It was fascinating to taste through 100 different wines from the 2010 vintage last week with my colleague Sarah Abbott MW at Vintner’s Hall, London. My highlight of the day was arguably tasting Chateau Lafite Rothschild sharing a free-standing spittoon with the legendary Oz Clarke.
2010 contrasts with 2009, although both are considered to be among the finest of recent Bordeaux years. Whereas 2009 has delighted with its fleshy opulence and immediately approachable nature suitable for an international audience, the 2010s are more restrained with much of the concentrated fruit currently hiding behind sturdy tannins – the word ‘classic’ has been bandied around more than once.
The vines had a harder time in 2010 with drought conditions and irregular ripening throughout the summer, so the best are arguably better than their 2009 equivalents whereas there are some châteaux that have failed to make the most of the difficult conditions. It was certainly not a vintage where the winemakers could sit back and enjoy the sunshine.
Having chewed through plenty of tannins during our allotted three hour session, I am delighted with the overall quality of the wines. Although there are some wines that have fallen behind due to their imbalance of under-ripe flavours and high alcohol; mainly wines from the Haut-Médoc where quality is extremely variable; there are some absolute stunners that will be exquisite in their prime, carefully balancing the razor-sharp acidity characteristic of the vintage with intense and complex flavours. The quality of tannin in these top wines is excellent – many having a chalky texture that helps to soften the considerable astringency. Here are our top tips for what to stock up on:
Saint-Julien, Third Growth
Langoa Barton always represents excellent value for money. Graphite and dark fruit aromas lead onto a dense and juicy palate. A great finish developing into spice and mineral. There is a touch of warmth from the alcohol but it is very well balanced. The wines of Saint-Julien in this vintage are accessible with integrated tannins, which bodes well for mid-term drinking.
Pauillac, Fifth Growth
An extremely popular château, and you can see why. This Pauillac has the ability to come close to 2nd Growth quality in top vintages, and this has been a very successful one for them. Slightly vegetal and smoky aromas lead on to vibrant dark fruit of particularly assertive concentration, backed by chalk-textured tannins. With such a dense character this is for the mid to long term, but will be absolutely gorgeous.
- Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild
Pauillac, Fourth Growth
From the same stable as Lafite Rothschild, this is not too far off the pace of his big sister this year. Inky aromas precede a palate soaked with iodine and dark fruit. Lafite-esque complexity, with less tannin but more balance at this stage (and currently a tenth of the price…). The creamy finish lingers! This is classic masculine Pauillac with wonderful aromatics.
Saint-Emilion, Premier Grand Cru Classé B
This wine stunned me with its initial hit of stewed fruit with an open, airy nature. This evolves into fresh dark fruits- concentrated with a malleable character akin to Chateau Haut-Brion. It has a really rich finish with streaks of mango and passion fruit. My joint wine of the vintage along with…
- Château La Mission Haut-Brion (not to be confused with Haut-Brion mentioned above)
From the lesser known commune of Graves, this is still a formidable (and world famous) wine. Voluptuous aromas remind me of the nuance I usually associate with mature Burgundy, while the fruit envelopes your palate with juicy, spicy and savoury fruit. This develops into traces of mineral and iron with very well integrated tannins and a long complex finish. Brooding depth, and a sensual wine.
I would love to hear from you if you have tried any of these wines, or if you have any questions regarding these wines – please feel free to post below of contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org