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