Bordeaux 2010: another superb vintage!

With warm, dry weather persisting throughout the region for much of the growing season, producers reported that their vats were full of young wines with intense color, strong tannins and higher-than-usual alcohol levels. 

“I’d never thought I would see 2009 again in my professional career,” says Paul Pontallier, technical director at Château Margaux, comparing the vintage to the classic-quality previous vintage.

“these are very good wines with strong structure due to the drought, but not as much aromatic expression as ’09,” says Christian Moueix of Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix, which makes  Pétrus, Trotanoy, La Fleur Pétrus and Hosanna.

“We had a very dry summer and almost no rain in August. The result is a low crop, small berries and very thick skins,” says Thomas Duroux, managing director of Château Palmer in Margaux. “We were a little concerned about the drought but the rains came on time at the start of September to make sure the phenolic maturity completed.”

Many producers reported widespread coulure, on the Merlot vines, which further reduced the small crop. Coulure occurs during fruit set, when some of the new small berries fall off. Yields were down 20 to 30 percent across the region, with Merlot-dependent Right Bank properties particularly affected.

Vieux-Château-Certan for example, should produce at least 30 percent less compared to last year,” says François Thienpont, whose family owns Vieux-Château-Certan and several other Right Bank estates. "The Médoc will be in much better shape about volume because of the Cabernet Sauvignon."

Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc performed very well and look to be the star varieties of the vintage. “It’s going to be a strong Cab year on the Left Bank,” said David Launay of Château Gruaud-Larose in St.-Julien.

“The Cabernet Sauvignon was up to our expectations in a dry vintage like this,” says Jean-Charles Cazes of Domaine Jean-Michel Cazes, which includes Lynch-Bages and Ormes de Pez. “But our Cabernet Franc at Lynch-Bages is the best we tasted in a long time, with exceptional richness and maturity. It seems to be a very tannic vintage, with higher potential alcohol than ’09 and higher acidity as well.” 


The abundant tannins look to be the vintage’s defining characteristic, and managing those tannins during vinification will be key. “We did much less pumping over than usual but we macerated longer, between four and five weeks,” says Duroux. “We found that this way of extraction was more appropriate to this very dense and concentrated vintage. The wines show an incredible density of tannins, but with a very interesting acidity. At this stage I am very impressed by them even if they look a little bit austere.”

The vintage was also strong in the outer appellations as well. “The 2010 vintage should give wines with good concentration, really refined tannins and nice balance, which should help the wine keep freshness for years,” says Brigitte Roullier-Loussert of Château Dalem and Château de la Huste in Fronsac.

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