Was my take on 2010 Bordeaux from bottle, posted on March 28th 2020, two days after lockdown measures legally came into force in the UK. The tasting it covered took place on the 12th and 13th February when, I believe, we had little or no idea just what was in the pipe. Reading it through I reckon it it’s a good piece. It’s also clearly written by, well: if not a different person, certainly a different me.
Lockdowns and similar may well have led to more alcohol; they also led to less tasting, less dining, less inspiration. This is the chief reason for radio silence. The further reasons for radio silence are more to do with the effects of 2020, rather than the restrictions themselves. It is fair to say that it took some time to recover.
Grand tastings since have covered the 2011, 2012, 2017 & 2018 vintages. To be honest, none of these really make the cut for the full shebang so: a summary.
My clearest memory of tasting these from barrel is bumping into a bunch of old-boy wine writers at Lafite. Said old boys were telling me that this was a decent vintage, while I thought that most of the wines tasted like a well-travelled 10 pence piece. “But you didn’t taste through the 1980s – the 81s, the 84s, the 87s”, they said. This seemed fair enough, but I still developed an almost emotional dislike for the vintage, one which was exacerbated by (a) the price of the wines and (b) the company tasting notes that I had to incorporate into my offers. 2011 Batailley is a decent wine, but “Wahoo, come to Mama” is pushing integrity to the extreme.
The hope that preceded the 10 year on tasting was that some of these wines would have dropped their aggressive tannins and developed into classic, maybe somewhat austere, enjoyable clarets. The truth is that some of them have, some of them haven’t. And it’s the sort of vintage where food will transform the wines. 2011 Ségla, blind amongst peers, still wants a bit of a fight. The same wine with a bit of beef is quite perfect and reassuringly old-school in style.
Highlights of the 2011s for me were:
Langoa-Barton: just exactly as good as you would expect. Proper claret. Ready now, will keep for ages.
Léoville-Poyferré: as above and manages to pull off that Poyferré glossiness. My pick in St Julien.
Tertre Rôteboeuf: yes – I always love this but Mitjavile is the master of tricky vintages. With this and Roc de Cambes he captures EVERYTHING that is good about 2011.
Eglise-Clinet: Denis really did know how to make wine. I rated this level with Pin and considerably ahead of Pétrus.
Mouton-Rothschild: my pick of the vintage as it often is. I had this a whisker ahead of Latour. This may well be the wrong answer but I am easily seduced by Mouton’s courtesan charm.
The first vintage I tasted from barrel with Nice Guy Eddie. You can’t walk 20 yards in Bordeaux with Nice Guy Eddie without being greeted or accosted by at least five of the locals and, moreover, he is the finest chauffeur known to man. We made a good Batman & Robin.
At the time I was pretty much nonplussed by the wines. A “meh” vintage. At 10 years on I feel much the same though there are some sucesses:
Roc de Cambes, obvs.
Lafleur (as it should be). Indeed most of the right bank big boys are pretty good in 2012 (I include Canon & Figeac in that appraisal).
2012 Cantemerle is proper claret. Cool, complete and not at all chuffy.
Mouton again just edged Latour but I think this is the stylistic thing. The clever guys all prefer Latour.
But all in all this is a Marks and Spencer type of vintage. Nothing much wrong with it but very little pizzazz.
Again tasted from barrel with Nice Guy Eddie. Both of us out of the EP game but we missed our road trips, hence a two day jolly. One useful thing I learned was that you can cover a lot of ground in two days, even without a silly schedule.
I reckon I can get a decent picture of a vintage in about five wines, and that picture was very clear very quickly: the sun didn’t shine in 2017, and you could taste it. About the only wine that I recall tasting that actually had some joy in it was Pichon-Lalande. That I never wrote the vintage up says something: there was very little to write about.
The same vintage at the Southwold tasting was pretty much the hardest Southwold I’ve done. The whiskies with Big Phil the night before day two didn’t help. Lots of tannin, not much fruit and – the exact same characteristic that I got from barrel: very little joy. No doubt these wines will shed their tannins (and likely drop in price a bit) but, before that happens there is very little to commend the vintage.
The notable exceptions are:
Eglise-Clinet – easily the wine of the vintage for me. Depth. Fruit. Energy. And joy. Quite a wine.
Roc de Cambes & Tertre Rôteboeuf (obvs).
Pichon-Lalande still has a joy to it. This is rather classy, albeit with the volume turned down.
And 2017 Yquem is an absolute banger.
Three days before my scheduled departure to Bordeaux with Nice Guy Eddie I fractured a metatarsal whilst trying to impress a 10 year old with my football skills. This hurts. So no trip.
I tasted 2018 Latour in late 2019 but this aside my knowledge of the vintage was based on the opinions of those that I trust plus the odd bottle here and there. I was looking forward to the tasting.
Search 2018 by scores and you’ll come across some pretty punchy ones, mostly from the sort of critics that tend to throw around some pretty punchy scores, but I just wasn’t tasting the same wines it would seem. The summer of 2018 had a surfeit of what 2017 lacked – sunshine – and, for the most part, I found 2018s to be overly ripe and often excessively alcoholic. That latter bit was the real problem: I found many of the wines to have an inherent lack of focus and/or precision. The alcohol smudges it.
There are some notable exceptions. 2018 Lynch-Bages and 2018 Montrose are both absolute crackers, and not far off the first growths. But nothing from 2018 comes close to 100 points in my book. The vintage has more charm than 2017 – this is a pretty low bar – but for the most part the wines are what I’d call barbecue claret. Wines to be enjoyed without taking them too seriously.
And, yes, Roc de Cambes and Tertre Rôteboeuf are pretty spiffing, obvs.
The title? This was going to be a late goodbye, an over and out. But maybe just over for now