2010 Bordeaux – Another Great Bordeaux Vintage!

A very dry year, but without excessive summer heat, and with cool autumn nights. In consequence: small grapes with a high proportion of skin to juice and relatively high acidity, producing wines of considerable concentration, high levels of tannin (in the reds), high alcohol and high acidity. An abundance of everything in fact… except yield.

HARVEST

Late and prolonged, perfect conditions. Which meant you could pick your grapes exactly when you wanted in order to make the style of wine you had in mind. So no excuses!

STYLE & QUALITY

Reds: Concentrated and large scale, many are the most alcoholic ever. Left Bank alcohol levels typically 13.5-14%, Right Bank 14.5-15%. Abundant tannin varying from wonderfully fine (remarkable, given the high levels) in the most sensitively made wines, to the chewily tough in others. Huge variations in texture.

High acid from the coolish conditions, giving all styles of wine a lovely tenacity, definition and freshness, especially where the levels of tannin and alcohol are not too pronounced. High acid provides freshness and linearity of course, but it also reinforces the astringency of tannin, and tends to make very high alcohol levels fiercer in impression too. A marked pebbly, mineral aromatic character, also a result of the cooler conditions, and in spite of the high alcohol and overall ripeness. The combination of high alcohol and high acidity is unusual, and even more so is to have the level of minerality of taste/aroma in such ripe and powerful wines. A most distinctive style and balance. A striking length of aftertaste on many wines, with both fruit and fragrance prolonged and supported by the levels of acidity.

Left Bank: Some absolutely wonderful wines, at every level. There are likely to be great value Cru Bourgeois from St-Estèphe, where extremely low Merlot yields (hail and frost) have made for most attractively rich and plump lesser reds. Throughout, as in 2009, there will be some really splendid second wines. And at the top end there are very great clarets indeed, grand scale, with considerable ‘mass’, but without any sense of bulk or heaviness. Where the alcohol and tannins are not too present there are really lovely reds the length and breadth of the Left Bank. Margaux seems more consistent than usual, but thus far I don’t think any single commune stands out for particular success (or failure).

Right Bank: On the whole harder work than the Left Bank because of the levels of alcohol and tannin, with many potent, muscular wines, and more than a few with a very ‘raisiny-ripe’ character to them. But there are also some beautifully elegant and complete examples without any hint of excess.

Dry Whites: Big, powerful, concentrated and vigorous; grand, ripe style, rich in texture, flavor, acid, and alcohol. A sort of magnified version of 2007.

Sweet Whites: Another fine Sauternes vintage and, in contrast to the rest of the region, one of abundant yields. The wines don’t have the sugar levels, opulence, power and absolute complexity of the best of 2009 and 2007 (let alone the sheer class of 2001), but they are still very sweet, they have a fine botrytis complexity, and they are given a most appetizing freshness and definition by the year’s high acidity.

HOW GOOD?

No question but that this is another outstanding Bordeaux Vintage. 2009 & 2010 will figure as one of the great claret ‘pairs’ such as 1989/1990. But if one often feels that the quality level is similar, the styles of the two years are very different: the 09’s mostly softer, sweeter, more supple, with a more immediately seductive richness, the 10’s more massively elegant, fresher, firmer, more tannic (sometimes severely so), more mineral alongside the very ripe fruit. Forced to choose, you would go for the 09’s in some cases, 10 in others. No hard and fast rule there. But most of the 2010’s are long haul wines which will take much longer to harmonize than the earlier vintage. Some stylistic echoes then of 1985 and 1986, perhaps, but with the wines at a much higher quality level a quarter of a century later.

FAVORITES (too many!) so far:

Cru Bourgois: Le Crock, de Pez, Ormes de Pez, du Boscq.

St-Estèphe: Montrose.

Pauillac: Haut Batailley, Grand Puy Lacoste, Pichon Baron, Lynch Bages, Reserve de la Comtesse.

St-Julien: The three Léovilles, Langoa Barton, Clos du Marquis, Talbot, Gloria, St-Pierre.

Margaux: Château Margaux (the only Left Bank First I have tasted) is a miracle of power and delicacy, with the silky refinement of texture and transparency of great burgundy; the Pavillon Rouge is not far behind. Palmer, Alter Ego, Angludet, Issan, Rauzan Ségla.

Graves: Pape Clément, Domaine de Chevalier (red and white), Smith Haut Lafitte.

St-Emilion: Cheval Blanc and Petit Cheval, Clos Fourtet, Canon, Trottevieille.

Pomerol: Petrus – utterly, effortlessly regal!

Source: The World of Fine Wine