JJ Buckley Takes On 2010 En Primeurs

by Chuck Hayward

JJ Buckley Takes On 2010 En Primeurs

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 4th, 2011

The JJB Team Infiltrates Pavie

With the entire JJ Buckley team finally assembled in Bordeaux, we’ve begun our first forays into discerning the potential of the 2010 harvest. We came to Bordeaux to make our own assessments, but without blindfolds and earplugs...  it's hard to look at the new vintage without being affected by early coverage from the front. Whether it is journalists who got the first peek at the harvest or the negociants and the winemakers themselves, opinions are already floating around. Early reports have focused on three aspects of the vintage: the elegant profile and high-toned nature of the fruit, the amount of tannin in the wines and the alcohol levels.

Yet if there is one word that can describe our tastings so far, it would be “surprising.” It's only been one day and the JJ Buckley team has recorded a little less than 100 wines in our notebooks. While that might not be much in the bigger scheme of things, there are definitely a few conclusions that can be drawn, and I feel confident that these observations will hold true as we taste more.

1. Clearly an excellent vintage the 2010s will be worthy of any Bordeaux enthusiast’s attention. The quality of the harvest is clear to see across all appellations, though the differences between the Left and Right Banks are noticeable and will provide fodder for endless debate in the near future.

2. Alcohol levels will also be a topic of debate by the industry, once again. However, the wines tasted so far have shown a polished elegance that leads to a sense of refinement. The wines of the Medoc seem to be firm and structured with compact midpalates and firm tannins, and those of St. Emilion and Pomerol have rich, mouthcoating textures similar to 2009. But the overall impression is that the wines are not as ripe or as extracted as last year's.

3. Lastly, many have commented on the tannins of the 2010 vintage. So far, the wines of the Right Bank have silkier tannins than the 2009s. Winemakers noted that the hot weather before the harvest in '09 stressed the vines, resulting in tougher tannins. Thanks to the moderate growing conditions in 2010 and a small dose of rain in September, the vines were healthy and happy before harvest. The end result is firm tannins that are readily apparent but still offer finesse.

As I put this blog post to bed, we're preparing for tomorrow's mission to taste most of the First Growths. We hope to get a good sense of the tannins in the Left Bank by the end of the day. Wish us luck and keep checking back for more updates!