Is 2010 Bordeaux better than 2009? Part II

5 May 2011
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee


Whether 2009 or 2010 is a better vintage will be an ongoing debate for many years to come. Consider 1899 versus the 1900 or 1989 compared with the 1990 or 1995 with the 1996. Great vintages can often come in pairs and 2009 and 2010 is following in this genre, creating avid debate among wine lovers and commentators. After tasting over 600 Bordeaux during the week of en primeur, I am in the 2009 camp, although I love the 2010s. The 2009s are more consistent across the board and more accessible, which may be one reason why I was seduced by them. The 2010s are more austere, dense, tannic and difficult to assess their inherent quality as infant wines. I am looking forward to being challenged and discovering the ‘truth’ in the years to come.


Each appellation of Bordeaux performed differently throughout Bordeaux. For example, in the northern Medoc, the 2010s are better or equal to the 2009s. In the southern part of Medoc and the right bank, it is less clear which was the superior vintage. For dry white Bordeaux, it is clear that 2010, with its fresh, crisp acidity and vibrant fruit profile is better than the 2009s. However for Sauternes and Barsac, the 2009s had more richness and complexity. Below is an overview of the 2010 vintage for key Bordeaux appellations and styles.


Margaux 2010 was a great year for Margaux, nearly as good as 2009. For most properties, 2010 resulted in very high tannins and alcohol, which needed gentle handling in the winery. Most succeeded in producing aromatic, fresh styles with a fair amount of tannins, which will soften over time. Overall however, I preferred the 2009s to the 2010s in Margaux.


Top Margaux: 2010 Chateau Margaux, Margaux, Bordeaux, France Deep ruby, with notes of dense blackberry, ripe blackcurrant, sweet violets and cedar, this velvety-textured Margaux is more of a blockbuster in style – dark coloured, full bodied, ripe and filled with densely packed flavours – a wine to drink with at least 10 years of bottle age. The 90% Cabernet Sauvignon in 2010 gives the wine density, tannins, richness and depth, but this is all matched by the purity of fruit. I have a slight preference for the 2009 because I find that wine’s lighter touch to be more typical of Margaux’s elegant style. (97-99)


Pessac Leognan The red wines from Pessac Leognan show beautiful restraint in this vintage with typical earthy, cedarbox characters. The 2010s are far less expressive than the 2009s, but for many, this vintage will likely evolve more slowly and open up to challenge the 2009s in a few decades.


Top Pessac Leognan: 2010 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux, France Deep ruby in colour, with a nose of vibrant blackberries, cherries, plums, cedar and lovely floral aromatics, this is a perfect La Mission, with an amazing depth of flavour and very long length. With 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, La Mission is continuing its swing, begun in 2007, away from using a majority of Merlot. This vintage of La Mission is vibrant yet serious and the flavours are layered and complex, resulting in a great expressive wine with the intensity and depth to age for many decades. A real beauty and one of the best La Missions in recent history – much better than the 2009. (98-100)


St Emilion The 2010 reds from St Emilion were less consistent than in 2009. The standout wines like Ausone, Cheval Blanc and Angelus made terrific wines — some of their best examples from this decade. The wines that disappointed were too extracted, alcoholic, or had bitter, tough tannins. Modern style St Emilions that are muscular, thick, body-builder types were most often too heavy – high alcohol, dry tannins and thick texture. The most successful producers combined freshness with tame tannins that are layered and cashmere-like in texture.


Top St Emilion & my top wine of 2010: Chateau Ausone, St Emilion, Bordeaux, France The 2010 Ausone has aromas of violets, cigars, plums, and blackberries with an exuberant and lifted palate with velvety firm tannins. This is a perfect Ausone, better than the 2009, more concentrated yet with greater lifted acidity and intensity. A truly gorgeous wine with a long impressive finish and great depth. No doubt this wine will keep for decades. 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Merlot. (98-100)


Pomerol The small size of the Pomerol appellation and the tiny vineyard holdings mean quality is generally more consistent than wines from St Emilion. In 2010, Pomerol did very well, though it did not hit the high notes achieved by the very best at St Emilion such as Ausone. Both Petrus and Le Pin were better in 2009 than 2010. However, lesser know properties like La Pointe, Nenin and Plince also did very well in 2010.


Top Pomerol: 2010 Chateau Pétrus, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France The 2010 Petrus opens with notes of spices, cinnamon, plums, blackberries, cedar and violets, followed by luscious flavours and dense, velvety-textured tannins that caress the tongue. Olivier Berrouet, the wine director, says 2010 had amazing sunlight hours with temperatures that were not high, and the clay soil helped to rejuvenate the water stressed (100%) Merlot vines. Yields were lower than in 2009, which explains the intense concentration found in this wine. (96-98)


Bordeaux dry whites of 2010 All the elements were present to make great white Bordeaux – sunny days and no serious rain or mould issues during harvest period. The best examples are fresh, lively and vibrant with a core acidity that runs through the wine. A blind tasting of nearly 20 white wines from Pessac Leognan revealed consistently good wines across the board – not one bad wine in the flight! The whites from first growths — Haut Brion and Margaux — soared to new heights and many chateaux like Smith Haut Lafitte sparkled with their brilliance. This will be a year filled with delicious, juicy and refreshing whites, whether it comes from a first growth or from Entre deux Mers.


Top dry white: 2010 Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux, France The 2010 Haut Brion Blanc has notes of lively grapefruit, apricots, and peach, and the 54% Sauvignon Blanc adds freshness and an herbaceous dimension to the wine. Although 2010 was a dry growing season, the vines are between 35 and 40 years old, and were able to find water in the depths of the gravel and limestone soil. Though its complex flavours are fairly restrained, the wine has incredible depth and body and leaves one marveling at a truly aristocratic Haut Brion Blanc! (96-99)


Bordeaux sweet wines of 2010 2010 is a very good year for sweet wines, but not among the best. It falls short of the great vintages of this past decade such as 2001, 2005 or 2009.


Top Sauternes: 2010 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France Intensely aromatic, with honeysuckle, marmalade, and candied citrus notes, the 2010 Yquem is a wine of amazing freshness and vibrancy of flavour, with layers of sweet flowers and ripe stone fruits, and great substance and depth. More of a middleweight than the 2009, the 2010 Yquem weighed in at 140 gm/l of residual sugar versus 155g/l in the 2009. (95-97)


Other appellations The quality of a vintage is both a product of the top chateaux as well as the petit chateaux from lesser known appellations. For those with a limited wine budget, 2010 will be a good vintage to purchase great value red wines that will keep for at least 5 to 10 years. The quality of these wines support the quality of the 2010 vintage and firmly ranks it as among the best vintages of this decade.


Top Haut Medoc: 2010 Château Sénéjac, Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France Alfred Tesseron of Pontet Canet is running this property with his team since 2008. Stunning wine with amazing elegance and grace. Very classy with vibrant acidity and fruit profile. Long length. (89-91)


Reprinted with permission from South China Morning Post