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The 2005 vintage was a great year for Bordeaux. When I tasted the wines (red and white, dry and sweet) in spring 2006, from barrel and only a few months old, I was ready to compare the vintage to modern classics such as the 1982, 1989, 1990, 1995 and 2000—they were that good. Of course, 2009 and 2010 weren’t harvested yet, but today I can say with confidence that 2005 is in the same league as these marvellous modern vintages.

What I didn’t expect a couple of months ago, when I joined a small tasting of about a dozen 2005s in Beirut with fine wine importer Vintage Wine Cellar, is that they would have evolved so incredibly well. The reds are absolutely spectacular—their beauty and balance is breathtaking, underlining the greatness of modern Bordeaux, where the wines have unparalleled polish and class.

Wine after wine showed a precision and grandeur that I hadn’t experienced in a top vintage of Bordeaux 10 years after the harvest—and I’ve been tasting the great reds of the region professionally for 34 years. The word “radiant” pops into my head when I think back to the Beirut tasting. Over my three days in the city, I drank other bottles of 2005 Bordeaux during meals as well; their energy and character were captivating. I have to admit it all seemed somewhat surreal in a city that remains the Paris of the Middle East, despite the obvious turmoil in nearby places such as neighbouring Syria.

The 2005s I tasted in Beirut included:

  • Château Giscours (94 points)
  • Château Rauzan-Ségla (96)
  • Château Léoville Poyferré (93)
  • Château Lynch-Bages (96)
  • Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste (96)
  • Château Cos d’Estournel (99)
  • Château Cheval Blanc (98)
  • Château Calon Ségur (94)
  • Château Montrose (96)
  • Château La Conseillante (97)
  • Château La Mission Haut-Brion (99)
  • Château Mouton Rothschild (98)

Prices for the above wines and others are relative bargains, considering many are selling at or near the release price. Top wines are less expensive than just a year or two ago. For example, Mouton Rothschild sold for as much as US$9,000 for a case of 12 bottles, but currently trades for about US$6,000. The 2005 Grand-Puy-Lacoste, one of the most popular wines of the Beirut tasting, sells for about US$100 a bottle. That’s not much more than what it sold for in 2008, when it first came out in bottle.

Looking back at how I rated those wines in the past—some, such as Grand-Puy-Lacoste, hadn’t been rated since their release—they were all at the same level of quality or even better. The vintage is really evolving fantastically, yet at the same time continues to display that unique freshness and brightness I first experienced when I originally tasted them, from barrel almost 10 years ago and then a few years later on release in bottle.

Here is what I wrote in 2008 after tasting 1,000 wines in Bordeaux: “These young wines seduce you from the start with their complex aromas of ripe fruit, minerals and light earth. These enticing aromas seem to constantly evolve in the glass. They are mesmerising, like subtle perfume on a beautiful woman. You fall in love with them the moment you taste them.”

I certainly fell in love with the 2005s all over again. Don’t miss them. 

Tags: wines, James Suckling, Bordeaux, French wine