Taking it from the Top: Day 1 starts at Lafite

by Chuck Hayward

Taking it from the Top: Day 1 Starts at Lafite

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 5th, 2011

On Monday Team JJB dove head first into in EP 2010. Racing up and down the D2, the main drag which runs the length of the Left Bank, gravel flew as our caravan tore in and out of parking lots. Like a Brooks Brothers-clad A-Team, we jumped out of vans, sprinted across impeccably manicured lawns, took steps two at a time in our suits and ties to make our appointments.

Latour vista

With a radically different itinerary from last year, our first intensive look at the vintage was through the prism of the Premier Grand Crus, the First Growths of the upper Medoc. The "Big Five", as they are often referred to, generally attract the most attention each year and it's not often one gets the chance to taste these wines, either from the barrel or from the bottle. So smoothing hair and straightening jackets, we entered the quiet salon at our first stop, Chateau Lafite. Then we dashed over the hill and south to Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, followed by Chateau Latour, and on to Chateau Margaux. Visits to Cos d'Estournel, Palmer, and Leoville-Las Cases were also on the packed Day One itinerary, as well as a tasting of 2007 and 2008 Bordeaux at the warehouse of a top negoce. Before the sun hit the horizon, it was already a full day.

As might be expected, conversation among the team revolved around the favorites of the four Big Chateaux visited that day (Haut Brion would come on Tuesday). Our conversation turned to debate as pros and cons were analyzed. What was surprising is that while the JJB staff had broad agreement on the best of the 2009's from these properties, there was less uniform opinion about the most preferred '10s. While it was only one taste, (a more complete assessment with our notes will come following additional tastings of these wines), most of us put the pure, powerful and concentrated Latour at the top of the heap, followed by an intense and elegant Margaux. Mouton caused much debate but the overall impression was positive while the Lafite had more detractors than proponents.

What we all agreed upon, however, was that many wines from 2010 are at different points in their evolution. Some wines are complete and ready to go. Others are disjointed thanks to a later harvest, and many had just finished malolactic fermentation, making it difficult to render an accurate assessment. A number of winemakers we spoke with wished en primeurs would be held a few months down the road, in the belief the wines would show better.

To really make any statement about the 2010's at this point, the wines need be tasted again. And again. We'll revisit these and as many wines as possible this week, ensuring notes for our forthcoming 2010 Bordeaux Report are spot on. Cheers!

Footage of our tasting at Chateau Lafite!