The first tasters have begun to arrive in Bordeaux to taste the great 2010 Vintage

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First echoes from Bordeaux itself have until recently been fairly muted, I think because people have hesitated to say that we have in our hands for the second year in a row a very great vintage year. But it is unquestionably the case. I thought it might be useful to try to give a personal impression of the different personality of the two years, specifically in the case of the wine at Château Pichon-Longueville Baron.

There are parallels in the past, notably in 89 and 90 when two great years followed in succession, then as now with quite different personalities, and with fervent partisans of one year or the other according to personal taste. Obviously, people have asked about the parallel with these years when one considers 09 and 10, and I think it is fair enough to make the comparison, but with the significant difference of the way we work in the vineyards today, the great properties accepting significantly lower yields and in general making much stricter selection between Grand Vin and second wine today. I believe that both 09 and 10 can be compared with the great pair from 89 and 90, but I am quite convinced that they are significantly greater in quality.

It is fortunately not my job to write tasting notes of wines on a regular basis: we have very skilled and dedicated journalists for that, but for what it is worth I give here my appreciation of the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 09 and 10 wines, in the hope that the kind of words used to describe the wines will at least give a feeling for the stylistic differences between the years. I don’t feel the need to say which I prefer, for the good reason that I am not sure yet that I know, but I am quite certain that these are two very great years for Bordeaux, and I am very glad, along with all the team here, to have lived through them.

Here is a picture of Jean René and me enjoying our deliberations on these two great wines.

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron : Jean-René Matignon, Technical Director (left hand), Christian Seely, Managing Director (right hand)

So here is the result of my deliberations with Jean-René Matignon and Daniel LLose as we tasted the two wines side by side and attempted to define the difference in style between the two

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2009: “Silky, velvety, very harmonious, balanced and long. Full unctuous, sweet, subtle ripe fine fruit, both powerful fine and delicate. Voluptuous, racy, classy.”

And Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2010: “ A very lively fresh structure, tonic, strong muscular tannins, but fine and balanced, wild intense red and black berry fruit, explosive, deep complex and long. We have rarely seen so much richness allied with so much freshness. Extraordinary equilibrium, astonishing for its concentration.”

I hope this gives some idea of how we feel about these wines. Clearly I love them both. We shall now see what the world has to say. And then we shall hopefully be able to enjoy retasting and comparing them both for decades to come.

For a fuller understanding of what made the 2010 Vintage so special, I suggest that you make a link to the following address:

This will lead you to Bill Blatch’s vintage report, which is a remarkable analysis of the year and of the wines. I think it is quite brilliant and I thoroughly recommend it. For those of you who do not know Bill, he is a much liked and greatly respected Bordeaux negociant with an encyclopedic knowledge of Bordeaux, its wines, and the characteristics of each vintage year, thanks to his decades of meticulous note taking. This report on the 2010 vintage will give you some idea of the depth of his knowledge and passion for Bordeaux and its wines.

A very short trip to Tokaj last week to work on the blend for the 2008 Aszú wines of Disznókő

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It is a lovely year. We made a very small quantity of a very fine Six Puttonyos, but overall the equilibrium seemed just great for a Five Puttonyos. I loved the balance of this year, the wines were fresh, intense, long and fine. Definitely a vintage to look out for when it comes on the market.

We profited from the occasion to taste a vertical of six Puttonyos from Disznókő, going back to 1993. The picture shows the remarkable colour variations from year to year, which reflects the strong style difference that each harvest brings. They were all delicious of course, but the stars for me were 2002, lovely pure intense and long, but needing time, as much as you can give it, in the cellar; 2000, completely different style, fresh spicy, open and seductive, great to drink now; and the extraordinary 1993, still a young baby.

Disznoko Tokaji aszu 6 puttonyos

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003, James Suckling’s wine of the year for 2010

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Delighted that James Suckling has chosen the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003 as his wine of the year for 2010.  I love this wine, which although extravagantly ripe and exuberant, is still recognisably a Pichon Baron, with all the balance freshness and structure you expect from Pichon. As it ages in the bottle I think the terroir is asserting itself more and more over the years, and although lovely to drink now it is settling down to become a great bottle for ageing. To read more, click here to get James’s article on Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003.

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003

Harvest 2010 – Conditions in general

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Now that we have had some time to taste and retaste the wines of the remarkable 2010 vintage in Bordeaux, it is time to post a harvest report. The rumours you may have been hearing are perfectly justified: 2010 is an outstanding year in Bordeaux. I give below a summary of how things went in all of our vineyards, in Bordeaux and elsewhere.

Bordeaux – grape sorting at Château Pichon-Longueville - Pauillac
Bordeaux – Grape sorting at Château Pichon-Longueville - Pauillac
In Bordeaux, even if the end of spring and summer were relatively dry, the vines showed no signs of stress.The harvest of 2010 has given birth to a vintage that will undoubtedly take its place at the summit of any vintage classification, with an exceptional maturity. From an analytical point of view there are record breaking levels of ripeness in terms of sugar levels and also of polyphenols. In a somewhat different style, it will unquestionably bear comparison with its predecessor, the great 2009 vintage.

A great year for the dry whites and the reds, but also for the liquoreux, with a perfect late arrival of botrytis that enabled us to harvest an impressive 2nd and 3rd trie.

In the Languedoc, summer was extremely dry. Thanks to our first year of installation of irrigation on half the Belles eaux vineyard, we were able to optimise quality. Here also, 2010 will be a lovely year.

Burgundy - The harvest at Domaine de l’Arlot - Nuits Saint Georges
Burgundy - The harvest at Domaine de l’Arlot - Nuits Saint Georges

Burgundy was a little less fortunate, with a terrible winter and severe frosts that caused severe damage in certain climates, leading to a reduction in yields that an irregular floraison did nothing to help. Very low yields therefore, but a beautiful maturity for these 2010, and some lovely wines in spite of the difficulties earlier in the year.

Tokaj – Disznókő – Picking of the Aszú grapes
Tokaj – Disznókő – Picking of the Aszú grapes

No drought in Tokaj, rather the contrary, with 800 mm of rain between april and mid September. A difficult year with a lot of disease problems, very weak “sortie” and a chaotic floraison, all combiing to give us an historially low yield. But the Aszús we were able to harvest will enable us to produce all the same a harvest in the style of 2004, aromatic and vivacious, with a structure marked by finesse and elegance rather than by power.

Douro - Quinta do Noval – Foot treading in the lagares
Douro - Quinta do Noval – Foot treading in the lagares

In the Douro we harvested an impressive volume of the kind not seen since 2007. This significant production gave all the same wines that are very pure, elegant, aromatic and structures, both for Port wine and for Douro reds.

The Marathon du Medoc at Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

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Last Saturday was the 26th Marathon du Medoc. We participate very actively in this event. Château Pichon-Longueville Baron  has twice hosted the giant “Soiree des Mille Pates”, the dinner for 1500 or so Marathon runners that takes place the night before – the last time was last year in fact. I love this event, and have been running in it myself, on and off (very slowly, and not always to the end!) since 1991. It is a very joyous occasion, a celebration of the Médoc, of its Chateaux and its wines, and an affirmation of the idea that a moderate and regular consumption of wine is not only perfectly consistent with a healthy and active lifestyle, but is a natural and harmonious part of such a life. I do not think there are many puritans or teetotallers among the 8,800 participants, some of who showed a fairly unbridled enthusiasm for our product, and yet each one of them has had to submit themselves to a sustained programme of training in order to be there on the day.

Marathon du Médoc: Château Pichon-Longueville team

We have a Château Pichon-Longueville Baron team, seen here on the steps of the chateau on a beautiful morning last Saturday. Many have been coming for years. Please note in the centre of the line up the distinguished journalists Jean Francis Pécresse and Philippe Maurange in jungle costume (Tarzan and Jane in fact).

Marathon du Médoc: Christian Seely in front of Château Pichon-Longueville

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron was at Kilometre 17 this year, which made it a perfect place for me to stop, my training programme probably having been the least rigorous of all the participants. But I had a great time running that far, and enjoyed the opportunity to taste wine at the various chateaux we passed on our way through Pauillac and St Julien. At Pichon we poured Les Tourelles de Longueville 2008, which showed very well, and seemed to be appreciated by the thousands of runners who enjoyed the chance to taste our wine, served as you can see in wine glasses. I am not actually drinking two glasses but holding my wife’s while she takes the photo.

Marathon du Médoc: the band “Banda Biez Bat de Bassussary” in front of Château Pichon-Longueville

The wine tasting was accompanied by the band “Banda Biez Bat de Bassussary” seen here in the picture with various members of the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron team who worked very hard to serve the thousands of wine tasters in front of the chateau under the able direction of Corinne Michot on the left.

Marathon du Médoc: Ruth and Sophie Santry, Marie-Louise Schÿler, Théodore et Christian Seely

Disguises were the order of the day! Here are from left to right Ruth Santry, her daughter Sophie, a beautiful Schtroumpf who mesmerised my sons, Marie-Louise Schÿler who ran a very fast Marathon, and then in the front row, Theodore Seely and myself.

It was a wonderful day, perhaps a little hotter than one might have liked, but the weather was typical of the lovely sunny days we are enjoying here in Bordeaux this September which are providing perfect ripening conditions of the 2010 vintage, which is shaping up to be very good indeed. More of that when we visit the vineyards next week.