Join the great 2009 / 2010 debate

Join the great 2009 / 2010 debate

Tuesday 12th April 2011
by Tom Jenkins

Call us sceptics, but we left for Bordeaux confident that 2009 was the greatest vintage we have ever tasted from barrel, and sure that 2010 would not live up to its distinguished predecessor. 

After a week of at times gruelling tastings, it is clear the 2010 rivals and could even surpass 2009. This is perplexing to say the least. 2009 enjoyed a near perfect growing season, 2010 did not. Poor flowering dramatically reduced yields; there was no talk of green harvests this year... In fact this was a bit of good fortune as the vines could not have coped through one of the most severe droughts in living memory with a full crop. This is a vintage characterised by a shortage of water, lots of sunshine and little extreme heat.

It wasn’t until the harvest started in perfect conditions that vignerons realised what potential the 2010s possessed. Analysis revealed that the tiny berries were super-concentrated, have huge tannin levels, wonderful acidity and big potential alcohols. One member of the team called the wines Neo-Classical; i.e. they are classically balanced but in an altogether new, bigger style. You could argue that they are Post Neo-Classical as vintages such as 2000 and 2005 are Neo-Classical and 2010 offers something altogether different. These are immense wines from top to bottom. In fact we were impressed by the consistency and quality of many petit chateaux. Words such as ‘monumental’ and ‘aristocratic’ have been used to describe the 2010s. They don’t possess the flamboyant character of the 2009s; they are at times reserved and brooding, but always powerful, intense, balanced and will no doubt last for many years. 

In truth, it is impossible to favour one vintage; both are exceptional. Opinions are divided now and they will continue to be split for the next thirty or more years as these wines evolve. We stand by our comments last year – 2009 was and still is exceptional; at the time the greatest primeur tastings in living memory. We didn’t have the benefit of foresight... Now that we have tasted the 2010s there could be a new contender, but only time will tell. Much as the `28s and `29s have and continue to arouse discourse, the `09s and `10s have started a new debate.