Tasted on my first morning last week, Mouton was also the first of the first growths I tasted. I can remember last year’s 2009 clearly and my impression was that in 2010 Phillipe Dhalluin has actually trumped that wine. I also thought that Clerc Milon and d’Armailhac had switched characters slightly, the d’Armailhac slightly more reticent and the Clerc Milon seemingly more forward and come hither. Subsequent tastings at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux reversed this thought slightly, but there is no doubt that both have made exceptional wines in 2010, Clerc Milon especially. There is a concentration and a density to both these wines. Petit Mouton is also most certainly even better than 2009, and I was struck in general by the step change in the quality of the so called ‘second’ wines of the first growths tasted across the week.
Overall, Mouton’s managing director Philippe Dhalluin [above] was beaming at the tasted and seemed delighted. “You are looking at two great years in 2009 and 2010. This vintage was a bit later and it took time for the wines to ferment and pass through malolactic. Mouton is at fourteen degrees but because of the freshness you don’t notice it.” Dhalluin’s right. There is a freshness that you don’t usually get at such high alcohol and levels of concentrations and it’s all down to that acidity. It allows these wines to achieve and astonishing acrobatic act, have weight and density alongside freshness and refinement. There is a minerality too. I’d expect them all to put on even more weight and flesh during elevage.
In terms of the growing season overall, Mouton and its siblings, experienced a 2010 that was dry, but without a summer heatwave, with both July and August being below average in temperature. Temperatures rose towards the end of August and a much needed spell of rain arrived between 6th and 8th September in the vineyards which helped the grape skins ripen and for the acids to drop. Nights remained cool and there were no big heatspikes to complicate ripening and picking began several days after light showers 26th September. Dry conditions continued through the vintage until the vintage ended on 13th October.
The following wines were tasted at Chateau Mouton Rothschild on Monday 4th April 2011. Chateau Clerc Milon and Chateau d’Armailhac were also tasted a further two times at the Union des Grands Cru tasting, and the [marginally] different notes are included:
Deep and dense; dark and brooding; lots of blackcurrants on aeration; very deep; loaded with pure, fresh blackcurrant fruits; some coffee and coconut at the edge; very polished wine on the palate; blackcurrant purity; depth and concentration here, tannins very nicely done; fantastic depth and length; intense flavours. Real freshness here, really substantial and yet revealing more than 2009 Mouton did at the same stage. Extremely seductive wine and with fantastic length. Absolutely terrific. A wine of incredible freshness and purity and yet also dense and concentrated. [94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, alcohol 14%] 98-100/100
Le Petit Mouton
Deep, arterial, tight to the core; very opaque at centre; legs; very blackcurrant; fresh with some cream; almost summer fruit compote; feels very open on the nose; but nicely pure; quite forward and sexy palate [very saturated with flavour] yet with density and concentration too; blackcurrants and cream in a glass. Density and chew on the finish; very attractive and a great effort. Quite excellent. [68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, alcohol 14] 92-94+/100
Chateau Clerc Milon
Very deep and intense; fresh looking; little more evocative than the d’Armailhac – very pure, very fresh tasting; floral, fresh blackcurrants again; summer fruit pudding; good structure, acid and tannin here; bit less evolved on the palate than on the nose; very deep and concentrated but with bright acids; good chew and density and good length on the finish suggests more than enough fruit is here. Excellent length in fact. Super wine.[50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmenere, alcohol 14.5] 90-92+/100
[2nd tasting at UGC] Deep core, legs, purple rim; ripe blackcurrant nose; cassis, some grip, leaf and density on the palate; feels that it’s quite infant; tannin and acid very present and lots of material; sample a trifle disjointed; good length and grip on the finish. Probably 90-92/100 5th April 2011 UGC
[Re-tasted again UGC] Deep and saturated; some summer fruit pudding; ripe and rich; deep and attractive; dense blackcurrant, quite grippy and fresh. Good length. Very good. 90-92+/100 7th April 2011 UGC
Deep and dense; black at the centre; healthy sheen; some minerality, rocks, with blackcurrants; dense; little more subdued than usual; creamy; good concentration on the palate; quite fresh feel; blackcurrants; classical wine with race; density and concentration; great mid-palate; very good chew and length on the end; real bite. Lively. Good length. Should be very good. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, alcohol 14] 90-92+/100
[2nd tasting at UGC] Deep and dark, legs, saturated looking; sweetness and ripeness here; cassis and layered nose; attractive; quite concentrated and dense on the palate but there is fruit here; but lots of tannin and grip; lots of extract here. Chewy finish. Intensity and grip. Long life ahead. 90-92/100 5th April 2011
[Re-tasted UGC] Deep and dense; full of colour, full of extract too; ripe and full nose, blackcurrants, some lift here; attractive; chewy on the palate but with freshness; clean; blackcurrants again; grip and acid. Nice and fresh. 90-92/100 7th April 2011 UGC