Revisiting Bordeaux 2010 – UGC Tasting 12/11/12

Last Monday the great and good of the UK wine-trade and press descended upon the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to (re)taste the Bordeaux 2010 vintage.  With the wines now in bottle and no longer mutable cask samples,  this was an excellent tasting to get (re)acquainted with the vintage, and thankfully the 2010′s are coming along beautifully; an arduous tasting it was not.

The UGC Tasting was an excellent opportunity to see how the wines had developed from their enchantillon (cask) sample. Above Lynch Bages 2010 back in 2011, when it was still in this stage.

The UGC or Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is a federation of the top Châteaux in Bordeaux. Established in 1973 by six pioneering Château owners to promote, not just their wines, but the great wines of Bordeaux. Today the Union has over 130 members/crus, both classified and unclassified, from all of the major appellations within Bordeaux, on both sides of the Gironde river; Medoc, Graves and Pessac-Leognan, Sauternes and Barsac, St Emilion and Pomerol. Whilst the top names, First Growths et al, of Bordeaux along with Châteaux Angélus, Calon Ségur, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru Beaucaillou, Evangile, Léoville Las Cases, Montrose, Palmer, Pavie and Vieux Château Certan were not on show on the day, there were all of the major representatives of the some of the best properties in Bordeaux.

As a vintage, 2010 is undoubtedly up there with the greats and whilst it has been said before, it is a vintage that easily ranks alongside 2005 and 2009 and will doubtless be hailed as one of the all time classics. One of the hallmarks of the year is it’s ripeness and concentration, something that cannot be overstated; even amongst the less storied Châteaux there was a sweetness of fruit and none of the austere bitterness or hollowness that you’ll find in the 2011. If ever you’re stuck on a wine-list, pick 2010 and you should not be disappointed. One criticism of the vintage, however,  that we heard on the day, was over-extraction; lean or “classic” are not the characteristics of the vintage. Certainly this is a vintage that is generous; full in ripeness, sweetness, acidity, body and tannins, although on Monday compared with tasting them from cask, the tannins were noticeably integrated and rarely aggressive.

From a collector/investor point of view, 2010 is definitely a vintage worth having, both in terms of quality and longevity.  However, the Borderlais themselves were well aware of this and so the wines are, to borrow a phrase from a well known lager, “reassuringly expensive”. Given the general price volatility that comes once the wines are physically available, we would advise waiting until the end of the delivery window, round about end of May, before jumping on this vintage, if you have yet to buy. As these wines become physically available we will add them to the Vinetrade list of wines and follow them with interest.

Of the 56 wines, that there was time enough to taste in, the stand-out Châteaux were:  Brane-Cantenac, Lynch Bages, Pichon Baron and La Conseillante; Pape Clement BlancChâteau Coutet and Château Suduiraut amongst the whites.

  • Brane CantenacShowing really well on the day, with a ripe nose of crème de mure and crushed earth hiding beneath the abundant black-currant and blueberry fruit. The palate has a really sweet entry, juicy acidity and a frankly delicious, medium weight body, with a flavour profile that follows the nose but finishes with liquorice and tannins skulking under the opulent fruit. Great stuff for the price.
  • Lynch BagesA highly intense, rich, dense blackberry nose; filled with sweet clove and peppercorn spice, rounded in smooth plum. A soft and light, but juicy entry on the palate leads to an almost bracingly high acidity that carries those same fruit characteristics on and on, through the concentrated mouthfeel and chewy tannins, that balance this cracking wine perfectly.
  • Pichon BaronThick and brooding, a veritable Bordeaux stew of ripe dark fruits including black cherry, blackcurrant, blackberry and prunes, the layers of oak giving off dense but sweet spice. Despite the monstrous nose, the entry to the palate is supple, backed by firm acidity, wonderful, if slightly closed, flavour complexity and great overall balance. The flavours almost finished a bit short, but that is probably more down to it’s youth, than pedigree. A stellar wine that given time will undoubtedly be one of the greats of the vintage.
  • La ConseillanteNot as floral or perfumed as it was En Primeur, but still with great intensity; notes of vanilla, plum and blueberry, warm but not hot. The zingy acidity was what stood out on the palate on the day, but not overriding in its intensity. Integrated tannins lent wonderful balance to this delightfully pure wine. Certainly the best Pomerol on show.
  • Pape Clement Blanc2010 was not just a good vintage for the reds, the dry whites are undeniably gorgeous and Pape Clement Blanc is no exception: notes of lime, cream, marmalade and custard dominate the nose. In the mouth there’s an excellent citric attack with a intriguing bitter note on the mid palate, the finish is as equally zingy as the entry. Ready to drink now!
  • Suduiraut - A classic rich, Sauternes nose of honey, lemon juice, nail-polish, lanolin and toasted brioche. In a Greg Wallacean way, the first thought on the palate was just “Yum!” Unctuous and full, the mouth-feel is wonderfully balanced between the fresh acidity and the lingering sweetness. The flavour follows the nose on and on. Storming stuff.
  • CoutetHaving recently been fortunate enough to try several back vintages of Coutet, this was a really interesting one to try. The nose was quite intense with all the hallmarks of Coutet: honey, acacia blossom, lemon, some hints of botrytis. The palate was almost oily in its richness but with that classic “Coutet blade” of minerally acidity that cuts through the fat, effortlessly balanced and very rewarding.
Also worthy of consideration: Batailley, Figeac, Langao Barton, Leoville Poyferre, Maucaillou, Pichon Lalande and Rauzan Segla.
There were several Châteaux that we had high hopes for, but were either having a bad day or had closed down for the short term; that or it was a root-day

Q4 2012 Fine Wine Market Report

One month into the 4th quarter of 2012 and it’s time to take stock of the situation. Looking around the trade, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic about the fine wine market. Whilst we have seen a general plateauing of prices across the Bordeaux-board, it would seem that the Q3 slide in prices, primarily led by the slump in First Growths prices, has ended. Below are the top points worthy of consideration as we go into the festive season and 2013.

The 2012 St. Emilion Classification.

The INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) reclassification of St Emilion Grands crus, on the 7th of September, led to the promotion of several properties. Two of which stuck out from the crowd: Chateau Pavie and Chateau Angelus, were both elevated to “Premier Cru Classe A” status. These two are now on par, in the eyes of the INAO, with Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Ausone; whilst Pavie and Angelus have yet to raise their prices themselves to meet their new classmates, you can be sure Gerard Perse will consider the Chateau’s new position for the 2012 release. Interestingly enough, speculation from the trade and wine-owners has already happened with Pavie, where prices across the best past 3 vintages has already started to rise, whilst Angelus has mostly levelled.

The clear effect of the 2012 St Emilion Classification. Pavie Composite (2000, 2005 & 2009) v.s. Angelus Composite.

Château Calon Segur Sold.

Château Calon Segur has been sold to Suravenir’s life-insurance subsidy Credit Mutuel Arkea, in a similar move to Chateau Montrose’s sale in 2006, with JF Moueix of Chateau Petrus again bringing his expertise to the new business venture. Expect to see a similar rise in quality and prices, as with the likes of Chateau Pichon Baron’s purchase by AXA Millesimes, back in 1987, as JF Moueix continues the sterling work of the late Mme Gasqueton.

JG Prats to Leave Château Cos d’Estournel.

JG Prats is leaving his role as managing director of Chateau Cos d’Estournel. Jean-Guillaume is heading to LVMH, and whilst his departure is not until 2013 you can be sure his legacy of rising prices and quality will continue at Cos d’Estournel.

Bordeaux Prices Continue to Level Off.

Despite the slide in Q3 Bordeaux prices, the past 3 months has seen a levelling in the Bordeaux market as wines either reach their own lower limit or their appeal at their respective price point levels off. Amongst the First Growths, Haut Brion has taken the biggest slump in prices since August, with the likes of the 2003 falling over 6% to today’s £2795, whilst Lafite has seen the least price change, the 2005 for instance holding steady at £7450.

2009s Remain in Demand.

Beyond the First Growths, 2009 Bordeaux continues to be in demand with Ponet Canet, Cos d’Estournel and Clos Fourtet all being sought after, primarily we suspect due to Robert Parker’s 100 point score, coupled with the higher availability. The general perception of the vintage is one of quality and longevity and those yet to get on the boat are sorely advised to; now that we’ve seen the post-arrival realignment in prices we expect more stability for this vintage and resistance to extreme price volatility that has previous beset this vintage.

New EIS Companies and a new Fund to Launch.

Outside of actual market prices, there are several things happening that we see as healthy indicators for the future of the fine wine market. Firstly, several new wine companies have sprung up in the past months here in the UK, taking advantage of the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, and as they begin trading in earnest demand/activity and liquidity will increase. Secondly, whilst not yet corroborated in the press, we’ve heard news of another new wine fund soon to be launched, undoubtedly taking advantage of the perceived bottoming of Bordeaux prices and the expected demand from newer emerging markets as the global economy improves – Fine Wine is still a long-term investment for many.

The Coming Months.

Finally looking ahead, to both Burgundy 2011 En Primeur and Bordeaux 2012 En Primeur in the new year, we’ve heard mixed opinions about both vintages, but we’re keen to see how these wines fare. 2011 Burgundy coming off the back of two previous excellent vintages, and Bordeaux 2012 having the potential to be excellent, but with Chateau owners comparing it to both 2002 and 2006.

As the trade rolls into the festive season with the usual offers of Champagne, Port and drinking Claret, we expect to see another surge in demand in the new year as the East prepares to celebrate Chinese New Year and the Year of the Snake.

Redesign of our marketplace

Since September, we’ve been working on new features and improved overall experience to the Vinetrade platform. Last week, we launched a redesigned marketplace.

The new marketplace offers a vastly improved browsing experience with many of the changes based on feedback gained from our customers. Logged out visitors are now able to browse and search our wine lists, cases with stock are highlighted and our new order form provides a clear breakdown of cost and availability. In addition to the new marketplace we have created a new company information page, profiling our directors and investors.

Over the coming months we will be able to market our client’s stock to a wider audience and continue to work hard to reduce the barriers involved with buying and selling fine wine.

All of the stock listed on our marketplace is held by our clients – Vinetrade does not hold stock itself. Our aim is to build a marketplace where wine owners can trade transparently and without giving away significant chunks of the sale price to merchants.