A selection of September launches at Systembolaget, Part II

This is Part II of the Systembolaget September launch blog post published some days ago. Part II deals with the true big guns of the tasting.

The sixth pair out represents the southern Rhône in the form of two Châteauneuf-du-Papes. They are both 2009s, which is considered another great vintage in the southern Rhône. Since 1998, the region has had only one bad vintage (2002). However, this region is not as sensitive to vintage variations as, say, Bordeaux. In fact, the 2008 vintage is the only vintage not to score 90 points or more by Wine Spectator since 1997, but I nevertheless believe 2008 in many ways is better than the allegedly exceptional vintage of 2007. Generally, the 2007s are around 15-15.5% ABV while the 2008 is one percentage unit less in alcohol, which sometimes is preferred in an already sturdy type of wine.

The first wine of the sixth flight is 2009 Le Vieux Donjon from the Domaine of the same name. The nose is just fantastic: herbs plums, bay leaves. This is very spice and herbal. Extremely elegant. Is it only 14% ABV, which should be very low for the vintage. Medium body with nice acidity and good length. Could have had some more weight and attack. This is however highly complex and could very well evolve over the years even though it is enjoyable right now. 90p.

2009 Domaine du Grand Tinel Alexis Establet is not as impressive on the nose. More fruit-driven and not the same elegance and complexity; dark berries, sweet licorice, chocolate, vanilla. The palate is great; fiery and powerful. This is 15.5% ABV, and as I pointed out earlier, this is really not my cup of tea. But the balance of this wine….I would’ve never guessed it carried that much alcohol. Full-bodied, structured, nice tannins with a warm finish. Truly mouth-filling. This is all-Grenache from allegedly 100+ years vines. I don’t know how they pull it off, but the wine surely is well-balanced. The high alcoholic content is not at all disturbing. Strongly recommended. 92p.

The last round of wine contains three Bordeauxs from 2008. 2008 in Bordeaux is considered a medium-quality vintage, which if nothing else is good for the consumer from a price perspective. As is the case with all vintages, there are always a number of successful producers mastering tricky climate conditions. The hard thing is to find them (and at the same time avoid the less successful ones). First out is 2008 Château Beychevelle (out of stock at SB) from St Julien. Young but already accessible. Blackcurrants, fresh herbs, cedar, tobacco. Traditional, old-school Bordeaux but without any green hints. Medium-bodied, elegant and complex. Fantastic. I’m glad a bought three bottles before SB ran out of it. 92p.

Next up is 2008 Château Canon la Gaffelière from Saint-Emilion, where Merlot is in majority, is fruity showing black currants, plums and oak. Nice length but a bit too warm in the finish. This may need storing. It is maybe slightly over-extracted. There is so much fruit in this St.-Emilion and a richness which is unusual. It would’ve improved with more subtlety. 91p.

Finally, 2008 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion (out of stock at SB) from Pessac Léognan is presented. This is very young and still not very accessible. Cassis, cedar, olives. Long with an attack but still too firm tannins. Good structure with a heavy grip. This must be stored for another five years. Could turn out to be a showstopper. 91p.

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