From Jean-Marc Quarin: “2010 – What to expect? From all the reds I have tasted, and even before the blends are finalized, the style of the 2010 vintage appears to be different from that of 2009, though climatically both years showed great similarities. Neither of the vintages shows any greenness or harsh tannins thanks to the excellent maturity of the berries at the time of picking and above all to the drought that lasted from July to September.
2009 is superbly baroque – a firework of incredibly generous sensations. 2010 is immediately elegant and loftier, with a sound structure but boasting less breadth on entry and on the mid palate than the 2009 vintage. It even runs the risk of being so discreet that its true character might be overlooked during the upcoming en primeur campaign. 2009, on the contrary, was immediately more attractive but showed signs it could potentially become slack, as a loosely woven cloth would, or indeed a baggy suit – a risk that is still there now the wine is going through the elevage. In 2010, the Cabernets Sauvignon and Cabernets Franc steal the show. They appear to be a tight and perfect fit, with finely grained and refine tannins doubled with a high concentration in aromas brought about by the September weather. And that makes the 2010s identity undoubtedly Bordeaux. But I will deliberately avoid the use of “classic” to qualify the new vintage, as the word suggests the presence of square tannins – and there are none in 2010. How’s that for success!
Wines that are generally more rustic may appear more elegant; those that are usually generous in their volume could well lose a little breadth but gain in length; traditionally thin wines could well boast more pulp – as flesh seems to be a common trait for the vintage. The other vital point is the sapidity of the 2010s. To give you an example, when Montrose was presented last month, I enjoyed the 2010 more than I did the 2000 – over the delicious shepherd’s pie that Jean-Pierre Vigato from the Apicius had prepared for us. Is this another special treat impossible not to swallow – as the 2009 vintage this time last year?…and yet, the Montrose 2010 is highly concentrated in tannins (IPT:85); but the coating is absolutely stunning! The 2010 vintage will also favour all the producers who strive to improve the standard of their wine. Some of them even told me that their 2010 was already superior to their 2009. Well, we’ll see, but as more money is being invested for better selections, I expect second wines to set a new benchmark.”
Jean-Marc’s impressions back up my own – the vintage reminds me of a combination of 1986, 1989 and 1990 (with a nice spot of 1985) all wrapped into one (where 2009 was more 1990 and 2003 with a small dash of 2000). I also agree, like 1996, this is a Cabernet lovers year as the Sauvignon and Franc are nearly perfect in more regions than not (even on the Right Bank, where some producers believe the Franc may be the equal of 1961). The interesting aspect to the vintage may come in the percentage of Merlot used, which will affect the Right Bank a great deal. There was significant millanderage in the Merlot throughout Bordeaux (Left and Right Bank) and a strict selection was required. The berries that remained were stupendous but producers (as noted above by Jean-Marc) who lazily allowed affected berries into the blend, will be quite sorry they didn’t take the time to sort. The fastidious producers (Lafleur and Cheval Blanc being two of them) knew what they had in 2010 and they realized it was worth every last painstaking effort to give their incredible Franc a Merlot partner worthy of the vintage…thankfully, they did.
If you are a fan of Cabernet Franc (and Sauvignon), this is your year to go long on the producers that feature the two grapes in their blend. In addition, the nobility of the tannins and structure from the Sauvignon has elevated many bargain examples from Pauillac north into serious and (I will use a new term) “modern classic” Bordeaux that many of you will enjoy immensely.
While there is no carnival to stare at or freak-show to sell tickets (i.e. the 2009s), I stand behind what I’ve said since last September – the 2010 vintage has the potential to be a campaign for the ages and the wines may actually be worth their (what is expected to be) very high price tag. While it will be tempting to snatch up the top 10-25 wines (Montrose being one of them), I continue to urge caution when planning for Bordeaux futures. There are plenty of excellent wines below the top 25 and the level between 25-50 in 2010 is exceedingly high, even down to the top 50-150 wines. In other words, if you are not purchasing to sell the wines at a later date, I see no reason to chase the futures game – there are still plenty of unsold 2009s on the market going for close to their original 1st tranche prices (or even less in some cases) and I expect the same circumstance for 2010. In a market where we still have plenty of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 Bordeaux in the pipeline, at some point (below the top 25 or so wines or so), the consumer is going to win…but it will require patience.
Maybe the Bordelaise will surprise us all and come out with prices on par with 2008 – prices that would indeed cause a frenzy of buying and actually move their product through the world market – prices that would force back vintages to the forefront as stocks shrink, prices that would encourage young people (with less disposable income) to discover Bordeaux and begin their life-long journey of loyalty, prices that I would encourage all of you to stop what you are doing and buy with abandon…
….sorry, I just woke up from a dream.
– Jon Rimmerman