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Friday Fishwrap
Buying The 2010 Bordeaux: Some Hints

By Stephen Eliot

Way back when, Bordeaux was my thing. The wines of Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Émilion were what my world go around until I was slowly but steadily won over by those grown and made here at home. I admit that these days I neither buy nor drink a great deal of the stuff from Bordeaux, but the affection is still there, even if the budget is not.

I have, however, been toying with the thought of making a small purchase of the 2010 clarets. The vintage is impressive. While I found plenty to like in the much ballyhooed 2009s, the 2010s strike me as more classically constructed; deep, fully ripened, extraordinarily well-structured and very much a piece of their own. They will not be mistaken for, nor will they replace, my favorites from Oakville, Stags Leap and Rutherford, but, after all, is not variety the spice of life?

As is the case in most every Spring, we are about to publish a short report in our upcoming April issue on how the new-to-market Bordeaux vintage, in this case the 2010s, are shaping up now that they have been bottled and are making their ways across the pond. It will be accompanied by tasting notes for forty or so mid- to upper-echelon bottlings and is meant not as a comprehensive review but as a more of a snapshot at the recent state of things in Bordeaux and to provide context for what is going on out here on the West Coast.

There is no question but that the 2010s are quite good, and our tastings have made me start to think about adding a few to the cellar. They are, of course, not cheap, but neither are the better bottlings from Napa, and, in the end, there is generally a good deal of price parity among Bordeaux and the best local offerings. I was quite surprised, however, at just how wildly many of the Bordeaux prices fluctuated depending upon the source from which they were purchased and that so many bore price tags far in excess of those recently listed in influential reviews.

A quick online check at such sites as Vinopedia and Wine Searcher showed, more often than not, price variances of as much as fifty to sixty percent from one merchant to another. And, not surprisingly, it was common to see prices most widely divergent on those wines that have received some of the most glowing reviews. In all truth, there has never really been such a thing as “winery suggested retail prices” when it comes to Bordeaux, and the governing principle continues to be “whatever the market will bear.”

The lesson most clearly learned here is that it very much pays to shop around, and that a bit of time spent in researching the online markets can be lucrative. A hundred dollars here and a hundred dollars there, as they say, can quickly add up to real money.


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