Bordeaux 2010: First verdicts from London tasting

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  • Friday 18 March 2011

London has had its first taste of the Bordeaux 2010 Right Bank wines – and the verdict is very positive, with reservations about extraordinarily high alcohol levels.

Bordeaux 2010 droite

Last night the Cercle Rive Droite, a grouping of some 30 properties from St Emilion Grand Cru Classes to Bordeaux Superieurs, presented their 2010s alongside the just-bottled 09s, 08s and 07s.

The right bank 2010s are remarkable for several reasons: an average alcohol level of over 14.5% and reaching 15.5% in some cases; very low pH values, high acidity, very high tannin levels and a higher than normal Cabernet Franc content, a typical blend containing 20%, as opposed to the more usual 10-15%.

The majority of wines have not yet finished their malolactic fermentation, meaning that acidity levels will drop – a worrying factor for some critics.

‘The wines are very drinkable with nice acid,’ Beverley Blanning MW said, ‘but it is the acid which gives the wines their freshness, and without that they may become unbalanced.’

Critics agree the wines are extraordinary. David Peppercorn MW made the point that they were very attractive at all levels, from lesser properties as well Grand Crus.

One thing is certain, as one producer said: ‘this is going to be a difficult vintage to taste because of the alcohol levels.’

Another danger producers faced was over-ripeness in the Merlot. This would be one reason why more Cabernet Franc – which holds less alcohol than Merlot – has been used, quite apart from the fact that the Cabernet Franc ‘ripened beautifully this year’, as Jean-Francois Quenin of Chateau Pressac, a St Emilion Grand Cru said.

Critics agreed that it added a very attractive dimension – as well as its perfume and spice, it also supplied freshness and acidity, and leant juiciness to the tannins, which otherwise would be overwhelming.

The wines are ripe, loaded with sweet fruit – dense black cherry,raspberry and strawberry flavours and in some cases ‘almost pruney, ripe dark fruit flavours’ as Blanning put it.

They are also very concentrated and – at the moment – balanced by good acidity. Tannins are ripe and powerful.

‘It is almost too good,’ Dominique Meneret of Domaine de Courteillac, the one Bordeaux Superieur at the tasting, said. ‘We don’t normally get this ripeness.’

Peppercorn concurred. ‘Those with lesser sites have made excellent wines,’ he said, adding that he would be very happy to list many of them as everyday wines at the Garrick Club, where he sits on the wine committee.

The annual 2010 Bordeaux en primeur tasting week, organised by the Union des Grand Crus (UGC), takes place next month in Bordeaux, 4-8 April.


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