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Bordeaux 2010 In Bottle: Pauillac

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

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So just how has Bordeaux’s most aristocratic appellation fared in 2010? There’s certainly the heavy burden of expectation. These wines looked extremely strong when first shown during the primeurs tastings a shade under two years ago. Well, on the basis of what is now in the glass Pauillac looks perhaps to be the most impressive of all Bordeaux’s appellations in 2010. It’s a difficult call but the vintage’s characteristics – density, power, structure, freshness – simply reach their apogee here. Of course that’s just as well given Pauillac’s original release prices in 2010.

The notes here don’t yet include the first growths, but don’t let that worry you. Chateau Pichon Longueville, Chateau Pichon Longueville-Lalande and Chateau Lynch-Bages have made truly superb wines. They remind me of a modern versions of  their respective 1986s [as with St Julien] though with more marked freshness, the real life-blood of 2010.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville’s wine couldn’t be a greater counterpoint to the seductive blockbuster it fashioned in 2009. It’s a case of chalk and cheese once again. The structure is much more obvious in 2010, but all the elements are here [by the ton]. The wine has astonishing length, surely not just to do with the wine’s intensity here but the fascinating acid freshness this vintage has produced. It is of first growth quality, no doubt about it and could easily hold its own against Lafite, Latour and Mouton I suspect. Its rival from over the road, Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, is characteristically rounder and more fleshy but has also succeeded wonderfully. It is usually a bit sullen and resentful early on but it was showing beautifully on the day.

Chateau Lynch-Bages 2010 looks a colossal effort. It will last for forty years plus and probably needs at least twenty to hit its stride. There is so much density and matter here, it’s like the universe on the eve of Big Bang. There’s a lot of tannin too. I have marked this down a tad because of this [probably too much] as this could very well trump the astonishingly exuberant 2009 Lynch-Bages, but for the moment my money is still very much on the latter. That said this is an incredibly serious 2010 that recalls their 1986 but with more tannin refinement and freshness.

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Chateau Clerc Milon were very impressive but in different ways. Clerc-Milon is the Pauillac you go to for purity and it delivers this extremely nicely in 2010. There’s a lot of texture too on the palate. Once again this is a long-term bet. Grand-Puy-Lacoste feels a fraction more come-hither [at least in 2010 terms] though it does remain a pretty dense, structured and grippy effort on the palate.

In the next tier down, but still looking extremely good in 2010’s fresh, dense, structured style are Chateau Batailley, Chateau d’Armailhac and Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse. Ducasse is a great effort – wonderfully classic [in the best sense of the word] and textbook Pauillac. There is plenty of material and grip here too and the wine probably needs ten years to show off its wares best. Chateau d’Armailhac is not dissimilar in style and reflects its terroir and vintage nicely. This is another good value Pauillac [in what still remains Bordeaux’s most expensive ever vintage].

Finally in this bunch, Chateau Batailley. This is a property that has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years – so much more finesse than before when it was more gutsy and old-fashioned. There seems real ambition and dedication here now to make the very best that Batailley can produce. This 2010 ranks alongside 2009 in quality if not in style and is certainly one of the best wines they have produced in recent years. You’re going to need a lot of space in the cellar for all these aren’t you?

There are two relative disappointments for me here. Chateau Croizet-Bages was no surprise really. It lacks the focus and intensity of its rivals [which it always seems to I’m afraid]. Chateau Haut-Bages-Libéral, which often delivers sinewy but refreshing Pauillac, felt a tad too grippy for my liking compared to its peers. It may settle down, although the style of the wines here is usually more high-toned so in a vintage like 2010 expect this to be even more so.

If you are looking for a more evolved and younger drinking Pauillac then Chateau Lynch-Moussas is a reasonable bet. It lacks some depth on the mid-palate and a bit of depth but it’s reasonably priced. That said if you are a true Pauillac fan you’re probably better off spending a little bit more and opting for a case of Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse or Chateau Batailley itself,  Lynch-Moussas’ superior stablemate.

Overall conclusions? 2010 is a vintage that seems designed for Pauillac, accentuating its finest characteristics – structure, density, tannin, longevity and freshness – the descriptors you most clearly identify with great Cabernet Sauvignon of course. 2010 is undeniably a great Cabernet year and so you’d probably expect the appellation that delivers this variety better than anywhere else  [in the world] to have succeeded. Don’t expect immediate gratification here though as in 2009. 2010 will deliver the goods but only in time, and in most cases in a very long time indeed.

I’ll update soon with notes on the first growths and Chateau Pontet-Canet, the most obvious omissions from this roundup but for now, below are the full tasting notes on the wines of Pauillac tasted last November at the UGCB event in London.

Chateau Batailley

Mid depth; glossy; blackcurrant, some cool and fresh tones; quite polished; fresh blackcurrants on the palate; cassis; quite a structure beneath; acid and material; grip. Overall quite positive and correct. Grippy yes, but good length too. 91+

Chateau Clerc Milon

Deep and dense; glossy again; creamier, more pure blackcurrant; nice pure seam of fruit; classic palate; pure and textured with depth but also acid and grip and tannin. Lots of structure. Chewy and dense finish. Long term but very promising. 93+

Chateau Croizet-Bages

Deep, saturated; earthy tinge; some leaf, blackcurrant and earthy tones; lacks a bit of precision; earthy, leafy blackcurrant flavours on the palate; some development too; little loose. Savoury tang at the end. Lacks the finesse and purity of the best Pauillacs. 86

Chateau d’Armailhac

Deep and saturated colour; quite glossy looking; leafy, blackcurrant note; freshness and strength beneath; feels pretty classic; nice blackcurrant flavours again on the palate; quite dry tannin and more classic than say ’09. Nice acid grip here that provides freshness [and longevity]. Vintage comes through. 91+

Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse

Dense and deep at centre; quite dense at edge; blackcurrants, pure and fresh; chewy and dense palate; plenty of material and lots of grip but lots of blackcurrant flavour too. Nice length. Very good effort here. 91+

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Thick and dense looking in the glass; nice layered blackcurrant nose; some lift; attractive; some graphite; very nicely judged palate – blackcurrants, leafy undergrowth notes and well structured. Grippy and classical and very nicely done. Plenty of fruit here to fit this firm, classical structure I expect. 93+

Chateau Haut-Bages Libéral

Mid depth; fresh looking; clean, some purity, blackcurrant and layers; grippy palate, blackcurrants but quite high acid makes things feel pretty grippy. This will have a long life I’m sure but the present acid makes it feel a little lean. May improve. 86+

Chateau Lynch Bages

Deep and saturated at core; very ripe blackcurrant aromas, full; some olive tones; real depth on the nose; pretty precise; oak here; inky palate; quite dry tannins and lots of structure and very chewy with lots of material also; real density here and extract and tannin. Very long term indeed. 94+

Chateau Lynch-Moussas

Mid depth; solid core; herbs, leafy tones and blackcurrant aromas; quite forward and attractive; some minty, herbal notes too; evolved palate; leafy and blackcurrant notes but also structure beneath. Lacks a bit on the mid-palate but overall a goodish effort. Similar qualitative level as Haut-Bages Libéral but more drinkable and evolved. 87

Chateau Pichon-Longueville

Deep and more saturated than Pichon Lalande; very big, saturated nose; volume really turned up here; lots of blackcurrants, some spices; very, very deep and profound aroma; lots of fruit on the palate; cool blackcurrants, cassis; some graphite notes; lots of material here; tannic structure but with plenty of fruit. Excellent length. Best Pauillac here and of first growth quality. 96+

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Depth; glossy look; pure blackcurrants; creamy tones; some black cherry and plums; very enticing; lots of blackcurrant and cassis notes on the palate and lots of depth and chew. Pichon Lalande has really succeeded in this vintage. It can seem a bit sullen early on but this wine is singing nicely. Structure and grip beneath the wonderful fruit tones. Reflects the vintage but also the more rounded Lalande style, versus Pichon Longueville’s power. 95

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