The MW Institute’s Annual Claret tasting of over one hundred top chateaux held last November was a good opportunity to assess how the 2010 Bordeaux vintage is developing. There is no doubt that this is a great vintage for many reds. It has been pretty consistent from cask to bottle, a vintage generally much more classical than the precocious and forward 2009, but of similarly prodigious quality. Taken together these two vintages make an exceptional back-to-back duo for Bordeaux, especially so on the Left Bank and in Pessac-Léognan. The same can also be said for Sauternes and Barsac. Pomerol and St Emilion once again have made many excellent wines in 2010, often extremely well endowed and big framed, though sometimes too much so in St Emilion when they nudge sixteen degrees.
Tasting 2010 was a more complex affair than it was a year ago when the MW Institute focused on the 2009 vintage. Since primeurs, 2010 has always appeared to have much more noticeable density than 2009. Though the phenolic and alcoholic measures are often identical, the nature of the tannins and the acids appear very different between the vintages. 2009, though not a heat wave year by any means, was warmer than 2010, and 2010s ‘cool maturity’, alongside considerable drought during the growing season, is evident in the classicism, freshness and overall tannin texture of the wines.
These characteristics make it a fascinating vintage, in many ways perhaps more intriguing than 2009, a vintage that has produced wines that are quick to show their virtues. Almost all of the 2010 samples by comparison needed much aeration and longer in the glass to open up and reveal themselves. It is clear that many of the wines have a long life ahead. Still at the same time, if this doesn’t sound contradictory, the vintage was a little more open at the tasting than I’d imagined it would be.
I was amazed and enthralled by a great number of wines on the left bank. The first growths themselves are very exciting indeed [Mouton and Margaux especially], but these efforts are almost matched by stand-out performances from Calon Ségur, Montrose, Pichon-Longueville, Léoville Poyferré, St Pierre, Palmer, Haut-Bailly, La Mission Haut-Brion and Smith Haut Lafitte. These 2010s have first growth stamped all over them. Just behind, and not by very much, are beautiful efforts from the likes of Brane-Cantenac, Giscours, Léoville Barton, Léoville-Las-Cases, Batailley, Pontet-Canet, Pichon-Lalande, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Cos d’Estournel, while a raft of other properties, the likes of Cantemerle, Bouscaut, and even Belgrave, prove that Bordeaux can produce compelling wine at more affordable price points. Château Cantemerle is genuinely breathtaking.
Talking of affordability, Bordeaux 2010 set records for the price at which the top wines were first released. In a great many cases these prices have fallen back considerably and there is a lot of stock still about. Still, with three years of declines in the Bordeaux fine wine market, plus the potential ‘pull’ of the very good 2014 vintage soon to be in the offing, it might be time to reconsider some of these properties, especially if you didn’t [wisely as it turned out] buy that much when it was first offered en primeur. 2010 Bordeaux [on the left bank especially] is genuinely spellbinding and may perhaps eclipse 2009, if not immediately maybe in the long run, though as I’ve said before, these two great vintages stylistically are chalk and cheese – one appeals firmly to the head , the other to the heart .
Watch this space over the coming weeks for detailed notes and thoughts by appellation on the wines now four years on from the vintage.
Tags: Barsac, Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2010, Chateau Batailley, Chateau Belgrave, Chateau Bouscaut, Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Chateau Calon-Ségur, Chateau Cantemerle, Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Chateau Giscours, Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Chateau Haut-Bailly, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Chateau Léoville Barton, Chateau Léoville Las Cases, Chateau Léoville Poyferré, Chateau Montrose, Chateau Palmer, Château Pichon-Lalande, Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Chateau Pontet Canet, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Chateau St Pierre, Haut Médoc, Margaux, Pauillac, Pessac-Léognan, Pomerol, Sauternes, St Emilion, St Estèphe, St Julien