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Coming Soon: Bordeaux 2010!

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.

22 Responses to “Coming Soon: Bordeaux 2010!”

  1. I always enjoy reading your point of view on things, but I have to side with Jancis Robinson on this one. At least she’s trying to do something and it might take more than good will to actually change something, but it has to start somewhere!

    In other notes, Michel Bettane is also commenting on the situation and his letter can be read here

  2. Always look forward to your Bordeaux notes – keep up the great work!

  3. Hi Headless

    Thanks for your reply. I agree that Jancis’ concerns about the primeur tastings being part of the marketing machine (which seems to be her concern rather than the more frequent complaint that it is simply too early to taste) have some merit, but equally I would counter that balanced opinions will always be just that – balanced opinions. I think you are only part of the marketing machine if (a) you are afraid to bite the hand that feeds (I would like to think that my 2007 and 2008 reports show that I’m balanced with my reports, and I voiced plenty of concerns about the 2009s as well, especially the right bank alcohol) or (b) you furnish the marketing machine with hyperbole, witnessed by ever-increasing scores, breathless prose (“oh, it’s just the best vintage evaaaah, I mean, in my *whole* life!”) and, dare I say it, super-wines marked up with asterisks.

    I’m afraid Michel Bettane’s comments don’t, shall we say, have the statesman-like gravitas that Jancis at least manages. “It’s not fair” seems to be an adequate synopsis of is complaint. For someone at the bottom of the pile as I am, it’s pretty hard to take such a complaint seriously.

  4. Thank you Anonymous, whoever you are! :-)

  5. I’m looking forward to reading your Bordeaux notes. Its amazing the way this En Primeur campaign is becoming a bit frenzied already.Looking at the prices of wine, it resembles a “bubble” market. Like the South Seas bubble, like the railway bubble , the high-tech market bubble-the wine bubble is just expanding. I appreciate your down to earth assesments.

  6. Thanks Sion. The release prices are certainly very different to what they used to be. Even a huge reduction (and that won’t happen with the 2010s anyway IMO, so don’t hold your breath!! :-) would still leave the wines far more expensive than they were 8-10 years ago. Thanks for the feedback on my reports.

  7. Hi Chris,

    I too am looking forward to your opinions on the 2010 vintage. Though if your correct in your view that the prices will still remain at “daft” level then my meagre buy of 2009 will reduce to zero this year. Still I live in hope that there may be some reasonable bargains out there.
    I would be very interested to know what percentage of the 2009 was actually sold last year ?, bet we’ll never find out.

    Rick

  8. Hello Chris

    Keep up the great work and you are my number 1 chief taster. Your notes indeed are well thought out and balanced (you have descriptors that not many others use). I think my taste are similar to yours which is why I value your guidance above all others.

    Tim

  9. Thank you Rick and Tim, that’s really kind and positive feedback.

    Rick, the question of how much 2009 was sold is still a very relevant one. If the chateaux held a lot back to bolster the higher-than-ever prices, can they manage this for the second vintage on the run?

  10. Hi Chris,

    Look forward to reading your 2010 notes. As noble as I find JR’s stand, James Suckling and Robert Parker have so many flunkies I don’t think she’ll get far either. Still, though, it’s refreshing to see someone taking a stand against all this pricing nonsense predicated upon Parker points of wines in cask.

    Do you think the unfortunate tsunami that affected Japan will influence pricing?

    mab

    PS had a terrific ’88 Leoville Barton last night. Let’s hope the ’08s go that route in 20 years!

  11. Hi mab

    Thanks for those comments. I hadn’t thought about the tsunami’s possible influence on Bordeaux pricing, I have to admit. I suppose it would depend on what role Japan usually plays; I wouldn’t have thought it was a big market for the Bordelais, but am willing to be corrected on this point.

  12. Last year, Japan was the 5th largest market for Bordeaux behind Germany, China, Belgium and the UK (per the Bordeauxwinenews blog). Cobbling data together it also looks like they buy the stuff of interest – the wines at the GCC level. I don’t have a terribly economic bent so who’s to say whether the Japanese economic climate will affect China, which seems to be the foremost player nowadays anyway.

    Marc

  13. Thanks Marc. I had no idea they ranked so high. And I’m surprised not see the USA in such a list!

  14. Me too! Especially given my personal consumption. USA ranked immediately behind Japan.

    Cheers Chris-
    Marc

  15. Hi Chris,

    As always I am avidly looking forward to your notes from the EP circus. I thought from early comments I had read that it was looking like a tough one for your palate because of the high tannins. However I notice Jancis commented that her first tastings of some petit chateau were not as ‘tiring’ as she thought they might be.

    In the meantime I think I will treat myself to a case of one of the Huet sec wines from 2010 that you posted on very recently – nice notes and a decent price for such an excellent wine.

    Have fun,

    Andy

  16. I’m looking forward to your notes, but I don’t really get excited anymore over these en primeur tastings, already lost my interest in 2009 : I’m a huge fan of Bordeaux wine but at the current prices it’s just crazy :(

  17. Dave Sokolin has just written that the general expectation is a 10-30% price increase since last year. His point: snatch up those remarkably good 2009 values. This whole thing is a circus.

  18. Kris and Andy, thanks for those comments. Not surprised to hear that report coming from Jancis – it has been my experience today also.

    Marc, if we see a 10-30% increase, that is just ridiculous. The Bordelais must be losing their minds if that is true. The best action in that situation is almost certainly to hold off and buy for less later, or just go to more mature wines which have 10-20 years bottle age on them and yet are *cheaper*!!

  19. price/quality I think 2008 is the year to focus on (of the recent years ofc)

    a little guess : Pontet Canet 2010 en primeur : 130-135 € I’m afraid, and although I’m a big fan of this château I only need a millisecond to decide NOT to buy it at those prices

    I find it such a shame that Bordeaux is coming out of reach for the amateur-drinker, the 1e cru were always too expensive for me, but now the super-seconds are also becoming out of reach : makes me sad

  20. I do think that prices will either remain stable or increase. Why shouldn’t they? The GCC wines at least sold well last year when the prices were absurd.

    The Bordelais have plenty of new Far East buyers and a total disregard for their traditional client base.

    The question is what will happen when the Far East ceases to be a client that will buy GCC at any price (either through passage of the fad or regime change)? If, at that point, buyers in the traditional markets accept anything less than a return to early 2000s pricing, that’s our fault. Someone needs to put the Bordelais in line re: pricing, as the English used to when they were the main consumers of GCC.

  21. Chris -

    Thank you for posting your notes. I enjoy reading your site & appreciate your straightforward honesty on all things Bordeaux.

    Best,
    John

  22. Thanks John, much appreciated feedback.