2010 Vineyard Report

The 2010 vintage is, not surprisingly, being hailed by some, as one of the great vintages of the century.  And yes, if it seems to you like every vintage in Bordeaux is hailed as the vintage of the century just before en primeur week, you would be correct .  It is part of the marketing machine that that drives the sales of en primeur wines in Bordeaux.  As I mentioned last year, we won’t know whether this is the vintage of the century until at least 10 years have passed and the wines are in bottle and mature enough to be reaching their peak for drinking.   But, we can make an early assessment of the vintage based on the vineyard report and the en primeur tastings.

This was potentially a very good year in the vineyards.  It was a year with a lot of sunshine, little rain, moderate temperatures during the day, and cool nights.  Almost the perfect formula for great wines.

In fact, this was one of the sunniest, hottest, and driest vintages of the decade.   There was more total sunshine than in 2003 and 2005 – which were very sunny vintages. The average temperature from June to September was 25.7 with a range between 25 and 28 degrees.  At the same time, the nights were cool with morning temperatures rarely getting over 10 degrees and the temperature never rose above 33 degrees. The total rainfall in Bordeaux this year during the growing season was a paltry 43mm – compared to 120mm in 2009, 90mm in 2005 and 121.5mm in 2000.   All of these components allowed for a slow natural ripening of the grapes in a fashion that would preserve their fruit, aromatics, and acidity.  Normally the growing season in Bordeaux takes 100-115 days.  This year because of the slow ripening conditions  145 days were required. This was followed by a dry fall where harvest could happen when most appropriate with no interruptions from rain or showers.

Early Assessment of the Vintage

These wines should be very different than the 2009 wines.  They will have less opulent fruit and more structure – both in the acid and the tannin.  There is a risk that many of these wines will lose their elegance due to high alcohol levels.  The top wines will have to try and restrain the alcohol and the lower levels wines may gain tremendously from the growing season.   This is a year where the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes should shine.  It will be a difficult year for the Merlot based wines who will be struggling to keep the alcohol and concentration levels down.

Bordeaux Vins select made this early assessment of the vintage in their December Vineyard report: “To conclude, having tasted the first juice, we can say that 2010 is a very deeply coloured vintage with a level of total polyphenols (anthocyanins and tannins) never seen before in Bordeaux.  It is an incredibly aromatic vintage thanks to the cool nights.  The tannins are very elegant, fine and perfectly integrated. Whilst rich in alcohol, the vintage promises to be very well balanced with wonderful acidity permitting an incredible freshness to be maintained in the wines.  All the components are there for an excellent vintage.”

Personally, I am really concerned about this vintage.  It has the hallmarks of a critics favorite because it will produce big and deeply coloured wines for en primeur with tannin and acid.  However, the similarities to 2000, 2003 and 2005 cannot be overlooked.  This was a sunny, hot, and dry year.  While those vintages are always hyped as being great, I know, from tasting a lot of mature Bordeaux – that wines from those vintages sometimes do not age as well as the wines from the cooler and more moderate vintages in Bordeaux. This is because as the wines from the hot vintages age the fruit fades much faster than wines from the cool vintages and the fruit can often become cooked in character.  For example, many of the 2000s are taking on this character while wines from the cooler 2001 vintage have far more fruit, acid and structure left  Similarly, the highly touted 2003 vintage has created many wines that are not ageing well at all and, if you have some, I suggest tasting a few this year to make a decision about whether to drink them or let them sit longer.

It will be deemed blasphemous for me to say this – but I think the best vintages of the decade in Bordeaux for ageing are 2001, 2004, and 2006.  The good news is that they are cheaper than the more highly touted 2000, 2003, and 2005 vintages.   If you are interested in wines from these vintages let me know and we can put together an offer for you.

The information in this report was taken from the Bordeaux Vin Select 2010 Vineyards Reports and Updates.

2009 Vineyard Report

The 2009 vintage is being hailed by some commentators as a ‘mythical’ vintage – one that will rival the 1982 vintage.  While that remains to be seen, and we will only know for sure 10-30 years from now after the wines have aged to their full potential, there is no doubt that the growing season in Bordeaux was excellent last year – providing the potential for excellent to classic wines.

Winter: Winter conditions were ideal with lots of cold spells and intermittent periods of rain.  The cold helps to eradiate disease and reset the vegetative cycle of vines.  The rain allows the land to store moisture for the rest of the year.

Spring: Spring came early and allowed a quick and even flowering.

Summer: July had alternating heat and humidity which allowed good development of both the bunches and the foliage.  August was hot and dry. 

Harvest: September had cool nights and hot days which allowed for a slow maturing of the grapes.  There was much needed rain mid-month – otherwise the vines would have been under too much stress.  Harvest was relaxed and lasted until Mid-October.

Early Assessment of the Vintage

Bordeaux Vins Select believes that the vintage could be mythical.  Here is how they concluded their December Vintage Report:

“Purely by analysing the year’s climatic conditions, we can already say that everything points to an exceptional vintage. Having visited many chais on both the Left and Right Banks during the harvest, we can attest to the fact that the grapes were gathered in incredibly good condition. The work in the chai however remains critical for any vintage and the technical teams worked as hard and as well as required even though the richness of the must has not been equalled since the 1982 vintage.”

“The wines for this year are rich in density, fruit and freshness. The PH, whilst being slightly higher than in other vintages remains sumptuously balanced. The roundness of the tannins and the succulence gained from a few weeks ageing makes us think more and more that this could be a mythical vintage. No two vintages are ever alike in Bordeaux – something that adds to the diversity and complexity of our region. Nevertheless we can begin to compare the 2009 with the 1982 and 1989. Some amongst us have even mentioned the 1947; despite our long experience, our memories don’t quite stretch back that far.”

The information in this report was taken from the Bordeaux Vin Select 2009 Vineyards Reports and Updates.