Overview of the Top Left Bank Medoc Wines from 2010

4 April 2011
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee


It’s day three of my trip in Bordeaux and I have now tasted just over 300 wines. I spent two days just focusing on the first and second growths to get an impression of the character of the top wines of the Medoc. I was sceptical about 2010 being another great vintage but I am now convinced that 2010 is a vintage that is on a par with the 2009 vintage. It is not a ripe, flamboyant year like 1990, 2000 or 2009. Most top properties made wine that should not be approached for another few decades! This vintage is one to lay down in your cellar or pass down to your children.


The most successful wines are those which have managed to tame the beast, which this year is the tannins. There are copious amounts of tannins in first growths down to generic Bordeaux – so much so that my fingers have permanent purple stains and my teeth are an eerie shade of grey. The best wines have velvety rich tannins that haven’t been over-extracted; the best examples steer away from tannin’s tough angular, astringent side. It was easy to get freshness in the flavours because of the naturally high acid levels in 2010. Bordeaux benefited from a relatively dry summer with sunny days that were not very hot. The result is abundant fresh berry flavours with a wonderful lift despite high alcohol and high tannin levels. Wines like Palmer broke all records with this vintage, recording the highest alcohol and tannin levels in their history.


Among the top properties, there was no clear winner in terms of vintage – half the time I favoured the 2010 and the other half the 2009. The final barometer was about style rather than inherent vintage quality. Last year, Pichon Lalande made a huge jump in quality and this year, it remained among the top 10 wines from the Medoc – they are making fabulous wine. The one property that was hugely successful in 2010 is the La Mission Haut Brion. Although this is an unclassified property, the 2010 vintage places it firmly among the first growths in terms of quality. This is an incredibly seductive wine with flavours that totally beguile.


Below are my top 10 wines from the Medoc:


1. 2010 Château Haut-Brion, Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux, France Deep ruby purple in colour, the Haut-Brion offers a hedonistic nose of cedar, violets, blackberries, blackcurrant, and spices. This is a rich mouth-filling wine that will take at least a decade to come around. Reserved, aristocratic, very dense with velvety tannins and lovely layers of complex flavours, this very classy wine has a finish that just goes on and on. There is not much Merlot compared to other years, but the 20% Cabernet Franc has added spices, herbs and complexity that come through in the finish. A phenomenal wine. (98-100)


2. 2010 Château 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. At 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)


3. 2010 Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France Deep ruby in colour, the Lafite has wonderful aromatics, with a gorgeous perfume of violets, cedar, cassis and blackberries. With its velvety tannins and layered, delicate flavours, there is a succulent juicy character to its fruit profile, accented with hints of violet. It is a gorgeous wine that is filled with delicate layers of flavours and at the same time is not heavy or dense. This is clearly a very successful vintage for Lafite in both style and intensity, producing a wine that will outlive the outstanding 2009.(98-100)


4. 2010 Château 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)


5. 2010 Château Latour, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France Deep ruby, with aromas of blackberries, blueberries, plums, and cedar, the 2010 Latour is full bodied, restrained, intense and filled with layer upon layer of flavours and firm tannins. Density is the key in this vintage and Latour is massive and very typically Latour – all about power and longevity and needing at least 10 years before it can be approached. The 2009 will be approachable much earlier on, but I love both vintages for very different reasons – they are the two faces of Latour. (95-99)


6. 2010 Château Palmer, Margaux, Bordeaux, France Deep purple, with notes of violets, plums, blackberries, and spices, this full rich, gorgeous Palmer has incredible density and depth. Filled with vibrant fruits and wonderful layers of flavours, the 2010 Palmer’s full rich style is balanced by velvety tannins and fresh acidity. According to Thomas Duroux, Director of Chateau Palmer, the conditions of the vintage have resulted in the highest alcohol and tannin levels Palmer has ever achieved. But although the alcohol is high at 14.5%, one hardly feels it since the flavours are so powerful. (95-97)


7. 2010 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France Fairly deep ruby, with aromas of fresh blackberries, hint of violets and cedar, this full-bodied and impressive Pichon Lalande has very fresh, vibrant characters and wonderful density, depth and concentration. This is the most concentrated young wine they have made in a decade, yet the style is still elegant and lacking any heaviness. This is another hugely successful Pichon Lalande vintage, with the potential to age for many decades, but I prefer the 2009 by a small margin because of that wine’s more seductive aromatics and lighter style. (95-97)


8. 2010 Château Cos d’Estournel, St Estephe, Bordeaux, France Deep, opaque purple, with aromas of vibrant blackberries, cherries, plum, spices and hint of cedar, the 2010 Cos has an amazing freshness of flavour and great depth of fruit without being a powerhouse. It is good to see Cos moving away from over-extraction and crafting a wine that is detailed enough to express its fine terroir. I love the restrained characters, impressive subtlety and class of this wine, and how its fresh and delicate flavours linger for ever on the palate. I prefer this vintage for Cos over the 2009. Fantastic wine! (93-97)


9. 2010 Château Ducru Beaucaillou, St Julien, Bordeaux, France Deep purple, with aromatics of fresh dark berries – blackcurrant – spices and cedar, the 2010 Ducru is a beautifully crafted wine whose long, precise and focused flavours rise in the finish. While having great density and depth with velvety firm tannins, this aristocratic Ducru has an angular edge and sternness in its character that is very appealing. In 2010 less than 10,000 cases were made because of strict selection, and this shows in this massive, full bodied and densely-packed wine, made for long aging. Vintage conditions have produced a wine with higher alcohol and tannins than in 2009 but the same acidity level and a more complex flavour profile – so I give the nod to the 2010 Ducru over the 2009. (94-96)


10. 2010 Château Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France Deep purple in colour, with notes of sweet plums, violets, and a hint of cedar and vanilla, this is a seductive, rich and powerful Mouton with plenty of dense flavours but disappointing in its slight lack of finesse and detail. There is however amazing density and weight here, with a richness and heaviness that come from very sweet, almost over-ripe fruit, so the wine will be embraced by those that prefer this kind of big rich ripe Mouton style. To my palate, the 2009 had more restraint and greater precision in its flavours. (94-96)