So, the flights have been booked, the hotel reservations made; in the first week of April I will be in Bordeaux to taste the 2010 primeurs. How will this vintage stack up against 2009, I wonder?
2009 was a hyped vintage, but to some extent the wines deserved some puffery. Texturally more than anything else they were impressive, rich and dark wines which will be fascinating to revisit over coming years/decades. Some – on the right bank in particular – had perceptible alcohol that gave me cause for concern, but I don’t really think this message from this particular small-time palate has gotten through amongst all the praise from other big-name tasters. These were barrel samples of course – I need to look at the finished wines to see how they finally pan out; this I plan to do at the UGC tasting later this year, and that won’t be the last time. But if some of those right-bankers end up a little big and hot, just remember – you read it here first! Think that’s impossible? I don’t. I remember how hyped 1998 Chateauneuf was; in my tasting of a dozen wines, nearly three years ago now, I called time on the vintage. Too many of the wines turned out to be soupy, raisiny, pruney and hot. I note, looking at internet forum chatter, that many others are now coming round to the same opinion of this once supposedly ‘great’ vintage (and OK, I acknowledge that some are still head-over-heels in love with it too).
Nevertheless 2009 was a well-received vintage. For example, Parker wrote “I do not think I have ever tasted such extraordinary Cabernet Sauvignons”, and dished out a record-breaking 21 (if I remember correctly) score ranges that touched 100. And he adorned a multitude of scores with an asterisk, denoting that the wines in question “had the finest potential of all the offerings I had ever tasted from that estate in nearly 32 years of barrel tasting samples in Bordeaux”. Parker loved 2009. Many chateaux had, to his palate, produced their greatest wines ever.
But what of 2010? Have you heard the same rumours that I have, that this is an even greater vintage? Now, don’t roll your eyes in disbelief; some of these reports are independent and trustworthy. Read, for instance the words of Neal Martin, who (thanks principally to the need to research his Pomerol book I think) seems to have spent more time in Bordeaux during 2010 than ever:
“With the incipient 2010s lurking over the horizon, primeur neophytes will naturally be totting up their hypothetical profits on their gestating 2009s before shelling out for the “best vintage of the century ever (and I really, really mean it this time.”) The galling thing is: I believe them. I don’t want it to be true. In fact, the Bordelais could do with a catastrophic vintage to bring them down to earth, a ’56 or a ’91 to prick its inflated ego. I guess for now, Mother Nature is inclined to gift them the winning lottery ticket and they are making hay.” (the bolding has been added by me, by the way – Chris)
Not everyone is so positive; more circumspect is Gavin Quinney of Chateau Bauduc, who wrote of 2010 vs. 2009 in this blog post which is worth a read. Nevertheless, whether you focus on those who say 2010 is potentially great, or those who are trying to persuade us that it isn’t, 2010 must surely have something. If we were to plot the range of possibilities for the vintage quality, it does at present still include “could be greater than 2009”.
Which makes me wonder, if 2010 really does turn out to possess that sort of quality, where does the hype machine go from here? How do you rate a vintage higher than 2009, if you have already dished out 21 100-point-inclusive ranges and used asterisks to denote the “best potential” ever? Two asterisks? I will be watching this one with interest. But not before I have tasted the wines for myself of course – and published my own opinions and notes online. Perhaps they won’t be that impressive after all. It may, looking at Gavin’s report, be a rather more mixed and inconsistent vintage than we are currently being led to believe.