Bordeaux is in south west of France and divided into left and right bank by Gironde river. Right bank has lots of clay in the soil so mainly planted with Merlot and left bank has lots of gravel, which is coming from the mountain from thousands years ago that is perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chateau Montrose, classified as 2nd growth in 1855 Bordeaux classification, is located at St-Estephe, is one of the greatest appellations in Bordeaux left bank along with Margaux, Pauillac and St-Julien.
The usual blend of Montrose consisted 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Cabernet France and 1% Petit Verdot. One can expect with such high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, Montrose is a muscular wine with great structured that needed decades to get fully matured and one it does, you will expect nothing but a great wine in the glass.
I’m glad to join this vertical tasting of Chateau Montrose, from vintage 2003 – 2009, conducting by with the new technical director, Nicolas Glumineau (a charming, humble and knowledgeable gentleman). This is simply the most comprehensive, educational tasting to understand the wines of Chateau Montrose. Nicolas Glumineau taken over this role in 2006 and 2007 is his 1st vintage in here. Therefore, this is also a great chance to compare the style and quality of the wines pre and current Nicolas Glumineau era.
1989, 1990, 2003 & 2005 are the best vintages in 1980s and 2000s. It is definitely a tough job for Nicolas for the role of technical director of this great Chateau, could he remains the exceptional quality of Montrose and surpass these great vintages? The answer is positive.
I’ve the opportunity to have a short conversation with Nicolas Glumineau on how he maintains the consistent quality of the wines in Montrose and the trend of Biodynamic practice inBordeaux. Nicolas Glumineau commented that the winemaking is pretty much the same here. In order to produce great wine, he spends more time in the vineyard as he believes that great wine is made from the vineyard. He is especially obsessed on the quality of the tannin. In order to have silky, sweet tannin (optimum ripeness of fruits is a must ) instead of massive but rough or green, astringent tannin.
Biodynamic or Organic wise, Nicolas Glumineau commented that it is hard to achieve in Bordeaux and he has no intension to apply to his vines, yet. This is mainly because Bordeaux is having Atlantic micro climate. It is pretty wet and cold here which resulted in rot, mildew etc easily hence treatment is necessary according to the situation. In a great year like 2009, 2010, this approach is possible but not a problem vintage like 2004, 2007.
In contrast to Burgundy, it is easier as Burgundy enjoy continental climate which is drier than Bordeaux hence rot, mildew etc is less prominent hence Biodynanic or Organic can be done here.
Flight 1: Pre Nicolas Glumineau era – 2004 & 2006
Both 2004 & 2006 are good but not great vintages, yet both showing very good quality. The 2004 is drinking beautifully now while the 2006 is showing well today, it needs at least another 5yrs to be in its drinking window.
1. 2004 Château Montrose (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
- Alcohol :: 13%
- Beautiful dak ruby red with light purplish rim, not a sign of bricking or brownish. Quite powerful nose with smoke, pencil lead, tobacco, cedar, ash, blackcurrant, blackberry and touch of spiciness, this is indeed very expressive. High acid entry with good dose of new wood but quickly buffered by sweet dark fruits at the background. A little bit lean but this has lots of power beneath. Light to medium level of fine grained, but a little bit hard tannin for better grip with dark chocolate and roasted coffee bean bitterness toward the long lingering finish with spicy aftertaste. With time, this wine showing more lushness and completeness. Good to drink now and will last at least another decade or more. (88pts)
2. 2006 Château Montrose (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
- Alcohol :: 12.5%
- The aroma profile here is a little bit tighter and darker. Intense aromas of savoury meatiness and mint intermixed with blackberry, tobacco and ink. This has better intensity and concentration than the 2004 with bright acidity and firm but very fine tannin backbone. Overall this is more complete wine that the 2004 with decent depth and scale. This too has very good acid grip and lushness on the long finish with mineral, touch of spiciness, bitter sweet cocoa and dark chocolate. Yet another beautiful wine that is drinking well, though not as well as the 04 now but the material here is more complete and will eventually surpass the 2004 in years to come. 90-92+ (90pts)
Flight 2: Nicolas Glumineau era – 2007 & 2008
Ok, now let’s taste how the wines under the leadership of Nicolas Glumineau are. I would say the style is pretty much the same but perhaps the tannin and overall texture is finer. Even for a weak vintage like 2007 and apparently the 1st vintage of Nicolas, showing off the great quality, thanks to the strict work in the vineyard and attention to detail winemaking process.
3. 2007 Château Montrose (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
- Alcohol ::12.5%
- Bright and delicate on the nose with more direct aromatic, very different compared to the previous bottle. Pencil shaving, red and dark fruits, floral, brown sugar and mineral, not big scale but intense. This is delicious! Good freshness, transparency, sweetness of red and dark fruits for the light lush mouth feel. This has better complexity and concentration than 04 and noticeably silkier tannin. The medium level of silky, firm tannin already integrated well together with the fine acid backbone. Finished is long with mineral, milk chocolate and cocoa aftertaste. Pretty! This still needs several years to reach full maturity. 90-92+ (90pts)
Nicolas Glumineau – Wines from right bank (Merlot) apply more new oak for extract more tannin, flavours and aromas while left bank (Cabernet Sauvignon) has a lot of tannin and aromatic so don’t need to apply high % of new oak.
4. 2008 Château Montrose (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
- Alcohol :: 13%
- The nose is tighter with intense spiciness at the background, sweet dark and red fruits in the core accompany by smoke, pencil leads all wrapped in a serious, mocha like package. Full bodied, tannic and structured but very fine and not intrusive at all. Not perfectly polish but this has good roundness with endless layer of sweet dark fruits, tobacco, sandalwood and mineral. I especially like the transparency and freshness of this juice. This is a delicious, well made juice that offers very long finish with finesse. The harmony here is better than the last showing, lovely! 91-93 (91pts)
Flight 3 – The legendary trio – 2003,2005 & 2009
5. 2009 Château Montrose (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
- Alcohol :: 14%
- Wow wow wow! This is absolutely gorgeous. The finest, most seductive Montrose I have ever had (the best young Bordeaux and definitely one of the best Bordeaux too!), simply off the chart. To emphasize that, this is a complete wine even at this age with incredibly finesse and class and most of us thought this was a better wine than both 2003 & 2005. As expected the nose is still pretty tight but deep and complex: mineral, tobacco, cigar box, sandalwood with underlying sweet dark fruits and violet. Full bodied, incredible depth and complexity bring out by endless layer of succulent sweet dark fruits, cheese, sandalwood, mocca, mineral and tobacco. Everything is in the right place for the best harmony. This is so lush and exotic in the mouth with stunning richness, purity and inner perfume of violet and roses, yet doesn’t lack of the freshness, elegance and finesse. The long finish is unreal! I can’t help but ask for more. 96-97+ (96pts)
Nicolas Glumineau – No press wine has added in 2009 as the wine is really healthy and full of juiciness, punch, charm and exotic.
6. 2005 Château Montrose (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
- Alcohol :: 13%
- I was surprised how expressive the nose was: the aroma is nothing but exotic and complex: tobacco, sandalwood, smoke meat, leather, creme de cassis, blackcurrant liquor, mushroom and floral at the background. Structured, highly intense and powerful but well delineated and refine. This has superb sappiness on the palate with endless layer of sweet dark fruits, mineral and dry extract all wrapped in an ultra fine package. Massive level of tannin here, but the tannin is chewy, sweet along with firm polished structured that will permit it to continue evolve for the next 2decades. The finish was a little bit tight but offer better juiciness and great length when it opened up more. 94-95 (94pts)
7. 2003 Château Montrose (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
- Alcohol :: 13%
- The nose is sweet and seductive the complex aromas of mocha, blackcurrant liquor, perfume violet and lily, graphite, smoke meat and tobacco leaf. 2003 is a really hot year hence some of the wines suffered from high alcohol and lack of freshness. However, this is not the case for Montrose. The 2003 has massive concentration of succulent sweet ripe fruits but has this incredible purity and freshness for the lift and definition. The palate is superb intense, powerful but well rounded and lush. The tannin here is massive but it is sweet and polished that expand across the palate with incredible grip and dimension. The finish is a bit disjointed and turned a little bit softer than 05 & 09 which also display charming sweetness of dark fruits and mocha like aftertaste. This will need decade in the bottle to develop. 92-94+? (92pts)