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10 Hidden Gems From Bordeaux’s 2010 Vintage

June 20, 2011

As the potentially classic 2010 Bordeaux vintage begins unveiling futures prices, some U.S. retailers are suffering sticker shock. The first growth 2009s went for over $1,000 a bottle and the 2010s are expected to soar to even higher prices—beyond the reach of most American wine lovers. But, says James Molesworth, lead Bordeaux taster at Wine Spectator, the strength of the vintage also means that there are great values to be had from some of Bordeaux’s lesser-known producers, if retailers and consumers are willing to hunt for them. Shanken News Daily checked in with Molesworth to get a few specific high-quality, low-hype recommendations.

SND: You’ve already called Bordeaux 2010 potentially a “modern classic.” And you believe that will be apparent across the region, not only in the top chateaus’ wines, correct?

Molesworth: The thing about 2010 is it’s such a strong vintage that you can buy outside the big-name appellations. The Bordeaux Superieurs or generic Médocs for instance can really provide some delicious wines in 2010. It was a warm, dry season, so those areas that generally may not ripen as well as the premier areas, they also ripened well last year and have produced really solid wines.

SND: Looking at the list of values below, how many of these wines have any name recognition at all in the U.S.?

Molesworth: A lot of these are really small names that don’t get any hype whatsoever, and they’re all either fairly new or have made a turnaround in terms of quality, so they all have fairly interesting stories to tell. Other than Gloria and maybe Pibran, I don’t think anyone in America is really going to know these wines well.

SND: And what do they bring to the table?

Molesworth: A lot of them are just coming out with pricing, so that’s going to be a fluid situation, but especially the ones below the $25 mark are going to be some super values. They’ll have potentially outstanding quality, and they’ll age a couple of years—these aren’t wines that you’ll put down for 20 years. But they’re going to deliver very solid Bordeaux character and stay true to the vintage style as well as the appellation that they’re from.

SND: How do you think retailers are handling the prices of the top chateaux? Is there an opportunity for some of the lesser-known Bordeaux wines?

Molesworth: I think retailers are taking fewer allocations the last few years because they feel like they can’t move the expensive wines, which continue to get pricier. And Americans seem to be getting tired of the same old Bordeaux names that just keep getting more expensive every year. So the retailers are hedging on that, and saying, “I don’t know if I can sell some of the big second-tier names anymore,” like Pichon Lalande or Cos d’Estournel, for example. Where 10 years ago they could sell 100 cases of those wines easily, now it’s a struggle to get through 50 cases, and they don’t want to sit on the inventory. So there could be an opening for wines down below that first or second tier that present strong values.

SND: Do you believe the aggressive 2010 pricing by the Bordelais will come back to bite them, even considering the strength of the vintage?

Molesworth: The only way it will bite them is if Americans lose interest in those higher-end wines totally, and yet even that won’t hurt the Bordelais unless at some point they lose their other markets. Right now they’re starting to sell so much more wine in Asia and elsewhere that they don’t care that the Americans aren’t buying as much. If it’s a situation where one market jumps out as two new markets jump in, producers will have no incentive not to continue raising prices. But there are definite buying opportunities for 2010. Yes, it’s an expensive vintage, but for consumers who are willing to sacrifice name cachet and for retailers who are willing to do some digging there are some really good wines—whose names you may not know but which deliver great quality.

Molesworth’s Ten Hidden Gems From Bordeaux 2010
Château Gloria St.-Julien – 2010 92-95 $46.00
Château Fleur Cardinale St.-Emilion – 2010 91-94 $45.00
Château Pibran Pauillac – 2010 91-94 $40.00
Château Bellefont-Belcier St.-Emilion – 2010 90-93 $40.00
Château Lilian Ladouys St.-Estèphe – 2010 90-93 $22.00
Château Pédesclaux Pauillac – 2010 90-93 $35.00
Château Le Thil Pessac-Léognan Comte Clary – 2010 90-93 $18.00
Château Féret-Lambert Bordeaux Supérieur – 2010 89-92 $15.00
Château Jean Faux Bordeaux Supérieur – 2010 89-92 $25.00
Château Rollan de By Médoc – 2010 89-92 $22.00
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