Bordeaux 2010: tasting notes in the raw

2010 = 1986/1996/2005? 2009 = 1982/1990/1989?

Chateau Ausone in 2010: particularly imposing

Such are the broad brush parallels drawn by some in Bordeaux, but who knows? I have had a few days to think about Bordeaux 2010, and I admit to feeling overwhelmed by yet another vintage where some critics bestow so many near 100 point scores for… barrel samples. From what I have read, three perfect scores from James Suckling already. How can a barrel sample be perfect? It is just not my thing.

And yet 2010 is a very fine vintage. Not nearly as immediately appealing as 2009, mind you. But with much tannin, alcohol, fruit and acidity. The structure does take center stage very often, as in 1986, but there is also in some cases warmth – sometimes alcoholic warmth – that makes the wine less austere than the 1986. Generally, I found 2010 to be more favorable to the Left Bank, as Merlot reached alcohol levels that border on the absurd. One can talk about “balance”, but what you get is New World style wine, in some cases. The saving grace was acidity, which was often higher in 2010 than in 2009, so we have some situations where 2010 is indeed better than 2009 (at a comparable barrel sample time). Even on the Right Bank, with superb efforts from Vieux Chateau Certan, Petrus, and La Fleur Petrus. And some Left Bank wines seemed more precise and a bit fresher in 2010, such as Pontet Canet and Haut Bailly. But I generally prefer 2009, especially on the Left Bank. Take Calon Segur. Last year, it was the epitome of seduction, with a firm St Estephe spinal column. In 2010, I got more the spinal column. Same goes for Margaux. For Mouton. For Leoville Las Cases. For Pichon Baron. For Grand Puy Lacoste. Well, you get the picture. In other – rare – comparisons, both vintages are of equal merit, but convey different and equally brilliant styles (Lafite in 2009 is more seductive, but more precise in 2010, for example – in both vintages, it rules).

TASTING NOTES BELOW

 

By and large, I think 2009 offers higher peaks than 2010. Some of this could be explained by the high tannins in 2010, so present. The wines will taste better in the longer run, but will not be as seductive as the 2009s. Or you have cases in 2010 where the extraction was over done, given high alcohol levels. Whatever the case may be, long time Bordeaux seller Bill Blatch said that the 2010s were comparatively ‘difficult’ to taste, because there was so much of everything, especially tannin and alcohol. I can understand that comment.

As critics sing their praises of 2010, and prices are expected to at least stay the same as in 2009, all I can say is that you may want to look at interesting back vintages that are maturing sooner and may be less expensive. Or, adopt the French adage: grande annee, petit vin; petite annee, grand vin… Seek out mid range Bordeaux in 2010, to get good quality at a decent price.

Below quick links to each AOC that I covered. Chateau owners, please take note: I taste as carefully as I can. Do not take my remarks personally. They reflect my humble opinion on a barrel sample. This is hardly the time to make mighty pronouncements… for that very reason my scores rarely go beyond 95. In the grand scheme of things, I was slightly  less excited tasting the 2010s than I was tasting the 2009s, but gems are to be found in this unique vintage. Read on.

Left Bank

Graves/Pessac LeognanHaut Medoc/Listrac/Medoc/MoulisMargauxPauillacSt. JulienSt. EstepheSauternes

Right Bank

Assorted Libournais and Bordeaux AOC (Cotes de Castillon, Fronsac, Lussac, and more)Lalande de PomerolPomerolSt Emilion

Wines I liked particularly are in bold. Wines I liked even more in red and bold. Revelations are underlined as well

Tasted blind at Dauzac, in Labarde on Thursday April 7

1-9 are Moulis, Listrac, Medoc

  1. Fresh and frank nose. The palate is crisp. Good fruit. Medium body. Juicy and fine. Unpretentious and tasty. 89-91+ (La Tour de By)
  2. Slightly deeper fruit aspect here on the nose. There is a certain tannic dureté but also fruit, seeming to battle out at this prenatal stage. Let’s see how it goes after the barrel aging. 88-90 (Greysac)
  3. Fine depth on the nose. The palate is rich, yet disciplined, with good tannic grain. Fine. 89-91 (Fourcas Hosten)
  4. Warmer nose of dark fruit, a bit diffuse. The palate has good sap, not severe, if just a bit metallic here. Sample issue? I can tell this is overall fine, however. 89-90+ (Fourcas Dupré)
  5. Deeper and some oak derivation on the nose. Good sap on the palate. Rich. Tannins are present. Time in barrel, as it seems there is much fruit and richness to match. Fine if somewhat thick. Another style. 89-91+ (Fonréaud)
  6. Juicy, ripe nose. Licorice and black fruit. Bright, yet tannic. Good sap albeit with some tannins hitting the back palate, but overall nice job. 89-91+ (Clarke)
  7. A bit of black currant and chipper fruit, some rose stem. The palate displays medium volume, some juice and fruit, but also tannic egdiness. Medium range flavor and intensity but very much in finesse. 90-92 (Poujeaux)
  8. Lovely deep aroma of dark fruit. The palate is more suave here on the attack and more intense, with increased juiciness and concentration, but not thick in any way. Ripe and rather smooth tannin, the type that should develop nicely in barrel. Excellent. 91-93 (Chasse-Spleen)
  9. The nose is just a tad more muted than the above but fine sap on the palate here, lip smacking and quite refreshing, the acidity and the tannin work well together and there is good richness and red and black fruit. Also very fine here. Very fine! 90-92+ (Maucaillou)

Margaux

Tasted at Château Margaux on 7 April

Pavillon Rouge. A very successful second wine, partly because of greater selection. About 2/3 Cabernet, with 30% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Very fresh aromas, red fruit; the palate is croquant, again red fruit, but a serious structure underneath. A repeat performance of last year. Lovely. 92-93+

Château Margaux. Alcohol slightly higher, at 13.5 from 13.2 in 2009, and .10 less pH, from 3.75 in 2009 to 3.65 in 2010. The aromas are classy, spring flowers and – again – red fruit. The attack is serious, with a finely grained tannin to be expected, and a mid palate that comes in layers, but I cannot help but notice the structure. This is a very structured wine, and perhaps just a bit too much. Could it be just too early to taste? I certainly liked the 2009 more. Will need time in barrel to come together for certain. 93-94+

Tasted at Château Palmer on 7 April

Alter Ego. Good fruit, red. Seems less voluptuous than last year but also more focused and with more tension, good tension. Mark Golodetz remarked that it will be a very long lived wine. Duroux said that the structure is more evident. In any case, a fine success for Alter Ego. 91-93

 

My favorite Margaux barrel sample overall in 2010

Château Palmer. Alcohol is 14.5! Higher than last year. But pH is lower, from 3.7 in 2009 to 3.55 in 2010. There is a very pure expression of violet, floral, on the nose, the attack is exciting, with even bracing acidity but excellent sap. I cannot detect the varietal nature – 54% Merlot being the highest since 1998, when Palmer contained 55%. A very successful Palmer. Although I recall being more impressed with the 2009. 93-95+

Margaux wines tasted blind at Château Dauzac on 7 April

  1. This is actually number 10 at the tasting… Nice floral nose with mint. The palate is also promising, a tad tight but to be expected en primeur. Medium weight but elegant. This shows finesse and freshness, and while not a blockbuster, it charms you. (Ferrière) 89-91+
  2. No. 11… (etc) Candied plum aroma. Red fruit and even apple. Firm attack, even brisk, with fine corpulence on the mid palate, some chocolate, and the finish lingers, good tannins. Excellent – fine freshness. (Rauzan Gassies) 90-92+
  3. No. 12 Nutmeg and biscuit like nose, almost sweet but refined. Cohesive palate, mid bodied but present with fine tannins, a bit of tonic and just slightly dry but too much, overall a pleasing experience if somewhat simple. (Siran) 89-92
  4. No. 13. Gingerbread on the nose. Some oak derivation? The palate shows freshness however. There is a pleasing floral aspect although drying on the mid palate. The finish is better. Wait and see. (Dufort Vivens) 89-91
  5. No. 14. Deep and rich aroma, black fruit, but not Pomerol ;-) . Actually some violet aromas, attractive. Fresh and finesse on the palate, tannic grain, present but very good integration potential. Juice and tannin, seems just a tad disjointed today. (Malescot St Exupery) 90-92
  6. No. 15. Very mineral, even a bit goudron. Dark fruit, very ripe, the palate is also rich yet a tad wound up and then a finish that is not hard, but tannic. Barrel aging should adjust matters nicely, because the tannins are ripe overall and there is freshness. Serious wine. (Brane Cantenac) 90-92+
  7. No 16. Rich cherry aroma. palate is rich, yet suave. Fine tonicity and full-bodied feel, if also rather tannic, somewhat stolid at this prenatal stage but much potential: very successful here. (Rauzan Segla) 91-93
  8. No 17. Mentholated cherry? The palate is a bit tight, with noticeable tannin and acidity, but also a juicy aspect. The tannic grain is fine. Give it time. (Kirwan) 89-91+
  9. No 18. Floral aspect, rose stem? The palate is juicy but a tad strict, with a slight, although there is a chocolate like sweetness, ever so subtle. Finesse. (Desmirail) 90-92
  10. No. 19. Dark color. An almost wild litchi like fruit underpins the expected cassis and also floral aspects. Fine nose indeed. The palate is quite full bodied yet tonic. Very robust Margaux and I like it… (Angludet) 90-93
  11. No 20. Deeper more subtle nose here, well integrated oak even though it is presest – or at least the aromatic aspect is not obtrusive but cohesive. Somewhat minty. The palate is a bit more oak derived, more vanilla and toast. Somewhat drying. Lascombes? (Cantenac Brown) 88-90
  12. No 21. Very nice, deep nose. Grassy with black licorice. The palate displays excellent sap – or is that just because I had a bit of bread? These are the types of questions one must pose at blind tastings nonetheless. But I digress. A sip of water and aller-hop let’s go again. The palate is indeed rich and broad, with some spice, a bit broad and not as elegant but certainly delicious potential. Could this be Malescot? (Labégorce) 90-92+
  13. No. 22. Lovely nose here, more fresh and floral. Fresher than the above. The palate is floral, elegant, already finely balanced and barrel aging fills it out a bit, should be a fine success. (Dauzac) 90-93
  14. No 23. Very deep nose, with seductive spice. Dark flowers and fruits. The palate is a bit tight but there is much substance and matiere. I like this overall as a more St Julien style Margaux. Plenty of body. 90-93 (Du Tertre)
  15. No 24. Did I detect at first some stem on the nose? With time in glass, more rose stem like. There is juiciness in the palate, which is medium bodied and refreshing. Fine. 89-91+ (Monbrison)
  16. No 25. A thicker nose of dark fruit but with floral overtones. Rich and broad yet tannic… Can a nose be tannic? The palate is savory with good juice. There is potential elegance but for now, more robust than elegant – and very nicely made. Here is a case of a nose being tighter than… the palate. Lots going on. (Giscours) 91-93+
  17. No 26. Deep dark blackcherry here. The palate is rich and robust, well integrated tannin and acid and fruit. Cohesive if broader than some of the others here, although some oak derivation. Moderate flavor intensity and medium length. (Prieuré Lichine) 89-92
  18. Lovely initial nose, floral, white flowers. Some sweetness. The palate is rich and again marked by floral aspects, although there is a tannic edginess. Not hard but present… The overall impression is of a wine that is somewhat modest but very pleasing! 90-92+ (Marquis de Terme)
  19. No 28. Rich nose, some vanilla? There is a very fine sap here! I like the overall feel, refreshing yet juicy, and tonic, if somewhat weighted down by some oak derivation. Something not quite Margaux about this, but if you seek a rather full bodied wine based on Cabernet, this is your ticket to ride… 89-93 – depending on your stylistic preferences. (Lascombes).

Pauillac

Pontet Canet. Tasted at the château on 8 April. Lovely aroma of deep and dark fruit, which is more evident on the nose than the Calon Segur tasted earlier that morning. The palate is again very structured but there is much sap as well, although the tannins are very present. An ‘honest’ reflection of the vintage. Much potential here – and could it be a tad fresher than the 2009? 92-94

Mouton Rothschild Tasted at the château on 8 April. Aromas are subtle: they build up to cassis and cocoa, but more mineral than fruit. The palate attacks slowly, with an initially more medium than full body, but with time develops into a Mouton style that resembled the more streamlined and tannic vintages of 1996 and 1986. A layered texture that one would expect from a first growth. Refined and even a tad understated at this very early stage. 92-95

 Pichon Baron Here we have a far more masculine wine when compared to the Comtesse, more similar to the Pontet Canet but perhaps slightly smoother, with tannins that are just a bit less intense and noticeable. There is refinement but one notices far more the power, a bit like Latour. An impressive wine. Jean Rene Matignon opened a Pichon Baron 2009, and it proved more appealing to me, at least because it added an extra dimension of opulence that is lacking in the 2010. 92-94+

 

Charles Chevalier should be proud of his Lafite 2010: peerless precision and elegance

Lafite Rothschild A very pure aroma here that for once sees a 2010 surpassing a 2009, or at least matching it. Certainly more linear than last year, arguably more precise and fresher, it may lack some of the richness from the 2009, but makes up for that with a very long and pure finish that is also rich enough. Excellence. 94-96

Tasted blind at Chateau Le Pez on 8 April

  1. Subtle nose of cassis. Rather dark fruit but not obvious. Quite thick the legs. Frank attack, with grainy tannin but smooth grain. Mid palate has medium intensity, soft fruit, finish is soft, but there is an underlying tannic presence that is ripe and constructive. Fine and smooth. (d’Armailhac) 90-92+
  2. Soft licorice like aroma. Not as thick legs. The palate is rich, juicy, a tad more concentration than the above, more intensity. With tannins made present on the finish, but not hard. Soft grain. Some warmth felt on the finish. (Pichon Comtesse) 91-93+
  3. Very ripe red and black fruit on the nose. Glycerine attack, sap. Richness on the mid palate and the finish retains a real juiciness, freshness even though there is noticeable richness and tannin. Fine! (Clerc Milon) 91-93+
  4. Big legs. The palate is rather espresso like but very smooth espresso, torrefié. There is some fine concentration, with dark fruit and much ripe tannin. (Grand Puy Lacoste) 90-92
  5. Lovely red fruit basket aroma, with some citrus aspects and hint of cassis plant? The attack is frank. Just a bit of drying tannin on the mid palate. Medium bodied. Finish is persistant and fresh however, good sign. (Lynch Bages) 90-92
  6. Ripe cassis aroma, hint of coffee and licorice. Moderate intensity on the nose. Moderate glycerine. Dark color. The palate is rich and ripe, tannins a bit too grainy. The palate has freshness and richness, nicely balanced, if I am still left with a slight heaviness. But nicely made overall. (Grand Puy Ducasse) 90-92
  7. Not as dark color. The nose is also less heavy, with mineral (tobacco!) aspect combined with ripe red and black fruit, some plum, too. Merlot like but still Pauillac. Good sap on the mid palate, fine juice! And the finish is also fresh and voluminous. Nice job! (Lynch Moussas) 91-93+
  8. Fine nose, fruit filled. Red apple and plum and blackberry. Edgier tannins here, reminding me of an apple in some ways… Much substance, full bodied palate, tonic. Not really drying but slightly hard, perhaps, like biting into a just picked apple. Noticeable Pauillac character and I like that! (Batailley) 91-93+
  9. Cassis liqueur on the nose. Big legs and black. The attack is rich and flavorful, followed through on the mid palate, which has some torrefaction. The finish is marked by noticeable dry tannin however. (Croizet Bages) 89-91
  10. Cassis and blackberry. Legs. Brisker attack, a tad more steely than the above. Dry yet also tonic on the mid palate to the finish, a bit more freshness. I like this more. (Haut Bages Liberal) 90-92

St Julien

 

A fine LLC in 2010, no surprise here.

Leoville Las Cases. Tasted at the château on 8 April. Dark fruit aromas, echoed in a rich and flavorful palate that manages to seduce more than most 2010s but is also marked by much structure. It is not as attractive as the 2009 was last year, but one senses the fine quality of the tannin and the balanced nature. Long finish. Alcohol and acidity levels similar to last year (13.7 as opposed to 13.8 alcohol and 3.44 acidity as opposed to 3.41 last year). 93-95

Tasted blind at Le Pez on 8 April

  1. Rather dark color. Lovely nose, perfumed. Fruit. Look at the legs after swirling. The attack is rather powerful and flavor filled, mid palate is rich, finish is very tannic. Something wild about this. Lots going on here, I like it! (Langoa Barton) 91-93
  2. Lighter color, red fruit nose. Fresh, even a bit floral. Candied palate, brisk attack, with a fluid mid palate, the overall feel is somewhat ethereal and yet persistant. Barrel aging will fill this out into something nice. I like the perfume of this wine. Refinement. (Branaire Ducru) 91-93+
  3. Even lighter in color. Hey, I can see my finger! Floral aspects on the nose. White flower. Good sap on the attack, mid palate is rich yet cohesive, tannins slightly grainy, but fine freshness, somewhat tonic on the finish. Fine. (Beychevelle) 90-92+
  4. Blackberry and dark cherry nose. Darker. Needs swirling. Very rich nose. Rather foreboding. There is a dark and very tannic aspect. Brooding can one say? Very rich and powerful but … brooding. (Leoville Barton) 91-94
  5. Forest strawberry nose. Licorice. The attack is very smooth, ripe somewhat jammy fruit. Pleasing overall, with lingering finish, if not nearly as substantial as the above. (Saint Pierre) 90-93
  6. This has a forest floor freshness on the initial nose. Mint. Attack is brisk, with ripe tannins and full bodied on the mid palate, fine mineral too. Lingering finish. Excellent! (Talbot) 91-94
  7. Sweeter nose, almost gingerbread. Oak derivation? Just a tad but then there is fine plum and cherry fruit on the mid palate. Long finish. (Gruaud Larose) 91-93
  8. Rather red color, red fruit nose. Good sap, excellent in fact, noticed on the initial attack and spreads out on the mid palate. Tannins are noticeable but – again – the juice wins the day. Nice job (Leoville Poyferre) 92-94
  9. Refined cherry nose. The palate is corpulent but not overly rich. Cohesive. Finesse yet structure and richness, too. Fine. (Lagrange) 90-92+
  10. Very red cherry but ripe. Fine menthol freshness on the nose! Smooth, full bodied mid palate, sap, then a tannic edge on the finish but not drying. Good tonic finish in fact. (Gloria) 91-93

St. Estephe

8 April – at Château Calon Segur

Calon Segur, a wine with heart, but perhaps not as much passion as in 2009

At Calon Segur. About 86% Cabernet, 12% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. Nose not immediately flattering like last year but subtle, the attack is frank and refined, with a full bodied aspect and smooth texture. 100% new oak but well integrated, although I wonder if it was better matched last year by the fruit? Just a bit more alcohol this year (13.7 as opposed to 13.5, but acidity a bit higher, too). Much structure to be noticed, but not stiff. Still, very St Estephe in nature, perhaps not to be enjoyed before 2020+? 90-93

Tasted blind at Le Pez on 8 April

  1. Smooth nose. Hint of vanilla. Some cassis plant? Glycerine on the glass. The palate is fresh and juicy, no hard edges here. Fine sap, I really like this one. It has warmth but not over the top. (Lafon Rochet) 90-93
  2. Deeper and darker color. Even more legs. A rich if slightly extracted aspect, but savory. Not really my style but nicely made. (Les Ormes de Pez) 90-91+
  3. Nose is not as present here. There is depth, but also somewhat grainy tannin. I like the sap and the fruit however, rich without being heavy. Nice! (Phelan Segur) 90-92+
  4. Red fruit aroma, some oak derivation, but polished enough. Palate is tonic, not drying but- perhaps just a tad on the finish. I notice the tannin more than the fruit but there is lots going on in the mid palate. (Cos Labory) 89-91
  5. Fine nose, pure and even brisk. Here we have excellent substance with balance among tanin, acidity and fruit. There is volume but expressed agreably, with richness pleasing the palate. Nice tonic and yet rich and sap filled on the finish. (de Pez) 91-93

Pessac Leognan – Graves

9 April – Tasting at Domaine de Chevalier

I was invited by Owner Olivier Bernard to taste his wines, and it is always a pleasure to visit Domaine de Chevalier, one of my favorite Graves. The nose for the Domaine de Chevalier red was more subtle than at the blind tasting during the week, with cassis and mineral. The palate is broad – with 14% alcohol – yet also linear and tannic, as experienced blind. Far more cohesive here than my experience blind – see below – I can understand why Olivier thinks his 2010 is the best red he has ever made, combining breadth and length. But I feel like the 2009 had just as much precision last year, plus an added opulence that made it particularly special. Let’s wait and see how it pans out over time, but very nice job as usual by Olivier and his team. 92-93+. The Domaine de Chevalier white straddles richness (14.5 alcohol!) and nervous excitement (2.88 pH, which is the lowest reading that Olivier can recall). I could see why some may at first think the white is fat, but it actually has such bracing acidity that the balance works – and I suspect that 2010 will be exciting from bottle. Blind tasting confirmed, and then some. 92-94+

5 April – Blind tasting of many reds and whites: the dry whites are lovely in 2010, no hesitation required. But so are many reds.  

Reds

  1. Nice nose. Deep. There is a robust aspect to this wine. Finesse on the palate. I like the dark chocolate, if a touch of heat. 89-91 (Chantegrive)
  2. Vegetal aroma. The palate is better, there is freshness and red fruit… Not bad, but the aroma is a bit troubling. Note reserved. (Ferrande)
  3. Milk chocolate nose. There is a certain oak derived aspect; slightly hard tannin. 88-90 (Raoul)
  4. Nice fruit and floral aromatics here. There is grace on the palate with fine texture. An alluring wine. 90-92 (Bouscaut)
  5. Just as impressive, showing all the elements: dark fruit, some toast from the oak but not too much, and a palate that is fresh and smooth in texture, notes of black olive are fine. A bit of a tannic edge that is appealing. 90-92+ (Carbonnieux)
  6. We have richness here on the nose, modern richness. I sense oak extraction, some heat. And see the glycerine along the sides of the glass! The palate is a tad drying, but there is substance. Not sure about this one: different strokes? 88-91? (de Fieuzal)
  7. Good licorice minerality with ripe red fruit. The palate is rich and not thick, although it lacks the wow factor of 4-5, just a bit of hard tannin on the finish detracts. 89-90 (de France)
  8. Wow a very aromatic nose from a black and red fruit basket. The palate is creamy and yet also backed up by firm and fine tannin. There is a wound up feel, a firm finish, with a bit of teeth staining tannin, but excellent potential. 92-94+ (Haut Bailly)
  9. Black ink color like the 6. Black licorice and dark fruit. Rich nose, richer than the above. A very rich palate with, again, firm and bracing tannins. The teeth are hit here too: rather foreboding but impressive. 90-93 (Haut Bergey)  
  10. Good sap here, but bracing tannin, again. Is there just a note of green on the nose? There is a drying aspect on the finish. Not sure about this one. 89-91 (La Louviere)
  11. Pleasing nose of cherry liqueur and blackberry, with rose stem. The palate follows up with a liqueur aspect… The alcohol is showing through here. But I like the richness and a good texture on the mid palate, with some freshness. It seems like the components are battling one another but promising. 90-92+ (Larrivet Haut Brion)
  12. Fine floral elements on the nose. The palate is a tad closed in, the tannin showing more than anything else, but there is dark fruit and dark chocolate and time in barrel will soften this. There is good sap, and texture. 90-92+ (LaTour Martillac)
  13. Nose of chocolate and toast, from barrel. A tannic richness, suave as well, with sap in evidence. Choppy aspect on the finish, however, with some ferocity from the tannins – I feel the gums… but promising, even exciting for the future. 91-93 (Les Carmes Haut Brion)
  14. First sample was off. Second is better. Floral aromatics here. I am getting the rose stems again. The palate is full yet focused. Serious wine here. 91-93 (Malartic Lagraviere)
  15. Red fruit nose, red licorice. The palate is tight, with acidity showing more here than richness. Almost contrary to the general trend. I also feel the alcohol, and the components are rather disjointed. No note. (Olivier)
  16. Here a very opulent nose, and somewhat thickly laid out with oak derived aromas. The palate is full and rich, slightly drying? There is a modern aspect to this wine that I like less on the finish, but the mid palate really impresses, with lots of oomph! 89-93, depending on your stylistic preferences! (Pape Clement)
  17. Is there a bit of vegetal on the nose? The palate is rich however, there is substance here! I like the sample more and more as it sits in glass. I like the presence on the palate, with decent sap and much presence. Perhaps a tad drying on the finish? But let’s see what the barrel aging does. 89-92+ (Picque Caillou)
  18. Lovely all around here. This wine shows a very subtle aromatic profile. Floral and fruit, with nicely integrated oak, the elements are cohesive. The palate shows finely grained tannins. The finish is subtle yet long. Superb. 92-94+ (Smith Haut Lafitte)
  19. Here a less exciting nose, with more disjointed elements, including oak derivation, but there is bright fruit, too! If the palate is a bit more harsh, with intense tannin, it is still present and vibrant. I like this sample, too, for its energy. 90-92+ (Domaine de Chevalier)

Whites – here we jump up a notch. To repeat: the dry whites are very nice in 2010!

  1. Cloudy aspect. Creamy lime aspect on the nose. The palate has soft energy, with a modest richness, too. Medium, spearmint-like finish. I like this quite a bit even if it is not the most complex. 89-91+ (Chantegrive)
  2. Here we have more evident Sauvignon Blanc aromas. Not quite pipi de chat but in that direction. The palate is better, with freshness on the palate – not quite verve, but enjoyable and fruit driven. Nice job. 88-91 (Ferrande)
  3. More subtle nose here precedes a zesty palate. I like the acidity here. I like a certain creaminess that surpasses the first wine tasted. The dimension is deeper. Fine, even persistant, finish. 89-92 (Raoul)
  4. Slightly reduced aspect here on the nose precedes a fresh palate. I like once again the acidities. Here a noticeable step up on the palate. Very robust. Lasting finish. Fine. 90-92+ (perhaps higher, because of the closed aspect of the nose will go away)… (Bouscaut)
  5. Kiwi and lemon, with yellow apricot. The palate is brisk, yet suave. Not quite as interesting as 7, but in that direction. 90-93 (Carbonnieux)
  6. Mineral, almost charcoal, nose precedes a grapefruit/orange fruit driven palate. Somewhat thick however but still refreshing. 90-91+ (de Fieuzal)
  7. Gingerbread citrus? The palate is suave here. Another suave palate, creamy even, with key lime pie aspects and a soft if present finish. Nice! 90-93+ (de France)
  8. White peach with a hint of pear, especially on the palate. Ripe pear, like a juicy one in the summer. Fine balance. Mid palate is very juicy. Does it lack some complexity? Am I getting picky? Perhaps, because the overall feel is positive. 90-93 (Haut Bergey)
  9. More grapefruit in profile, somewhat tart citrus on the nose. The palate has more grapefruit. Red style grapefruit! A tad foursquare? But fresh and very entertaining. 90-92 (La Louviere)
  10. This has Clementine orange on the nose, with subtle floral aromatics. Endearing. The palate follows through with sap and juice, and depth! A wonderful white here, with mint on the finish. Impressive! 91-94+ (Larrivet Haut Brion)
  11. Somewhat similar to the above but more citrus like, less complex, although I sense a fine mineral feel, too. The palate displays evident verve, but it is perhaps less multidimensional or not as subtle. 90-92+ (LaTour Martillac)
  12. Subtle peppermint nose. The palate is suave. Smooth. There is ripe green apple here, too and iodine aspect which makes me think of the superb oysters we enjoyed at Smith Haut Lafitte the night before. A white wine based far more on minerality than the others. Perhaps Domaine de Chevalier, but there is a dollop of richness in the midst of minerals. Fine! 92-94 (Malartic Lagraviere)
  13. A bit of a letdown after 12. Still, once again, proof that the whites of 2010 kick ass! Here we have lime and lemon, brisk, a bit of oak derived tannin? Not sure but it does not matter as the palate is very brisk and refreshing. Nice job! 91-93 (Olivier)
  14. Wow, the first wine that is more sweet pineapple. The palate conveys a more evident sweet style of dry white but also has impressive body. Perhaps lacking the elegant mineral expressions found for example in 12. 90-93 (Pape Clement)
  15. Juicy fruit freshness yet also mineral elegance on the nose. The palate is very juicy with a hint of sweet but staying dry and with a beautiful note of clove. Very intriguing wine, and yet another reason why to love white Graves in 2010. 91-93+ (Picque Caillou) Especially good for price/quality ratio!
  16. Slightly darker than the 17 which were the last two wines served. Here we have a thicker nose, mineral, even a bit herbal. The palate is also richly laid out. Could I say sea shells on steroids? There is an oak influence here too. Much going on. Pape Clement? 90-93 (Smith Haut Lafitte)
  17. Subtle aromas here. More refined. Pepper and white apricot. Stone. The palate is rich, I can feel much richness but it is matched by good acidity. There is a thicker texture here and I suspect we need time to appreciate… Excellent potential! 91-94+ (Domaine de Chevalier)

 

Wines at Château Haut Brion

4 April 2011 – At Château Haut Brion

The morning began with Château Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion. You may recall that last year I was not a big fan of La Mission because it tasted overbearing and rather hard. I should have asked to retaste the 2009… Will do so soon! I liked the Haut Brion 2009 a lot. And so it goes again in 2010, although I found La Mission Haut Brion 2010 better this year, somehow a bit more balanced in spite of its 15.1% alcohol. You read right. Higher than last year and yet somehow better. A rich chocolate nose – almost like chewy brownies – preceded a robust palate with quite fine tannins. There was something weighty and somewhat hot about the palate but also good acidity – a pH of 3.67. The difference with 2009 could be explained in a much higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon this year: 62% CS with just 37% Merlot. And 1% Cabernet Franc. So I give this one a score of between 91-94 points. Let’s see how it evolves in bottle.

The Château Haut Brion 2010 on the other hand has a fresher nose, with even less Merlot (just 23%) compared to 57% CS and 20% CF. I think that the tannins are a tad edgier than in 2009, which was smoother, more silky, but there is just as much volume and elegance. Time in barrel will round it out of course and the fine Lindt milk chocolate notes will certainly be accompanied by other aromas and flavors. Promising! 93-95

The second wines were both good, and I think better than last year. The La Chappelle de La Mission Haut Brion 2010 displayed a fine ripe nose of plum although the palate is a tad hard. But the tannins are finely grained. I can feel just a bit of heat on the mid palate (14.8 alcohol) but it is full of good tannin… Give it time. 90-92

Le Clarence de Haut Brion 2010 meantime had a more floral nose, with more lift than the above. Finely grained tannins, too. More finesse but I could also feel some heat here too… Perhaps the 52% Merlot played a role? 14.4% alcohol. 90-92+

Whites

A very impressive showing for the whites of Domaine Clarence Dillon in 2010; good acidity matched the ripe rich nature. Le Clarté de Haut Brion 2010, the second white, at 13.8% alcohol, was tropical in outlook – American merchant David Sokolin called it a tropical flavor Lifesavor! I also got yellow peach, with a juicy mid palate, lots of richness but also finesse. Nice! 90-92+

Even better was the Château La Mission Haut Brion Blanc 2010, with excellent verve on the nose, with greater precision on the palate – exuding Kiwi, lime and minerality. A spearmint finish with a rich full bodied palate. 14.3% alcohol, 81% Semillon and 19% Sauvignon Blanc. It did not impress me as much as the 2007, but it is a very fine vintage. 92-94+

Finally, the Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 2010 pleased me perhaps most. Although the preceding wine may have more richness – possibly more potential depth, too? – the Haut Brion, with its 54% Sauvignon Blanc bringing more energy and freshness (still with 46% Semillon), handled the vintage very well, bringing forth grapefruit and lemon grass and smooth precision. Barrel aging will round it out and its sprightly nature will serve its longevity. 14.4% alcohol. 92-94+

 

With Veronique Sanders and Mark Wessels at Château Haut Bailly: brilliant in 2010

Château Haut Bailly 2010: Tasted at the estate before lunch there as well. There is potential magic in this wine, somehow managing to combine the brisk and fresh nature of the 2008, sampled again at this tasting, with the body and vigor of the 2009, also there to re-taste. Dare I say that this is my favorite Haut Bailly since their 2005? Dare I say that it could overshadow Haut Brion? One can detect a subtle tobacco note, or is this wishful Graves thinking? Very bright on the palate, with ripe tannins and tonicity, a smooth texture but with more energy perhaps than the 2009. Give it time in barrel and it may end up being quite magical indeed. A superb effort. 93-95+

Over 100 bottles to taste at Cercle Rive Droite tasting Sunday 3 April

Pomerol

Tasted at Moueix in Libourne (6 April)

At Moueix entre 13.8 and 14.3, we have a bit more acidity. No wines at 3 like last year, but 3.2 minimum and 3.5.

Magdaleine: nice floral aromatics here, mid richness, pronounced flavor here, a richer than usual Magdaleine. 90-92+

Belair Monange: more subtle nose, also floral with limestone freshness and plum. The palate is tighter than the above, acidity is present but so is the tannin. Needs time to settle in barrel. Good intensity, good finish, if a tad warm. 89-92

Pomerol

Plince: fine polish on the nose. The palate lacks concentration, rather fluid but the good news is that there is softness in a vintage already known for toughness to some extent. 87-88+

Lafleur Gazin: more elegance and focus here. The palate is a bit tight, not as soft as the above if perhaps a tad more focused. Good robust feel on the palate. 88-90

La Grave a Pomerol: lovely roses aroma, very floral. The palate is lovely. Fine sap. A very pretty wine. 90-92+

Bourgneuf: Nose is less fresh than the above, a bit more dark fruit and plant. The palate is pleasing, there is a certain bracing quality, good tonic aspect, and a sweet Merlot feel but not as seamless as La Grave. 88-91

Latour a Pomerol: Freshness and underlying power here. Fruit is ripe and yet there is a subtle power. Just ripe enough? Al dente? Perhaps needed in this vintage of high alcohol. A bit tight on the finish. 89-92

Providence: richer nose, of course. I feel more heat on the palate, but not over the top, there is a finesse too, some tight tannin on the finish. 90-92+

Certan de May de Certan: Very floral profile. Fine depth, full bodied and again tonic. This seems more approachable than Latour a Pomerol. 91-93

 

Truly feminine and fine: La Fleur Petrus in 2010

La Fleur Petrus: Deep violet like profile. And some minty freshness on the nose, too. The palate is very suave, a beauty of a wine, with ripe fruit and floral aromatics and freshness, not too alcoholic or tannic; very balanced. Marvelous. 14.2. 93-95+

Hosanna: A more modern feel on the nose, The palate is not as nuanced as La Fleur Petrus, just a tad heavier. It is OK, mind you, but not extraordinary this year. 91-92+

Trotanoy: very deep aroma, mineral, stony. Iron power and yet svelte. A very fine wine, serious wine, with tannin, yes, but enough richness, and fruit. Perhaps more armored than normal? Very full bodied feel without being heavy. Impressive. This is masculine while La Fleur Petrus is feminine, which I prefer to drink sooner. But the Trotanoy may well be the longer lasting wine. 93-96

Petrus: Very impressive: a mighty wine. Much going for it, much substance and muscle without being over the top. I still think that no Petrus tasted – including the 2009 – has equalled the 2005, but this 2010 has a bit more freshness than the 2009, and I prefer it en primeur. 95-97

Tasted blind at La Dominique in St Emilion (6 April)

Wine 1. Rather fluid and light impression. No serious extraction here, playing on soft fruit and underlying tannin. The fruit is red not black, with some plum and strawberry, and I like subtle expressions but I wonder if it is too quiet?  90-92 (Gazin)

Wine 2. More expressive nose with firmer tannins, and more backbone but not as fine as the above. This will improve with softening barrel age, I feel. Nice ripe plum but also good acidity. Fine. 89-91+ (La Pointe)

Wine 3. A light fruit expression on the nose, with freshness and juice on the palate, which reassures. Just not as rich as I was hoping. 88-90 (Beauregard)

Wine 4. Dark cherry aspect here. Palate is juicier and riper. But the tannins resemble a high wall. They clamp down on the finish a bit hard… 88-90 (Petit Village)

Wine 5. Dark fruit aspect on the nose and nicely managed tannins on the palate. Good medium body if a bit edgy. Decent finish. Fine, if not too exciting either. 87-90 (La Cabanne)

Wine 6. Beautiful nose here, violets and spice. The palate is rich, the tannins are medium grained and present but not over the top, and the alcohol well balanced by good freshness. 90-93+(Clinet)

Wine 7. Another fine sample marked by freshness on the nose. Medium juicy on the mid palate, perhaps a bit understated, but the nose is refreshing. 90-92+ (La Croix de Gay)

Wine 8. Fine floral aromatics here. A big feel on the palate initially but then composes itself midway, with some tannin on the finish, finely grained actually. This is subtle and very good. 90-93 (La Conseillante)

Lovely château, superb wine in 2010!

Tasted on Monday 4 April at Château Vieux Château Certan with owner Alexandre Thienpont. Once again the old vine Cabernet Franc was not up to speed and the wine is – as in 2009 – dominated by Merlot (86%), but unlike 2009, I found greater freshness and more depth. The acidity is not especially high – with a pH of 3.7 and the alcohol is higher than in 2009, at 14.5 degrees as opposed to 13.7… but there is greater freshness. OK, the acidity is higher in 2010, at 3.30 grams per liter as opposed to 3.10 but somehow the wine really gels very well this vintage, more so than it did last year. There is something more complete about it, something symmetric. I like the texture and the finesse of the tannins, too, as well as a tonic finish. Not sure it will be as good as 2005 but certainly a Merlot style in the mold of 1998 or 2001. In any case, one of the finest wines I have tasted so far. 93-96

Tasted on Sunday 3 April at Château Barde Haut (Cercle Rive Droite wines)

  1. Nice and fresh nose. Hint of green? The palate is fresh, even floral. (Château Bellegrave) 90+
  2. Here we have damson and spice on the nose. Finesse on the palate, if a bit too sweet! Freshness and richness finely married was my first impression but there is a hint of makeup here. Nevertheless, this is finely made! (Domaine de l’Eglise) 90+
  3. Hint of green tobacco? The palate is also fresh here… I am very impressed with how the wines in Pomerol so far are the least heavy. (Château Vray Croix de Gay) 90+
  4. Here we have fruit that is not so dark…. Is it the same vintage? There is a good juiciness that appeals. I like this one, too! Good juiciness. (Château Mazeyres) 90+
  5. Oak derived notes. The palate however is not heavy handed. There is dark fruit but not thick. Another fine Pomerol… (Château Lécuyer) 90
  6. This is a serious nose. A hint of green? Overall, quite appealing with a fine palate, fine marriage between richness and acidity, I like this one, too. (Château Rouget) 90
  7. Here another nuanced nose. Chocolate and plum. Sparkle on the palate, which seems to take in the alcohol well, if just a tad monotone. (Château Vieux Maillet) 89
  8. A bit more oak derivation than usual but includes fruit and seems fine. Thicker (still, fruit driven) on the palate, and not quite as interesting as the above. (Château Bonalgue) 88+
  9. A bit harder on the nose, somewhat green? The palate however is more nuanced and fine. (Château Feytit-Clinet) 88
  10. This one is very nice with an almost biscuit like sweetness on the nose, but is the palate just a tad heavy and over sweet? It could use a bit more freshness, but let’s see what happens in the barrel. Fine. (Clos l’Eglise) 90+
  11. Fine ripe fruit driven nose here. Not black. The palate displays good tannin and pleasing texture. With barrel age, should get better. Fine. (Château Montviel) 90+
  12. Nose is not ostentatious. Plum aspect on the palate. Slightly dusty tannin but firm: seems to have good verve. Nice job. (Bon Pasteur) 91+
  13. Green aromas. Is there phenolic ripeness? The palate is OK, reflecting a somewhat underripe aspect. (Château Bourgneuf) 87
  14. Nose is somewhat modest. Rather nice balance, with sweetness and fruit but good balancing acidity. Rather nice. (Clos du Clocher) 88+
  15. A richer nose, with a more cohesive palate… balancing fruit and mineral. I do not notice the high alcohol as much here. NICE.  (Château Fayat) 90
  16. No 68
  17. Minty nose. Is there Cabernet Franc here? The palate is layered and tannic. I like the fruit on the palate that is not over the top. Fine tannic edge. Give it time in barrel, and one should have a fine wine. NICE! (Château Le Moulin) 90
  18. Fruitier here, although I was not sure about the sample. The palate is just a tad edgy. Perhaps I have been spoiled by a general richness in the vintage? (Château Beau Soleil) 88?
  19. Nice nose here. Floral and fruity. Fine palate too, with freshness. Hint of green? OK overall.  (Château Taillefeur) 89
  20. A bit more austere overall, albeit with some flowers on the nose. A slightly drying palate. Hard to understand… (Château La Fleur de Gay) 88
  21. Good sap on the nose. I like the overall palate feel, too. Not heavy, not oaky. But a bit of matchstick on the first sample. The second bottle opened upon request showed very nice juiciness. Fine. (Château La Clémence) 90

Lalande de Pomerol

Tasted Sunday 3 April, at Château Barde Haut, St Emilion (Cercle de Rive Droite wines)

Expansive tasting room at Château Barde Haut

  1. Fresh nose here. Nice finesse on the palate. I like this wine, there is freshness… Very promising for the appellation. NICE. (Château Grand Ormeau) 92
  2. Green freshness? I like the tonic aspect here on the palate. Good finish. Promising. NICE. (Château Perron La Fleur) 89
  3. A tad unripe? Then chocolate. The palate is cohesive, if a bit thick. There is a milk chocolate aspect on the palate that is again endearing, but then some acidity kicks in on the finish, leaving one with a disjointed feel. (Château de Viaud) 88+
  4. The nose is a tad austere. And the palate drying on the finish… (Château Jean de Gué) 86
  5. Nice mint aspect, if bordering on … green tobacco. Fine freshness on the palate, which shows good sap. This shows some promise. NICE. (Château La Sergue) 89
  6. Chlorophyll. Good freshness on the palate. I like this one. NICE. (Château de Chambrun) 90
  7. Sweeter, but also fresh. Another wine that is digest. But is it just a tad thin? A tad drying? Give it time in barrel. OK. (Château La Gravière) 86
  8. Here a bit of oak derivation but coupled with subtle fruit – and there is polish on the palate. A plum aspect that lingers. Fine. (Ambroisie du Château La Croix des Moines) 91
  9. Fine balance between integrated oak derived notes and plum. Good sap on the palate, rich without being thick and not much drying. NICE. (Château Siaurac) 92
  10. Nice spice on the nose. Endearing! The palate is good, some juicy aspects. There is a nice mix of fruit and spice. Very well made. NICE. (Château Tournefeuille) 92+

St Emilion

 

Tasting some fine Right Bankers on a sunny day 6 April at La Dominique (St Emilion)

Tasted at Château Angélus, Wednesday April 6

Château Daugay St Emilion (non blind): This is a revelation for me because it remains very affordable and offers much flavor and freshness. Bravo to Jean Bernard Grenié and his wife Helene for fashioning an excellent St Emilion at a nice price. Already, importers – like MacArthurs Beverages – are taking notice. 90-91+ The plus for the price/quality ratio…

Tasted blind at La Dominique, St Emilion, Wednesday April 6

Wine 1. Nose is marked by oak derivation. Palate has a refreshing aspect, ripe if firm plum, good juice, contained, cohesive. Fine, not drying, not overly intense or concentrated but fine. 89-91+ (La Couspaude)

Wine 2. A deeper nose, with some floral elements. Fine body here. Dark chocolate with fruit. Good tonic feel, if perhaps not as inviting as the previous wine. 89-91+ (Dassault)

Wine 3. Fine freshness on the nose, very floral. Red fruit basket. Mint. More open knit on the palate, but tannins make themselves present on the mid palate. A smooth overall feel with fine acidity. Harmonious. 91-93+ (Canon)

Wine 4. Noticeable glycerine. A more torrefié nose, coffee and oak derivation? Certainly thicker on the palate. Dark licorice, dark coffee bean. The texture is very tactile, the tannic grain larger here. There is some bit of drying but not too much so. Again, acidity is lifting this, but still a bit too modern pour mon goût. 89-91, but more points for big wine lovers! (Balestard La Tonnelle)

Wine 5. Rather dark color. Juicy nose. Palate has fine tonicity, if a bit drying on the edges of the palate? I like it overall though, but it could be a tad juicier. 88-90+ (La Tour Figeac)

Wine 6. Slightly underripe nose, but then there is a strawberry aspect that comes through too. The palate is svelte, there is fine palate presence, juice, but understated. The finish is a tad abrupt, and the tannins present but medium grained. Medium weight, with tannic feel. 89-91 (Trottevieille)

Wine 7. Deep and rich aromas of cherry and plum. Very high glycerine. Bordering on thick but good acidity balances that, nice texture. Mildly tonic. Some tannic edge on this wine, but refreshing as well. Nice job! I realise the beauty contest nature of these tastings, but I see this as quite nice. 91-93 (Larmande)

Wine 8. The nose is slightly vegetal. The attack is brisk on the palate, with red fruit, but then the tannins attack the gums here a bit. A bit hard, but there is juice, too. 88-90 (La Gaffeliere)

Wine 9. Sweet cherry nose. Red licorice. Suave attack, smooth mid palate, ripe black cherry, ripe tannin. Medium finish but lingering. Barrel aging should make this even better. Fine! 91-93 (Grand Mayne)

Wine 10. Black cherry and damson nose. Chipper attack, with substantial mid palate, some noticeable tannins but not hard, a bit of austerity but tonic, too. Perhaps could use more juiciness on the mid palate? Fine overall. 90-92 (Franc Mayne)

Wine 11. Oak derived toast/stave, the palate is however better, if not expressing its aromas fully. There is a slight drying on the finish. But a fine overall impression: give it time in barrel. 90-92 (Canon La Gaffeliere)

Wine 12. Very spicy aroma, clove. Clean nose here. Something pure about this. Good attack, forward, with that spice again but with darker fruit and good acidity. Juicy mid palate, noticeable tannin on the finish but not drying or hard. Fine. 91-93+ (Beau Sejour Becot)

Wine 13. Rather dark color. Ripe red apple and plum. The palate is rich, yet also fresh. Blackberry note. Purity of expression. Very nicely made. 91-93+ (Clos Fourtet)

Wine 14. Much darker color here. A bolder nose of ripe raspberry and blackberry. Almost New World in its aromatic volume. Indeed somewhat jammy on the palate, but thank goodness for the freshness – the acidity. There is something rather polished about this somewhat thickly laid out white that makes me like it almost as much as the previous wine but for different reasons. 90-93 (Cap de Mourlin)

Wine 15. Deep nose, again very rich. More oak derived but smooth vanilin. The palate is broad, rich, spreads out on the palate, perhaps the finish is slightly drying. I sense some alcohol here. Let’s see… 89-91 (Berliquet)

Wine 16. Deep dark blackberry. Ultra ripe plum. More juice compared to the above, I find this a superior sample. OK, there is some heady alcohol. More than just some? But I like this wine’s overall delivery. Some brisk nature, too, and … juicy. Seductive wine. 90-92+ (La Dominique)

Wine 17. Beautiful spring floral aspect on the nose. The palate is subtle, a bit sweet biscuit but then also noticeable tannin. Slightly tight finish. Give it time. Fine nose. 90-93 (Figeac)

Wine 18. Very deep aroma. Oak derivation. There is juiciness to the palate, too. A bit licorice like, somewhat drying. I reached for some bread. Will come back to it…(Pavie Macquin)

Wine 19. Clove spice again, deep and rich nose. The palate is once again tannic but there is a richness that is prevented from being jammy by the acidity. There is some strictness here, as with the others. I do not notice the alcohol as much as I was expecting to. 90-93 (Larcis Ducasse)

Wine 20. Cherry and plum aromas. Very nice focus here. A pretty wine, but with substance. Fine tannin and acidity, and medium richness. This makes a very positive impression! 92-95 (Troplong Mondot)

Groupement des premiers grands crus classés de St Emilion, tasted at Château Beau Séjour Bécot on 6 April 2011

  1. Very fine aroma, a polished palate, with red apple freshness, and ripe plum. Subtle on the palate. Fine integration of the oak. Lots of finesse, my style of wine. 91-93+ (Magdelaine)
  2. Darker wine. A more impenetrable nose. Thickly laid out but the acidity is balancing. A richer style, more tannic, with appealing spice as well. 90-93 (La Gaffeliere)
  3. Here the oak derivation is more evident. A little less integrated than either of the above, but shows breed. There is however a slightly extracted feel. 89-92 (Trottevieille)
  4. Menthol on the nose. Rather big feel on the palate, similar to the above but perhaps more sap? The tannins are medium grained but present. 91-93+ (Canon)
  5. Pine forest freshness here. Subtle. The attack is big but suave. Something seductive on the mid palate, with a red apple acidity and again very ripe plum and blackberry. Fine if not quite as smooth as wine 1. 91-93+ (Figeac)
  6. Some mineral on the nose, licorice, then the palate is broad if a tad diffuse. Fine freshness. 90-92+ (Bélair-Monange)
  7. Black look. Opaque. Very blackberry liqueur. A thicker nose, but impressive. The palate is also rich and broad. Flavorful! 91-93 (Beau Sejour Becot)
  8. Licorice. Black licorice. With plum and spice, some oak derivation. Another wine that plays more with power than finesse, at least on the mid palate, but then it shows freshness on the finish, a seeming mix of Cab Franc and Merlot? 91-93 (Angélus) Tasted again at the château with similar results.
  9. Fresh, deep nose, but rich, too. Very interesting. A tobacco aspect, with mint. Rich palate, but also juice. Long finish. Fine. 92-94+ (Pavie Macquin)
  10. Sweet plum nose. Some spice, some oak derivation. The palate is a tad tight on the attack but opens up on the mid palate, then widens out, although just a bit of oaky tannin on the gums. 90-92+ (Beausejour)
  11. Deep mint freshness. Suave. Fresh and rich at the same time. One of my preferences, but here again we have some big tannins. I did not like this as much when tasted in Germany, but on not one but two occasions, it was very fine blind. 92-94+ (Clos Fourtet)
  12. Oak derivation, but as it sits in glass, the sample opens up a bit, showing much substance. Still, not sure about this. 89-92? (Pavie). I got a better impression at the château however…
  13. Black licorice. Rich yet foreboding, dark fruit on the palate. There is some sweet juice here, that is appealing… much potential. Fine. 92-94 (Troplong Mondot)

Tasting at Château Ausone, Monday April 4

Chapelle d’Ausone 2010 is lovely! This wine has bright fruit, a superb integration of the alcohol – 14.5% – and an overall elegance that is among the best I have had on the Right Bank. Pity the price, but those who can afford it should do so without hesitation. It has a pH of 3.53, so not that much acidity, but enough to balance things out. And the 65% Merlot is not overdone in any way… Balanced out by 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 93-95 … Coup de coeur!

Château d’Ausone 2010 is out to impress. And for €1,000 per bottle it should… Anyway, the nose is beautiful: violet with some mint freshness but rich. The palate is thick and foreboding, wound up. I feel some extraction on the mid palate but it is overall a wine that will need time in barrel – and in bottle. According to vineyard manager Laurent Vallet, the alcohol and pH is similar to the second wine above. More Cabernet Franc, as expected – 55% – with the rest Merlot. For some reason, now, I much prefer the second wine. 93-96 (potential score indeed)

Tasting at Château Pavie, Sunday April 3

Château Pavie: meeting the challenges of the 2010 vintage

Château Pavie Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B. Clocking in at 14.5 percent alcohol, this wine showed its breed nonetheless, with floral aromas and a fresher profile when compared to some of the other wines of Gerard Perse. The palate was tannic and yet solid, if just a tad drying on the finish. But no over evident heat here. Nice job. 92-94+

Château Bellevue Mondotte Saint Emilion Grand Cru. With 14 percent alcohol, this wine displays a rather juicy nose and palate, and much substance on the mid palate before drying up a bit abruptly on the finish, but an improvement over the previous wines tasted by Mr. Perse today (see below). 90-93

Château Pavie Decesse St Emilion Grand Cru Classé. Its 14.5 alcohol shows too much, this wine seems over extracted and alcoholic, with drying tannins on the finish. Note reserved.

Château Monbousquet St Emilion Grand Cru Classé. Although showing a better nose than Clos Les Lunelles, with a real richness on the palate, a bit too drying on the palate and alcohol showing through. Still I like a certain mint freshness on the mid palate enough, perhaps coming from the 30% Cabernet Franc? 88-90+

Clos Les Lunelles Côtes de Bordeaux Castillon. Oak derived notes are obvious, with intense heat coming from the alcohol. Hot. No score given here.

Château Lusseau St Emilion Grand Cru. Not too bad, with some hearty fruit and body, but showing some alcoholic heat on the finish. 87-89

St Emilion – tasted on Sunday, April 3 at Château Barde Haut in St Emilion (Cercle Rive Droite wines)

Saint Emilion Grand Cru

85.    Fresh nose here, rather floral on the first sample, then a bit oaky on the second. There is too much oak on the palate here… even though the acidity is ok. Still, not my cup of tea. (Château Fombrauge) 88
86.    More nuanced than the above albeit still some oak. The palate is fresher however, there seems to be more life to this. Good freshness. (Château La Gomerie) 90
87.    A bit unripe on the nose? The palate seems just a tad hard. (Château Ferrand Lartigue) 87
88.    Similar to the above if riper. Tobacco leaves. Green. Palate is OK. (Clos la Madeleine) 88
89.    Chocolate cake like nose. An overall ripe aspect on the palate, fine! NICE. I like this wine… Had a good reaction to it last year too. Did I? (Château La Commanderie) 90+
90.    A bit of reduction. Not sure about the sample.
91.    Good freshness. Chocolate. Rich. Long finish. Fine! (Château Barde Haut) 92
92.    Candied nose. Very fine on the palate, with emphasis on fruit and flavor. Perhaps a bit too intense? Slightly drying? Gets benefit of the doubt. (Château Sansonnet) 90+
93.    Floral and fruit driven. Good substance on the palate, but is it a bit over the top? (Château Boutisse) 90
94.    Cola like nose and the palate is licorice like but too much alcohol showing through… (Château de Pressac) 88+

Wine by the numbers: blind tasting but at least knowing the region and the vintage!

109. Smooth nose, appealing fruit and spice albeit a bit of oak derivation. (Château Faugères) 88+
110. A bit burned on the nose. But the palate is OK because it is not heavy handed. Digest. (Château Trianon) 90+
111. Good nose here. Nice mix between spice and fruit. Texture is appealing on the palate. A bit hard on the finish, however! (Magrez Fombrauge) 89
112. More intense fragrance, with some oak derivation. There is a bit of oak as well on the palate. Not sure how this will develop: is there a dry out risk? (Château Croix de Labrie) 88
113. Another burning aspect. Matchstick. Ulrich Sautter is also close to my opinion when we talk about « brandig » wine… German for burning sensation. But the palate is perhaps better here than the nose would suggest. OK. (Château La Fleur d’Arthus) 87
114. Sweet fruit notions on the nose. Palate has alcohol in evidence but the fruit is also present. (Château Trimoulet) 88+
115. Here a bit fresher, although the palate is dry. Not sure about this one. (Château Grand Corbin Manuel) 87
116. Sweet indeed on the nose. The palate is intense and alcohol driven… Not sure about this one. (Château Rochebelle) 87
117. Sulphur on the nose. (Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac) Faulty sample.
118. Nice fruit. Fine. The palate is quite cohesive here. I think I liked this one last year too… (Sanctus du Château La Bienfaisance) 90+

122. Once again a bit of burning alcohol on the nose… (Château Destieux) No score.
123. Far more cohesive and interesting on the nose and on the palate. There is a certain heavy aspect but it is also balanced here. Nice straddling effort. (Château Grand Corbin Despagne) 90+
124. Another burnt aspect…. Not sure what to think of this, because the burnt alcohol aspect dominates. Hmmmm. (Château Bellefont Belcier) No score.
125. Fresher nose here! The palate exudes verve compared to the above. (Château Fonroque) 91+
126. Peppermint alcohol nose. The palate is over the top too. This should please some palates but not mine… A bit burning on the finish! (Château Fonplégade) 86
127. Here a nice nose of mint without the heaviness. Nice on the palate. Smooth and balanced. NICE! (Château Fleur Cardinale) 91
128. Esther aromas… not sure about this one. (Château La Marzelle) No score.
129. Broccoli… The palate is disjointed. And a bit drying. (Château Saint-Georges Côte Pavie) No score.
130. Even greener here. Green as a grasshopper. (Château Ripeau) ??
131. Ripe nose and palate. The palate has greater warmth than the above. But not as inviting as 127. (Clos des Jacobins) 89
132. Sweet nose, welcoming nose. Oak derived? Not too obvious. The palate shows some sap but – once again – drying tannins. (Château Le Prieuré) 88

Satellites

140. Good sap on the palate with a decent nose of fruit. The overall feel is juicy with not so much oak derivation. Fine. (Château Messile Aubert Montagne St Emilion) 90+
141. Burnt aromas. What the hell? Sharp palate. Unappealing. (Vieux Château Palon Montagne St Emilion) 83
142. Better fruit. The palate is hefty as expected. Where is this going? (Château des Laurets Puisseguin St Emilion) 87+
143. Is the phenolic ripeness there? Good body but a bit drying on the finish… even if there is some juiciness. OK. (Château de Lussac Lussac St Emilion) 88

Bordeaux AOC

Tasted at Château Barde Haut in St Emilion on Sunday 3 April… (Cercle Rive Droite wines)

  1. Oak derived notes. Palate has warmth and ease to swallow but a tad hot on the finish. Not bad though. (Château de Malromé Cuvée Adèle de Toulouse Lautrec). 88+
  2. Funky notes. Not as clean as the above on the nose but the palate is OK. (Château Pey La Tour “Réserve”) 87
  3. Rich nose, a bit too much and drying extraction on the finish. Too much alcohol it seems to me. (Château Beaulieu Comtes de Tastes) 85
  4. Warmer palate. There is a fine licorice aspect but again I feel the alcohol, almost like I want to reach for a bandage to heal my wound. (Château Penin) 84
  5. Plum, ripe plum on the nose. The palate is a bit hard. There is a drying extraction on the finish that is not appealing. (Girolate) 85
  6. A juicier nose here. Perhaps the juiciest of all. The palate is fine. Good sap. Is this the freshest of the bunch? It is more balanced with respect to its elements; albeit very ripe and a tad drying on the finish… but better than the rest. (Château Hostens-Picant) 89
  7. Oak derived notes. Palate is a tad hard. Drying. (Balthus) 85
  8. Very dark color here, is there a lack of phenolic ripeness? Again a drying alcohol feel. (Château Tour de Mirambeau cuvée Passion) 85
  9. Here a bit juicier, better feel. (Château Brande-Bergère Cuvée O’Byrne) 87
  10. Drying oak and wood feel. (Château Peyfaures) 84
  11. Also a bit drying… not as bad as the above but oak-derived tannins reminiscent of Lascombes… Not sure about where these wines will go. (Château Thieuley cuvée Francis Courselle) 85+

17. Pepper like, a bit hard on the palate. Not sure… (Château Thieuley) 86

31. Joannin Becot Costes de Castillon. Rich and savory, more sap than any of the above. A modest success in the vintage. 89+

Fronsac et Canon Fronsac, tasted at Château Barde Haut in St Emilion on 3 April (Cercle Rive Droite wines)

37.Nice nose, there is noticeably more freshness here than in the Bordeaux AOCs initially tasted. (Barrabaque Canon Fronsac) 90

  1. Violets and rich fruit on the nose, with a bit of oak derivation but better integration. Good palate feel, not as extracted or drying. Warm palate but not too hot. Nice job. (Château Moulin Pey-Labrie Canon Fronsac) 90+
  2. Here a bit more oak derivation; a bit drying. Not as balanced as the above. (Château La Vieille Cure Fronsac) 87
  3. Nicer focus than 39. Good intensity. Good fruit, almost sharp. But overall a pleasure. There is rather jammy black fruit but I have a feeling that barrel aging will improve this. Clearly superior to 39. (Château de la Dauphine Fronsac) 90
  4. A bit licorice like. There is a fine mineral centre here with good fruit, warm again but not really hot. Just a bit one dimensional but OK. (Château Les Trois Croix Fronsac) 88+
  5. Very deep and dark nose. Dark ripe plum and blackberry but then a tad drying on the finish. (Château Dalem Fronsac) 88+
  6. Black wine! Very potent and I do not recognize Bordeaux as much. Hint of volatile? (Château Gaby Canon Fronsac) 87
  7. Here we have a more digestive nose… Not as intense and more nuanced. The palate is thin compared to the previous wine. This is supposed to be a beauty contest; right? I prefer the nose here, more subtle. And after digesting the intensity of the previous wine, I like this palate more too… NICE, too but not as impressive as 45… (Château Haut Ballet Fronsac) 89
  8. Chocolate and plum. Very seductive nose. The palate is thick but not overly intense, I rather like this… what will happen in barrel? Like this quite a bit actually. NICE! (Château Villars Fronsac) 90+
  9. Softer nose, but more monotone than 44, even a bit of oak that is too evident. The palate is good, medium bodied in comparison to some of the beasts here but lacks perhaps nuance and layer. Good dark chocolate finish. (Château Moulin Haut Laroque) 88 / 46Bis: A better nose, somewhat fresher. The palate is also smoother here, less oak derivation. Good. I like this more than the 46 (need to compare again) On second analysis, I prefer the 46 to the 46bis, which has more evident extraction even if it is not too obvious either… (Aria Château de la Rivière – 46bis) 87+
  10. Slight rubber aspect initially but then rather appealing. The palate is once again a bit intense, a bit of alcohol in evidence, but not the worst culprit. There is some acidity that comes through but a tad disjointed. OK. (Château Fontenil Fronsac) 88+
  11. Rather floral aspect. Hint of green, is the phenolic ripeness missing? (Château Cassagne Haut Canon Canon Fronsac) 87
  12. Here we have greater cohesiveness. Fine palate in the context of this vintage. Seems more balanced if rich all the same. I can sense minerality here – one of the few wines that have that in this series. Rich but not thick. GOOD. (Haut Carles Fronsac) 90+
  13. Somewhat burnt here on the nose. Faulty sample? A second bottle was better. Cleaner and in fact very nice. Good balance. There is intensity without being heavy, although the finish does have some drying aspects. GOOD overall. (Château de la Rivière Fronsac) 90+
  14. Can one say ultra ripe cranberry? There is a nice crackling acidity that matches the alcohol here even if a bit disjointed but this shows potential. (Château Chadenne Fronsac) 89+
  15. Rather intense feel on the nose and palate, not as interesting to me as 51. Overall impression is actually rather positive… in the context of the vintage. There is sap and some energy here, too. Going back to 51, which I like more in the end… (Château de Carlmagnus Fronsac) 89

Sauternes

A magnificent Yquem

Tasted on the morning of 6 April, this Château d’Yquem 2010 is fabulous Sauternes. Celestial is the word used by Decanter’s Sarah Kemp and I agree. It is more Barsac than Sauternes perhaps. Although the acidity is the same as in 2009, the 2010 has 15 grams less residuaal sugar. Could that explain its elegance? Lovely and focused notes of white pear, juicy white pear, with the finest botrytis in the form of delicate tea aromas lull your palate into a real bliss, but then there is concentration and richness, but oh so subtle. Yquem at the top of its game here. 95-97+

Sauternes and Barsac, tasted 5 April non blind at Château Desmirail in Margaux

Bastor Lamontagne has a nice iodine nose, mineral, medium sweet mid palate, not very complex – straight and to the point – with fine acidity that backs it up well on the medium finish. 89-91+

De Fargues has a less expressive nose, more subtle, but fairly explodes on the palate with tea aspects from the botrytis and white fruit. Bright. Good salinity. 91-94

De Malle Iodine nose, mineral. Sweet palate but nicely balanced with acidity, of which there is .5 grams per liter more than in 2009. Fine finish. 90-92

Nairac Barsac Very fresh nose, white flower and pear. The palate is somewhat hefty but there is fine overall richness even if the finish is a tad warm. 90-92

Filhot Sauternes Overly sweet pineapple aromas and flavors. Saved by acidity just barely.

Broustet Sauternes. Better than Filhot, this wine has a fine body, with good minerality, and better balance, ending on a spearmint note. Fine. 89-91+

D’Arche. I normally like this one, but here rich and somewhat sugar laden. Not as bad as the Filhot, but in that direction. Just OK.

Doisy Vedrines Barsac. Finesse and elegance, ginger spice cake on the palate, good acidity. The cellar master said that the wine is a bit more simple in 2010 compared to the 2009, more open today. I really liked this for its finesse. 90-93

Doisy Daene Barsac. Very nice presence. Rich, minty aspect. Good freshness, plus an added opulence that makes it special. 90-93

Myrat Sauternes. Finesse on the nose and palate, yellow apricot, sticky but not cloying. Fine. 90-92

Sigalas Rabaud. Saline quality on the nose. Fine sap on the palate. Richness without sugary. Balance. Not a wow wine but well made. 90-92

Rabaud Promis: More subtle nose, not as opulent, the palate seems contained now. Fine texture and feel, promising but just not very expressive. 90-92

Rieussec. I was less impressed this year. Same acidity. Out to impress, broad. Just bordering on over sweet but not there. A style that will impress some palates more, and I will taste again to re-evaluate. Note reserved.

Guiraud. Particularly successful this year. Iodine and rich but not over the top. There is a floral aspect to this and much Sauvignon Blanc (35%)… it combines elegance and richness very well. 91-94

Coutet Barsac: Iodine, rich yet tonic. Minty freshness very agreeable. 91-94

Suduiraut: Compared next to Coutet one sees the difference between Sauternes and Barsac. Here this is very rich, not quite like Rieussec, but not quite as fresh as I would have preferred. Still lots going on. A special Suduiraut to be sure… 91-93

Rayne Vigneau: fresh nose, finesse on the palate, iodine again, nice white fruits, smooth and lingering finish.

Clos Haut Peyraguey: Rich, yellow peach and yet very good acidity, nuanced, green tea, fine finish: very good job here. 92-94

Lafaurie Peyraguey: Rich red apple cinnamon aspect, not over the top, interesting wine, finesse, seems a tad disjointed but lots going on. 91-93+

La Tour Blanche: Very pure nose of white pear and iodine. Very balanced, finesse, smooth, spherical. One of the best La Tour Blanches I have ever had en primeur. Bravo. 92-94

The first 2010 I tasted this en primeur week is an old favorite, Château Raymond Lafon 2010. Tasted on 2 April at the chateau, this is a great Sauternes that belongs in the Grand Cru Union, and deserves premier cru status. The 2010 does not disappoint. Only three pickings were required, with such homogenous development of botrytis that no second wine will be made in 2010. Mid October rain got the botrtyis going. Until then it had been too dry for the noble rot to develop. It is very difficult to judge such a young Sauternes but overall I noted both freshness and richness, fine sap, and a mixture of attractive aromas and flavors including botrytis derived white pepper. Good fruit, including pineapple and peach with a hint of vanilla caramel.

A nice trio of Raymond Lafon

Very similar numbers to the superb 2009 (13.7 alcohol in 2010, 13.8 in 2009; 139 grams of residual sugar in 2010; 138 in 2009; 3.9 acidity in 2010, 3.95 in 2009). But what a difference a year makes: the 2009 is a legend in the making. Very rich nose, rather toffee like with orange and tobacco as well, a dew like freshness, light notes of black tea spice, and a long tonic finish. The 2007 seems almost mid sized in comparison, but its almond marzipan nose with mirabelle fruit exudes finesse and spiced elegance.

1 April 2011

Well, here we are again: barrel tasting time in Bordeaux. Spring is in the air and the smell of a new vintage in the cellars. And 2010 is getting rave reviews already. Interesting to note how some compare it to 2009, with its high tannin indices and alcohol levels, especially on the Right Bank. But while alcohol levels are comparable, acidity is slightly higher, perhaps due to cooler temperatures in August? Higher acidity may result in somewhat fresher wines for some estates. Last year, I found some 09s lacking freshness in spite of all the hoopla, preferring clearly the 2005 vintage.  In any case, concern about Merlot getting too high in alcohol (not just in 2010 but in recent years) is an issue I have raised in the past and raise again HERE in this decanter.com article.

The French wine critic Jean-Marc Quarin summed up very nicely the reason in some cases behind a rush to attain extra high concentration and over maturity: making the wines taste more flattering en primeur! He cautions against excess, particularly for aging ability of Bordeaux wine in the future. Below – in French – his words on this subject:

Les vendanges trop tardives et la vente en primeur
Vendanger tard permet de bien mûrir le raisin, d’induire du corps, d’enlever les angles du tanin, mais aussi de le patiner. Des crus recherchent cette maturité extrême pour se présenter avec le corps le plus plein, mais aussi le plus lisse, lors de la vente en primeur. Vendanger plus tôt signifie présenter un vin avec un tanin moins enrobé, plus agrippant ou moins de corps. Par contre dans ces vins, le goût, l’arôme restent plus vivants et moins vieillis prématurément. Pour ceux qui vendangent plus tôt ou à l’heure, c’est à l’élevage en barrique à apporter le charme et le plaisir de la patine du tanin au terme de sa durée, soit 15 à 18 mois. Or, les vins se vendent en primeur, quand ils sont au début de l’élevage au bout de 6 mois. Ceux qui plaisent moins de suite prennent le risque de se vendre moins et moins cher. L’enjeu est de taille, car pour de nombreux crus le prix quasi définitif du vin s’établit lors des primeurs. Cette vente précoce peut pousser à des excès dans une direction qui n’a rien à voir avec le style gustatif original des vins de Bordeaux. Cette dérive se retrouve plus cette année parmi les crus de la rive droite que sur ceux de la rive gauche, et pour deux raisons :

  • la première tient à la sociologie du vignoble. Les propriétés de la rive droite sont plus petites, capables de s’adapter très vite au marché. Celles de la rive gauche, jusqu’à 20 fois plus grandes sont des sortes de paquebots qui bougent lentement. Sans s’en rendre compte, sans peut-être même le vouloir, elles préservent le grand style que chacun apprécie depuis longtemps.
  • La seconde raison en incombe au merlot, cépage plus fragile aromatiquement que le cabernet sauvignon ou franc. Alors que le second, plus plastique peut se vendanger tard sans dommage, le premier ne supporte pas l’approximation.

For me, the danger would be a lack of freshness, which I find very important in wine. Keep in mind that the reason behind barrel aging is to soften and mature the wine enough for its next step: further (and longer) aging in bottle. So it should not be already so smooth and open at six months…

And below a sneak preview of the Bordeaux 2010 vintage as seen in barrel samples of Château Léoville Poyferré and Château Clos Fourtet, tasted in Germany in late March. And an interview with Mark Wessels from MacArthur Beverages in Washington D.C. on the eve of his visit to Bordeaux, for an American perspective on the coming futures campaign.

I will taste hundreds of wines, from more humble Bordeaux AOC all the way to the very top, including Petrus and the first growths of the Medoc. But keep in mind, I am more of a classical palate, and I tend to favor fresher wines. Still, all notes will take into account stylistic preferences.

Finally, to repeat: winemakers please take heart, my notes are not final. These are but barrel samples. And my notes represent my subjective opinion… not some objective truth.

5 Responses to “Bordeaux 2010: tasting notes in the raw” (Leave a Comment)


  1. Steve Webb says:

    Hi Panos
    I think 2010 Sauternes (coming after the monumental 2009s) are just as difficult to appreciate/taste as the reds. It is all too easy to be seduced by the opulence of the 2009s but on reflection (after having tasted the 2010s 3-4 times each) I am leaning towards the 2010s. Structure and balance are critical and I definitely think some have done a better job in 2010 in this respect. In 2009 the botrytis came in a big rush and picking was pretty full on. Because of the high sugar levels many picked green grapes and some maybe weren’t as thorough as they could have been with grape selection. In 2010 there was much more time to get things right even though the picking eventually happened pretty quickly for some. The bunches had been pretty thoroughly assessed and only the best quality grapes were eventually picked – there was more precision. This, combined with the greater acidity from the cooler nights and the additional complexity of flavours coming partially from the extended pickings, has helped shape the wines. At their best they are superb and some will rightly become classics.

  2. pkakaviatos says:

    Thanks Steve for your comment. It was so nice having lunch with you and Bill and Chris on a sunny Saturday just after en primeur week. Yes, I would take my notes on Sauternes with a grain of salt, given the difficulty in tasting barrel samples. I would like to taste them again perhaps in June with you and Bill … It would be nice to try Rieussec again, for example. And Climens, too. Chrs Panos

  3. Sean Hardon says:

    Panos,

    Erudite and thoughful notes, revealing the hype that has surrounded Bordeaux EP increasingly since 2005. Let’s hope the Chinese come to their senses. Interesting you compare this more to 1996 rather than 2005.

    I found your note on Gruard Larose to be quite thought provoking as it appears as if the wine is being made in a lighter style than before. What are your thoughts?

  4. pkakaviatos says:

    Thanks Sean for your kind comments. I guess there is a 1996 aspect but also 1986 and 1975 and … 2005 too! As for Gruaud Larose, I think that the influence of the Boissenot team as consultants has resulted in greater finesse overall for Gruaud since the 2007 vintage. I guess there is a certain light touch in terms of less extraction, shorter maceration periods, but the power is there. My note is not as detailed perhaps as it should be. I will retaste in June. Chrs Panos

  5. [...] if you are new to the game or a loaded, then buy away: you will be rewarded with some great wines. HERE MY COMPREHENSIVE NOTES and VIDEOS. But for the rest of us, Bordeaux 2010 is a bit of a yawner. From Pontet Canet to Calon [...]

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