By Robert Parker
Perhaps because of her name or because she heads a famous "first-growth" château, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild is the best- known woman competing in Bordeaux's male-dominated wine trade. But she is hardly alone. A growing number of female proprietors in the area lead estates that are turning out terrific wines. Here are some of their wines from 2004, the vintage that is hitting store shelves now.
89 points. A sleeper of the vintage from Marie-Françoise Nony's St.-Emilion estate, the fleshy, dark ruby/purple-tinged 2004 shows plenty of crème de cassis, mulberry, and cherry fruit. Medium- to full-bodied, opulent, and straightforward, it should drink nicely for 10 to 12 years or more. $37
89 points. This St.-Estèphe estate, run by Denise Capbern Gasqueton, offers a wine with dark ruby/plum color, notes of roasted herbs, sweet cherries, currants, and loamy earth. It's medium in weight, with light to moderate tannin and an elegant style. $37-$45
89 points. Under the leadership of Christine Valette, this chateau has turned out some of St.-Emilion's most compelling wines. The 2004 displays sweet cherry, white chocolate, and black currant characteristics in a medium-bodied wine. $43-$63
90+ points. Sophie Fourcade is a cutting-edge sort who also runs two other St.-Emilion estates, Grandes Murailles and Côte de Baleau. In this Clos St.-Martin, sweet plum and cherry characteristics emerge. Medium in body, it has an elegant personality and terrific purity as well as length. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020. $44
92 points. May-Eliane de Lencquesaing recently sold this Paulliac estate, but she was responsible for the 2004. It exhibits a deep ruby/purple color as well as scents of cocoa, espresso roast, black cherries, and cassis. Medium- to full-bodied, opulent, and fleshy, this wine can be enjoyed now or cellared for two decades. $64-$70
91 points. This wine offers sweet mocha-infused black raspberry and cherry-like fruit in its intense aromatics. In the mouth, it is pure silk. Helen Garcin's Clos l'Eglise is a delicious, complex Pomerol that should drink beautifully for 12 to 14 years. $79
91-93 points. The baroness' vivacious, dense, ruby/purple-hued 2004 offers hints of new saddle leather, truffles, and cassis. This rich, pure claret requires patience since it will need a decade of cellaring to shed its lofty tannins. Anticipated maturity: 2015 to 2045. $145-$265
93 points. Corinne Mentzelopoulos' supple-textured 2004 Margaux exhibits a superb blue/purple color to the rim as well as sweet aromas of flowers, blueberries, crème de cassis, and licorice. It has fabulous fruit intensity and silky-sweet tannin in the long finish. This medium-bodied first growth can be enjoyed now or cellared for two decades or more. $189-$250
Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.
Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit www.eRobertParker.com to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.