Friday, 15 April 2011
Bordeaux 2010 En Primeur Tastings 4th - 8th April 2011 - Neil and Jane Pinel
Last Friday, Neil and I returned from a very enjoyable Bordeaux En Primeur trip to taste the 2010 vintage. It was an amazing opportunity to visit some of the very best Chateaux in the world, some of which I had never visited before.
Back in September and October of last year, rumours were already bubbling away that 2010 was also an exceptional vintage, this on top of the magnificent 2009. Could they really have struck gold again, back to back vintages? Anticipation was certainly high.
Described as being more of a classic vintage to 2009, especially due to the retention of higher acidity, we spoke to our long standing friend John Kolasa who runs Chateau Rauzan-Segla Grand Cru Classé, Margaux and Chateau Canon 1er Grand Cru Classé, St Emilion (where we stayed as guests) about his thoughts on 2010. He described it as being a vintage with “perfect structure and lift” thanks to great concentration of fruit and acidity. He said that it reminded him of the 2002 (because that year also had low yields), 2003 (for its ripeness of fruit) and 2005 (for its ageing ability). He then described it as a "British" vintage, NOT an “American” vintage and that it is more complex and elegant than many wines produced in 2009. It is also worth noting that many whites also faired very well due to the concentration of fruit and acidity. So, two great vintages but clearly different in style. Which you like better is clearly up to your taste.
And so onto the tastings….we had been told that many Merlot vineyards had suffered some stress due to the fact that the Merlot vines were not able to withstand the near drought conditions experienced in 2010 as well as the stronger Cabernet vines. Indeed, many of the Cabernet-dominant, Left Bank wines were outstanding with deliciously dark ripe fruit, fresh attacking acidity and complex but elegant tannins. Some were so brilliantly balanced, I would have been quite happy drinking them now! This was clearly evident at our very first tasting at La Mission Haut-Brion (what an amazing start) where we tasted, amongst their other wines, the 2010 La Mission at 15.1% Alcohol. It was so rich and powerful yet restrained and elegant. You would never have believed the alcohol was so high. It is a beautifully crafted wine that will last a very long time. Their whites, for us were the whites of the week. Chock full of ripe tropical fruit flavours and fresh acidity, they were an absolute delight.
The Right Bank, which is more Merlot based however, didn’t fare quite as well with some over-extracted fruit and bitter flavours, which some producers had also over-oaked. This was evident to us with Chateau Larcis-Ducasse which we were very unhappy with. Showing mint and nettles on the nose, it had a sharp palate and gave us a wink, what Neil and I call a ‘winky’ wine. There were exceptions however with excellent examples from Chateau Canon, La Tour Figeac, Pavie-Macquin, L’Eglise-Clinet, Angelus and the truly outstanding Ausone to name but a few. Personally, we felt that Pomerol seemed to have faired better than St Emilion in this respect. In conclusion though, 2010 is definitely the year of the Cabernet. We tasted some truly exceptional wines. Amongst our favourites were Rauzan-Segla, Margaux, Cos d’Estournel, Haut-Brion, Chateau Palmer (we had this for breakfast and with a 5 minute length, was truly incredible), Pontet-Canet, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Lynch-Bages and Leoville-Las-Cases.
In general, after 4 long days of tasting and daily scraping of tannins off our teeth and tongues, we are extremely impressed with the 2010 vintage overall and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Prices and demand will be high this year, there is no doubt, but this is certainly a vintage to invest in. With incredible ability to age, these wines will probably out-live many of us and reward those who drink them with outstanding complexity, poise and balance.
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As and when the En Primeur offers are released, we will release our tasting notes. However, in the meantime, you may like to view Decanter's website where up-to-date coverage on results, scores and tasting notes have already been published.