Wine opinion: Bordeaux's 2010 vintage is one for the ages
The 2010 vintage was the best across the Bordeaux region that I have seen in the past 30 years.
It was greater in scale (even if smaller in quantity), in scope and homogeneity than 1982, 1989, 2000 or 2005. The beginning was not spectacular, with a fresh spring and slow flowering, but 10 splendid weeks from the middle of August, with 110-115 days of growth from flowering, produced healthy grapes with a very high sugar content. Sugar levels were as high as 2009, but there was a vastly different character to the fruit, less "roasted" by the sun and more elegant and complex, more classical. Specifically, there was first-rate merlot but even greater cabernet franc in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, the greatest cabernet sauvignon ever seen in Medoc. For sweet wines there was the sublime noble rot on semillon. There is considerable ageing potential.
This is perhaps the greatest Medoc vintage ever. From the northern part, rich in clay or chalk, to Margaux, the end result is memorable. The late picked merlots in the Begadan area, even if not on a par with 2009, showed their cabernet franc parentage (the merlot is genetically the son of cabernet franc) and were superb in the blend. The especially superb Potensac, in the hands of the brilliant Léoville-Las-Cases team, is up to classified growth level. Saint-Estephe gave very big and potent wines but were better balanced than those from 2009, especially the superb Cos d'Estournel. Calon-Segur was superb, Montrose impressive in its more mineral touch and Lafon-Rochet was well-rounded and excellent value for money. The famous cru bourgeois Haut-Marbuzet, Phélan-Ségur, Meyney and Tronquoy-Lalande deserve their fame. Pauillac, with its deep, clayey and gravelly soil, was sensational in 2009 and 2010 will be as good but different, less velvety in texture and more precise in the finish, with Mouton-Rothschild perhaps the best balanced first growth. Saint-Julien excelled. Barton was slightly less impressive than Poyferré or Las-Cases but racy and complete, Ducru-Beaucaillou was in a first growth quality class and Saint-Pierre was not far behind. Margaux was a triumph, the greatest vintage since 1900 in this area, with all the classified growth up to their best level, with an outstanding, monumental Chateau Margaux. Look out for some smaller scale chateaux such as Clos du Jaugueyron or Les Eyrins - they are jewels for the connoisseur.
Great red wines in every classified chateau, the red perhaps even greater than the white: some sauvignons were simply too high in alcohol to be elegant and easy to drink. The huge, impressive Haut-Brion has more power than refinement, as does Pape-Clément, but Haut-Bailly, Smith-Haut-Laffite, Malartic-Lagravière and Domaine de Chevalier are each supreme in their style and are long lived.
As the cabernet was picked after October 15, Saint-Emilion has a complexity and nobility of texture and finish that perhaps surpasses 2009. Cheval-Blanc was the best balanced wine since 1947 or 1982 with the silkiest texture imaginable. Ausone for once was marginally less impressive. Angélus, Canon La Gaffelière and Trotte Vieille impressed. Arrosée is one to collect since it will be integrated into Quintus in the next vintages, as will Belair, as the last 100 per cent original terroir wine, and the best ever too. I also very much liked Larcis-Ducasse, Pavie, Clos des Jacobins and Jean-Faure in the Cheval-Blanc style. Valandraud is as brilliant as any other first growth, as is Tertre-Roteboeuf.
A great vintage, but only time will tell if they are superior to the wonderful 2009. Lafleur, Trotanoy, Petrus, Vieux Chateau Certan and Eglise-Clinet are really impressive already, but - and this is my personal taste - I have a slight preference for the best Saint-Emilion.
Great vintage, perhaps even more impressive for the Barsac leaders Climens, Coutet, Doisy Daëne and Doisy-Védrines and the outsider Caillou. The refinement of taste and texture reminded me of 1988 but with more body. These are wines with a potential 30-50 year lifespan. Michel Bettane is a wine critic and writer SCMP's second Rendevouz With Fine Wine is on December 4. For details, go to promotions.scmp.com/wine/rendezvous