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Bordeaux 2010 In Bottle: St Julien

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

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St Julien has made an extremely serious fist of 2010. It’s the polar opposite of 2009 and possesses a weight, density and integrity all of its own. It feels like a hypothetical blend here of 2005 and 2000 with a bit of 1986 thrown in, though far better handled in the vineyard and in the cellar than ’86 was in those days. Now in bottle, these wines mean business, and you’ll be keeping them there a while. They need ten years age minimum, twenty at the top level, but at maturity they have the potential to be remarkable. If 2009 is considered a latter day 1959, then, in time, could 2010 be the 1961 of its generation?

Tasting the wines that all seems premature. It’s important to say that 2010 St Julien [along with Pauillac] has an enigmatic quality to it too. Yes, there’s a structure, a density, a level of tannin, grip and freshness that makes these wines unique. But there’s the nagging fear that all these components in combination have the potential for the Cabernet dominant wines up here in the Médoc be more than a bit puritanical.

Freshness, density, classicism and longevity are all great, but we can’t live a life of cold showers and six o’clock runs [though it appeals to some]. 2010 St Julien’s stimulate the intellect – they do that already – but just when will they generate joy and emotion? 2035-2045?

Didier Cuvelier of Chateau Léoville Poyferré has called 2010 in St Julien a modern day equivalent to 1975. It’s actually an honest [and quite brave] comparison. I get what he means. Today’s later picking and better tannin management gets the very best rather than the worst of that scenario but there is a density here in 2010 that maybe does recall 1975 [itself a drought year, though hotter]. Back then 1975 was also considered the new 1961. Oh dear.

I’m not saying that’s quite what we have here in 2010. These are excellent wines in St Julien and unquestionably 2010 is a remarkable year. But what, ultimately, will be its lasting character? Strength, purity, density, structure, grip and freshness, we can see these attributes already. Certainly 2010 in St Julien is not a vintage for the faint-hearted.

The major two major omissions here in the tasting notes are Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou and Chateau Léoville-Las-Cases, other than that I think everyone else is present and correct. Las Cases incidentally looked a pretty monumental effort during primeurs week in April 2011.

On the day pretty much all the wines felt dense and firm, which, given what I’ve outlined about the vintage here in St Julien is to be expected. If the scores don’t seem that flashy, then it’s how I see them now. It felt easier to score 2009 more highly because it was so precocious and delicious. 2010 remains a trickier prospect and I can see I’ve been very conservative. If scores are your thing then I expect all these will migrate one way [upwards] over time but who really knows. As ever, the notes are more important than the numbers. I hope they are helpful.

There’s a trio – Léoville-Barton, Léoville-Poyferré and St Pierre – that would have to be my top picks. Just behind these are Branaire-Ducru, Gruaud-Larose, Lagrange, Langoa-Barton, Beychevelle and Gloria. Gruaud-Larose had looked even more impressive two years ago during the primeurs tastings but it has shutdown since. Chateau Talbot brings up the rear, though not by a huge margin. From top to bottom here the wines are extremely homogeneous.

Chateau Beychevelle

Deep and pretty saturated; fresh blackcurrants; lots of purity here; clean and not at all sullen as ’09 was after bottling; pretty palate; rose petal, blackcurrants; elegance, not the same intensity as some; grip on the finish. Will probably gain further weight. 91+/100

Chateau Branaire-Ducru

Mid depth; pretty deep core; pure blackcurrants, some minerals; nice entry; blackcurrant fruit; plenty of material; fresh acids and structure here; chewy finish. Has length and plenty of fruit. 92+/100

Chateau Gloria

Deep and saturated looking; pretty cassis and blackcurrant nose; plums and spices too; very cool and fresh fruit tones; structure to the palate; nice acid and grip; plenty of flesh on the bones. Has filled out nicely. Good length. 91+/100

Chateau Gruaud Larose

Mid depth; some earth, savoury tones with ripe cassis and blackcurrants; cleaner palate with layers of blackcurrant fruit; quite dry but with plenty of extract. Lacks the purity of Léoville Barton – earthy, smoky and savoury notes. Not as knockout as it was primeurs. 92/100

Chateau Lagrange

Mid depth; deep core; quite firm, pure; blackcurrants; nice pure seam of fruit; Cabernet freshness; linear; concentrated and focused palate; structured with plenty of grip and tannin. Vin de garde. Needs ten years. 91+

Chateau Langoa Barton

Deep and saturated look; fresh; some blackcurrant and dark cherry notes; pure again; similar to Léoville Barton obviously but a notch down in volume; some spice; very classic; blackcurrants and leaf; some undergrowth; grippy and structured palate; lots of extract, tannin and acid. Quite a mouthful at present. Also needs ten years plus. 91+

Chateau Léoville Barton

Deep and saturated; fresh, ripe blackcurrants on the nose; cassis; some black cherry too; real freshness and purity; lots of fruit, extract and material; blackcurrants, dark plums, cherry; pretty clean flavours; structured and tannic but not seemingly as dry as Léoville Poyferré. 93+

Chateau Léoville Poyferré

Deep and saturated in colour; blackcurrants, some cream; layers to the nose; also lift from the oak; leaf and blackcurrant freshness; very structured grippy palate with acid and extract; lots of blackcurrant fruit but there is a density here; chewy finish. Saturated and structured at the same time. Needs time. 93+

Chateau Saint-Pierre

Deep and saturated looking; quite seductive nose; layers; nicely handled elévage; cassis and blackcurrant fruit here; palate intense, focused and fresh; acid here with the structure. Quite chewy and saturated with a grippy finish. Another that needs ten years. 93+

Chateau Talbot

Mid depth; glossy looking; some herbs, a little spice, some blackcurrant with olive; slightly stalky note at the edge; fresh wine, grippy, little awkward at present; lots of grip and tannin. Quite dry on the end. This could just be a stage. Very structured at present. 89+

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