Eat & Drink

The Wine Press: Those 2010 Bordeaux still require some patience

This Oct. 7, 2013, file image shows workers collecting red grapes in the vineyards of the famed Chateau Haut Brion, a Premier Grand Cru des Graves, during the grape harvest season, in Pessac-Leognan, near Bordeaux, southwestern France.
This Oct. 7, 2013, file image shows workers collecting red grapes in the vineyards of the famed Chateau Haut Brion, a Premier Grand Cru des Graves, during the grape harvest season, in Pessac-Leognan, near Bordeaux, southwestern France. The Associated Press

It’s a questionable practice: rating wines in barrels. So many things can go wrong before the wine ends up in the bottle. So often the bottle tastes a bit less interesting than what wine that wine writershave raved about.

But before you call us irresponsible, bear in mind wine evolves, grows, enlarges and inevitably dies during its cycle as a comestible beverage. At certain points it may be lovely; at others, despicable.

That’s why the world’s most important ones deserve multiple reviews over a period of time. Two years ago I wrote up the legendary 2010 Bordeaux, covering about 75 of the best-known chateaus. I had the opportunity, courtesy of the Institute of Masters of Wine, to do it again at the end of January.

When am I supposed to drink this, people will ask. I don’t know, is the honest response. Let’s crack it open and see how it’s tasting today.

In general, the wines I tasted again showed very well, but there were disappointments. And a few wines, such as Giscours, Dassault and Langoa Barton, had grown into something prettier than before.

The 2010 vintage deserves its ample praise, but the wines have tightened up. To cut to the headline, don’t drink these wines yet. That’s of course assuming you own some. 2010 was the second in a row of two wildly heralded vintages, and prices went crazy, fueled by Asian wine lovers. That market has since cooled considerably and the Bordelais seem to be recognizing their blunder, abandoning the U.S. market to chase after Chinese billionaires, with 2011, 2012 and 2013 receiving far less enthusiasm,

But there are still some 2010s on store shelves (though not many), and if you’re good at finding deals (or just don’t care how much you spend), you may want to grab the wines that are left.

You could start along the left bank of the Gironde River, where the regions of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion are known for Merlot-based, plush and spicy wines, but you’d be tasting wines that could use a bit more time. Clos Fourtet, Canon, Corbin, Dassault, La Dominique and Figeac are almost worth the prices they demand.

Meanwhile, Angelus and Cheval Blanc offer beauty and balance, but you may miss a house payment if you buy one. Clinet, Gazin, Nenin and especially Beauregard are easy to recommend in Pomerol, but Clos Rene and Petit Village came up wanting, as usual.

Across the Gironde River, at the north end of Bordeaux’s Medoc region, in the region of St.-Estephe, Cos d’Estournel, Montrose and Calon Segur each continue to develop impressively. Lesser lights are shining at Cos Labory and Lafon Rochet.

The Pauillac commune next door has plenty of stars that will grow brighter in the next five to 10 years: Pichon Longueville Baron, Pontet Canet, Lynch Moussas and Lynch Bages are exciting. Croizet Bages and Pedesclaux are slightly less so.

St. Julien is the region that can provide value, though 2010 is the vintage that proves the exception to that rule. Beychevelle, Leoville Poyferre, Leoville Barton and especially Leoville las Cases are great wines with high prices. But Langoa Barton is punching far above its weight. Saint Pierre, Talbot and Branaire Ducru are tasty but will probably cost you more.

Margaux continues to delight: DuTertre, Rauzan Segla, Lascombes, Boyd Cantenac and, of course, Brane Cantenac give me reason for confidence in their future. Marquis de Termes, Rauzan Gassies, Kirwan, Durfort Vivens and Desmirail didn’t rise quite to that level, while d’Issan seemed off and odd, though I tried two different bottles.

Graves and its sweet spot, Pessac Leognan, are tasting a bit middle-weight at present, but it might be the wines I saw: Bouscaut, Haut Bailly, Smith Haut Lafitte and my favorite at the moment, Fieuzal. It’s a very good value, as are the usual reliables in the Haut Medoc region: Belgrave, Cantemerle and La Lagune.

The 2010 sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac are lush but don’t have quite the tense excitement of some of the 2009s and other even better sweet wine vintages. Still, Doisy Daene, Doisy Vedrines, Climens, Clos Haut Peyraguey (a very nice value), Coutet, Filhot, Guiraud and Suduiraut are delicious. Y’quem is, as usual, peerless.

As for Bordeaux’s red wines, after the remarkable richness and plush character of the 2009s, the 2010s still comes across as more stolid. The fat fruit is firmly ensconced in gritty if not green tannins.Some of these wines are less likable than the 2009s. But let them sleep a while longer, and you may find that some beauties will awaken.

Wine columnist Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based master sommelier and master of wine. To reach him, send email to winedog@att.net.

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