Any vintage assessment begins with the weather to which end I am grateful to the availability of the masterly vintage report by Bill Blatch ngociant, at Bordeaux Gold. As with Bordeaux 2009 before it, Bordeaux 2010 is a vintage born out of extremity, fruit of exceptional meteorological conditions that tested the vine to its limits. In opposition to the no less extreme but regular cycle of 2009, 2010 is an extreme vintage which, in this instance, went the right way.
2010 as compared to 2009
Each are big, powerful vintages, of high alcohol, concentration and weight. 2009 are by comparison, opulent, softer wines that saw gradual concentration over a perfect ripening season followed by a perfect autumn. 2010, however, saw drought-induced grape shrinkage and altogether more aggressive conditions, in particular drought and cooler August-September minimum temperatures followed by a cooler autumn. 2010 are potent wines born of irregular conditions that combined to enhance aroma, tannin, pigmentation and acidity, the latter being the most arresting feature of the vintage.
As with 2009, harvest dates for comparable terroirs varied considerably from chateau to chateau, with the style being determined largely by choice rather than prevailing conditions.
2010, above all is a vintage where under-extraction not over-extraction is the order of the day, so as not to overplay robust tannins. High sugars once again have produced wines comparatively high in alcohol – broadly 13-14% for the Left Bank and 14-15% for the Right Bank – in the main a little less than 2009 although sometimes, in particular, the Right Bank and Pessac-Lognan, more so.
There are excellent wines to be found here at every level. Although there was no way of telling at the time, winter rains turned out to be the saviour of the vintage, allowing the best terroirs to deal remarkably well with the draught conditions as soils retained water deep-down from the unusually heavy rains of the previous winter.
A notable quality has been achieved in second wines with the continued re-definition of style as a noble wine in its own right.
No one commune stands out, however, quality is not blanket-wide and there are some over-extracted wines to be found.
In 2010, it is a question of individual chateau over its village or district.
The Cabernets, Sauvignon and Franc are at full ripeness but have retained excellent acidity levels, whereas the white wines are excellent and of an extremely high standard. Despite in some instances record alcohol levels, experts (Spurrier, Laws, Decanter et al) believe these to be quite possibly the wines of the vintage.
Prepared to hand-pick, although less consistent overall, with some chateaux struggling to contain alcohol levels or producing over-extracted wines, there exists a wide-ranging offer of elegant and well-crafted wines to be found.
In contrast to the other communes and districts Sauternes and Barsac prdocued fine wines with an abundant yield, where steely aroma and power are the salient characteristic.
The US trade came back to Bordeaux this year, albeit in more moderate numbers, with Asian presence represented through China, Japan and, as a possible indication of things to come, KBR School of Wine, an Indian wine educator. Some 7,000 members of the international wine trade representing close to 70 different countries have arrived to Bordeaux for the annual week of tasting barrel samples.
The market and pricing
2010 will, by consensus, be similar or slightly higher prices in comparison to 2009.
Whereas full bunches have been reported across the region, nonetheless, at quality conscious top chateaux yields are down up to 30% on 2009. A series of week fronts led to coloure (flower infertility) and millerandage (bunch abortion) affected early-ripening Merlot in particular. Moreover, green harvesting, begun on the assumption of what appeared to be a full crop and significant weight loss during the drought conditions led to an ever-lower yield.
Against the backdrop of record prices following a string of high quality high scoring recent vintages and soaring international demand, notably from new markets in Asia, chateaux and ngociants are well-capitalised with little immediate financial pressure to lower prices.
The re-entry, albeit a little more modestly by historical standards, of US merchants, the ever-stronger presence of Asian buyers and continuous strong demand from UK investors all point to demand being similar to 2009. Having said that, there is certainly less hype amongst private customers when compared to this time last year.
Finally, in line with recent performance, we may see certain chateaux out-perform their critic ratings against the backdrop of brand-led demand from China. But, there is some way to go yet, and we shall maintain our analysis of this in the coming days and weeks in the light of the publication of the all-important ratings, particularly from critic Robert Parker. Interestingly, he has twittered that 2010 is a great vintage but not greater than 2005 or 2009.
Finally, compared to 2009, the Sterling is down 6% against the Euro.
For news and commentary onBordeaux classed growths, visit www.dittonwinetraders.co.uk/blog/ and view our fine wines list . Ditton Wine Traders.