An early start on Monday, after a restless night’s ‘sleep’ at a Gatwick airport hotel. After landing at Merignac in Bordeaux we headed out to our first tasting, a Stephane Derenoncourt event at La Gaffelière in St Emilion, named La Grappe. Here Stephane shows all his wines; naturally I was momentarily distracted by the presence of the Savennières from Domaine FL, where Stephane consults, but I held my focus and kept to Bordeaux. Others wandered more, I know, as there were wines here from all over the place; not just other regions of France, but also Tuscany, Ribera del Duero, Lebanon, Turkey and even Syria. So this was my first impression of Bordeaux 2010, starting with a few selected wines from Pomerol, St Emilion and Pessac-Léognan. Thereafter we went onto lunch at La Conseillante, where we tasted not only the 2010 but also a mini-vertical featuring the 2009, 2005, 2000, 1990 and 1945 (no that isn’t a typo!) vintages – this is one I will have to write up for Winedoctor! Then, more right bank wines at the Cercle Rive Droite tasting, again a mix of Pomerol and St Emilion, plus associated appellations. Finally we finished up at the Pessac-Léognan syndicat tasting, before dinner at Chateau Brown and then back to our hotel. I’m writing this at 11pm, so it has been a long day.
“So what?”, I hear you say! “Tell us about the wines”.
Before I start, the caveats; they’re not wines, merely representative barrel samples. No matter who you read, Parker, Suckling or Robinson, nobody has tasted a finished wine. Second, it is still rather early. I’ve only scraped the surface on the right bank, and haven’t touched the left bank beyond Pessac. Bearing that in mind though, here are a few thoughts, particularly with relevance to Pessac. First, for the red wines, the fruit quality is in most cases very pure and sweet, giving many of the wines fine definition. Second, although the wines have a lot of extracted structure (despite many estates reducing extraction by doing fewer pumping overs, fewer cap plunges, less movement of the solids and must/wine) they also have bright fruit and acids giving the wines a sense of balance. It is one of the top rungs of the ladder on which they are balancing, but that still counts in my book. Also the reds do not seem as alcoholic as the 2009s, nor do they have the plush texture. In comparison with last year’s tastings this is all reined in, and more balanced by the structure of the wine anyway. Because of this the wines are not as difficult to taste as many predicted (although I haven’t been up to the Médoc yet of course); where the tannins do show they don’t seem tiring. They are ripe and well managed in most cases. This is not another 1986, which is the vintage that kept springing to mind when reading up before flying out to Bordeaux.
As for the whites, the story is not so happy. I had heard that they were all set to be rich and yet lively, with super acidity. Not so. A handful manage this, often (but not exclusively) less prestigious estates I notice, perhaps something to do with the ‘lesser’ terroir or aspect of their vineyards in a warm vintage characterised by drought. But many were too plush, soft, flamboyant and even oily for my palate. Buyer beware!
Tomorrow, more St Emilion and Pomerol, so I should have a better handle on the right bank appellations by the end of the day.