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Bordeaux 2010 Revisited: Pessac-Léognan

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

040 - CopyThere is no doubt that 2010 is a great vintage in the classical sense for the reds of Pessac-Léognan. These are long-term wines, in many cases it was as if they were being woken up rather too suddenly, bleary eyed to present themselves. If 2009 screamed out coquettishly from the glass, these 2010s took much longer to assess at the same age at the MW Institute. Clearly profound wines of great depth, they still needed to be coaxed in the glass to show their qualities, and because of the remarkable gravity of fruit, you needed to spend more time than usual to get your bearings as to just how [incredibly] good many were. Château Haut-Bailly and Château La Mission Haut-Brion were tops for me – Haut-Bailly is an absolutely stellar effort. Château Haut-Brion vies with an extremely impressive Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Domaine de Chevalier and Château Bouscaut are both gorgeous, while Château de Fieuzal, Château Malartic-Lagravière and Château Carbonnieux [tasted separately] are concentrated and dense.

There is no doubt a lot of tannin in these Pessac-Léognan reds in 2010. It reflects the concentration of ‘matter’ in this vintage, and the ‘cool’ maturity I’ve been mentioning, that has led to wines with considerable [record?] levels of extract. It means there is more evident structure and ‘chew’ to the wines, though in pretty much all cases the quality of the tannin appears to be fine and ripe.

On the day the wine of the appellation for me was Château Haut-Bailly. This is a remarkable effort. Clearly it is one of the wines of the vintage, a red of formidable depth, power and purity. It pipped an extremely impressive effort from La Mission Haut-Brion for the very top spot. Close behind, in a flamboyant modern style was Château Smith Haut Lafitte. This is a property at the very top of its game currently, an estate that shows remarkable consistency year to year [SHL has been genuinely successful in the ‘off’ vintages in the 2011-2013 run]. Château Haut-Brion may prove deceptive. It is beautifully layered with wonderful purity but felt a fraction subdued on the day. Nevertheless the wine displays enviable balance and I expect it will deserve a higher rating down the track.

Domaine de Chevalier and Château Bouscaut have produced excellent red wines in 2010. Bouscaut is extremely satisfying and has enough stuffing and density for the longer term. Domaine de Chevalier is generously endowed and has nice balance between the fruit, the tannin and the bite of the acidity.

Château Carbonnieux, Château de Fieuzal and Château Malartic-Lagravière have produced very good 2010s, though they vary somewhat in style. Carbonnieux, tasted separately from the rest, has impressive depth, extract and density. Though it needs a few more years in bottle, looks to be in excellent shape. Château de Fieuzal is well balanced with menthol and mint notes to the earthy blackcurrant fruit. Château Malartic-Lagravière is an inky and intense effort with considerable quantities of extract and fruit in a modern style.

Château Olivier was dwarfed by tasting La Mission Haut-Brion immediately before. Still this is a good effort from Olivier and reflects the vintage well. There is plenty of fruit and extract in the wine, though by comparison with the very best here there is a little chunkiness to the tannins. Given that Olivier is usually priced competitively the wine still represents good value for money.

The following nine wines were tasted at the MW Institute’s Annual Claret tasting last November, with Château Carbonnieux tasted separately in February 2015.

Château Bouscaut

Deep and saturated look; deep at core; chocolate; firm and full; oak resin; very intense; black fruits emerge in aeration; spices too; structured palate with lots of depth and density; nice chew; chunky and satisfying; quite chewy and lots going on; tannins polished at the end. Lot to this Bouscaut. Excellent if longer term than usual. 2017-2030. 93+

Château Carbonnieux

Deep core; earthy red at edge; dark; roasted earthy nose; textured and deep with purity; classy; lots of extract and matter on the palate; real intensity here; some dust and rock; dense with a concentrated ball of inky fruit at its core; needs time – 5 years or so. Some chew to the tannin and tannin also needs to resolve but this is a very promising effort that will last the course. [65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc 14%]. Drink 2018-2030. 92+

Château de Fieuzal

Deepish; fractionally less saturated than Bouscaut; little more immediate fruit lift; some red fruits; little olive; earthy blackcurrants; little more forward than Bouscaut; mint and menthol note; mid weight wine on the palate with nice balance with some chew to the tannins. Perhaps a little narrower in focus than the broader [when it opens up] Bouscaut. Drink 2015-2025. 91+

Château Haut-Bailly

Deep and saturated but still fresh looking; wonderful blackcurrant aromatics; terrific purity and great definition; layers and magnificent depth; some earthy undergrowth tones at the edge add further interest; incredibly bold palate; layers of fruit; big but polished and tannin [considerable] is ripe. This is long-term wine. Very nicely composed on the end. Magnificent Haut-Bailly. Drink 2018-2035. 98

Château Haut-Brion

Deep looking; creamy aromatics; very attractive purity; blackcurrants, earth and spicy notes; creamy; full palate with a nice seam of fruit; layered and intense; very mannered palate and feels completely proportional; long [and warm] finish. A fraction reticent on the day amongst the first growths, so feel I may be underrating this. Drink 2018-2035. 96+

Château Malartic-Lagravière

Deep and saturated look; blackcurrant aromatics very nicely defined; some resin, liquorice and spices too; tight and pent-up though for this property; inky and intense palate; packed and concentrated; lacks the amazing body of Haut-Bailly and has some tannin on the end and a little warmth from alcohol. Good effort nevertheless. Drink 2017-2030. 92+

Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Deep colour; tight to the rim; chalky note and wet rock tones at first; spice and blackcurrants emerge [quite backward initially] but opened up; displays attractive purity and minerality; rounder [ultimately] than expected; wonderful palate; very full and complete; lots of fruit and nicely polished; lots of everything; tannins caressing; grip on the finish. Very complete. Great wine. Drink 2020-2045. 97+

Château Oliver

Deeply coloured; dark centre; some spices, less expressive initially; some liquorice and menthol notes; depth apparent; palate feels a little chunky [by comparison with La Mission immediately before]; but plenty of depth and material here; lots of clean blackcurrant fruit on the palate; ripe tannins but present and perhaps a certain chunkiness here. Drink 2018-2030. 90

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Deep and saturated looking in the glass; very voluptuous and expressive in the glass; plums; blackcurrant spices and resin; deep and layered aromatics; menthol and chocolate notes too; palate pretty thick but lots of fruit and structure; palate enveloped by ripe, round tannins; extracted but nicely done; chewy finish with lots of extract and matter. Warm finish. Impressive, flamboyant modern styled wine. Drink 2018-2040. 96+

Domaine de Chevalier

Deep and saturated looking; very dark at core; rounder and generous with a little more development apparent; chocolate tones, wet earth and elegance; open fruit on the palate; very full; structure there but hidden a little by the flesh; cool fruit and nice balance between the bite and chew of the fruit and the fleshy character – the product of the vintage’s ‘cool’ maturity? Genuine length. Very fine. Drink 2018-2040. 93+

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