One of The Most Exciting Tastings of the Year: 2005 First Growths Masterclass

Bordeaux Corks

Last week saw our Sales Director Jamie Graham and Private Client Sales Manager Craig Norton host one of the most exciting tastings of the year so far: our 2005 First Growths Masterclass. For us these wines are the pinnacle of what blended wine can offer: the height of quality, heritage and pedigree. These are the best wines of Bordeaux and have been recognised as such for generations.

Held at the Vintners’ Hall, the central London HQ for the wine trade for over 400 years, this magnificent venue acted as a fitting backdrop to what was an incredibly interesting, eye-opening and educational experience that saw us taste and assess these five iconic wines, from the perfection that is the 2005 Bordeaux vintage.

2005 Bordeaux Vintage
2009 and 2010 might be the most expensive young vintages available, and may well be the most hyped, but for the connoisseur, 2005 arguably beats the two of them.  If 2009 is all about seductive ripeness, and 2010 about acidity, alcohol and extract, then 2005 is about perfection, which is the hallmark of the vintage. Stylistically it is close to 2010, though more complete and, whilst these wines will keep and keep, many are just showing the first signs of development. A quite brilliant vintage.

First were the Pauillacs: Lafite, Latour & Mouton
To compare these three northern Medoc icons was truly fascinating. Lafite is the most northerly of the trio, right at the border with St Estephe, whereas Latour is the most southerly, next to neighbouring St Julien. Mouton is the most elevated, sitting atop the largest mound in Pauillac somewhere between Lafite and Latour. These three mighty Pauillacs demonstrated their three very different terroirs perfectly: Lafite’s understated regal polish, Mouton’s close-knit, rich, exotic spice, Latour’s power, depth, class. Three extraordinary wines: singularly fascinating, collectively exceptional.

2005 Lafite Rothschild
“Classic. Uncoils from glass gradually, revealing kirsch, blackcurrant, graphite, perfume. Pencil shavings. Hint of cloves. Grippy, very tightly knit still but layered and with huge potential. Classy, polished and refined. Everything in virtually perfect harmony, all in check. Once it gets into its stride and opens up over the next decade, this will be a very, very special effort.”
Craig Norton

2005 Mouton Rothschild
“Deep, almost black in colour. Takes some coaxing, but everything is there. In abundance. Huge, dense, full-bodied, deeply concentrated. Core of layered, exceptionally rich sweet fruit. Aromatic, spicy, black olive. Bright acidity keeps everything balanced. Needs time, still very tannic, backward and unrevealing – but this is a huge, rich Mouton that will evolve over the next 50 years. Very promising.”
Craig Norton

2005 Latour
“Powerful nose, leaps from the glass. Cassis, dark cherries. Layered mouthfeel, textured and with immense potential. Core of dark fruit, toast, cigar box, cedar. Hint of salinity. Staring to show very first signs of development, but still an eternity to go. Classy, pure and full bodied. This is a fantastic effort in 2005 and will surely be up there with the greatest Latours ever. Stunning.”
Craig Norton  

2005 First GrowthsNext: Margaux

Heading south along the banks of the Gironde, we arrive at Margaux. It has been well documented that Paul Pontallier fancies Margaux’s 2005 to be the greatest on record. Better than 61, 83, 90 – the lot. There was keen anticipation from all in the room to put this to the test.

2005 Margaux
“Wow, totally different from Pauillacs. Subtle, almost reticent at first. Then an intoxicating perfume. Very subtle aromatics. Starting to show the first signs of development – cedar, hint of tobacco, sweet spice. Some minerality. Layer upon layer of rich, sweet dark fruit. Mocha. Plump, pure, polished. Expansive and mouth-coating, evolves in the glass. A truly beautiful effort which surely has already established itself as one of the greatest ever produced. Worthy of a place in any cellar.”
Craig Norton

Last but not least: Haut-Brion

The most famous and oldest property from Pessac, Haut-Brion was last in line but surely not least. Often billed as the ‘Connoisseur’s First Growth’, the group were excited to see how it measured up against what had already been a formidable line up.

2005 Haut-Brion
“A complex nose, ripe, smoke, cigar tobacco. Pure dark fruit, Classic Graves ‘hot-brick’ character evident on the nose and palate. Silky texture, coats the palate. Builds in the mouth. Showing first signs of maturity, hints of earth, smoke and spice. An enticing meaty, savoriness which is exciting for what’s to come! Special, memorable, and with so much potential. Absolutely magnificent.”
Craig Norton


2005 is an exceptional vintage – ably showing the individuality of each great property, as well as the overall character of the vintage. The wines are obviously young, but 10 years on, they are starting to reveal a glimpse of the complexity, texture and purity that characterises the vintage. The balance of components – the concentration, the richness, the acidity and level of freshness, as well as a framework of finely knit tannins means these First Growths will last for decades and they will only improve.

A remarkable evening, a real treat to have the opportunity to taste these icons of wine comparatively from such a special vintage.

If I were to buy one? Tough choice. Margaux was sexy, beautiful, had everything – but in terms of value: Haut-Brion. A phenomenal effort in 2005 and without doubt pound-for-pound as good as any of the other wines on show. At just over £4k per case (12) IB, this gets my vote.

Craig Norton
Private Client Sales Manager

Vintners' Hall