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Bordeaux 2010: Overall Impressions

Rating the newest vintage from Bordeaux after tasting more than 400 barrel samples
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Apr 8, 2011 11:05am ET

After sifting through the 447 Bordeaux 2010 barrel samples I recently tasted, it seemed like a good idea to give some general thoughts on the vintage.

Right now, châteaus are still showing the wines to the press and trade, then they'll basically huddle up and determine pricing. Based on conversations with many château owners, demand from the Asian market is not slowing down for the 2010s—with the exception of Japan, which is "not buying anything right now," for obvious reasons, according to one négociant I spoke with. Plus, as the U.S. economy slowly picks up steam, it would only seem to reason that demand for the top châteaus will increase here as well. So, with quality high and quantities slightly reduced in '10, I'd expect pricing to rival the levels of the '09s.

It's now quite clear that Bordeaux has a compelling duo of vintages in the pipeline. Compared to the round, fleshy, flattering '09s, the '10s provide a stark contrast, with super-racy acidity, powerful yet fresh tannins and ripe, muscular fruit. Overall, I rate the vintage at 95–98 points for both the Left and Right Banks, and 91–94 points for the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.

Overall, the vintage favors the Cabernet Sauvignon wines of the Left Bank, as the grape relished the dry, cool conditions of the growing season and easily took up any portion of the final blends that Merlot could not handle. (Merlot was the grape most affected by the drought, in some cases exhibiting high alcohols and slightly astringent tannins.)

In particular, the reds of Pessac and Graves are among the best in years, with the wine from first-growth Château Haut-Brion easily the most backward of all the first-growths. It's an early candidate for wine of the vintage on the Left Bank. In addition to the first-growths, Cos-d'Estournel and Pontet-Canet also produced very compelling wines.

The vintage is nearly equally impressive on the Right Bank, the lone blip being the Merlot, which can sometimes show slightly punchy alcohols, particularly in Pomerol. St.-Emilion though was very strong, as the penchant to overextract seems to have slowly faded away at most estates. The wines from both Pomerol and St.-Emilion that rely on Cabernet Franc as a major portion of the blend are very, very impressive.

Vieux-Château-Certan might be the most compelling wine from the Right Bank in 2010. Many of the big names are among the other stars, such as Trotanoy, l'Evangile, Conseillante, Le Pin and Pétrus in Pomerol and Cheval-Blanc, Ausone, Pavie, La Mondotte, Canon-La-Gaffeliere and Valandraud in St.-Emilion. Also of particular note is the '10 Pavie-Macquin, which offered up the single most glorious set of fruit and spice aromas of all the wines I tried.

There will be values though. While the top few dozen estates command high prices, numerous châteaus struggle for the limelight while producing terrific wines. Want sleepers? Look for Château de Sales, Château d'Aiguilhe, Château Féret-Lambert, Château Jean Faux, Château Brown, Château Gazin Rocquencourt, Château Lespault-Martillac, Château Belgrave, Château Clément-Pichon, Château Rollan de By, Château Belle-Vue, Château Le Thil, Domaine de l'A and more.

Whites are also strong—fresh and vibrant with the stuffing to age well. Sauternes and Barsac are ripe, dense and fresh—easily outstanding, though perhaps not quite as complex as the '09s.

I've already posted the notes with my formal reviews of the 2010 Bordeaux barrel samples, and stay tuned for the June 30, 2011, issue of Wine Spectator, which will feature my full report on the vintage.

In the meantime, the '08s are now hitting retail shelves. While not nearly as strong a vintage, there are some excellent buys to be had—you can find my report on the bottled '08s, as well as profiles of a number of value producers in the May 31 issue, which is just now hitting the mail.

Next week I'm off to the Northern Rhône to try the 2009s and '10s, so stay tuned to my blog for notes on visits to top estates in the home of Syrah, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.

Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  April 8, 2011 6:52pm ET
Chateau de Sales has long been a producer I have avoided due to poor quality. Are they doing things differently there, or is this just do to the vintage conditions?
James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  April 8, 2011 7:39pm ET
Karl: No, Chateau de Sales does not produce a wine in the league of the top wines in Pomerol. The property is situated on sandy soils on the outer rim of the appellation - not the greatest terroir. But the estate does produce a fresh, unadorned, soft, plummy wine that I think delivers consistently very good quality (on our 100-point scale).

In addition, the bulk of the production is bought by the Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix négociant operation, which has signed an exclusive distribution deal with Maison Marques & Domaines in the U.S., which means the wines will be easy to find (de Sales is the largest estate in Pomerol). Considering it retails for around $25, I think it's just the kind of Bordeaux - offering typicity and consistent quality at a decent price point - that is sorely missing from the U.S. market these days.
Hao-liang Huang
China —  April 14, 2011 3:36am ET
Hi James, did you review Chateau Durcu Beaucaillou 2010? Didn't see it in your notes
James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  April 14, 2011 3:51am ET
Hao-Liang: Unfortunately, no. They were invited to participate, but they did not want to submit the wine for a blind tasting.
Thang Tran
San Jose, CA  —  April 21, 2011 5:02pm ET
Hi James,
Graves region is of focus this year. How is La Mission Haut Brion 2010 compared to 2009 and 1998 in terms of concentration and complexity as well as aging potential? Thanks.
James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  April 21, 2011 7:06pm ET
Thang: Well the '98 has an 11 year head start on the other two vintages, so probably no fair to compare it's longevity in that regard. The '09 is rich and rounded, the '10 racier and more structure-driven in profile. But both are impressive vintages that should age exceptionally well. I think the '10s will probably be better built for aging - ultimately it will depend on how mature you like your wines...

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