Old Vines, New Shoots -2010 Bordeaux

I really didn’t think I was going to make the tasting and dinner at Gauthier Soho after my flight was delayed. I had been in Bordeaux all day at Millesima’s Panorama tasting of the 2009 vintage and my 6:20 flight back to London had been delayed by an hour. Would I make it back in time to get through immigration, catch the Gatwick Express to Victoria and then the Tube to Piccadilly? Well, I was willing to give it a try, especially after the cheeky nap I managed to sneak in in the departure lounge of Bordeaux airport while waiting for my flight.

I was in a rush to get to Gauthier as I had been invited by Neil Phillips (The Wine Tipster) to meet a couple of Bordelais winemakers who were, while not exactly trying to modernize Bordeaux, had decided to make their wines a bit more contemporary in style while still maintaining excellent quality at a reasonable price. A tall order to fill but Neil was confident we’d find the wines appealing. An interesting aspect of the evening was that we would not only be trying older vintages of each chateau but each of the winemakers had brought the recently finished 2010′s, giving us the opportunity to try them before anyone else in either the press or trade. En primeur was still a few weeks away, the dinner being in early March and en primeur week being in April.

Neil had chosen 3 Bordeaux chateaux, La Dauphine (Fronsac), La Pointe (Pomerol) and Marquis de Terme (Margaux) to showcase their 2010 wines. All three chateaux have undergone extensive refurbishing, replanting and analysis of their vines to produce not only the best wine possible but also making wine that is affordable for the average consumer as well as approachable.

bottled that day, 1/3/11

The 2010 Chateau de la Dauphine from the Fronsac AOC was a delightfully fresh and intensely fruity wine. The fruit coming out on the mid palate and carrying on for quite some time. Great acidity with firm but mellow tannins and traces of black licorice on the finish. The wine certainly has good structure and should evolve nicely, already showing well. 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc, the vineyard dates back to 1750 and was owned by the Moueix family of Ch. Petrus until 200o when it was sold to the present owners. The Dauphine wines retail for under £20 in the UK.

The 2010 La Pointe from Pomerol was quite different, not showing much on the nose, quite closed but on the palate displaying a certain savouriness along with a pure, intense core of fruit and ending on notes of leather and black chocolate. A bit firmer then the Fronsac, it had only 5% more cabernet franc in it but the cab franc certainly contributed more of a tannic backbone to the wine. A wine that should open up nicely in a few years time, it’s just waiting to burst out. The estate is the second largest in Pomerol (22 hectares) and their consultant is Hubert de Bouard de Laforest (owner of Chateau Angelus). Not much is known about the history of the chateau other then that it was founded in the 19th century.

The Margaux was the last one we tried, the 2010 Ch. Marquis de Terme, a classified 4th growth, despite being a classified growth, the Sénéclauze family, who have owned the chateau since 1935, are not content to sit on their laurels and they are constantly pushing the boundaries of what great terroir is capable of . With the arrival of a new vineyard director, they have added quite a few innovations in the vineyards to show off the potential of the terroir. These include better canopy management, plot by plot vinification, de-leafing more then once, limited plowing and enhanced sorting. All to produce a wine that will show off the full potential of the terroir. 60% cabernet saivugnon, 35% merlot and %5 petit verdot, the 2010 was full of blackcurrants and cassis with chewy yet gripping tannins that seemed to coat the palate. A certain meatiness pervaded the wine, a lively, fresh wine, definitely one to keep an eye on.

It was fun to try Bordeaux wines that had barely finished fermentation and were fresh out of the barrel, to try and imagine what how they will develop in the next few years. Although I am new to this game, I’ve had a bit of experience and it was an elucidating experience.  These new winemakers want to take the wines of Bordeaux out of the old stereotypes: old fashioned and over priced, and offer wines to the consumer that are not only approachable but also affordable. Based on what we tried, I think they may be on to a good thing.

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