The Medoc at a distance

After a punishing day’s tasting yesterday, time to draw some conclusions on the vintage in the Médoc. Clearly 2010 was a year for Cabernet Sauvignon, with the very dry conditions favouring concentration and high alcohol levels. In many cases the potential tannin levels too were the highest ever seen.

What disappointments we have identified (and they are all relative, in the context of what is a huge success) are where these riches haven’t been handled carefully enough, and the resultant wine is too burly. In contrast, the biggest successes are the freshest wines, where the acidity is maintained as a counterpoint to the concentration, and the tannins are fine rather than aggressive.

Interestingly, almost every owner has talked about the high quality of the ‘press wine’, the portion of the blend produced by gently pressing the must once the free-run portion is removed from the tanks. Its here they say that the quality of the vintage is achieved, as a lots of the guts of the finished product as contained within. Because the quality of the initial harvest was so high, cool fermentations led to very gentle extraction being possible.

Two wines stood out in particular yesterday; Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, and Ducru Beaucaillou. One Pauillac and one St Julien then, but Margaux in general was much more impressive than the last few years, and Cantenac-Brown stood out for me at the Union des Grands Cru tasting.

At the end of the day, a tedious traffic jam to cross the bridge over to northern Bordeaux, then a delightful supper with the Johnson-Hills at Château Méaume, long time friends of Majestic Wine, but now also Lay & Wheeler.

Today we start on the right bank, at Cheval Blanc, with a blank sheet. Albeit that Cheval Blanc depends on Cabernet Franc, for its character, most of the wines we taste today will be Merlot-dominated. Given the potential lack of freshness and high alcohol levels it will be the gentler wines that excel I’m sure. Watch this space.

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