It's that time again: I'm heading across the pond to taste Bordeaux's most recently bottled vintage. This time around, it's the vaunted 2010, a vintage that wound up surpassing 2009 to claim the mantle of most expensive en primeur vintage ever. Now the question is, will the 2010 wines surpass 2009 qualitatively?
I'm excited to taste the wines for a few reasons. First, 2010 was the first vintage I tasted en primeur, after assuming coverage of Bordeaux in August 2010. So, it's the first time I'll be able to measure my impressions of the bottled wines against the ranges I gave them as young barrel samples.
In addition, the 2010s are in a style that I really enjoy: They are grippy, structured wines meant for cellaring, as opposed to the plusher, more fruit-forward and flattering 2009s. Don't get me wrong—2009 is a very, very impressive vintage. But as a drinker, you don't really have to focus hard or engage the wines deeply; they are simply right there, fleshy, corpulent and easy to understand. I feel the 2010s on the other hand offer more range and character, with bold graphite- and charcoal-laden structure and an intensity of fruit that will need time to harmonize fully. They are more terroir-driven.
I've had the opportunity to taste many 2009s and '10s from the same estates side by side. Overall, 2009 is a more consistent vintage. But in 2010, I've found higher highs as well as a better bottom rung overall. That's likely because of the vintage's naturally lower yields, due to coulure at harvest and then dry but not hot weather during the growing season that resulted in smaller berries with thicker skins. There are inconsistencies with the 2010s: Sometimes the fruit shows a drying, plum skin or raisined edge, and sometimes the structure overwhelms the fruit. But in general, I think the best 2010s will likely top the best '09s.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding. It's time to taste. Along with Wine Spectator senior tasting coordinator Alison Napjus, I'll spend the next two weeks working through upward of 700 wines. As usual, I'll be tasting the bottled wines blind, at my hotel, Les Sources de Caudalie. I'll work methodically through the wines to avoid palate fatigue and I'll also retaste many wines to confirm impressions.
Since the bulk of my time will be spent in a room, tasting, there won't be much blogging until my last few days in the region, when I can finally get out and make a few visits. But check back for snippets of info on how the wines are showing throughout my tasting. The full report will run in the spring. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer.
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