Could this be the year the Americans return? According to Jean-Jacques Bonnie of Château Malartic-Lagravière in Pessac-Léognan, it sure can be. “The Bordeaux négociants say that this is the year for the U.S. and Japan,” he says. Why Japan? It’s simple: They need to restock after the earthquake and tsunami.
For Americans, however, it all depends on price. The high prices of some 2009 wines drove away traditional buyers in the U.S. and Europe. While some prices may stay high for 2010, there’s talk in the chateaus that high demand can’t happen two years in a row, at least below the top 10 or so wines.
American buyers are already in Bordeaux; they’re tasting in the Médoc, on the Right Bank and in the Graves. It’s not just the top wines they seek, but they’re also interested in the true value wines available at this annual event. And as Friday approaches, WE talks to those who will bring these wines to the U.S. about taste, quality, and most importantly, price.
With the dollar low against the euro, potential buyers need to think about whether it’s best to buy in barrel or in bottle, two or three years later. Either way, in this vintage, with its strong tannins, fruit and acidity, these wines have potentially long lives and are not the “arrive Monday, open Tuesday” variety.
Day Two: Pessac-Léognan and Graves: The Magic Vintage
Pessac-Léognan and Graves, two regions with great values, presented their wines on Tuesday at the Bordeaux En Primeur tastings. They produced what Tristan Kressmann, co-owner of Château Latour-Martillac in Pessac-Léognan, calls the magic vintage. “We had so much good fortune in 2010,” says Kressmann. His family, formerly Bordeaux négociants, has owned the chateau since 1930.
Because of the succession of cool nights, 2010 was a late harvest, which started at the end of September. Alfred-Alexandre Bonnie, owner of Château Malartic-Lagravière, describes the wines as “very structured. We had ripe Cabernet Sauvignon, even Petit Verdot, and they have given color and tannins to the wines.” The reds also have higher than usual alcohols, a style that is typical of the 2010s.
It’s the whites that are the stars in this vintage. They’re full-bodied, with exotic fruit flavors as well as the more usual herbaceous characteristic. The structure of 2010 reds manifests itself here as a dense texture that gives the wines good aging potential.
The Pessac-Léognan and Graves regions, south of Bordeaux, are famed for their barrel-aged blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon—one of the few parts of Bordeaux to make a specialty of ageworthy white wines. The Pessac-Léognan appellation includes the first growth of Château Haut-Brion and the fabled wines of Château La Mission Haut-Brion.
The other top chateaus of the appellation are also reaching peak performance in both reds as well as whites, thanks to considerable investment by their owners. With two out of three bottles sold in France, the “prices have to be reasonable,” says Kressmann. “The French don’t accept high prices for their wines and they don’t like speculators.” In other words, wine for wine drinkers.
94–96 Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc (Pessac-Léognan). Very rich in style, yet suppressed by the freshest acidity, structure and spice. This is a beautifully concentrated wine, showing both the richness of the vintage and the delicious acidity. –R.V.
94–96 Domaine de Chevalier (Pessac-Léognan). Full and powerful, the wine has weight, with an almost Burgundian richness, although it never loses sight of the herbaceous edge of Sauvignon Blanc. Packed with power, yet food-friendly. –R.V.
93–95 Château La Louvière (Pessac-Léognan). Full-textured wine, with acidity well integrated into the ripe, open structure. The wine has weight, while preserving its freshness. The lime acidity and spice push through to the final taste. –R.V.
93–95 Château La Tour Martillac (Pessac-Léognan). A rich wine, full in the mouth while also offering great herbaceous flavors. Dense grapefruit flavors run through the complex texture. A wine to age. –R.V.
93–95 Château Olivier (Pessac-Léognan). Textured, structured wine, with good freshness and acidity. Dominated by an herbaceous character, it has richness as well as great final acidity. –R.V.
93–95 Château Smith Haut-Lafitte (Pessac-Léognan). A rich wine, full-bodied in character, the acidity hiding behind the ripe fruits. Concentrated and structured, the spice coming through to dominate. –R.V.
92–94 Château Carbonnieux (Pessac-Léognan). A powerful and rich wine, full of ripe pineapple and peach flavors. The wine is smooth, toasty and concentrated. –R.V.
92–94 Château de France (Pessac-Léognan). Herbaceous style of wine, a Bordeaux white wine classic style, with crisp grassy Sauvignon Blanc flavors, elegant, not heavy. –R.V.
92–94 Château Malartic-Lagravière (Pessac-Léognan). Full of toasty flavors, this is a structured, wood and ripe fruit-dominated wine. It has weight, while also feeling fresh. Great final spice and pear flavors. –R.V.
92–94 Château Pape-Clément (Pessac-Léognan). A gorgeously ripe wine, full of tropical fruit flavors. All this opulence is tempered with spice, grapefruit and lime flavors. A finely structured and textured wine. –R.V.
91–93 Château Bouscaut (Pessac-Léognan). Full-bodied wine, with toast and a strong citrus and herbaceous character. The wine is open, soft, generous, finishing with a very spicy character. –R.V.
91–93 Château de Fieuzal (Pessac-Léognan). Firm and closed up, a structured wine that shows ripe tropical fruits, laced with pink grapefruit. Rich, concentrated, powerful. –R.V.
91–93 Château Haut-Bergey (Pessac-Léognan). Fresh citrus and spicy pear flavors, a wine laced with acidity, a crisp texture and elegant bright aftertaste. –R.V.
91–93 Château Larrivet Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan). The wine feels full, ripe and weighty. More power than elegant, it shows ripe pear and grapefruit juice flavors. Very dense finish. –R.V.
90–92 Château Raoul (Graves). The wine has rich citrus and pear flavors, with weight, an oily texture and balanced wood spice to finish. Well structured. –R.V.
89–91 Clos Nardian (Bordeaux Blanc). From vineyards in the Entre-Deux-Mers, this is herbaceous and fresh. The wine has a grassy character with a citrus edge, spice and grapefruit. It’s lively and refreshing. –R.V.
89–91 La Clarté de Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan). The second white wine of Château Haut-Brion, full and rounded, ripe and fat. There is white currant acidity that cuts through the rich fruit and spicy wood.
88–90 Château Chantegrive (Graves). A spicy, toasty fresh citrus wine, it’s light, crisp, with bright final acidity. –R.V.
88–90 Château Picque Caillou (Pessac-Léognan). Great acidity runs through what is also a richly concentrated wine. It has weight and density, with bright acidity. –R.V.
87–89 Château Ferrande (Graves). Soft wine, with light acidity. Pineapple and green apple flavors, with hints of wood. –R.V.
96–98 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan). Very powerful, concentrated wine with the ripest fruit. Blackberry flavors are supplemented by almost stinging acidity, then mitigated by the velvet tannins. A wine that will age for several decades. –R.V.
93–95 Château Haut-Bailly (Pessac-Léognan). A very concentrated wine, although its tannins are well integrated into the fresh berry fruits and bright acidity. That gives the wine a style that brings out a more open character. Very promising future. –R.V.
93–95 Domaine de Chevalier (Pessac-Léognan). All fruit tannins, a structured, tight wine, its acidity offering great waves of black plum juice flavors. There is great power as well as the freshness and elegance. –R.V.
92–94 Château Malartic-Lagravière (Pessac-Léognan). With red berry fruits, a counterpoint of dry tannins, this shows a style that is firm, tough on one side, and fruity and fresh on the other. The wine has the promise of power, richness when the elements integrate. –R.V.
92–94 Château Smith Haut Lafitte (Pessac-Léognan). Spice, smoky fruit, with great acidity, this wine offers richness, structure, powerful tannins and already some delicious blackberry fruits. –R.V.
91–93 Château de France (Pessac-Léognan). The wine feels powerful and dense, with tannins dominating. A hard, foursquare wine packed with weighty fruit and power. –R.V.
91–93 Château La Louvière (Pessac-Léognan). Powerful and concentrated, with wood dominant. It’s hard to find the fruit through the planks, although the wine does have the weight to give it promise for the future. –R.V.
91–93 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan). Ripe, soft fruit and tannins that come from fruit rather than wood. The acidity is a dominant factor, with great wafts of bright black currant fruits and final tannins. –R.V.
91–93 Château Olivier (Pessac-Léognan). Dark tannins, polished herbal fruit, great acidity, this wine promises much for the future. It has freshness as well as weight. –R.V.
91–93 Château Pape Clément (Pessac-Léognan). New, polished wood and mint aromas, with big wood tannins. The fruit has the right weight to come through all the wood, with acidity already an important factor. –R.V.
91–93 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan). Smoky acidity and juicy, very fresh fruit. The wine certainly has dry tannins, along with this delicious waft of black berry fruit juice. –R.V.
90–92 Château Raoul (Graves). Firm in character, with tannins that dominate. There is a good weight behind the tannins, with black fruits likely to come through well. –R.V.
90–92 Château Carbonnieux (Pessac-Léognan). Toasty aromas on a wine that at this stage is dried by wood. The fruit is at a distance here, although the acidity is very present. –R.V.
90–92 Château de Fieuzal (Pessac-Léognan). A firmly tannic wine solidly based on a dry texture, it has black currant fruits as a major textural element. It’s dark and dry, guarding its freshness for the end. –R.V.
90–92 Château Haut-Bergey (Pessac-Léognan). A spicy, aromatic wine that shows powerful wood character as well as fruit tannins. The style is dark, firmly tannic, powerful and dense. –R.V.
90–92 Château La Tour Martillac (Pessac-Léognan). Delicious acidity, fresh in character, with layering gentle tannins and black currant fruit. A juicy, fruity aftertaste. Well integrated. –R.V.
90–92 La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan). Firm and tannic, while there are also sweet berry fruits and black currant flavors. The acidity is important. –R.V.
89–91 Château Chantegrive (Graves). Smoky, firm tannins, with black currant fruits, firmly dark, dry and tannic, with a solid structure. –R.V.
89–91 Château Bouscaut (Pessac-Léognan). Smooth, ripe wine, its black plum fruits integrating well with acidity and an edge of dusty tannins. The wine has weight, density and good freshness. –R.V.
89–91 Château Larrivet Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan). A balanced wine, the fruit shining through the tannins. The wine has power, not excessive, with a jammy character and a light touch of final acidity. –R.V.
88–90 Château Ferrande (Graves). Dense and dry, a firmly structured wine, packed with tannins and a solid texture. The acidity powers through everything. –R.V.
87–89 Château Picque Caillou (Pessac-Léognan). The wine is out of focus, with fruit lost in a structure that hasn’t come together. It has weight and acidity, plum fruits showing slowly. –R.V.
Wine Enthusiast uses the three-point range when tasting barrel samples. Once released, the wines are rated again based on the final, bottled blend.
For day one En Primeur coverage: Is the structure and alcohol better than 2009? 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.