Bordeaux 2010 at Ten Years

Ten years have passed (obviously it is more like eleven – more on the reason for this discrepancy later) since the fruit that would be fashioned into the 2010 vintage was snipped from the vines. By the time the world descended on Bordeaux for the primeurs in early 2011 there were already murmurings that this was the second high-quality vintage in a row, coming after the lusciously textured and highly priced wines of the 2009 vintage.

The primeur tastings were indeed memorable for the high quality of the wines, which were brimming with texture and in some cases (on the right bank of course – where else?) high alcohols, two features which they had in common with 2009. In 2010, however, the nascent wines also possessed robust structures built around some fairly hearty tannins, and also a vigorous freshness from their higher acidities. The tastings were also memorable for the weather, which was little short of sweltering. I recall in particular one Sauternes tasting in which I eyed the bottles, relaxing in their little baths of crushed ice, with some envy. Would anyone care, I asked myself, if I slipped in beside them? Looking back that curious April weather was the start of a meteorologically topsy-turvy year marked by hot weather in spring and a depressingly cool summer, culminating in an autumn heatwave and a disconnect in the ripening of the fruit. But before I digress any further into a discussion of the 2011 vintage, let me get back to 2010.

Bordeaux 2010

At the end of my 2010 primeur tastings I concluded that, despite this having been an occasionally challenging vintage (unlike 2009, which was by comparison a breeze) the Bordelais had made some superb red wines. The warm weather had left its mark on the wines though; technical directors and oenologists on the left bank eschewed the high alcohols of the Merlots (the late Paul Pontallier revealed to me that one parcel at Château Margaux had been picked at 16% potential alcohol – and I later learnt this was not a unique occurrence) to turn out wines dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon. Those on the right bank did not have the luxury of that option of course, and so they produced a slew of wines which would ultimately declare 14% or 14.5% alcohol. The wines ended up richly structured with a more classical style than was found in 2009, but still with extra layers of texture, alcohol and ripe, glossy tannins. They were recognisable as Bordeaux, but were what I called at the time 21st-century Bordeaux, rather than 20th-century claret.

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