The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2011

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Page 22 of 132

STEVEN SPURRIER’S LETTER FROM LONDON Bordeaux 2010: aving had the quote “the best vintage in my lifetime” splashed across the cover of last June’s Decanter magazine, I can only agree with this title from Bill Blatch’s highly- regarded Vintage Report, and most of the chateaux owners share this view. Plainly, when vintages of such high quality appear back-to-back and recalling ‘05/’06, ‘95/’96, ‘89/’90, ‘85/’86, not to speak of ‘47/’48 or ‘28/’29, comparisons are immediately made and the general word this year was “more classic.” In the past, “classic” has often been used as an euphemism for “lack of ripeness,” but not for 2010, where the fruit was only slightly less exuber- ant than in 2009 owing to the highest tannins ever recorded in Bordeaux and a freshness due to the very dry condi- tions—Bordeaux’s third in a row—that prolonged the ripening with no loss of acidity. Emmanuel Cruse of Ch. D’Issan summed it up as “more Bordeaux style, more serious.” An Embarrassingly Good Vintage H palate, with Frédéric Engerer explain- ing: “in 2009, the fruit was on top of the palate; in 2010 the tannins were on top of the fruit. The fruit is denser, but the tannins are riper and denser than ever.” Paul Pontallier described Margaux as “more precise, with more breed and class than the 2009,” and when I asked Charles Chevallier how he could ever make a better Lafite, he replied simply “the next time.” Such an attitude can only come from continuous dedication to the utmost quality, with the result that perfect climatic conditions are God’s gift, but not a necessity. Bordeaux is absolutely on the top of its form and, while more and more wines are priced out of the pockets of all but a few, the wines produced in recent years are an inspiration to every château lower down the scale. The only problem seemed to be a little over-extraction on the Right Bank, with Troplong-Mondot weighing in at 15.8, but on the other hand, both Canon and Figeac, often more reticent in the early tastings than their peers, took the robust ripeness of the Merlot in their stride to produce marvellous wines for the long- term. Here the Cabernet Franc ripened to perfection, and Cheval Blanc’s final blend showed it dominating the Merlot, resulting in a perfect 20/20 from my Decanter colleague James Lawther MW. The usual question “Is it a Right or a Left Bank year?” can be answered by saying that it is a Cabernet year, Franc for the Libournais, Sauvignon for the Médoc and both for Pessac-Léognan, whose wines were, in my view, their best ever. Despite the extra-ordinary high tan- nins, the wines were not tiring to taste. Even the monumental Latour, which will outlive anyone on this year’s tasting circuit, stayed comfortably on the 22 / the tasting panel / may 201 1 Having given Margaux a perfect 20 last year, I have added Lafite and Latour to this score. I gave 19.5 to Mouton, for such is the incredible progress here under Philip Dhallhuin, that I am sure that his team will pull something more out of the hat very soon. Both Haut-Brion and La Mission, where the alcohols were the highest on record (La Mission’s a seamlessly undetectable 15.1), both received 19.5, but I gave 20 to La Mission white (no longer named La Ville Haut-Brion), which illustrated what a brilliant year 2010 was for Bordeaux whites, especially in the northern Graves. These wines show a crystal clarity over natural ripeness that will give the greatest white Burgundies a run for their money. Down in Sauternes, after an initial small picking at the end of September, there was a pause due to rain in early October, followed by excel- lent conditions for botrytis to develop later than month, producing elegant classy wines, perhaps less concentrated than the 2009s. So, Bordeaux 2010, possibly the greatest in modern times . . . so far. PHOTO: DECANTER

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