An awful lot of hot air and column inches have been dedicated to this year’s Bordeaux en primeur campaign with journalists and amateur bloggers alike keen to tell the wine trade how it should be done.
As one at the ‘pointy end’ of the fine wine trade I am acutely aware that a speedy, well-timed release of wines from the top châteaux would be great. However, every year the campaign gets more drawn out and complicated as the wineries try to satisfy a growing worldwide demand while maximising their return on products which in many cases are seen as much as investment vehicles as bottles of beautiful wine.
For the uninitiated en primeur describes a wine bought the year after harvest but before it is bottled, and is often the only way to get hold of the most sought-after wines. Certainly it’s probably the most cost-effective way to put together a claret collection. So, laying to one side the investment-grade wines, about which everything that could be said has already been said, let’s have a look at the rest of the wines offered from the 2010 vintage.
A one word summary of the quality of 2010 Bordeaux would be ‘fabulous’. But 2009 was fabulous too, wasn’t it? Unequivocally yes, but the two vintages are very different. Unlike 2009, which was hot and dry, 2010 was really just dry. So, again unlike the opulent, almost Californian richness of the 2009s, the 2010s have a real freshness and balance that is highly appealing.
During our visit to Bordeaux in April, winemaker after winemaker told us that 2010 is truly exceptional. Across the board the levels of potential alcohol, acidity and tannins reached record levels, but crucially they managed to retain the balance I’ve mentioned. Without it the wines would have been clumsy but with it comes class and longevity. These are wines to buy in quantity and squirrel away. Especially in the lower price brackets, which may not always achieve the heights of the more exalted names, all the wines we have chosen merit serious consideration. For instance, Château Amelisse, one of Lay & Wheeler’s perennial favourites, made by star winemaker of Pomerol Denis Durantou, comes in at just over £10 a bottle and is certainly a 10-year wine.
- Definitely Château Haut-Batailley at £330 a case. An absolutely archetypal Pauillac, gorgeously put together and showing the famous cigar-box and pencil-lead aromas of the best Médoc wines. Tasted blind this would undoubtedly be up with the very best.
- Léoville Barton. Always a favourite among Majestic staff and always good value. We tasted the 2009 and 2010 alongside each other and, in my view, the 2010 shone.
- Grand-Puy-Lacoste. No apologies for recommending another wine made under the auspices of François-Xavier Borie (like Haut-Batailley). A fantastic expression of cabernet Sauvignon.
- Money no object? Then it has to be the fabulous Pomerol, Château l’Evangile. Incredibly precise, tightly-wound yet rich and silky. We tasted this last during an unparalleled two hours in Pomerol and I didn’t spit it out!