Last Friday’s annual Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting took place in San Francisco showing off the Grand Cru Classe wines of Bordeaux’s 2010 vintage. Balzac Communications hosted the epic tasting where folks from the Chateaux in Bordeaux flew over with expensive bottles of world class wine can only happen once a year—within the first fifteen minutes you could easily taste over $1000 worth of wine.
My plan of attack was to start off with tasting a Sauternes or two, because the wines are a great aperitif in real life. Then I moved over to the St. Emilion and Pomerol side of the room where the wines are softer and I was guessing more accessible for being so young. Sure enough, I found a few gems that could be on the dinner table now, but will certainly only get better over the next 8-20 years. Not surprisingly, over on the left bank side of the room Cabernet-based wines from Paulliac, St. Julien and Margaux weren’t quite as accessible and needed time.
Overall, the 2010’s seemed to have better structure from a notch higher acidity than the highly acclaimed 2009 vintage. Alcohol levels seemed to be relatively similar, however, 2010 may turn out to have better consistency and lower perceived ripeness, particularly in St. Emilion where Merlot grown in clay soils side-stepped too much stress.
After moving through most of the red wines I returned to the Sauternes table conveniently located next to the cheese and fruit selection. It seemed apropos to finish with a nibble of frommage and a taste of a wine that’s so much more than a dessert wine.
Some standouts and notes of the day:
The wines of Pomerol are generally softer and sexier than their left bank counterparts due to the plush expression of Merlot in ideal clay soils on the right bank. On this day, the wines of Pomerol showed best thanks to their elevated complex florals, freshness of plump fruit and lower tannins—and in 2010 it was a superb vintage with more balance and structure than 2009.
2010 Chateau Bon Pasteur - Bon Pasteaur was one of, if not THE first bottle from Bordeaux I ever bought. It was from an auction site about fifteen years ago. On this day it was a standout bringing back memories of my first “Bordeaux moment”.
2010 Chateau Gazin - Fermentation in concrete vats and malolactic fermentation before oak aging only heighten the already lovely rich complex fruits. 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc fined with egg whites end up as a textbook Pomerol. One of the few Pomerol wines that needs time before it’s accessible.
2010 - Chateau La Conseillante - When I was in high school I’d go to parties and see the most popular girl in school surrounded by guys trying to get her attention. That’s a bit how it looked at the Conseillante table as attendees were clamoring for a taste of silky, aromatic beauty. 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc combine into a brooding, deeply colored knockout from the heart of Pomerol. As good as expected.
Other Standouts: 2010 Chateau Clinet 2010 La Croix de Gay 2010 Chateau Beauregard
St. Emilion Grand Cru
Darker colors in the glass with softer tannins and fresh ripe fruits across a wide range of styles that show chocolatey notes from Merlot and sweet tobacco notes from Cabernet Franc.
2010 Chateau Figac - In a word, delicious. One of the standouts from the entire tasting is an instant classic. Fresh, clean fruits woven together with depth and concentration and firm tannins. Final blend: 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot
2010 Chateau Grand Mayne - Even Miles from Sideways could get into the 2010 Chateaux Grand Mayne. 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon come together in layers of of dark fruits and plush tannins.
2010 Chateau Pavie Macquin - One of St. Emilion’s model chateaux. Generous dark ripe fruits look to have great aging potential. Rich tannins already make the wine drinkable now, but patience will reward for another 10-20 years. Final blend: 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon
Some other standouts: 2010 Troplong-Mondot 2010 Chateau Canon 2010 Chateau Angelus
Moving over to the left bank I thought I’d start with Margaux where a balance of Cabernet Sauvignon of Merlot give the wines elegance and depth.
2010 Chateau Lascombes - Delicious fresh dark fruits with plush tannins should age well for the next 25 years. 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.
2010 Chateaux Dauzac - Depth and length, power and finesse woven together into fine fresh and earth elegance. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot.
2010 Chateau Cantenac-Brown - Improved work in the vineyard over the past decade and an improved respect for natural practices are rewarded in the glass. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.
Some other standouts: 2010 Chateau Rauzan-Gassis 2010 Chateau Rauzan-Segla 2010 Chateau Malescot St.-Exupéry 2010 Chateau Giscours
Grand Cru wines from the northernmost appellation of the Haut-Medoc grown in clay soils benefitted from ideal Cabernet-ripening conditions in 2010. Increased Merlot plantings in recent years have given the wines balance and richness, but more accessibility than the wines of Pauillac.
2010 Chateau de Pez - Gravel over clay-limestone bedrock led to powerful tannins and finesse from an estate that lost its way after the 1970’s but seems to have found its way back. 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot.
2010 Chateau Lafon-Rochet - 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot aged 15 months in 50% new barrels set the stage for an exciting experience with some cellar aging.
2010 Chateau Ormes de Pez - Delicious notes of sweet cassis and deep fresh dark fruits will reward with patience. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 2 Petit Verdot.
The place boasting the most first growths in Bordeaux didn’t disappoint as Mother Nature smiled down on the Cabernet Sauvignon vines in 2010. I can almost hear the sound of credit card machines working over time as collectors snatch up 2010’s (assuming they didn’t blow their budget on the 2009’s).
2010 Clerc Milon - I once owned a magnum of 1986 Clerc Milon back when I didn’t know much about wine, but used to spend my late nights scouring auction sites for wines that seemed like a good buy. The wine was superb—and I always think about that experience with an aged wine. After tasting the 2010, I might have to squirrel away another magnum as the wine will again be superb. Clean, complex dark fruits and non-fruits once again support the reputation of Clerc Milon. 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Carmenere.
2010 Pichon-Longueville-Baron - Just looking at the label is enough to put a smile on any wine lover’s face. One of Bordeaux’s top Chateaux didn’t disappoint. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot—clean, fresh, dense fruit with a bit of smoke will drink well with some time in the cellar.
2010 Lynch-Bages - Another good effort with layers of deep dark fruits showing off the best of what the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has to offer. 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot.
Other Standouts: 2010 Chateau Croizet-Bages 2010 Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2010 Chateau d’Armailhac
An intersection of affordability (relatively speaking) and quality. Saint-Julien is where I usually shop for hidden gems in off years as the wines represent what Bordeaux means to me. 2010 may not go into the history books as an “off” vintage, but there’s still a few gems that are going in the cellar.
2010 Chateau Gloria - 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot demonstrate what Bordeaux is all about. The quintessential ‘claret’ brings out the best of what each grape brings to the party. Wait 5-6 years before even thinking of opening. Will start to emerge from the cocoon around 2019.
2010 Chateau Lagrange - Separate fermentations of each block help the estate fine tune their final blend. The result is a wine defined by power and elegance although the 2010 seemed to be a bit lighter in body than the 2009. Final blend was 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot.
2010 Chateau Gruad-Larose - Seamlessly textured, yet fresh and brooding with fine grained tannins and a touch of smoke. 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.
Other Standouts: 2010 Chateau Beychevelle 2010 Chateau Leoville Barton 2010 Chateau Leoville Poyferre
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the wines of Sauternes it’s that the wines are much more than a dessert wine. The flexibility of Sauternes as a food wine is only enhanced by yet another great vintage (others to find: 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009) where the balance of acidity and cooperation from botrytised fruit turn back the hands of time to the good old days of how Sauternes used to be.
2010 Chateau Doisy Daene - Not only one of the better known estates, but also one of the best buys of the tasting. Find it and buy it, then try not to drink it for a while—thank me later. 87% Semillon and 13% Sauvignon Blanc.
2010 Chateau Suduiraut - Exciting and vibrant with a complex nose of orchard fruits and tropical fruits. Creamy texture and exotic non-fruits 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc.
2010 Lafurie-Peyraguey - An estate striving to be a first growth Sauternes ferments and ages its wines in renovated air-conditioned cellars with humidity control. 90% Semillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle make up a rich and exotic, moderate bodied wine with balance, class and texture to spare.
Other standouts worth discovering: 2010 Chateau Coutet
Special thanks to Balzac Communications and Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux for hosting such a wonderful event.