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David Lawrason picks nine French bottles from 2009, the vintage of the century

David Lawrason picks nine French bottles from 2009, the vintage of the century

In France, where the weather is relatively cool and fluctuates drastically from year to year, vintage is a huge factor in determining quality—and a subject of impassioned debate. Torrid heat waves in 2000 and 2003 had wine experts arguing over which vintage should be declared the best of the century. To my mind, both years produced ripe, sometimes soupy wines that age far too quickly; when I see them on wine lists, I avoid them altogether. No, the best French vintage of the century is 2009, and it’s hitting LCBO shelves right now. It was a hot summer, but less extreme than 2000 and 2003, and much longer, lasting until October. The resulting wines have exceptional weight and fruit richness, while maintaining the essential firm structure and elegant flavour signatures of France’s varying grapes and regions. New World devotees who usually find French wines tart, thin and expensive will be pleasantly surprised at the fuller-flavoured reds and more fragrant whites. Here, nine affordable selections from my favourite French vintage.

Louis Jadot 2009 Bourgogne Chardonnay
Louis Jadot 2009 Bourgogne Chardonnay $19 | Burgundy | 89 points The heat of 2009 boosted the elegance and power of this ­chardonnay, making it closer in quality to Burgundy’s famous ­Meursaults and Montrachets. Ripe pear and apple flavours, along with floral notes, carry through to a mineral finish. Vintages. LCBO 933077
Pierre Sparr 2009 ­Gewurztraminer
Pierre Sparr 2009 ­Gewurztraminer $17 | Alsace | 90 points Dry Alsatian gewurz is France’s most perfumed and opulent white, pushed over the top by the heat of 2009. This one has pure, powerful lychee and apricot flavours with classic musk perfume and peppery spice. It’s full-bodied and creamy, with excellent length. Chill well and sip it with charcuterie. LCBO 373373
Rigal 2009 Les Terrasses Malbec
Rigal 2009 Les Terrasses Malbec $14 | Southwest France | 88 points Fans of Argentine malbec should try this malbec from its French homeland in Cahors, near Toulouse. It’s a dark red with an almost overripe blackberry-prune nose, plus subtle herbs and spices. It’s dense and smooth with fine, firm tannin and a tarry, bitter finish, but smoother than most vintages of Cahors. Best 2013 to 2015. LCBO 148718
Chapoutier 2009 Rasteau Côtes-du-Rhône Villages
Chapoutier 2009 Rasteau Côtes-du-Rhône Villages $18.45 | Rhône Valley | 89 points A stylish blend of grenache and syrah, this red has appealing sweet plum, licorice, herb and peppery nuances. The flavours are impressively concentrated and elegant, making it a great Rhône red for under $20. Best 2013 to 2016. LCBO 321539
Georges Duboeuf 2009 Brouilly
Georges Duboeuf 2009 Brouilly $17 | Beaujolais | 89 points The hot summer was particularly great for Beaujolais, heightening Gamay’s signature exuberance with extra fruit ripeness. Expect lovely lilac aromas with cherry and strawberry jam flavours in a soft, smooth style. Fine acidity and grainy tannin. Chill lightly. LCBO 213934
Château de Gourgazaud 2009 Minervois
Château de Gourgazaud 2009 Minervois $13 | Languedoc-Roussillon | 89 points The hearty syrah-mourvèdre blends of sunny Languedoc in southern France are ripe in any year, but 2009 produced pure blackberry aromas with pepper, gun flint and licorice. This one is smooth and rich with youthful tannin, so age it a year or two. LCBO 22384
Château Pey la Tour 2009
Château Pey la Tour 2009 $14.45 | Bordeaux | 87 points Most grand 2009 Bordeaux will not appear until later in 2012, but the lighter, earlier releases, like Pey la Tour, are showing lively richness and softness. This mid-weight, fleshy and dense red exudes ­flavours of black raspberry, herbs and tobacco. Some youthful, drying ­tannin. Best 2013 to 2015. Serve it with duck. LCBO 264986
Chanson 2009 Le Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Chanson 2009 Le Bourgogne Pinot Noir $19 | Burgundy | 87 points Burgundy’s lighter pinot noirs gained weight in 2009. I have had some fabulous grand crus, but even this basic Bourgogne sports more flesh and raspberry-cherry ripeness than in previous years. It is tannic, however, so keep it for a couple of years. Vintages. LCBO 50575
Perrin 2009 Côtes du Rhône Réserve
Perrin 2009 Côtes du Rhône Réserve $15 | Rhône Valley | 88 points One of the most popular French reds at the LCBO has developed ripe blackberry-prune fruit, typical Rhône licorice flavours and a hint of woodsiness. It’s smooth, juicy and easygoing, with concentrated fruit and spice. Decant 30 minutes. Vintages. LCBO 363457

Scores: David Lawrason assigns scores on a 100-point scale. They reflect a wine’s overall quality. A rating of 95 to 100 is outstanding; 90 to 94 excellent; 85 to 89 very good; 80 to 84 good.

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