The MW Institute lined up sixteen leading St Emilion chateaux from the 2010 vintage last November, a small but revealing snapshot of the region’s wines. The best had attractive texture and exhibited lots of fruit, weight, extract and tannin. Some were giddy with alcohol. Overall the elements certainly feel denser in the glass in 2010 than in 2009. The vintage also feels a little closed by comparison with a similar line-up to last year, and there is perhaps more chew to the tannins than in ’09 too. Top of the group for me were Clos Fourtet, Château Belair Monange and Château Larcis Ducasse. Château Angélus, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Figeac, Château Pavie Macquin, Château Canon and Château Canon-la-Gaffelière are also impressive. There were also beautifully glossy efforts from Château Berliquet, Château Grand Corbin and Château La Tour Figeac.
Both 2009 and 2010 are rich years for St Emilion. Arguably there is greater freshness and bounce in 2011 and 2012 in St Emilion, and for those of you who are intrigued by freshness and vibrancy, and more modest scale, you may find the wines from these two vintages more immediately appealing, even though they are more diminutive in scale and, in terms of the famous critics at least, characterized as inferior vintages.
The St Emilion blends that often work best for me are usually those with a percentage Cabernet Franc in them. The variety adds texture, freshness and spicy aromatic qualities to augment Merlot’s prodigious beauty and weight. As a constituent, Cabernet Franc reaches it apogee in the blends at Château Cheval Blanc, Château Figeac and also Château Trottevieille, but it is also an important influence on Château Canon and Château Canon-la-Gaffeliere to name just a few.
On the day Clos Fourtet and Château Larcis Ducasse were the most seductive and lavish, but they both managed to remain quick on their feet. On par with these was Château Belair-Monange, a beautifully pure and fresh effort from the Moueix team. Château Figeac has real nobility, along with Château Cheval Blanc, though both felt several notches down from their 2009 showings. Figeac, in particular, looked headed for perfection when tasted from cask during primeurs. Likewise 2010 Château Angélus, seductively perfumed and vivacious early on, is currently a ball of tightly knit fruit, dumb but clearly very dense, held together as if by some intense gravitational field. Figeac and Angélus need a decade to blossom. Château Pavie wasn’t shown at the tasting.
Château Canon-la-Gaffelière was forward and complex and offering more than Château Canon at this stage. Nevertheless Canon has excellent purity and is probably a longer-term bet, but note the considerable alcohol here [15 degrees]. Château Pavie-Macquin was extremely powerful, with lots of depth and concentration, but it still in proportion. It looks to be a great effort. Château Trottevielle has crept into its shell somewhat. A little like Figeac, Trottevielle looked excellent early on, so I’d expect this wine to open up given three to five years. Château Beau-Séjour Bécot had also closed down somewhat. There’s plenty of guts and matter here but it needs five years more. Château La Dominique is also rather tight-fisted. There is plenty of fruit but it feels chewy and a bit backward presently.
Other highlights include a ravishing, glossy Château Berliquet and an equally stylish Château Grand Corbin. Château La Tour Figeac was also just the right side of exotic extraction and is all seduction at present. Château Dassault felt over-extracted and stewed to me; Château Corbin was chunky. I’m not sure exactly what to make of Château Troplong Mondot. It is super concentrated, with a sublimated texture, amazing weight and is sixteen degrees [and counting] in alcohol. It is extraordinary but it surely loses marks on the drinkability index?
The following sixteen wines were tasted at the MW Institutes Annual Claret tasting last November. Hope you find the notes interesting.
Very deep and saturated looking; inky and intense; sublimated style; wet rocks too; palate little closed and subdued; wet rocks; obvious weight and scale; spicy finish; extract and matter but not that expressive on the day. Was all exotic richness during primeurs. Needs five years? Drink 2020-2035. 93+
Deep and saturated; resin and molasses; liquorice and wet chalk; ripe and full on the palate with black fruits and spices; chalky note again; plenty of matter and grit with coffee and mocha notes on the finish. Drink 2016-2030. 92+
Deep; fresh and vibrant aromatics with black cherry and spicy plum notes; very attractive and vivid; spicy menthol tones too; plum and cherry tones continue on the palate in a seam of fruit; very mannered and fresh feeling; some dust, spice and minerality on the finish. Impressive length too. Drink 2016-2030. 95
Thick and glossy looking in the glass; mocha, black fruits; quite lush; little liquorice note; broad palate with black fruits and liquorice again; some chalk too; fruitcake spices here; tighter at the end with good acid which pulls things together nicely. Good effort. Drink 2016-2030. 92+
Dense and dark looking; little chalky note at first; then more lifted on aeration with red fruits and spices; some resin; layered; palate fine and tightly packed with fruit; mocha and red fruit tones; little dry and tannic on the finish. Needs some time. Weighty [15 degrees]. Drink 2018-2030. 93+
Deep and dark at the core; ripe red fruits; full and glossy as ever; spicy lifted aromatics; full and similarly glossy palate; with texture and weight; nicely round and harmonious and some development. Attractive already. Defines ‘glossy.’ Drink now-2030. 94
Château Cheval Blanc
Mid depth; dusty; bit dumb; wet rocks; some spices; firmly shut this; elegant palate; has appetizing edge; apparent depth and fresh acidity but feels closed; firm and rather tight – a very shut down Cheval Blanc at present. Like to see this again down the track. Was compelling during primeurs. Drink 2020-2035. 93+
Deep and dark; slightly stewed aromatics; stalky red fruits behind; ripe and clean fruit tones on the palate; not that bad if straightforward; stalky red fruit tones and some chew. Drink 2015-2025. 89+
Deep and saturated looking; thick ripe fruit tones; sturdy aromatics; thick; black fruits; some spice; palate is thick, ripe and saturated; tannin a little chewy and finishes rather dry. Over extracted? Drink 2017-2025. 88?
Château La Dominique
Deep and saturated; very black looking; little reductive note; prunes and black fruits beneath; saturated palate which is full of fruit; pretty dense overall and extracted but tannins not dry [as at Dassault] or bitter. Pretty hefty La Dominique. Drink 2017-2030. 92+
Deeply coloured; fine nose with blackcurrants and an attractive core of vibrant fruit; creamy blackcurrants on the palate; good depth; attractive with very good [refreshing] grip. Very positive overall in a room full of wines sometimes lacking in freshness. Drink 2016-2035. 94+
Château Grand Corbin
Deeply coloured; open sexy aromatics dominated by fruit tones – very lush – red fruits, strawberry jam; some spices at the back; full palate; lush redcurrant flavours; saturated in flavour with some tannin on the finish. Good effort. Drink now-2030. 91+
Deep and saturated look; lush, sexy and open – spicy plum and fruitcake notes; lush and forward palate with spicy plum tones; silk and satin quality here; wonderfully rich but just the right side of unctuous. Decadent certainly. Drink now-2035. 95
Château Pavie Macquin
Deep and dense; full and open with lots of fruit on the nose; great palate with lots of black fruit and liquorice flavours; red fruits too – strawberry fruit tones – plenty of fruit here and tannin [ripe]; needs a bit of time to meld but has all the elements. Drink 2017-2035. 94
Château La Tour Figeac
Deep and saturated looking; very jammy – strawberry and red fruits tones – lifted; very lush, sweet style; forward and unctuous which kinda works in its coquettish, sexy way. Drink now-2030. 92+Château Troplong Mondot
Deep and saturated; ripe and very full; some lift; figs; very sweet; chocolate; very full and chewy palate with lots of fruit and a big structure. Dense [16 degrees]; chocolately finish. Very big and saturated style – but readily drinkable? Drink 2018-2035. 93?
Deepish – red at edge; slightly reductive note at first; blew off; blackcurrant tones; spices; elegant palate which works well in a nicely balanced style. Good length. Drink 2016-2030. 91+
Very deep and saturated; jam and red fruits; pretty saturated aromatics; some marzipan notes; pretty lush; full palate; ripe; attractive mouth-feel; good supporting structure; plenty of flesh here. Tannin considerable but supple. Very good indeed. 95
Tags: Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2010, Cabernet Franc, Chateau Angélus, Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot, Chateau Belair-Monange, Chateau Berliquet, Chateau Canon, Chateau Canon La Gaffelière, Chateau Cheval Blanc, Chateau Corbin, Chateau Dassault, Chateau Figeac, Chateau Grand Corbin, Chateau La Dominique, Chateau La Tour Figeac, Chateau Larcis Ducasse, Chateau Pavie Macquin, Chateau Trottevielle, Clos Fourtet, Merlot, St Emilion