This tasting is held in Chicago every January and it’s always a great opportunity to preview the new vintage. While the First Growths and a few other major classified houses don’t participate, there are usually over 100 wines to sample. This tasting was especially exciting, as there’s a lot of hype surrounding the 2010 vintage.
In the latest Wine Spectator, the cover proclaims that 2010 is “Bordeaux at its best.” Robert Parker has already declared that more than a dozen wines might receive 100 points. (Parker scores will be released on February 28.) Many other critics have written with similar enthusiasm.
Some critics have been more cautious with their praise — Chris Kissack wrote that “anyone who claims 2010 is another Vintage of the Century is… far wide of the mark.” — but virtually everyone agrees that the wines are extremely good.
As a result, the futures campaign has given us some of the highest prices we’ve ever seen for young Bordeaux. In recent years, price has been the most important — and prevalent — question when it comes to Bordeaux.
For those of us with budgets, is it possible to justify the prices for, say, Leoville Las Cases, Ducru-Beaucalliou, or Cos d’Estournel? Just five years ago, all those wines could be found for less than $100. In 2010, each is being released at $250 or more! So while I’d love to have a deep cellar of young Bordeaux to grow old with, it is extremely hard at the prices we now see. When it comes to the First Growths, it’s hard to imagine anyone but an oligarch being able to afford such wines!
Price and praise are only part of the narrative, though. Considering that the 2010s are still just babies, it’s worth looking at the most important factor in what the vintage will yield: mother nature.
In Bordeaux, the only constant was inconsistency. There was a very cold winter, good amounts of rain in both March and June, heat spikes in April and May, some drought conditions throughout the summer, and then long and cool August. Just reading that sentence is enough to make your head spin! Add the coulure and millerandage that many vignerons experienced, and it’s hard to imagine how anyone could produce delicious wines — much less the wines that so many critics have hyped.
Vintners credit two factors for saving the vintage. First, thanks to high water levels in the ground and few sustained heat spikes, most vineyards were able to survive the drought. Second, the cooler weather in August also allowed the grapes to retain good acidity.
Overall, the wines I tasted displayed structure and richness. In some cases, the tannins were punishing, even for young Bordeaux.
On the Left Bank, Pauillac and St. Julien showed the best — showing off their terroir and achieving serious heights. Margaux was a disappointment. The wines were very good, to be sure, but I was expecting something tremendous.
The Right Bank showed well on the whole, though the oak on some of the wines from Saint-Émilion was too noticeable.
Across all the appellations, the wines were more variable than I expected. While there were some stunning wines, too many suffered from a real thinness on the mid-palate that raised some concerns about aging. And I have to wonder if the tannins will outlast the fruit on some of the wines.
Below the fold are my tasting notes from the top wines I sampled at UGC. I will repeat that there were some absolute stunners — these notes don’t reflect is that this is a much more varied vintage than 2009 and 2005. Tasting before you buy is important, but for most consumers, that’s simply cost-prohibitive. And that’s the ultimate conundrum of Bordeaux these days.
Review: 2010 Château La Conseillante
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Perfumed and sensuous nose filled with deep tones of berries, herbs, raspberries, red currants, spice tones, roses and various floral tones. Medium bodied with medium acidity and very chewy tannins. While the structure is big, it doesn’t fully hide the tones silky tones of berries, red currants, roses, spices and lots of wild flowers on the back end. There is a load of class to this wine. It is sexy and gorgeous right now, but this could be out of this world with age. (95 pts.) -KA
Review: 2010 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
The nose is tight, but there are very pretty tones of perfumes, red florals, dark red cherries, tobacco, cedar, and berry tones. There is great depth to this as well with there being more soft edges on everything. Medium/full bodied with medium acidity and some very noticeable tannins. The structure is certainly there, but it takes on more of a silky quality along with feminine tones of dark red cherries, red florals, cedar, and tobacco tones. This is what a young Lalande is about. It shows the feminine side while also having a good dose of class to it. It needs time to show everything off, but it should reward patience. (94 pts.) -KA
Review: 2010 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Deep and brawny nose with tones of dark red cherries, tobacco, cranberries, cedar, and dark berry tones. While this is showing great depth and class, it is very tight and it takes a bit to get everything. Full bodied with big and chewy tannins. The structure is very imposing with the tannins almost being a 1 foot thick wall. Still, there is a lot to like underneath the tannins with tones of dark red cherries, cranberries, tobacco, and dark berry tones. This is brutally young right now. This is a Pichon Baron for the future and it will need it. There is a ton to like and this could be on the same level as the 90 down the road. (94 pts.) -KA
Review: 2010 Chateau Clinet
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
There are soaring aromatics with tones of red fruits, roses, all sorts of floral tones, spices, red cherries, and fresh picked berries. Very pure with real nice depth and style to it as well. Medium bodied with medium acidity and silky, but very noticeable, tannins. Very well balanced with a lushness to the tones of red fruits, fresh picked berries, roses, and various spice tones. This is a gorgeous wine. It’s seamless with a velvety quality on both the nose and palate. This could be a knee buckler with time on it. (94 pts.) -KA
Review: 2010 Château Canon
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Real sexy and perfumed nose filled with tones of red fruits, spice tones, roses, fresh picked berries, roses, and some cedar tones too. There is very good depth to this with a lot of class as well. Silky and gorgeous medium body with medium acidity and some chewy tannins. Very well balanced with classy tones of red fruits, spices, fresh picked berries and some cedar on the back end. This is a real star. It just oozed class and is something beautiful already, but it could grow to something better. (94 pts.) -KA
Review: 2010 Château Haut-Bailly
France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Gorgeous and sumptuous nose filled with crushed rocks, smoke, cedar, dark red cherries, berries, and cassis. Medium/full bodied with medium acidity and very big tannins. The structure is imposing, but there are wonderful tones crushed rocks, smoke, dark red cherries, cedar and some cassis. This was one of the best wines of the day. Showed great depth and power along with a ton of promise for the future. (94 pts.) -KA
Review: 2010 Château Léoville Poyferré
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
While this doesn’t play towards elegance, there is a lot of purity with sleek tones of incense, cassis, dark red fruits, dark red cherries, cedar, licorice, and spice tones. Medium/full bodied with very good and chewy tannins. The structure is imposing, but there are silky and gorgeous tones of cassis, licorice, dark red fruits, cedar, spices and dark red cherries. This isn’t what I’d normally expect from Leoville Poyferre, but it is a stunning wine. It needs a good amount of time to fully show itself, but this is something to behold right now. (95 pts.) -KA