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We got a rare opportunity on this trip to do a vertical tasting of three vintages (2008, 2009, and 2010) of the same Chateau. The opportunity was generously presented by one of our negociant’s and it was held in their warehouse. It was a beautiful setting – we were surrounded by millions of dollars Grand Cru inventory stacked around us.
We took advantage of the opportunity and tasted through the wines methodically. The results were surprising. Both of us (Aron and I) preferred the 2008s to the 2009s and 2010s – even though the 2009s were clearly best wines of the three vintages. The 2008s, at this point in their lives, were just more balanced and had a better acid profile that made them more refreshing. The 2009s, while incredibly concentrated and built for long lives – seem to be lacking the requisite acid (which in my mind brings warning bells of 2003 where the wines did not age and are already considered ‘flabby’ in some cases). The 2010s are similar to the 2009s but not as well balanced and a touch more astringent with harsh tannins.
In all fairness, the 2008s have been in the bottle for about a year now and have had the time to settle and integrate. The 2009s were either just bottled or have only been in the bottle for a month or so – so it is possible that they are going through bottle shock. The 2010s (if you can believe it) are still barrel samples – even though that campaign has now officially ended and Bordeaux has moved on to sell the 2011 vintage.
This tasting exposed the nonsensical nature of the en primeur tastings where people are expected to commit millions of dollars to wines that are tasted in an unfinished state. As a buyer – based on this tasting – I would want to be tasting the 2008 wines this year in Bordeaux – the other two vintages 2009 and 2010 are too young to make a truly informed opinion about. But, alas, now that the en primeur system has been fully entrenched and the Chateau can get paid for wines long before they are bottled – there is little chance that anything will ever change . . . except that Chateau Latour announced today that as of the 2012 vintage they will no longer sell wine in the en primeur system and will only sell wine when they believe it is ready to drink (see the decanter coverage here).
Wine of the tasting: Ch. Branaire Ducru – all three vintages were excellent and the consistency was astounding. Buy any or all of these three wines. We highly recommend them.
Wines where the 2008 was preferred: Ch. Pape Clement, Ch. Pedesclaux, Ch. Kirwan, Ch. Talbot, Ch. Les Ormes de Pez, Ch. Lynch Bages, Ch. d’Armailhac, and Ch. Clerc Milon.
Wines where the 2009 was preferred: Ch Beaumont, Ch. Cantemerle, Ch. Lanessan, Ch. Chasse-Spleen, Ch. Brane Cantenac, Ch. Les Ormes de Pez,
Wines where the 2010 was preferred: Ch. Giscours.
BTW – I took over 70 detailed tasting notes at this tasting of Left Bank Grand Cru Classe wines. If you want to know how your favorite wines fared in this tasting – just send me an e-mail and I will provide you with the detailed tasting notes: email@example.com