Had this happened 30 years earlier, we would have lost the vintage” she explains. Luckily advances in science and vineyard management techniques cleaned up the early summer woes and Bordeaux was blessed with astounding weather from 29 July until 10 October. Harvest began on 14 September on the right bank (which typically ripens earlier) followed by the Medoc on the left bank on 16 September. “We could see straight away it was going to be a great vintage.” As can be seen by the tasting notes below, it is indeed a beautiful vintage.
As the elegant Serena put it, “Only an idiot made bad wine in 2000.” If you are a Bordeaux winemaker and didn’t make a good 2000, “then you should change jobs.” And she’s right. “When you see good production emerging from petit chateau as well as elite chateau, then you know it’s a great vintage.” On a buying trip at the time with a large USA importer, I remember clearly the frenzy – and our complaints – when the pricy vintage was released to market. Importers battled for tight allocations and prices seemed absurdly stratospheric, all of which now looks sanely genteel after the hype in the ten years that followed. Vintage 2000 – if you can afford it – is available from fine wine merchants and via auction houses, but check provenance carefully. The wines for the Sotheby’s tasting were supplied by Bordeaux Winebank, which prides itself on its ‘Five Star Provenance’, a promises that all wines are ex-chateau (not carted around the world from owner to owner), in original wooden cases (OWC) and securely stored in Bordeaux until time of sale. If you manage to get your hands onto some 2000, you are in for a great ride. The wines are drinkable now, but their vivacious fruit will carry them far into the future. By all means, feel free to pull the cork, but don’t squander your full supply yet!
Pavie, Saint Emilion (1er Grand Cru)
Beloved by Parker and famously denied by Jancis Robinson, this modern take on Bordeaux held its own in this exalted company. Expressive, plumy, bright and vivid with oak hints.
Cheval Blanc, Saint Emilion (1er Grand Cru)
Wonderfully perfumed and fresh, opulent black cherries and violets due to its Cabernet Franc foundation, with a silky texture apparently described by Pierre Lurton as “cashmere tannins”. Slightly smoky hints on finish were a superb adieu to the fragrant fruit.
Palmer, Margaux (3eme Cru)
Bright vivacious, welcoming and juicy, a wine that Serena described as ‘firing on all four cylinders”. An exciting, classic Palmer, though a slight boh-lei tea or dried herb note in the wine was distracting.
Cos d’Estournel, Saint Estephe (2eme Cru)
This property, which is neighbour to Lafite, showed its terroir pedigree, with striking Cabernet Sauvignon fruit, berries and elegant, textbook tannins with what Serena described as a ‘mineral saltiness’.
Leoville Lascases, Saint Julien (2eme Cru)
Neighbour to LaTour, Leoville is regarded by many experts as a defacto ‘1er Cru’ class wine and is oft referred to as a ‘super-second’. Deeply coloured, with dense black fruits, cedary nose and dense rounded tannins, this wine has a long life ahead. As Serena charmingly put it, “a wine for the grandchildren – if you have the inclination to create them.”
Mouton Rothschild (1er Cru)
Coffee hints followed by black current fruit, the Mouton is ripe is rich and full with opulent ‘glossy’ tannins. Stunning wine with immense personality.
Latour (1er Cru)
I’m always uneasy when my favourite is the final glass, but after tasting the flight several times, there is no question Latour was the standout in an almost perfect line-up. Sensuous and seductive with high intensity black current fruit highlighted by lead pencil and floral accents, this is a boundless wine.