2010: an exceptional vintage in the Rhône and Burgundy


Nick Brookes


11 November, 2011

There are already loud rumblings as to just how good this vintage is in France - particularly so in the Rhône and Burgundy. I have just returned from a week in both regions and the excitement from top growers about the quality of the wines was palpable. To give you a flavour, Philippe Bravay from Domaine de Ferrand who has made fine CNDPs for the last 12 years commented that he would only rarely be able to produce wines of the quality of his 2010s again during his career. Laurent Charvin in CNDP likewise thought that his 2010 wines were the finest he has ever made, seconded by Eric Bouletin of Roucas Toumba in Vacqueyras.

The southern rhônes in 2010 have already been reviewed by Robert Parker (31st October issue) who writes: "This is a great vintage that comes close in quality to 2007 in the southern Rhône. Some producers think 2010 eclipses 2007 because of the wines' vivid freshness and focus..... The 2010s will have significant ageing potential."

The achilles heel is that yields in the southern Rhône were hit badly by coulure on the grenache (poor fruit setting after flowering) which has reduced yields by 25-35%, giving the ‘smallest harvest in the last 20-30 years' according to Dominique Ay from Raspail-Ay in Gigondas.

Roucastoumba 16 Eric Bouletin

According to John Livingstone-Learmonth, writing about 2010 Northern Rhônes "I love 2010. It is a great vintage, truly. I recommend buying it." On 2010 Côte Rôtie, "This is where I get very jiggy, dangerously jiggy - what fruit, what balance, what richness. What an ensemble.....We will see whether 2010 can reach the heights of 1978, but it is certainly starting in the right way." Quality is due to very small grapes with thick skins and not much juice. Problems around flowering when the weather was cold, windy and wet, stripped off the pollen from the flowers, reducing yields which are on average 25-30% less than a normal vintage. The stalks were ripe, the fruit is both dense and very clear cut, the acidity and ph levels are perfect, and there is both freshness and an accurate mineral print from each vineyard.

Tremblay Joy Grimal
Cécile Tremblay

Turning to Burgundy, on the Côte de Beaune there was a big variance in yields at the growers we visited: in Meursault, Fichet had lost 40% due to coulure and millerandage whereas Marc Colin and Caroline Morey in Chassagne had lost just 10%. Damien Colin (winemaker at Marc Colin) thought that the vintage was similar to 2008 but with better density of fruit. At Caroline Morey, Pierre-Yves Colin thought that 2010 was a more complete vintage, and that it was the best vintage of his and Caroline's careers.

Yields for Cécile Tremblay's various holdings in the Côte de Nuits, were at 26hh, 25% lower than 2009. Cécile mentioned that the grapes had thick skins and very little juice. The stalks were thicker and harder than recent years and so she decided to destalk most of her wines. Her wine has an excellent concentration, perfect ph (3.55) and acidity, a velvety fruit, and good ripe tannins - all the elements to age very well. They have much more density than 2008s and have a little more acidity and freshness than 2009. Amiot-Servelle's yields were similar and Prune Amiot talked about the vintage as being a combination of 2008 and 2009. Yields at Thierry Mortet were 25-30% lower too, where an extra factor was the sustained, icy, extremely low temperatures of mid-winter so severe that a number of vines were killed off. The wines here again are harmonious with superb, densely layered fruit, good structure and fine ripe tannins.

We will be offering the 2010 Rhônes in March and the 2010 Burgundies in October/November and posting them on the website at those times. Hopefully this will enable us to offer you the most accurate and best prices close to the point of shipping.