2005 marked a monumental year in Bordeaux. Not only was it the third of the five, supremely great Bordeaux vintages of the 2000s, it was also the vintage that really ignited the global demand – pushed by a growing consumer base in Asia - for the region’s finest wines. In order to allow our clients to gain greater insight into the wines from this year, we recently welcomed Stephen Brook, one of the world’s leading experts on the region, as well as noted wine author and wine competition judge, to lead us through eight examples from this stellar vintage.
Prior to the vintage horizontal, Stephen and our guests enjoyed a Champagne reception with a selection of hot and cold canapés, including beef carpaccio crostini with rocket, parmesan, crème fraiche and truffle oil, pumpkin tortellini with sage butter, and salmon, quail egg and hollandaise baskets, as well as mini salmon fishcakes with tartar sauce. Our in-house chef certainly outdid herself on this occasion!
To start things off, Stephen reviewed some of his own notes on the 2005 vintage for both the Left and Right Banks, as well as for Sauternes, explaining that for each of these areas, "2005 stood out, from the very beginning and from the very earliest sampling sessions, as one of the best Bordeaux years in recent memory."
Right Bank Wine 1: 2005 Château Gazin Wine 2: 2005 Vieux Château Certan Wine 3: 2005 Château Trottevieille Left Bank Wine 4: 2005 Château Beychevelle Wine 5: 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré Wine 6: 2005 Château Palmer Sauternes Wine 7: 2005 Château Climens Wine 8: 2005 Château d’Yquem
The line-up started beautifully, with Château Gazin receiving a warm reception. Stephen commented that the estate’s plots are almost completely dominated by Merlot vines and that the land is of such high quality and is so ideal for the variety that in the 1970s, 4.5 ha of Gazin’s property was actually sold off to famous, neighbouring estate, Château Pétrus. Many people indicated their surprise at just how developed the Gazin already seemed for a 2005, however, Stephen felt that the wine still had significant potential to age well and that there remained a fine future ahead of it.
Despite being located less than 500 metres away from Gazin, Vieux Château Certan, the night’s second wine, had a completely different aroma and flavour profile, with greater wood influence - 100% new oak is used – as well as an unusual, herbaceous character with hints of dark chocolate and smoke. Despite VCC’s justifiable fame, overall, it was actually the third and final Right Bank wine, the 2005 Château Trottevieille, which was the favourite of the regional selections, with Stephen exclaiming that he felt it had, "really impressive length and that the acidity and structure would to allow it to go the distance."
Moving across the river and on to the Left Bank, it was the 2005 Château Beychevelle that led off the flight. Stephen explained how the ship with the dragon head on its prow - that emblem that appears on the wine’s label - helped sales of Beychevelle soar in certain markets, particularly in China, with the upswing in demand increasing dramatically around the time of the 2005 release. Interestingly, the 2005 vintage was also the first year that Beychevelle did not utilise the process of chaptalisation – this is a winemaking technique by which additional sugar is added to the just-crushed grapes in order to increase the potential alcohol that will result from their fermentation.
While the Château Léoville-Poyferré was certainly well constructed and tasty, for Stephen, as well as for the majority of the guests, it was the sixth wine, Château Palmer, which stole the show. The estate is named after General Charles Palmer, who acquired the property in 1814. Situated just a stone’s through from First Growth Château Margaux, the vineyards of Palmer are farmed completely organically, which is still a rare occurrence in Bordeaux.
After guests had a chance to go back and re-sample all of the red wines and discuss their notes with Stephen, everyone moved on to the final two wines of the night – the 2005 Château Climens and the 2005 Château d’Yquem.
The freshness and elegance of the Climens, which had a wealth of beguiling and attractive, floral notes was absolutely invigorating – particularly because the evening’s weather was quite warm and the bottle was nicely chilled. The finish on this wine was strikingly long and Stephen said that he’d wager that it could be placed in a cellar and enjoyed in 50 years’ time, without any issue.
In comparison, Château d’Yquem displayed significantly more texture and a notable creaminess on the palate. However, the acidity was so spectacular that it didn’t come off as overly heavy or cloying in any way. The delicious flavours of marmalade and crème brûlée that will appear significantly and will dominate the palate profile as this wine continues to age were only just starting to show themselves.
With everyone in agreement that 2005 was an exceptional vintage, by popular vote, it was decided that the Red Wine of The Night was the 2005 Château Palmer and that the favourite between the two Sauternes was easily the 2005 Château d’Yquem.
In October we will be welcoming Steven Spurrier, author, judge and wine educator, to present a ‘parallel horizontal’ (the 1998 vintage versus the 2007 vintage from four different estates) of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Mr. Spurrier will also be bringing a special bottle from his own personal cellar to share with everyone at the end of the evening. This event is going to be quite popular, so ensure you book your tickets early. We hope to see you there.
Tags: Bordeaux, AWC Wine Academy, Chateau Palmer, Chateau d'Yquem, Chateau Beychevelle, Chateau Trottevieille, Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Chateau Climens, Barsac, Sauternes, Margaux, Pomerol
Education | Wine tasting
Last week, we were delighted to welcome Henri-Bruno de Coincy to present wines from his estate, Château Belle-Brise, which is one of Pomerol’s greatest secrets. This tiny, 2 hectare property has a miniscule, annual production of just 800 bottles (similar to neighbouring, Pomerol stand-out, Château Le Pin).
Due to the small output and the fact that they do not sell any of their wines via En Primeur, in most vintages Château Belle-Brise can barely satisfy the market demand from their pre-existing, long-time customers. Principally this includes some of the world’s greatest, Michelin starred restaurants in locations such as Monaco, Switzerland and Japan, as well as the Élysée Palace in Paris and Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of the French Prime Minister.
During the welcome reception, guests were treated to glasses of Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Champagne and canapés prepared by AWC’s in-house chef, all of which featured local, seasonal ingredients. These included such delights as warm asparagus, goat cheese and black olive tartlets with red pepper pesto, pork and fennel sausage rolls and mini shepherds pies.
Reflecting the artisanal and family focused approach that Henri takes with his estate, it was lovely to see him arrive with his two daughters and wife for the masterclass.
As the guests took their seats, he greeted everyone warmly and began his very personal and illustrious presentation of the Château’s history and production – entirely in French. Luckily, AWC’s Purchasing Manager, Robert Hankey, was there to provide an excellent and continuous English translation.
Following the introduction, guests enjoyed a vertical of the 8 most recent vintages, aside from 2003 due to it being completely sold out – even Henri said he has none left in his library cellar:
Guests remarked that the purity of each vintage was outstanding and that the varying influences of the weather and harvest shone through on the palate. The 2010 was bold, with very ripe, dark fruit flavours and firm tannins, while the 2009 displayed a more elegant palate of sweet, red fruits and softer tannins, being quite reminiscent of a very fine Burgundy from a warm vintage.
Henri spoke at length about his transition from the banking industry to the world of fine wine, as he first settled in Bas-Armagnac – where his family has made Armagnac for over 700 years at La Fontaine de Coincy - and he worked on reuniting more than 30 separate plots of land that had been sold off over the generations to re-form the original Domaine de Toujun estate, which now produces a still white wine.
He confessed his passion and commitment to all things natural and to the concept of complete terroir expression. Through his acquisition of Château Belle-Brise in 1991 he settled in Pomerol and adopted the same methods that he had already been practicing in Armagnac. Although many Left Bank estates have already done so, Henri is now the first producer in Pomerol to reintroduce the use of horses to work the vines.
While the guests enjoyed discussing the intricacies between the various, recent vintages, a show of hands proved 2005 was the clear wine of the night.
One of the guests commented that, “I thought the wines were very good and [I now] understand the Burgundy comparison…the 2009 and 2005 were my favourites (along with the 2008)…the 2005, in my opinion, was the shining star, [with] really good structure, complexity, excellent length and balance...it was a surprising tasting for me because I haven’t been too excited about Bordeaux recently but it proved to me that I shouldn’t forget them…also that good Pomerol is really classy and can have excellent texture and weight.”
Following the presentation, attendees revisited the wines alongside freshly prepared polenta with mushroom ragout and slow roasted lamb shoulder served over sweet potato mash.
If you’re interested in purchasing selections from Château Belle-Brise, please contact us directly as AWC is now the exclusive agent, importer and distributor for the estate in the UK.
We also have some fantastic events coming up here at AWC Wine Academy, including a 2005 Bordeaux Horizontal: Fine Wine Seminar with Stephen Brook on 23rd July, and a WSET Level 2 Certified Course running between 21-23 August. We hope to welcome you to one of these evenings, or to one of our many other upcoming events in the near future.
Tags: Château Belle-Brise Vertical, AWC Academy, Henri-Bruno de Coincy, en primeur, le pin, vertical, pomerol, bordeaux, wine tasting, Burgundy, vintage, wine events, armagnac
We were delighted to welcome Véronique Sanders, Managing Director of Château Haut-Bailly, to AWC earlier this week for an insightful and engaging vertical of the estate’s wines.
During the Champagne reception, which featured our superior house selection, Champagne Franck Bonville, guests enjoyed canapés of smoked salmon and sweet potato rosti, confit of pork belly with quince aioli, and chervil pancakes with aubergine caviar and pomegranate. Certainly this was a very delicious way to start off the evening!
Véronique started out by giving everyone a thorough overview of Pessac-Léognan and Château Haut-Bailly’s place in the Graves region. Explaining the long history of the property, she revealed that in the beginning of the 20th century, Château Haut Bailly was actually considered amongst the Top 8 of the greatest Bordeaux estates, alongside the likes of Château d’Yquem, Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Ausone, Château Margaux, Château Mouton Rothschild, and Château Haut-Brion. Amazingly, she even had an original advertorial print to prove the point!
The Sanders family had owned Château Haut-Bailly for 4 consecutive generations until 1998 when it was sold to an American banker. While Véronique admitted that it was a difficult decision to sell the estate, she was pleased to have been appointed Managing Director by the new owner and she reported that she still works just as passionately as she would if the estate was still her own. She was also pleased to note that they are very much on track to achieve the objectives that they had originally set out for themselves during the sale proceedings.
Responsible for every major decision at Château Haut-Bailly and travelling over 50% of the time, Sanders maintains this is a, “fantastic profession– one day you can be in the vineyard, the next in the cellars, and the following in another country altogether promoting the wines you produce.”
Véronique strives to maintain the identity of Château Haut-Bailly year after year. If they’re not happy with how a vintage shows, they simply won’t bottle it. That, she comments, “is a very expensive decision to make, believe me!” However, if they’re not convinced that the wine will achieve anything less than the excellence and elegance they expect, then they also wouldn’t want their consumers to experience it and they are willing to take the loss of not releasing the wine.
Following the introductory overview, guests went on to experience the following, carefully paired vintages:
Beginning with the first pair, 2009 was described as being exceptionally charming with its long, silky finish. Véronique admitted that when 2010 vintage came along right after the success of the 2009 they were amazed that a wine of such high but equal quality could be produced. How could it be that the alcohol, sugars, tannins and acidity could be so high? “No one will ever believe us, we all thought!” With this, she also acknowledged the importance of wine critics and the key role that they play, “it’s great to produce a fantastic wine, but people need to be told about it.”
For Véronique, 2008 was a good, representative example of Château Haut-Bailly’s house style, with 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot in the blend. As guests moved through the pairs, questions began to flow regarding her views on this particularity of this style and how it differs from the neighbouring estates, along with more technical queries on such areas as average annual production levels and the processes involved in harvest.
Reflecting, Véronique recalled a time she enjoyed a magnum of 1964 Château Haut-Bailly. She said she instantly recognised the taste, texture and aroma of the wine and that in tasting it she felt transported back to the times she spent with her grandfather as a young girl. Recalling this, she spoke of how wine can have quite strong emotional ties to certain points in someone’s life and that the taste and smell of a particular wine can easily transport you back to a specific memory.
The vote for Wine of The Night was overwhelming in favour of the 2000 vintage. Guests commented that although all of the vintages presented were remarkably consistent and pure, the 2000 was an outstanding and complex wine that showed beautiful development and yet promised a long life ahead of it still.
Guests were then given the opportunity to retaste each vintage and dine on a light, seasonal supper, while Véronique answered additional questions and wrapped up a thoroughly enjoyable and informative vertical.
The following day, The Drinks Business also had quite a nice article on the event. You can read it here.
We look forward to welcoming you to one of our upcoming events at AWC Wine Academy in the near future, such as our 2005 Bordeaux Horizontal: Fine Wine Seminar on 23rd July, or our Private Collection Showcase: 1997 Piedmont & Tuscan Treasures on 4th September.
Tags: Chateau Haut-Bailly, AWC Wine Academy, Bordeaux, Pessac-Leognan
Click here to read our review of the 2012 Bordeaux vintage »
Tags: enprimeur, bordeaux, bdx2012, vintage review
Above: Old meets new at Château Cheval Blanc
Earlier this week, whilst visiting Bordeaux with an American client, I enjoyed the opportunity to return to Château Cheval Blanc and watch the inaugural vintage going into the newly constructed, state-of-the-art winery that is adjacent to the historic Château buildings.
This was my first trip back to the Château since their celebratory Grand Opening of the new winery during Vinexpo some three months ago.
The sight of the newly-installed cement tanks – with their distinctive pod shape - now full of fermenting grape juice is both memorable and impressive. One cannot help but notice the immense attention paid to absolute cleanliness here. The entire new facility resembles something between a clinical operating theatre, an opera house and a food processing plant.
During our tour, I also observed a number of small but important new details. For instance, not only does each vat now display the relevant reference information about the specific parcel from which the grapes contained within were harvested, it also shows the age of the vines from the relevant plot, often dating back between 50 and 100 years. It is clear that the ability to carefully track each individual plot has become absolutely vital to producing a successful modern vintage.
The 2011 growth cycle in this area of France has been one of continual challenges. Incredibly however, after months of inclement weather, during our particular week in Bordeaux (as was the case across much of Europe), a wonderful Indian summer had arrived.
I have no doubt that my friend Pierre Lurton, who spreads his talents between here and Château d’Yquem, will be especially excited about the prospect of another magnificent vintage. Thus far, it certainly looks to be something very special for the sweet wines of Sauternes.
However, here at Cheval Blanc, I couldn’t help but notice that the Cabernet Franc and Merlot berries coming into the winery required the strictest of selections during triage – a process that the many St. Emilion Mesdames and Messieurs on hand were approaching with both concentration and vigor. This harsh selection was necessary even though a significant part of the crop had already been dropped earlier in the summer during what is known as the green harvest, when unripe fruit is taken off the vines after a poor or uneven flowering period.
As I head back to London, my reflections are that, despite such a massive investment by LVMH, ultimately it is nature that still plays the leading role in making great wine. Surely my worst fear of further rising prices due to low yields (reduced from 35hl to 25hl per hectare) will not materialize this year!
By happenstance, en route back to the airport, I noticed Jacques Thienpont (Le Pin) and Alexandre Thienpont (Vieux Château Certan) messing about with a few final bunches in one of their roadside vineyards. I pulled the car over and we spent a few minutes casually talking about the past En Primeur sales campaign and the prospects for the next one. Candidly, Jacques explained that, “the little thing that holds children money in it, the savings, it is broken. The piggy bank,” he said, “it’s broken.” Jacques is a smart guy!
It seemed to me that this marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the marketing!
Tags: 2010 pricing, antique wine company, Pierre Lurton, Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2010, Chateau Cheval Blanc, Chateau Le Pin, Cheval Blanc, Le Pin, Stephen Williams, The Anique Wine Company, thienpont, Vieux Chateau Certan, yquem, Chateau d'Yquem, Jacques Thienpont
Travel | Wine tasting
Wednesday evening marked the official opening of the AWC Wine Academy. More than thirty VIP clients joined us in the new space for a night of first class education, stellar wine tasting and a bit of friendly competition. After many months of hard work by our staff, it was with great pleasure that we christened the facility with this inaugural event. After a glass of 2004 Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (our house champagne) and a few canapés in our reception area, we retired to the Wine Academy for the lecture and tasting portions of the evening. Tim Atkin, MW presided over the exclusive event and joined us in sampling all of the wines blind. As well as a Master of Wine, Tim is a frequent contributor to many wine publications, is a regular on BBC 1’s Saturday Kitchen and is a fabulous presenter.
Above: The tasting stage is set...
The theme of the tasting was ‘Grand Cru Wizardry’ and it was aimed at addressing the historic founding and modern role of the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. Many changes have occurred over the last 150 years and a lot of wine has been made, sold and drunk in the intervening period. Châteaux have been bought and sold and properties have made both good wine and bad. Reputations and prices have risen as well as fallen. The question we wanted to address with the tasting was whether the 1855 Classification is still relevant today. In coordination with the educational component, for all tastings in the new Wine Academy we like to ignite a bit of fiery competition. The goal of this particular challenge was to determine, from the choices given, the correct vintage and appellation for each pair of wines. So, after a complete and informative lecture about the history of the ranking system by Tim, we started in on the tasting.
The format was simple. We had 8 wines in front of us in two rows. Each set had two vintage choices associated with it along with the choice of any of the northern Left Bank appellations (no Graves, Sauternes/Barsac or Haut-Médoc were included in the tasting). Additionally, per the evening’s theme, guests were also asked to ascertain which of the wines was ranked - according the 1855 Classification - higher than the other.
Right: Tim Atkin, MW prepares for the lecture.
Each tasting table was grouped as a team with one of our staff wine experts serving as team leader. As we had 5 tables in contention, each group was given the name of a First Growth Château as their team moniker. The resulting competition was spirited and intense - many Premiership matches aren’t this fierce!
Starting off with Pair 1, the very first wine of the night was, in a word, spectacular. By popular consensus it actually went on to become one of the two ‘wines of the evening’ - certainly a good way to kick things off! Markedly elegant and with a brilliant purity of fruit, it was clear that whichever estate produced this wine knew exactly what they were doing. Fragrant and beguiling, the judicious use of oak was also noted. Wine number two was less clearly defined and showed slightly rougher tannins in the mid-palate and finish.
A testament to the exceptional level of wine knowledge in the room, most teams pegged the vintage as 2006 (versus the other choice, 2005) and three of the teams agreed that it was likely from the Margaux appellation. However, one guest actually threw down the gauntlet and claimed that he could not only identify the vintage and appellation but the producer as well. ‘Go on then,’ said Tim. Low and behold - he absolutely nailed it. As a prize for his impressive efforts the gentleman in question received a half case of wine number 1, which turned out to be the fantastic 2006 Château Palmer. Wine number 2 was also well received and it was ultimately revealed as Château Rauzan-Segla. However, the showcase of tasting skills put on by ‘Mr. Palmer’ was enough to put Team Mouton, captained by AWC International Client Account Manager James Woodhead, out into the early competition lead.
Pair 2 was arguably one of the most difficult to figure out. The first wine was fruity, forward and clearly well made, yet it lacked a certain ‘oomph’, particularly in the finish. The second wine was undeniably great - tobacco leaf, cedar box, red fruit, cassis and fine tannins all in perfect harmony - however somewhat confusing because the colour did not seem to accurately reflect the power of the nose and palate (there was a slight bricking to it).
To further complicate matters, the vintage choices were 2000 and 2003, both of which are formidable years. With the first wine appearing to be more like a 2003 and the second more like a 2000, many people were stumped. In the end, the vintage was identified as 2003, with wine 1 being Château Pontet-Canet and wine 2 (which was also my favourite of the evening) the neighbouring estate of Château Mouton Rothschild. The appellation was of course Pauillac, but what a fabulous and interesting contrast these two wines were! At this stage, Team Mouton was still the front-runner, however Teams Lafite and Latour, with Will Buckland (our head of Fine Wine Investment) and Julia Scales (our Head of Sales) at their respective helms, were tied for second and closing in on the lead.
The third set validated Tim’s earlier pronouncement that, "the wines of St. Julien tend to be a bit more tannic than Pauillac, but not as immense and backward as those of St. Estèphe.” By process of elimination, most teams quickly guessed that the wines were probably from one region or the other. But which one? Upon tasting wine 1, a number of guests were completely floored by its purity and structure. It was absolutely sublime. Wine number 2 had a bit more leafiness to the clearly Cabernet Sauvignon dominated nose, yet it was nonetheless delicious. The vintage choices were 1996 or 2000. Having just gone through the 2003 versus 2000 debate (with a few teams coming up on the wrong end), this decision was no easier! After all the teams had voted, the first wine was revealed as the 2000 Château Beychevelle and the second as 2000 Château Gruaud-Larose. Once again it was Team Mouton on top with Lafite and Latour nipping at its heels. Unfortunately, Teams Margaux and Haut-Brion were beginning to languish behind and concerns about relegation were entering the minds of the captains. By the final pairing, everyone realised that the appellation was likely St. Estèphe. The challenge remained as to which estates and which vintage the two wines were from (the choice was either 1995 or 1996). In many ways this was the most evenly matched pairing. Both wines had clearly defined structures and were of truly great quality. This was perfectly aged claret at its best. Most teams came around to the idea that the vintage was likely 1996 (as that year was slightly better on the Left Bank, with 1995 slightly superior on the Right), yet no consensus could be made as to which of the region’s top properties - Château Montrose, Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Calon-Ségur - was the odd one out. Passionate arguments were given for and against each estate.
Above: A fun and informative competition.
Ultimately it was Team Mouton that once again emerged victorious - correctly marking wine 1 as Cos d’Estournel and wine 2 as Calon-Ségur. This also meant that Team Mouton won the entire competition, with each member receiving a complimentary bottle of Grand Cru Champagne for their fine efforts. The final standings, out of a possible 16 points, were as follows:
Team Mouton – 14/16Team Lafite – 13/16Team Latour – 11/16Team Haut-Brion – 10/16Team Margaux – 9/16
Impressively (and despite his early warnings about the perils and pitfalls of blind tasting), Tim proved his mettle - correctly identifying 50% of the wines, from the vintage all the way down to the producer - and rightfully upheld his reputation as a Master of Wine.
Above: The evening's wines. Interested in tasting them yourself? Order here >>
In the end a fantastic evening was had by all. The positive feedback was overwhelming, with many guests already planning their own private events in the space or signing up to attend future tastings - which is exactly what we designed the Wine Academy for and why it is now open. We look forward to welcoming you into the building in the coming months for more exciting events of this nature.
To purchase any of the wines which were covered in this particular tasting, please contact one of our staff wine experts.
To learn more about our Team and the staff members mentioned in this post, please visit our staff profiles page.
To join us for a tasting or to reserve the Wine Academy for yourself, please visit - https://www.awcwineacademy.com - or contact Deborah Ives via email or on +44 (0) 20 3219 5560.
Tags: 1855 Classification, AWC Wine Academy, wine education, wine academy, wine school, antique wine company, Beychevelle, Bordeaux, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Palmer, Cos d'Estournel, Stephen Williams
Looking back over the recent en primeur tastings, a number of things have become clear... The first and most obvious thing is that Bordeaux has another great vintage on its hands, albeit one which is very different from the remarkable preceding vintage of 2009. The success of 2010 is due to the near-perfect and unusual weather patterns which developed during the vintage. In particular, the weather was dry but not too hot, with many cool nights. Several appellations did experience drought conditions but fortunately rain came at the right time in September. This provided welcome relief just when the vines were at their most stressed.The result was grapes that were small, healthy and concentrated and wines which are high in alcohol, acidity and tannin. As Jean-Guillaume Prats of Cos d’Estournel pointed out – this was genuinely remarkable. ‘Most wine regions can produce one or two of these three components. Only Bordeaux has been able to do all three at the same time!’
Below: Jean-Guillaume Prats discusses the differences between 2009 and 2010
Once again, this was another great year for Left Bank Cabernet. Firstly, this was because the weather conditions suited Cabernet Sauvignon, which ripens a bit later than Merlot and generally has lower potential alcohol. Secondly, this was because some Merlot vineyards suffered from coulure (poor fruit set), which reduced the crop in certain areas. As with 2009, some of the Merlot-dominant wines have come in with very high alcohol levels – whether or not this happened depended on their individual terroirs and the time of picking. On the Left Bank, many chateaux used less Merlot this year and much more Cabernet. Mouton is a case in point. For the 2010, the blend is 94% Cabernet (up from around 80% in 2009). However, this is by no means an exclusively Left Bank vintage. The Right Bank had some notable successes, particularly in Pomerol and, to a lesser extent, in St Emilion. Equally, Graves did well with both their red and white wines. For instance, at both Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, big, powerful, and concentrated reds have again been produced. However, the power of these wines is tempered by the excellent acidity so prevalent in this vintage. The same goes for the whites produced by both properties. They are particularly impressive in 2010.
Below: One of the stellar Sauternes of the vintage - Chateau Suduiraut. Notice the interesting thermometer collar below the label, ensuring that the wine is served at the correct temperature.
Sauternes was also a success. The chateaux were blessed with a big crop and the wines exhibit good botrytis character and an excellent balance between sweetness and acidity. However, the wines do lack the sheer intensity and power of the 2009s.
As a result, there is near universal acclaim for 2010. However, some caveats should be issued when it comes to buying the wines – both stylistically and by individual chateaux. Consumers need to realise that the wines from this vintage have a very different profile than that of the more opulent and easy-going 2009s. The difference is that in 2010 the best reds are beautifully balanced but have a much more tannic structure and much higher acidity levels. This means that many will take quite a bit longer to develop. Yet, it is important to understand that they will indeed develop and that the resulting wines will be absolutely stunning. In many ways, this is very much a ‘classical’ Bordeaux vintage that will appeal to traditional European palates.
This was a difficult and challenging vintage to taste - particularly coming on the heels of 2009. There are many gorgeous wines in 2010 but the most successful are unquestionably those which showed some restraint with regard to tannin/extraction levels and percentage of alcohol. Unfortunately, some properties have produced tannic, over-extracted and highly-alcoholic wines. These wines may come around at some point in their development and allow the underlying fruit to shine through. Equally however, they may not.
In 2010 there are some real vins de plaisir, as well as vins de garde. The First Growths and Super Seconds have once again produced some exceptional wines. However, this year, their second wines have also taken a massive step forward. Carruades de Lafite, Le Petit Mouton and Alter Ego de Palmer are all scintillating wines and we will be buying as many cases of them as we are able to secure.
Above: One of the vins de garde - Tasting at Chateau Pontet Canet. Brilliant balance.
Ultimately, the commercial success of the vintage will largely depend on price. My view is that the Bordelais will not price 2010 any lower than 2009 for several reasons. First of all, they know that they have produced another excellent vintage that is similar in quality to 2009. Secondly, they have made slightly less wine than last year – overall production is down. Finally, they need to price it at least at the same level as last year simply to protect the current 2009 prices. Equally, it seems that the chateaux cannot raise prices significantly either. The global economic recovery is far from assured or complete. It also remains to be seen whether the American market will return after a long En Primeur absence.
Above: Will the chateaux embrace correct market pricing or will they burn the opportunity?
Another question is how much slack the Far East markets will take up this year. The Chinese are beginning to buy into the concept of purchasing En Primeur, and there was a notable presence of Chinese buyers in Bordeaux during our time there. Finally, what about Europe? After last year, some European collectors may feel less inclined to buy quite as much this season if the prices significantly increase. All of these factors lead me to expect prices to be released at similar levels to 2009.Of course, there will be exceptions to the rule. Those chateaux which have produced better wines in 2010 than in 2009 may be inclined to break ranks, particularly if Robert Parker endorses them with a big score later this month. In some instances, such price increases will be entirely justified. Against that, my inside information on Parker’s thinking is that he is likely to rate 2010 ‘a notch lower than 2009’.
Above: What will Robert Parker score the wines of Lafite-Rothschild?
At the Antique Wine Company, we will be offering specific advice to our clients as the campaign unfolds throughout May and June. Our counselling will be based heavily on our first-hand experience with each individual chateaux and the quality-to-price ratio of each wine. I believe that, no matter what, 2010 is a vintage that serious and knowledgeable collectors and consumers will want to include in their cellars. Prices are unlikely to fall in the near term and certainly over the long haul, the top wines will inevitably rise in value.Always remember, En Primeur is the best time to purchase top wines at their lowest market prices. It is also the only time consumers and collectors can obtain a substantial volume of their favourite wines and be unequivocally certain of provenance. Demand for the top wines from this vintage will be strong. As a merchant, it is always somewhat of a challenge to satisfy the many demands of the négociants, who require us to purchase vast quantities of their lesser wines, pro-rata to the First Growths and premium wines. The négociants decide which merchants are currently in favour and they like to see those merchants buying not only the First Growths but also promoting the less prominent and lower–hierarchy wines.In almost every vintage, market demand for the First Growths exceeds supply. Each year we find that we can easily sell our entire allocation of these wines. Therefore, we are constantly trying to increase the size of our allocations and 2010 is no exception. Thus, as we head into the 2010 En Primeur campaign, clients wishing to secure larger volumes of First Growths might also consider purchasing other classified wines. In good vintages - where the quality is more homogeneous - these lower hierarchy wines are perfect for many occasions and moments. It is a timely convenience that the 2009 vintage produced wines of this type – exceptional quality and ideal for early drinking.Therefore, clients should consider balancing their allocation requests for 2010 First Growths with a quantity of 2009 lower–classified growths. These 2009s can then be consumed and enjoyed while the 2010s continue to undergo élevage. This creates a win–win situation for everyone involved - including you, the client, The Antique Wine Company as your merchant, and both the châteaux and the négociants. Our Top Picks from the 2010 Bordeaux Vintage -LafitePalmerMargauxHaut-BrionHaut-Brion BlancVieux Chateau CertanLe PinLe Petit MoutonCarruades de LafiteCos d’EstournelAngelusCheval Blanc
Tags: En Primeur, Bordeaux, 2010 vintage, wine tasting, Stephen Williams, Chateau Lafite, Chateau Palmer, Haut-Brion, Vieux Chateau Certan, Le Pin, Chateau Mouton, Le Petit Mouton, Carruades de Lafite, Cos d'Estournel, 2010 pricing, 2010 versus 2009 Bordeaux, Angelus, Cheval Blanc, Saternes, Alter Ego de Palmer
By now we were in danger of running late for our next appointment at Mouton. So we quickly exited the UGC tasting and headed back up to Pauillac. In the bright sunshine, Mouton looked as magnificent as ever.
The only blot on its pristine appearance were the two cranes constructing Mouton’s brand new cellars. However, according to Mouton’s President Herve Berland the massive new facility should be finished in time for the 2011 harvest and will make Mouton even more haute couture than it is already. The main benefit will be 60 vats which will allow winemaker Philippe Dhalluin to select and vinify smaller parcels giving him more choice over the final assemblage.
But what of 2010? First, I have to say the Petit Mouton is the finest I have ever tasted at this estate. The attack, elegant sweet cassis fruit, tannin structure and length of this wine is really outstanding and is almost as good as Carruades – but not quite. 95 points.
I was less taken with the D’Armailhac or the Clerc Milon which rated 90 and 88 points respectively. And, sadly, I was disappointed too with Mouton itself after the promise of Petit Mouton. Although fresh, elegant and fine, it lacked the gravitas and depth I was expecting. In fact, I rate it alongside the second wine at 95 points.
Before we left Mouton, I did manage a quick word with Philippe Dhalluin about the weather patterns in Pauillac in 2010. Although 2010 is regarded as a warm dry vintage in fact the Meteo figures suggest that it was a relatively cool year with no summer heatwave. Indeed, August was actually cooler than average. For Dhalluin, the most important factors in the success of 2010 was the exceptional amount of sunshine rather than heat. Also key were the cool nights which locked in acidity and some much needed rainfall at key moments.
Above: Discussing the 2010 weather patterns and looking at historical context.
But as I have mentioned before such beneficial conditions do not invariably guarantee sublime wine. In 2010, there are winners and losers and some of the best estates have not necessarily made great wine. One of the disappointments for me was Montrose where the wine is simply too tough and extracted. Even allowing for St Estephe’s reputation for producing massively structured wines, there was just an almost insurmountable wall of tannin here which will take years to come round. 90 points.
If Montrose disappointed, Cos d’Estournel delighted. As ever, it was a pleasure to see Jean-Guillaume Prats holding court in the new tasting area which adjoins Cos’ 21st century, gravity fed winery.
In truth though, I was a little nervous about tasting his 2010. The main reason for this was because I was expecting the 2010 to be even bigger and broader than the sumptuous 2009 which caused such a stir this time last year.
However, I was immediately impressed by the property’s second wine, The 2010 Pagodes is deeply coloured and deeply flavoured with coffee and mocha flavours allied to creamy black fruit. It was powerful and dense but not overloaded or overdone. 92 points.
And I was considerably more impressed by Cos itself. Inkily opaque and impenetrably dark, this was much more limpid on the palate with bright sweet mulberry and kirsch fruit with notes of cream and chocolate. However, Jean-Guillaume has pulled back the throttle on the tannins and this was beautifully restrained. So there is power and elegance. The tannins are, of course, present and correct but they certainly don’t dominate the wine as at Montrose.
From memory, I recalled last year the tannin index at Cos was at a record 99 points. This year, Jean-Guillaume told me it was down to 91. Similarly, the alcohol was down a fraction too – levelling off at 14.5%, while the pH was up giving it a delicious lift of freshness. So this is, once again, another great effort at Cos. 97 points.
Above: The beautiful and ultra-modern new Cos d'Estournel barrel cellar
Interestingly, Jean-Guillaume told me that he did not adjust his winemaking in 2010. ‘In fact, we did exactly the same as we did in 2009. So the difference in what you taste is entirely down to what the weather imposed on us.’
He also went to say why 2010 is so special in Bordeaux. ‘I believe that it was another exceptional year because the acidity, alcohol and tannins are high but in such perfect balance. To me this is unique about Bordeaux these days and cannot really be replicated anywhere else in the world. Above all, it is what enables us to make the new style of wine in Bordeaux.’
Once again, it has been a long and intensive day of travelling and tasting on the left bank. But the vintage, on this side of the Gironde, is starting to come into sharper focus. Tomorrow, we venture over to St Emilion and Pomerol to see what they have achieved in 2010 and I look forward to reporting back on how the Right Bank wines have performed in this fascinating and exciting vintage.
Check back tomorrow for details of my visit to the Right Bank...
Tags: En Primeur, Bordeaux, 2010 Vintage, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Cos d'Estournel, Left Bank
En primeur | Travel | Wine tasting
Stephen Williams, Founder and CEO
Stephen Williams began trading as a wine merchant in 1982 and wishes he had stocked his cellar with Château Pétrus on day one. Since founding The Antique Wine Company, Stephen has built The Antique Wine Group into an organisation with clients in 63 countries and a global network of offices, representatives and business groups. Regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in fine and rare wines, he has created some of the greatest wine cellars and collections in existence – in châteaux, palaces, wineries, hotels and private residences across Europe, Asia and North America. As a popular commentator on the wine industry, fine wine investment and the global wine market, Stephen is frequently quoted by both the UK and international press corps. Along with his regular lectures at AWC Wine Academy, this blog offers a behind-the-scenes view into the world of fine wine.
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