I must apologise to those who have turned away from Bordeaux in recent years (and I know that applies to many people, perhaps more and more with every newly inflated prix de sortie), because there will be a lot of Bordeaux coming up on Winedoctor over the coming weeks.
Next week I will be in Bordeaux for the 2010 primeurs; it sounds as though my days there will be tannin-packed, as the vintage is already developing a reputation as being tannin- and acid-rich following a very dry growing season, bringing thicker skins and lower yields. I’m looking forward to tasting the wines for myself. So next week’s updates will mostly be blog posts from the road, although I plan to have a Wine of the Week on Monday as is usual.
Thereafter I will be writing up and hopefully will start putting my notes online the following week, but I have a tight schedule including another trip out of the UK and three days of judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards (the Loire section naturally – my ‘regular’ position), so it will be tough programme of updates to keep to, but I will do my best.
In the meantime only two critics of any note have been tasting in Bordeaux so far, these being Parker and Suckling. The former is keeping his notes under his hat, as always, for publication in the Wine Advocate later this month, but Suckling has been posting his on his new subscription-only website – having a Bordeaux ‘scoop’ is not a bad way to attract subscribers, I guess, although I have to confess I find this sort of ‘one-upping’ behaviour quite tedious. And it comes at a price. The earlier you taste, the less like wine it is; tasting in the first week of April, pre-élevage, is bad enough, but at least the playing field is evened out a little by everyone’s presence in Bordeaux at the same time (there is still huge variation in some of the samples though).
It’s quite contradictory that, while Jancis Robinson is making an earnest but ultimately futile (sorry, Jancis, but I think getting a global co-ordinated response from the wine writing fraternity will be like herding cats!) plea for some sort of wine writers’ boycott of the primeurs, other big name writers such as Suckling are already out there tasting, before the starting pistol has even been raised. If JR wanted any indication of whether her plan to achieve a global boycott was feasible, she need only look at what JS is up to and how well it seems to be supported by his readers.
Even though James’ actions seem popular with some, we must acknowledge that the earlier a critic travels to Bordeaux to taste, the more embryonic the ‘wine’ will be, especially so this year when I hear the malolactic fermentations are late. I remember tasting a vintage of Rauzan-Ségla, perhaps it was the 2005, pre-malo; it was dramatically influenced by the malic acidity, making any judgement even more flimsy than those made during the primeurs. But if this doesn’t matter to a critic, then let them taste early I suppose. Why not hit the musts before Christmas, and taste the fermenting juice? Or why not make a harvest-time vineyard trip and make your judgement from tasting the fruit? Alternatively, why not just look at a few PR images from Bordeaux, and make a judgement from how dark the grapes and musts look? (That may seem a plainly ridiculous concept when put like that, but I have seen predictions based on nothing more than crunching a few grapes in the vineyard, or even nothing more than a distant report of sunny weather).
Regardless of all the inherent flaws within the primeurs system that have irked so many (including JR now) for so long, there is still no better way to get a grip on the wines at this time than tasting. So I’ll begin next week with my blog updates, and the following week my formal Bordeaux 2010 review begins. For your convenience my scores will also by available in the critics’ section of Liv-Ex, and my notes and scores will also appear in the Cellar Tracker Winedoctor channel, once Eric LeVine gets them into his database.