Tuesday 5 April 2011

Bordeaux 2010: they just can't believe their luck...

Jubilant is the word. If you’d been parachuted into the En Primeur opening party at Smith Haut Lafitte last night, you would have thought something had been slipped into the wine.

The chateau owners have thrown off the faux-sheepish mood they’ve worn for the last couple of months and are now openly celebrating what they assure us is another superb vintage.

In September, when the grapes started coming in, if you asked a chateau owner what the 2010 was like they’d shrug and say they were embarrassed to say it after 09, but the signs were it was looking really very good…

There’s no such restraint now. In the cellars at the Smith party, the always affable Patrick Maroteaux of Branaire Ducru looked as if he’d just won the lottery (which in a sense he has). ‘Fabulous,’ he kept saying, and bent my ear for five minutes on the great growing season, its hot dry days and cool nights. 

The weather gods simply can’t stop smiling down on Bordeaux. They arranged a superb growing season, and now for En Primeur it’s gorgeous, 25 degrees yesterday, the same today, fragrant wisteria blooming on the warm honeyed stone of the chateau walls… under these conditions a glass of blush Zinfandel would taste like cru classe.

‘I was unsure up to about 2 weeks ago – the tannins seemed a bit harsh and I was worried the press would find it unapproachable,’ Anthony Barton, the venerable owner of Leoville Barton told me yesterday. ‘But now I’m pleased – there’s no aggressivity, there’s acidity and freshness…’

Barton’s worried that many journalists don’t know how to taste young Bordeaux (there’s a rumour going round that James Molesworth, the new Wine Spectator Bordeaux critic, hasn’t quite got the barrel experience yet, but more of him, and his former colleague James Suckling, later).

So Barton’s delighted that his wine is so pretty. I tasted it yesterday, and it is delicious – perfumed, with lovely acid and nice grippy tannins, fresh and very fine. 13% alcohol (Barton’s harvest was one of his earliest – he’s not one to let the grapes hang).

But above all it’s approachable and comprehensible.

The press is going to love this vintage, everybody hopes. We’ll see as the week goes on but the first signs are good.

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