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Best value 2005 Bordeaux wines

Tasting the 2005s 10 years on, Michael Schuster was struck by their “sheer drinkability” and “wonderful appealing freshness” when he tried them recently at Bordeaux Index.

Michael Schuster

Michael Schuster first met the 2005s in the en primeur week in Bordeaux. “Like most I thought it a first rate vintage, my only question was about the tannins,” he told db after the recent Bordeaux Index tasting of seventy 2005 reds from crus bourgeois to first growths.

Ten years on, he was impressed by their “sheer drinkability” and the fact “they are so full of fruit, and yet have this wonderful appealing freshness which is unusual in a great vintage.”

At the time Robert Parker’s pronouncement on the 2005 was not quite as euphoric as some were hoping, again – officially because of the tannins. Then, six months after the vintage was released in bottle in March 2008 came the collapse of Lehman brothers causing a 20% crash in the market for top-end Bordeaux and some seriously burnt fingers among speculators.

With its somewhat tarnished reputation, the vintage was pushed into the shade by what came next. For those hooked on Parker points there was no contest –  28 full 100 points scores for the opulent 2009s and 2010s compared to just two for the 2005s.

Yet Schuster has no doubt which he would pick of this trio of great vintages. “If I had to choose, I’d go for the ‘05s for certain.” He reckoned it was not impossible to make a bad wine that year, “but you had to try pretty hard, and the problem would be with you, rather than the fruit or the vintage.”

He also believes the benign conditions did not favour one grape over another, the right bank over the left, or any particular appellation. The result is an abundance of good – great wine.

Schuster scored all the first growths highly at 19+ (97+) or above, rating Château Mouton Rothschild the best value among them at £4,650 a case. But he insists a taste of greatness can be had for a lot less. “If you want the Bordeaux experience, I do think there’s some really great value in the 2005s.”

At the Bordeaux Index tasting he selected the wines he thought “particularly attractive and good value”, from which this top ten is compiled, based firstly on score and second on price, and with his tasting notes attached.

Click through for Michael Schuster’s 2005 best value selection
– those of ‘particularly good value’ in red

NB All prices are based on current in bond prices from Bordeaux Index

10. Château D’Armailhac, 5th Growth, Pauillac  (£420)     16.5 / 90

“Dark, narrow rimmed red; fresh, sweet, cedary early bouquet; very nicely balanced, rich, vital, middleweight claret with a fine textured tannin; vivid red fruit flavour, nice length to taste, juicy, sweet, spicy, long and satisfying. Not grand, but very good in a traditional, well defined, gently muscular Pauillac style. Good value.”

9. Château Belgrave, 5th Growth, St Laurent  (£340)    16.5 / 90

“Dark red; fine, sweet, early bouquet, cassis and mineral; rich middleweight wine, fresh and finely tannic; crisply sweet in fruit, a nice gentle fleshiness and complexity, and excellent length. A most satisfying lesser Classed Growth. Juicy and delicious, and with lovely length. Now – 2025.”

8. Domaine de Chevalier, Cru Classé Pessac-Léognan  (£500)    16.5+ / 91




“Dark brick rimmed red; an early bouquet full of ripe, oak vanilla tinged fruit; elegantly balanced, nicely concentrated, fresh, finely tannic medium full wine; sweetly fruited, fleshy, gently complex and very seductive Dom. Chev. in early maturity; long, freshly sweet, refined and with excellent fruit length. Effortless, easy, delicious, and no hurry. Years ahead. Excellent value. Now- 25+.”

7. Château Duhart Milon, 4th Growth, Pauillac  (£620)    17 / 92

“Dark, brick-rimmed red; sweet and cedary to smell; ripe, sweet fruited, vital flavour within a fine, dry tannin; crisply sweet, gently gravelly, long and savoury; a notably fine textured Duhart, if still a touch dry, but with excellent fragrant length. A fine and refined, long term Duhart. Still very fair value. 2020-35+.”

6. Château Brane-Cantenac, 2nd Growth Margaux  (£550)    17 / 92

“Dark, brick rimmed red; freshly sweet and faintly herbaceous (the Merlot) early bouquet; elegantly balanced, fresh, moderately concentrated medium full wine with a fine tannin; a pure, crisp, freshly sweet fruit, delicate, subtle, long, if for many modern palates a touch on the leaner side; but this is complex and long and complete in its slightly more old fashioned style, with a lovely sweetness of fruit, fine texture and fruit fragrant length. [Very different from, but just as good as, Lascombes]. Needs a few years ideally. 2020-30+.”

5. Château Lagrange, 3rd Growth St Julien  (£420)    17 / 92

“Dark, still youthful red; crisply sweet and markedly mineral to smell; very nicely balanced, concentrated middleweight claret, with a fresh acidity and fine, dry tannin; a mass of fruit, crisply sweet to taste, fresh, aromatic, savoury, with clear gravelly aromas, and a fine, fruity length of after-taste; On the slightly more muscular side, but this is a classy and complete, very good 3rd growth. Still a touch firm, but full of medium to long term promise. One of the great values of the tasting. Now – 25+.”            

4. Château Calon Segur, 3rd Growth St Estèphe (£650)    17+ / 92

“Dark red, fine cedary nose, still quite closed; elegant balance of ripe fruit, crisp acidity, fine firm tannin; delicious fruit core within a long term, finely tannic texture; a lovely core sweetness, alongside a ripe red fruit scent and fragrance, gently Médoc minerally, subtle and complex within the overall firmness, and with great fruit length. Very fine long term Calon. 2022-40.”

3. Château Magdelaine, St Emilion 1er Grand Cru  (£590)    17+ / 92+

“Dark red; slightly raisiny ripe and mineral nose; elegant, finely tannic, beautifully fruited wine; sweet, complex, vital, very mineral in taste, long, linear and refined; fairly firm, but full of long term promise, with great tenacity of flavour, and fine aromatic length; a most complete Magdelaine. 20019-30+.”          

2. Château Nenin, Pomerol (£360)    17+ / 92+

“Dark red, bricking rim; light, faintly earthy, still closed; rich, generous, fresh and fleshy wine, a very nice Pomerol balance with a very fine, firm, but unobtrusive tannin; deep and sweetly ripe, ample, fleshy, satisfying, this has fattened out very attractively, with a nice complexity and excellent fruit fragrant length. A very satisfying, juicily rich Pomerol, accessible now, even better in five years time. A steal at its current price, for it has the class, scope and finesse of Pomerols that currently cost 3 – 4 times as much. Now – 25+.”

1. Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse, 2nd Growth, Pauillac (£770)   17.5 / 93

“Dark, brick-edged red; softly sweet, ripe and oaky to smell; rich, fleshy, vivid, concentrated medium full Pauillac, finely tannic; an abundance of freshly ripe fruit, generous, ample, gently mouth-filling, complex and spicy and with fine aromatic length. Excellent long term Pichon Lalande, fleshy-rich yes, refined, but with sinew too; accessible now, but which will really blossom with a few years more. 2018 – 35.”


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