Suddenly, I'm packing again. This time for Bordeaux.
After finishing up in the Rhône, I spent a week and a half back home enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday. It felt like a very short stay.
Now I'm heading across the pond again to finish my tastings of the 2009 Bordeaux that are now in bottle. My colleagues, executive editor Thomas Matthews and senior tasting coordinator Alison Napjus, are joining me, as they did last year when I tasted the 2008s.
In tastings in my New York office I've managed to already sample more than 350 Bordeauxs from this much-heralded vintage, everything from simple Bordeaux AOC to classified-growths. There have been some terrific wines, and some disappointments.
The majority of these 2009 red Bordeauxs are showing well, with rich fruit and well-embedded structure. Some areas, such as Pessac/Graves, clearly excelled. But I can't help feeling that some of the wines are not nearly as vivid or vivacious as I would have expected based on the early prognostications. So far, my scores are generally falling into the low end, or just below, the barrel ratings from the March 2010 tastings.
Granted, I've yet to taste the majority of wines, as well as many of the best estates. I'll see more in the coming days as I plan to taste 500 or more samples during this trip before making my final evaluation in my annual tasting report.
It's interesting to compare the 2009 and 2010 Bordeauxs with the 2009 and 2010 Southern Rhônes. In both cases the '09s saw a lot of praise thanks to their fleshy, opulent personalities, while the more structure-driven 2010s were a touch overshadowed in the early going.
But now, as the 2010 Rhônes stretch out during their élevage, they're showing much racier acidity, brighter minerality and better overall definition. Following my recent trip in the Rhône, the '10 vintage is clearly a step ahead of the '09 (you can reference my annual Rhône report on the bottled 2009s in the Nov. 30 issue of Wine Spectator, and my blog entries on the 2010s I tasted in the Rhône during my recent trip).
Similarly, I loved the 2010 red Bordeauxs when I tasted them from barrel last March. They showed mouthwatering acidity, with great graphite and iron spines. Save for some slightly ponderous alcohol levels in some Right Bank, Merlot-dominated wines, the vintage was very consistent through Bordeaux, with even lesser terroirs from the vast Bordeaux Supérieur showing very well. Ultimately, the truly great vintages aren't defined by the top-end wines alone, but by the overall performance of the region as a whole—you need steak to go with the sizzle. The 2010 seems to have that top-to-bottom quality, but yes, it's early.
So for now, let's focus on the 2009s which, when released, were the most expensive Bordeaux ever to hit the U.S. Market. Do they merit their prices? Which are the stars? The sleepers? Where is the value?
It should be a fun two weeks of tasting!
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