At the primeurs tastings in Bordeaux in April 2011 I had thought that St Emilion in 2010 had bettered the wines made here than in 2009. That vintage, for me which had looked in many cases a bit over-blown and tannic early on, rounded out during elévage nicely. Now tasting through the 2010 wines at the same stage after this vintage has finished its time in barrel, it doesn’t feel quite as knockout as I had imagined. That’s not to say there aren’t many excellent wines from this appellation in 2010, but I was disappointed by some which misfired and, as ever, a number of wines that feel reduced, late picked and over-extracted – not a problem if you like leaden, plodding wine, but surely one if you like a bit of vitality and freshness.
In the line-up [sans Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Angélus and Pavie admittedly] Chateau Figeac was the finest wine on display for me, followed closely by Chateau Canon, Chateau Troplong-Mondot, Chateau Trottevielle, Chateau La Dominique and Clos Fourtet. I’m a great fan of Figeac and it’s done really well in 2010, maybe it’s now a shade less amazing than it was during primeurs week, but I expect most of that difference is how the wine has shut down. The same is true of Trottevielle, poor man’s Figeac in my book [well, middle income man at least], although geographically these chateaux could hardly be further from each other. It looked a real beauty early on and, whilst it still looks very good, it’s not quite as amazing as I remember [I rated one blind sample 96-98 in April 2011!]. Still you’d be very happy to own a case of it now.
No surprise about the sleek and polished look of Chateau Canon, another fine effort here, though this vintage for me is forever associated with the sharp price hike courtesy of Chanel [Rauzan-Ségla was another victim in this respect]. Despite this the wine is very fine. Chateau Troplong-Mondot is always the precise opposite of Canon stylistically but somehow isn’t at all overdone. It must be the sheer quality of the fruit here. It’s all sexy opulence to Canon’s cool, focused minerality. Clos Fourtet has also produced a really satisfying wine in 2010 and Chateau La Dominique has produced a blinder, in the appellation context with a lot of pricey wines also relative value. It was excellent in 2009 too.
Behind these, but making very good wines in their own full and ripe styles are Chateau Canon-la-Gaffelière, Chateau Franc Mayne, Chateau Pavie Macquin, and Chateau Soutard. Just behind these, but still good are Chateau Cap de Mourlin, Chateau La Tour Figeac, Chateau Larmande and Chateau Villemaurine. Most of these are skirting the edge of the jammy side of the fruit spectrum but they still managed to appeal. All are certainly very ripe and fleshy wines.
I was honestly disappointed by the showing of Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot which had looked very good during the primeurs period. I’m a fan of this estate and it has made really good wines in 2006-2009 and in 2011 but the 2010 felt tired and overdone on the day. Chateau La Gaffelière felt solid rather than exciting as to me it often does. Am I not somehow ‘getting’ this wine? Be interested to hear from others on this. Chateau Larcis Ducasse felt massively overdone in the cellar with far too much oak influence. This had looked a very positive effort during primeurs week, but it’s gone backwards in my book.
Then there were a batch of wines that for me were all much of a muchness – Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle, Chateau Berliquet and Chateau Grand Mayne. To varying degrees these felt tired, blousy, over-extracted, overly jammy and late picked in feel, efforts which had a lot of thickness and sweetness to them, but not much by way of finesse, freshness or subtlety.
So if it sounds a varied bunch, that’s St Emilion for you – various winemaking styles – some aggressive, some thoughtful – vastly different terroirs from clay, to limestone, to sand and various combinations thereof. Then there are a variety of blends, some pure Merlot, others with a seasoning of Cabernet Franc, others with a pretty hefty dose of that variety. Figeac even has Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix.
Below are the individual notes on the wines tasted at the UGCB event at Covent Garden in November 2012. A big caveat here [as with all these notes]. You’re faced with 125 wines in total [across all the Bordeaux appellations] to taste in 5 hours. So that’s 25 wines an hour. Below are 20 wines from St Emilion, many weighing in at over fourteen degrees alcohol, with huge levels of tannin and extract. It’s a tiring process tasting them. Still if you concentrate you should be reasonably consistent in your analysis despite the speed of tasting and the number of samples. It is a level playing field. Obviously during the primeurs week in April each year this process of tasting Bordeaux is stretched over a week. This allows for much greater analysis and re-tasting of the wines. I guess what I’m saying is treat the notes below as a snapshot, useful I hope, but not definitive.
Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle
Quite big looking in the glass; some red at edge; thick and VA lift on the nose; figgy; thick and ripe sweet palate with lots of extract. Not much life for me. Feels tired. 86
Very dense and saturated looking; chalky note; some lift; lacks freshness; not developing that well – had much better memories at primeurs; liquorice and fig; feels thick and overdone to me. 88?
Deep and saturated; some chocolate, some red fruit; quite saturated; palate a little on the figgy, over-ripe side for me; thick middle palate and then dry tannin at the end. Late picked style and over-extracted for me. 86
Deep and dense; some chalk, red fruits and some depth; ripe and with lots of extract; deep; big but pure; some grip and texture and extract; not overly tannic, but ripe tannin not too pushed. Promising effort, pretty structured overall but plenty of fruit here and a pure style; not over-played. 92+
Chateau Canon La Gaffelière
Deep and saturated; lifted red fruit aromas, saturated style; spice and liquorice notes; thick and rich palate; red fruits; deep and dense. Earthy note. Usual full style here but it works. 91+
Chateau Cap de Mourlin
Deep and saturated look; some red fruits, fig, lift; strawberry toned fruit on the palate; attractive and easy with lots of guts and material. Some spice and fig but sufficient life to make this work. 90
Deep and saturated; fresher, blackcurrants, really pure seam of fruit here, earthy edge; dark cherry; excellent purity here. Pure palate again, fresh Cabernet [Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon] notes; minerality; some dryness here but plenty of fruit. Grip and sap on the finish. Chewy. Shutting down a bit but still extremely promising. No use in hiding it, I’m a great fan of Figeac. 94+
Deep and saturated look; deep nose; some wet rock; saturated aroma and lift; certainly intense; ripe fruit on the palate; lots of chew and extract; dense and pretty chewy; lots of oomph here; grip and pure fruit. Pretty bold style. 92+
Chateau Franc Mayne
Deep and arterial; some spice; fruit cake; some velvet; thick and ripe palate and lots of saturation of flavour; Cabernet Franc [10%] adds freshness to the Merlot [90%]; very good effort. Usually find this estate’s wines a bit plodding, yes there’s plenty of chew and extract but there is life too. 91+
Chateau Grand Mayne
Thick and arterial in the glass; jammy, heady, lifted nose; feels a tad tired; ripe palate; inky and tannic. Feels extremely extracted and big on the palate. Overdone to me. 86?/100
Chateau La Dominique
Deep and saturated colour; wet rocks; fresh; stalky note; depth and layers here; some tension too [ie complexity, not a monolithic wave of cloying super-ripe fruit]. Nice fruit qualities; very saturated and layered but without the jammy qualities; red fruits and stalky freshness; Nice chew and depth overall. Saturated with fruit but retains freshness and bite. Great effort. 93+
Chateau La Gaffelière
Deep and saturated colour; chunky fruit nose; red fruits; depth; chunky, chewy wine on the palate; lots of extract; some red fruits again; ink, wet rocks and a slightly dry finish. So so effort for such a good terroir. Am I always missing something here at La Gaffelière? 88/100
Chateau La Tour Figeac
Deep and saturated look, tight to the edge; thick aroma, red fruits, some freshness with sour cherry, fruit cake and plum. Ripe and thick palate with lots of depth of flavour. Lots of material and extract. Chewy finish. All the elements and they work. 90+
Chateau Larcis Ducasse
Deep and saturated look; sublimated nose; deep; lots of red fruits – strawberry, redcurrant; lift; ripe and layered palate with density. Thick tannins. Super concentrated style. Quite lifted notes [VA]. Will appeal to those who like their wines sublimated in a centrifuge. If they have balance that’s fine but think we’re lacking acid and freshness here. Have better recollections from primeur tastings. Disappointing showing certainly. 88?/100
Thick and dark looking; spice, liquorice, dark fruits; some sexy notes; thick palate, lots of extract and chew; wood tannin also; very big scaled and chewy with some bite at the end. Very bold and big. Works. 90
Chateau Pavie Macquin
Deep and saturated looking; red fruits; some marzipan notes; thick and open nose; palate ripe and opulent; lots of extract and tannin here. Dry finish. Potentially pretty good but needs some time. 90+
Deep and thick looking: ripe and saturated aromas, quite seductive; layers here and lots of fruit; saturated fruit in keeping with the nose; lots and lots of fruit; very saturated but tannins feel nicely handled. Very good effort. 91+
Chateau Troplong Mondot
Deep and saturated; lifted, sexy nose; very opulent indeed; satiny red fruits; nice palate – plums, spices and ripe red fruits; lots of saturated fruit; structure beneath and chew on the finish. Typically big and seductive but strangely not over-powering. This is how you do it! 94+
Deep colour; Cabernet Franc freshness here; blackcurrants, chocolate; attractive and appetizing; pretty dense and layered palate; chewy but lots of richness and depth; cool and attractive more-ish St Emilion – in case you thought that wasn’t still possible. This looked wonderful during the primeur tastings and is still a delight. 93+
Deep and saturated; nice savoury edge to the nose and lots of depth of fruit evident; earthy fruit on the palate; quite dense and chewy; attractive though; lots of depth and nice bite on the finish. Good effort. 90+
Tags: 2010, Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle, Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot, Chateau Berliquet, Chateau Canon, Chateau Canon La Gaffelière, Chateau Cap de Mourlin, Chateau Figeac, Chateau Franc Mayne, Chateau Grand Mayne, Chateau La Dominique, Chateau La Gaffelière, Chateau La Tour Figeac, Chateau Larmande, Chateau Pavie Macquin, Chateau Soutard, Chateau Troplong Mondot, Chateau Trottevielle, Chateau Villemaurine, Clos Fourtet, Merlot, St Emilion