Yes, many call this type of tasting a "cross," but that implies that you've only got one row and one column populated, whereas a matrix implies that you have multiple rows and columns populated.
Anyway, mathematical geekiness aside, this was the second tasting with my new tasting group, and while this was a comparison I (and every other Bordeaux lover) have been wanting to make, it also worked nicely as a tasting that gave the novices an intro to Bordeaux and a chance to to see the difference between vintages, while also providing lots of interesting fodder for the more experienced or more detail-oriented tasters.
Very much enjoyed by all, the combination of 2009 and 2010 delivering a solid lineup of consistently excellent wines. My WOTN without question was the 2010 Haut-Beausejour, and I think it was also the consensus WOTN, in the sense that it was the wine everyone could agree on - but opinions certainly ranged. Now the notes, then my thoughts on 2009 vs 2010.
Chateau Haut-Beausejour, St. Estephe 2009
Awesome, effusive, heady, rich, dense nose of black fruit, tons of mineral, some chalk, chocolate, tobacco. Similar notes on the palate, rich black fruit and some tart red fruit, with a nice, succulent finish. Forward and opulent but with some underlying austerity. Ready now with some time in the decanter, and surprisingly easy to drink, but with 10 - 15 years ahead of it. 3.5 Stars [10/18/13]
Chateau Haut-Beausejour, St. Estephe 2010
Outstanding nose, with incredible density of black fruit, chalk, dusty earth/cocoa powder, and succulent red fruit. Wow. Saturating density on the palate, with dark berries, tart red fruit, mineral, and dust. Huge and intense yet with some lushness, succulent, and very fresh. The balance is extraordinary. This is a wonderfully complete wine, combining richness and density with classical St Estephe character in an remarkable way, and with the potential to age for 15 to 20 years from now. 4 Stars [10/18/13]
Chateau Bernadotte, Haut-Medoc 2009
Excellent nose, but reserved, loaded with cool black fruit, graphite, tobacco, leather, black pepper, and smoke. Similar notes on the palate, rich and dense but coiled and reserved, with black fruit and lots of tart red fruit. Full bodied. This is poised to become something great, but give it 5 to 10 years more, and it will last for 15 years from now, perhaps longer. 3.5 Stars [10/18/13]
Chateau Bernadotte, Haut-Medoc 2010
Excellent and dense but low key nose of black fruit and a bit of fleshy red fruit, with lots of anise, and mineral. Very restrained on the palate, but full and dense, with some nice, sweet, red fruit, that having a hint of tartness. This needs 5 to 10 years, and will last for 15 to 20 from now, with the potential to develop into a very complete and classical claret. 3.5 Stars [10/18/13]
Chateau Puy-Blanquet, St. Emilion (Grand Cru) 2009
Good nose, with loads of black currant, a bit of lush blueberry, smoke, fig, and mineral. Identical notes on the palate, rich and dense, with a bit of grip. This has a very pleasant succulence and tartness, and is relatively easy going and approachable, but has some stuffing. Will last another 5 to 10 years. 3 Stars [10/18/13]
Chateau Puy-Blanquet, St. Emilion (Grand Cru) 2010
Low key but good nose, with smokey currant and mineral. But the palate is rather lovely, with wonderful red and black currants, savory, and beautifully lush. This is very similar in personality but more balanced and complete than its 2009 sibling, and should last for 10 years from now. 3.5 Stars [10/18/13]
First off, it is clear that 2009 and 2010 both deliver a remarkable depth of quality at every price tier. These were all from $25 to $35, and the two Left Bank chateaux in particular offered outstanding quality for the price. Now, I could be wrong, but my current perception of the critical opinion on these two vintage is that everyone is enthralled by 2009, and 2010 almost seems to be a relative afterthought for some, but that there is also a growing undercurrent of opinion that 2010 could turn out to be superior in the end. Based on my experience so far, aided greatly by this tasting, there is no question: to me, 2010 is clearly superior. It interesting that these two vintage are presented as being diametric opposites. But I'm no longer sure that that is completely accurate. They are both dense, rich, fully constituted vintages with excellent structure, and I'm beginning to think of the two vintages very much as siblings. And here is the crux of it for me: everything 2009 does, 2010 does better. It's as if the latter said to the former "Let me show you how it's done. I can be rich and dense too, while also being fresh and perfectly balanced." The 2010s seem to be such complete wines. This tasting has made me rethink my buying plans - I had this idea of only buying 2009 and 2010 in pairs by chateau. But, to be honest, while I will still do that to some extent just because these two vintages need to be tasted together down the road, I now plan to focus on 2010. In fact, I may end up buying more 2010 than I have done for any vintage so far.
So, what do the rest of the Bordeaux drinkers around here think? 2009 or 2010?
"The sun, with all those planets revolving about it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else to do"
(avatar: me next to the WIYN 3.5 meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory)