In my experience there is one thing certain about the world of wine and that’s that it divides opinion. Just because a wine may be judged ‘Outstanding’ does not mean everyone will like it. For me this is one of the aspects of wine that I find endlessly fascinating, whether at home with my family or when hosting a group at a wine tasting. There is as much variety in personal taste as there are wine styles.
In my household the balance of Primary (Fruit), Secondary (Oak) and Tertiary ( from bottle ageing ) flavours regularly divides my partner Louise and I and so it was this weekend.
The happy news that I had passed WSET3 presented me with a rare opportunity to justify opening one of my , very small, collection of Cru Classe Bordeaux. Now these are wines that are made for laying down and many have ‘drinking windows’ that, in the best years, may span multiple decades. The reason these wines age so well is their high levels of acidity and tannins which are natural preservatives. However, in their youth, the tannins in these Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blends can be rough and astringent.
So a good rule of thumb is that ideally you shouldn’t open these wines until a minimum of ten years after the vintage date. Given this, a quick inspection of vintage dates, indicated that I’d only got one in that bracket , and only just!
So Chateau Cantemerle 2009 it was and into the decanter it went. As expected the wine had a small amount of sediment at the bottom ( always worth standing the bottle up for an hour or two before serving with these wines )
Chateau Cantemerle is one of the southern most great wine estates of the Haut-Medoc and a ‘Cinquieme Cru’ ( member of the fifth group of the 1855 classification ) It’s one of the first you get to , apparently, when you drive up the D2 towards Margaux from the city of Bordeaux( now wouldn’t that be a fantastic morning commute and imagine the morning conversation ! “morning all, looks like a good vintage this year, crop looking good at Margaux when I drove past first thing” ) The wines are generally 60% Cabernet Sauvignon , 30% Merlot , 6% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot.
I was excited to discover that both Robert Parker and Stephen Brook ( in his definitive book ‘The Complete Bordeaux’ ) rated the 2009 vintage very highly with Parker saying it was the best he’d ever tasted from the Chateau and Brook remarking “…the 2009 shows what Cantemerle is capable of”. So how did it taste?
Deep ruby colour with just a tiny touch of orange around the rim. Lovely nose of subdued black and red fruit ( black cherry and raspberry) amid violet floral notes and a complex blend of leather , smoke, spices and pencil shavings. On the palate the wine was savoury, medium bodied with good acidity and had noticeable but fine tannins. I felt the finish was strong but not as long as expected.
Overall an enjoyable treat but agree ‘not a blockbuster’ as Parker also remarks. Given a distinct sense the wine would easily keep and continue evolving for another couple of decades, I was left wishing I had another couple of bottles. 8/10 and wondering what it will be like at 15yrs and 20yrs of age.
And finally , back to opinions divided, Lou’s view “It tastes like a wine that’s been left in an old library with something rotten in the corner”. Wine is such fun and I rest my case!