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A Dose of Claret: Visiting With 2010 Bordeaux

I have two confessions to make, the first slightly more gauche (among wine lovers) than the last. Here goes. I don’t have much interest in Bordeaux. While I’ve not yet tasted all the greats (I have yet to run into an open bottle of Petrus with my name on it) I’ve certainly tasted enough of the First Growths on down to the bourgeoisie to understand the nature of a proper claret. When I could still buy the once-modest Pontet Canet for less than $50 (a thing I find myself surprised to be able to say given my relative youth) or to splash out for a bottle of Cos d’Estournel at less than $80, I drank Bordeaux occasionally with pleasure, but never with the kind of excitement that attends the opening (then or now) of an excellent Burgundy.

Spend enough time in the wine world and you’re bound to hear stories of the evolution of the connoisseur’s palate. It is often said to begin with the brashness of big wines in youth — say, Châteauneuf-du-Pape — then progress to the climax of refined strength in Bordeaux with maturity, and settle on the fickle intricacy of Burgundy as a sort of denouement. To the extent such a generalization might even be remotely true, I certainly seem to have skipped the Bordeaux phase of my development as a wine lover.

In any event, I can certainly bring myself to appreciate the wonders of good Bordeaux, but the truth is that I don’t choose to do so very often.

My second confession, which may be more or less forgivable depending on your point of view, is that I truly do not enjoy older Bordeaux wines. I’ve attended many a pre-auction tasting at Bonhams and elsewhere and had the chance to sample many a bottle of top flight Bordeaux from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, including some of the vaunted vintages, and when it comes right down to it, good Bordeaux tastes best to me with anywhere from 5 to 15 years of age on it.

Consequently, when the Masters of Wine came to town recently for their annual North American Claret tasting, I made sure to sneak out of the office for a couple of hours to taste a whole lineup of wines from the 2010 vintage.

As someone who doesn’t explore the Bordeaux region closely or frequently (for the reasons above), my commentary that follows should of course be taken with at least a grain of salt.

I tasted the 2002 and 2006 vintages of Bordeaux with some depth once they were in bottle, and have had some 2010s here and there, but this was my first taste of the vintage with any true perspective across producers and appellations, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the overall quality. In general there’s a wonderful consistency of balance and ripeness, with excellent acidity and tannic structure. The best wines had exceptional finesse and a taut smoothness to their tannins that was hard not to love. Interestingly enough to me, this was true across both the Left and Right bank, and I found myself enjoying wines from both equally, something that is not common in my experience. I don’t consistently prefer one over the other, but my experience has shown that I almost always have a preference in any given vintage.

In any case, that is a rather long preamble to sharing my scores and brief notes (I didn’t have the leisure to make complete tasting notes) on the wines I tasted recently. Enjoy.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5

2010 Château Angelus, Saint-Emilion
Lush nose, bright ripe fruit – cassis, espresso, tobacco – plush tannins, great acid and length. Stunner. click to buy.

2010 Château Cheval Blanc, Saint-Emilion
Dusty nose, plush earthy cherry and wet dirt, dried flowers, grit. Tight, great acid. Smooth as hell. Graphite. click to buy.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5

2010 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
Juicy, bright, lean, cassis. Fine-grained tannins. Long, mineral. click to buy.

2010 Château Giscours, Margaux
Bright, sour cherry. Juicy, long, bright. click to buy.

2010 Château Lascombes, Margaux
Violets, juicy, delicious. Perfect balance. click to buy.

2010 Château Lynch-Bages, Pauillac
Juicy, cherry, plum. Smooth silky tannins, steely, deep bright, long. click to buy.

2010 Château Pontet Canet, Pauillac
Juicy, earthy cherry, bright balanced, long. Mineral. click to buy.

2010 Château Clinet, Pomerol
Meaty rustic nose, but then oh! Cherry, leathery tannins, floral notes. Long, ethereal. click to buy.

2010 Château Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe
Smoky cassis, juicy, black cherry, deep earthy, long. A stunner. click to buy.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2010 La Lagune, Haut-Medoc
Smoky ripe cassis. Juicy, long, powdery tannins. click to buy.

2010 Château D’Issan, Margaux
Dark cherry, tannic, thick, lush. click to buy.

2010 Château Marquis de Terme, Margaux
Tight cherry, juicy, mineral. Long. click to buy.

2010 Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux
Juicy, tight, powdery tannins, long. Balanced. click to buy.

2010 Château Du Tertre, Margaux
Juicy, black cherry, mineral, long. click to buy.

2010 Château Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac
Juicy bright, but a heavy oak signature. Plush, but quite balanced apart from too much wood. click to buy.

2010 Château Nenin, Pomerol
Lean cherry, earth. Juicy, mineral, smooth, taut tannins. click to buy.

2010 Château Petit-Village, Pomerol
Bright fruit. Tight, smooth tannins. Juicy, sleek. click to buy.

2010 Château Grand Corbin, Saint-Emilion
Dark cassis, wonderfully mineral long earthy, dried flowers and a hint of bitter wood. click to buy.

2010 Château Calon-Ségur, Saint-Estèphe
Gun flint, struck match, cherry and smoky. Juicy cherry, tight. click to buy.

2010 Château Montrose, Saint-Estèphe
Smooth, deep chalky tannins. Lush fruit, juicy. Mineral. click to buy.

2010 Château Branaire-Ducru, Saint-Julien
Light on its feet, juicy, mineral, lean, smooth. click to buy.

2010 Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien
Sour cherry, juicy, tight, long. click to buy.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9

2010 Château Belgrave, Haut-Medoc
Tight tannins, cherry and earth. Muscular.

2010 Château Desmirail, Margaux
Plummy, earth. Tight tannins.

2010 Château Bouscaut, Pessac-Léognan
Bright cassis and black cherry. Very fruity, great acid but lacks depth and power.

2010 Château Gazin, Pomerol
Oak, earth, tobacco. Tight tannic, sandpapery, cherry, long.

2010 Château Canon, Saint-Emilion
Smooth, bright, bitter wood and mulling spices.

2010 Château Corbin, Saint-Emilion
Cherry tight, bitter wood. Smooth, great acids.

2010 Clos Fourtet, Saint-Emilion
Smoky cherry, graphite, dark earth.

2010 Château Cos Labory, Saint-Estèphe
Juicy, bright, lean. Cherry and black cherry.

2010 Château Beychevelle, Saint-Julien
Tight black cherry, plum. Juicy. Good acids, tight.

2010 Château L&ecute;oville-Las Cases, Saint-Julien
Sweet nutty hazelnut and a bit of oak. Juicy cherry, bright, tight tannins.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5

2010 Château Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc
Tart, slightly Bretty. Juicy, tight, sour cherry.

2010 Château Boyd Cantenac, Margaux
Nutty espresso, oak. Juicy cherry, hazelnut.

2010 Château Croizet Bages, Pauillac
Smoky, earthy cherry, cedar. Leathery tannins. Good acid.

2010 Château Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan
Meaty, with sandpapery tannins. Cherry, earth, thick tannins.

2010 Château Beauregard, Pomerol
Barnyardy and meaty. Smoky oak, cherry, bright acid.

2010 Château Dassault, Saint-Emilion
Blue fruits and lots of wood. Tight tannins. Lean, but alcoholic heat on finish.

2010 Château Figeac, Saint-Emilion
Tight cherry tobacco then lean, black cherry and cedar.

2010 Château La Tour Figeac, Saint-Emilion
Graphite, cassis, black cherry. Lean, green wood.

2010 Château Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien
Smoky, nutty, cherry, plum. Juicy, long. Tight tannins.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5

2010 Château Durfort Vivens, Margaux
Ripe plum, prune, too ripe.

2010 Château Kirwan, Margaux
Tight cherry and earth. Not special.

2010 Château Rauzan-Gassies, Margaux
Funky earth, barnyard. Black cherry.

2010 Château Pedesclaux, Pauillac
Ripe, plush, cherry, fleshy. Missing some edge.

2010 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan
Oak, smoky, espresso. Tight, drying tannins.

2010 Château Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estèphe
Smoky oak, drying tannins, too much wood!

2010 Château Talbot, Saint-Julien
Deep, ripe plum, plush, fainter tannins. Fleshy.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 7.5 AND 8

2010 Château Langoa-Barton, Saint-Julien
Oak, oak, oak, juicy cherry oak. Blech.

2010 Château Léoville-Barton, Saint-Julien
Oak, cherry. Oaky over oaked. Ick.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7.5

2010 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien
Slightly smoky funky barnyard, juicy cherry, but Bretty. Earth.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7

2010 Clos René, Pomerol
Funky nose, cherry, Brett.. Could be bad bottle.