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Bordeaux 2010 vintage saved by wet winter, cool August

The extraordinary weather patterns of 2010 have contributed to wines that are robust, concentrated and acidic – and 'totally different' to the 2009s, Bordeaux negociant Bill Blatch says.

Cabernet harvest; ‘best possible conditions’

In his comprehensive weather report for 2010, Blatch says the vintage’s saving grace – the high acidity of the grapes – was achieved by the cooler weather in August and September, and the cooler autumn.

The vintage’s extraordinary concentration, with tannins 50-70% higher than 2009 and acidity levels at 4.5 grams per litre compared with 3.5g/l, is the result of an extremely dry summer.

A heat spike at the end of June was the start of two months of drought. July and August, the veteran head of negociants Vintex says, recorded 534 sun hours, 50 hours above the average.

Far more important was the lack of rain: in these two months 32mm fell, against an average of 114mm. ‘So this really was total drought – more so even than in 2005, when the odd thunderstorm had alleviated the situation and a little more so than in 2009 with its occasional shower or two.’

But several factors saved the vintage. Blatch notes that temperatures were no higher than average, and he also makes the point that August was cooler than July. This meant that although the heat of July caused accelerating ripening and build-up of sugars, the cooler August, and especially the ‘very cool’ nights of mid-month, allowed acids to be preserved.

Combined with shrinkage of berries due to the drought, ‘this element of acidity got exaggerated and went on to become a salient feature of the 2010 vintage’s style, of fresh and often aggressive tannins for the reds, and enhanced aromatics for the whites,’ Blatch writes.

Other weather patterns contributed to what ‘half of Bordeaux [assesses] as great if not greater than 2009’, the negociant says in his report on jancisrobinson.com.

In particular, the very high winter rainfall, which stored up dampness in the depths of the earth which would prove ‘crucial in the dog days of summer that were to come’.

Harvest was also serendipitous – indeed, Blatch says, a monument should be erected to Hurricane Otto, which promised rain in October but which died out in the Atlantic and actually pushed a high-pressure system towards Bordeaux.

The dry whites in Pessac-Leognan and Entre-deux-Mers where picked in hot, dry conditions – but again, the cool nights of August contributed to the preservation of acids.

For the reds, especially the Merlot, sugar readings were high – almost 14 degrees in the middle of September. The Merlot musts came in ‘black and dense, very sweet, and bursting with tannin.’

The Cabernet Sauvignon, showing 13 degrees of sugar, ‘refreshed by two days of rain’ and no more, was harvested ‘in the best possible conditions’.

The Bordeaux En Primeur barrel tastings start on 2 April. Decanter.com will publish its complete report on the vintage on Wednesday 13 April.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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