Wine Enthusiast Goes to Bordeaux For En Primeur 2010

Is the structure and alcohol better than 2009?

Nearly 5,000 wine trade professionals and journalists descended on Bordeaux this week to attend the annual barrel tasting event, En Primeur, where they get the first chance to taste of the 2010 vintage.

Already a dominating discussion of 2010: alcohol. Many red wines are weighing in at 14.5% and some as much as 15% ABV. The Bordeaux producers are worried that climate change is producing blockbusters instead of the traditional elegance.

As Jean-Philippe Delmas of Château Haut-Brion says, “Everything is conspiring to increase alcohol, especially nature. We may need to rethink some of the techniques that we have used in the past in order to increase the quality of the wines.”

Alcohol is just one of the aspects of the wines. The question on the street is whether 2009 (a wine whose pre-release prices for the top growths went into the stratosphere) is better than 2010, with its structure and concentrated tannins as well as acidity.

As the Bordeaux chateaus do their business this week, selling the wines, still in barrel, to the trade, WE will report all on all the En Primeur hot topics, including the general quality of the vintage and reviewing the wines as well as reveal a first view of the market for the 2010s.

Wine Enthusiast’s Bordeaux En Primeur Vintage 2010

Day One: A Sweet Success

Today, Sauternes and Barsac are in the spotlight. These sweet wines have had a magnificent decade so far, with a series of great vintages. The 2010 looks likely to continue this run.

Bérénice Lurton, owner of Château Climens in Barsac, describes the wines as having, “Architecture. They have a spirit which may mean they are even better than 2009.” Lurton does not show the finished blend at this stage, meaning that Château Climens 2010 cannot be rated, but tasting samples of the 19 individual different lots reveals wines that are very fresh, while also rich and powerful.

That’s a character that runs through all the samples reviewed below. Xavier Planty, co-owner of Château Guiraud in Sauternes says “It’s a beautiful vintage, with delicious botrytis.” He believes that the general success of recent vintages is “because everybody in Sauternes is working harder than ever.”

With prices that still never reflect the enormous effort that goes into these noble rot-based wines, the 2010 will offer great values to lovers of sweet whites.

Sauternes and Barsac 2010

95–97 Château Suduiraut (Sauternes). Richly textured, with an opulent feel. Concentrated, the fruit buried in the dense flavors. It makes for a big, powerful wine, with long aging future. – R.V.

94–96 Château Haut-Peyraguey, (Sauternes). On the dry side, emphasizing the power of the botrytis, this is a concentrated wine, very rich and dense. For the longterm. – R.V.

94–96 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey (Sauternes). Big, concentrated botrytis flavors, layering the honey with the rich dried fruits. This is a powerhouse of a wine, densely structured. – R.V.

94–96 Château Rieussec (Sauternes). Structured firm, very spicy, while also showing fresh pineapple acidity. Concentrated and packed with botrytis. – R.V.

94–96 Château La Tour Blanche (Sauternes). Concentrated, chunky, the richness just a part of the huge power. It’s a wine of considerable density, very liquorous. – R.V.

93–95 Château Coutet (Barsac).
Powerfully rich wine, very concentrated, rich, with a great balance between acidity and honey and apricot flavors. Finely rich. – R.V.

93–95 Château de Rayne Vigneau (Sauternes).
A ripe, balanced wine, the acidity casting a light over the rich apricot, mango and apple juice flavors. Spiced with wood, never excessive. – R.V.

93–95 Château Sigalas-Rabaud (Sauternes).
Densely structured wine, full of honey, cinnamon, and sweetness. The acidity gives just the right counterpoint. – R.V.

92–94 Château de Malle (Sauternes). Great acidity here, the wine has freshness as well as dried apricot and peach flavors, very honeyed. Excellent acidity to finish. – R.V.

92–94 Château de Myrat (Barsac).
Hugely aromatic, a wine that manages to combine freshness, lightness and density. It is deliciously fresh, then offering a fine, ripe dried fruit aftertaste. – R.V.

92–94 Château Guiraud (Sauternes).
A closed up wine, although all the elements are there, promising great final balance, richness and power. – R.V.

92–94 Château Rabaud-Promis (Sauternes). Very rich in character. The sweetness is there, but masked by the firm structure, the almost tannic texture. Great concentration. – R.V.

91–93 Château d’Arche (Sauternes).
Rich more than dry, the palate offers a very spicy character, and the texture is full and unctuous. – R.V.

91–93 Château Lamothe-Guignard (Sauternes).
An attractive, fresh wine, with a delicious delicacy as well as the perfumed acidity. There is a tasty pear juice and spice combination to finish. – R.V.

91–93 Château Nairac (Barsac). Fresh, bright in style, with a spice cake of flavors while keeping taut fruit and final acidity. The texture, though, promises good aging. – R.V.

90–92 Château Bastor-Lamontagne (Sauternes).
A structured, ripe wine, full of tight botrytis character and acidity. The wine is spicy, complex, rich. – R.V.

90–92 Château Broustet (Barsac). Concentrated, structure, a wine that pushes power and density. The year’s acidity adds the necessary freshness. Impressive. – R.V.

90–92 Château Doisy-Védrines (Barsac).
A wine that shows acidity, a tension between fruit and richness, delicately structured, very aromatic. The texture shows potential richness. – R.V.

89–91 Château de Fargues (Sauternes). Very aromatic and sweet. The palate suffused with acidity as well as dried apricots, and is fresh in character, the spicy element adding to the structure of the wine. – R.V.

89–91 Château Caillou (Barsac). Richly liquorous wine, beautifully concentrated, with acidity balancing with the rich, honeyed fruit. Showing its attractive side already. – R.V.

88–89 Château Doisy-Daëne (Barsac).
Delicious fruit, with pear and apricot laced with acidity and spice. The wine feels relatively light, very fresh, already delicious. – R.V.

88–90 Château Romer (Sauternes).
A definite mineral character here, with a wine that boasts a taut structure, pushing beyond the metallic edge of the fruit. – R.V.

87–89 Château Filhot (Sauternes). The wine tastes light, with a hard edged mineral character, the richness still a distance away. – R.V.

87–89 Château Lamothe (Sauternes). Lacking richness, the wine has acidity, some sweetness, but misses definition and density. – R.V.

87–89 Château Suau (Barsac). A wine that is all structure, with very little fruit. It has a hard, metallic edge. – R.V.

For day two En Primeur coverage: Are the Americans back in the Bordeaux market? click here.

For day three En Primeur coverage: The vintage where Cabernet is king, click here.

For day four En Primeur coverage: 2010—A vintage that defies description, click here.

Published on April 4, 2011

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