Château Kirwan 2001 Margaux Bordeaux 93
by Robert Millmann
I recently had the opportunity to taste a bottle of 2001 from Château Kirwan which came directly from the Château. The 2001 was a vintage on the way to excellence but then the rains came. Compared with the powerful and sometimes gritty 2000s, the 2001s were gentler and more subdued, and they did not make much of an impression in their youth. So how did a twenty years old wine from an under-appreciated estate show? Very well, as you will read. The Château dates back to the early 1700s when an Irishman named Kirwan owned the property. So highly was it regarded in the late nineteenth century that Thomas Jefferson—the most astute taster of Bordeaux in his time—included it in the five best Bordeaux to purchase after what are now called the First Growths. Kirwan ranked a third growth in 1855—the same as Château Palmer. Its ranking indicated that the experienced Bordeaux merchants at the time thought very highly of the property. About 36.5 hectares are planted at Kirwan—45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petite Verdot. The latter is quite a high number. An elevated site that sits on the border between Cantenac and Margaux proper, Kirwan fell into obscurity after World War II to be bright back into full recognition by Michel Rolland, the consulting oenologist at Kirwan from 1991 to 2005. Like many other wines from its appellation, it is a wine of finesses and elegance rather than power and density. In fact its second wine is aptly named Les Charmes de Kirwan.
I had not tasted the 2001 in many years. The cork on this bottle took quite some time to be willing to be liberated from its bottle. The wonderful color of the wine was the first of many good indicators that wine was in excellent condition: A deep garnet hue with a nearly black core and almost no browning on the edges. The bouquet was a lovely combination of floral, tobacco leaf and dark berries: not a dramatic aroma but a most pleasing one. On the palate the wine was ripe yet restrained with a smooth, fluid texture, a welcome touch of tannin and a graceful exit. This is the kind of wine that two people could consume in a leisurely manner over a good dinner. The alcohol was hardly noticeable. It was a sheer delight to taste. Drinking window: 2022-2032.
Sordo 2005 Barolo Monvigliero Riserva 94
From an underrated vintage, a really very good wine. The Sordo 2005 Barolo Monvigliero Riserva is a delicious, perfumed, lighter-styled Barolo as is in the chords of, and you’d expect from, the Monvigliero cru and the terroir of the Verduno commune (think Margaux or Chambolle, not Pauillac or Corton).
Good full, bright red. The pretty nose offers nuanced, refined and pure aromas of red cherry, spices, flowers (violet, iris, peony, rose), red licorice and herbs (sage, thyme), complemented by a discreet note of truffle and earth. Silky and salty with uncanny amounts of extract, with a sneaky richness and palate presence, not to mention noteworthy depth to the red and blue fruit flavours, complicated by hints of forest floor. The wine’s subtle intensity carries through to the building and surprisingly powerful finish, which spreads out nicely to coat the palate with repeating red fruit and soil notes. Not a behemoth in keeping with the vintage and the territory the grapes grew wine, but still, this pretty, sneakily concentrated Barolo boasts enticing inner-mouth perfume and sweetness on the long, suave aftertaste. Well done here. Drinking window: 2020-2030.