I was lucky enough to go to a Bordeaux 2010 tasting the other evening, organised by upmarket wine merchant Bibendum.
For the uninitiated, this is a sort of vinous Glastonbury Festival, where the owners and managers of more than 70 Bordeaux vineyards allow you to experience their greatest hits and endure the most asinine questions with wan smiles.
You can extend this metaphor even further since, in recent years, Bordeaux has assumed almost rock 'n' roll status in the world of wine, with even a fairly middling bottle from a middling vintage costing more than a ticket to a Rolling Stones concert.
So my first emotion when presented with a room full of these wine stars was one of gratitude that they still bother with the British market, especially when there are such rich pickings and rich drinkers to be found in Asia. Thank you, Bibendum, for persuading them to continue making the journey across the channel.
What did I learn? First: that the 2010 vintage lives up to the hype. It was a wonderful summer in SW France and the wines have lots of fruit and lots of tannin and already show great length. Second: that these are huge wines that will be with us for years to come. I've heard of laying down wine for your children but the Haut-Bailly and Figeac I tasted will still be going strong for my grandchildren.
Michael Saunders, managing director at Bibendum, puts it simply: “The 2010 wines have a density and a purity that is evident even now. What the good wine makers in Bordeaux have been able to do is control the power so that they have great balance.”
Lastly: this was a rare occasion to remember the enormous variety of wines that come under the claret umbrella, and that while some may cost a king's ransom (the Figeac I mentioned above comes in at over £1,600 a case before taxes), you can start building a decent cellar with a modest budget by buying in bond – i.e. by not paying the taxes and duty before you take delivery. A good example was the Château Fourcas Dupré I tasted, which has the makings of a very drinkable wine at only £96 for a case of 12. If nothing else, buying en primeur or in bond is an excellent way of spreading the cost of fine wine, if you have the patience – you pay for the wine now and the taxes later. The only caveat Saunders gives is to make sure you know who you are buying from and that they will still be around in three or five years, when you expect delivery. Not every merchant will be, and you don't want to end up an angry creditor.
For more information on Bibendum's wines and tastings please contact 0207 4494121 or www.bibendumfinewine.com.
Three to follow*
Something for the weekend: Château Fourcas Dupré (£96). Okay, this will be for a weekend in 2015 at the earliest, but well worth the wait.
Something to impress: Château Doisy Vedrines (£120 for 12 half bottles). A glorious Sauternes, one of my favourites. A bargain at this price. Drink with a starter or pudding.
Something to keep: Chateau Leoville Barton (£740). The vintage is expensive but this is top class and I can't see you losing money on it.
* Prices are in bond and for a case of 12