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stirring the lees with james molesworth

The 2010 Bordeaux Vintage Awaits

The 2010 Bordeaux barrel samples earned the vintage a potentially classic rating. It's time to see if they live up to the hype
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Dec 3, 2012 1:00pm ET

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.

You can follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/jmolesworth1.

Bill Andreotti
Aurora, IL USA —  December 3, 2012 9:24pm ET
50 wines per day? Wow! Will your notes tell us which were tasted in the earlier part of the day? :-)
James Molesworth
New York —  December 4, 2012 3:29am ET
Bill: You raise a good point though...palate fatigue is an issue for any taster in large scale tastings like this. The key is to always stop before you sense palate fatigue, because once you have it, it's too late. That's why we work slowly and methodically and take our time - there's nothing macho about blowing through 100+ wines in a day and then claiming you were really able to evaluate them in a meaningful way. It wouldn't be fair to the producers or the readers to do it that, in my opinion.
David A Zajac
Akron, Ohio —  December 4, 2012 1:49pm ET
Looking forward to your tasting notes, not sure how on earth you get thru so many wines in such a relatively short amount of time. Although I drink less Bordeuax now than before, it is still the engine that drives the wine market, so in spite of my diminished attention to the wines themselves, the market is still lead by Bordeaux.

BTW, had a bottle of the 2006 Ravines champagne (I know,its not champagne) and it was outstanding!
Richard Kim
Anaheim, CA, USA —  December 4, 2012 3:36pm ET
I agree David, and I also am drinking less Bordeaux. More of it is the "value" type, meaning not on the radar of the wealthy buyers around the world who want only the famous names and have driven up prices beyond the reach of most of us who just want to drink the stuff.
James Molesworth
New York —  December 5, 2012 2:21am ET
David: Well, my wife back home doesn't think two weeks is a short time to be away. But yes, it's a large number of wines, so that's why it's important to pace oneself...and glad to hear you liked the '06 Ravines Brut, it's a nice wine.

Richard: There's a lot of Bordeaux that's off the radar. You might be interested in these "Off The Radar" properties from my March 2012 story on Bordeaux: http://www.winespectator.com/magazine/show/id/46358

And the '10 will provide lots of excellent wines at $40 or less that will reward a few years of cellaring...more to come of course after I finish my tastings and file my report.

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