Spotlight on . . . Chateau Lynch-Bages 2010

F ew things get Bordeaux enthusiasts more excited than wines that consistently over-perform, above and beyond their classification… and here’s a cracking example.

First and foremost, we must consider that not a great deal has changed since the wines of the Medoc were classified in 1855. That’s an awfully long time, and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that many wines that were allocated a lowly status at the time have turned out to be rather brilliant.

Fifth growths, of course, are not as prolific as some of the wines of Bordeaux, but there are a couple of names that are consistently mentioned alongside the greats. Pontet-Canet is one, and this wine, Chateau Lynch-Bages, perpetually delivers well above its humble classification also.

The key to buying from the 2003 vintage is to be very selective, and choose carefully. The best wines, like Montrose, are simply extraordinary. Parker estimates this wine as drinking from now until 2034. He notes ‘a stunning perfume of blueberries, black currants, licorice and camphor’ and ‘melted tannins and a long, heady finish’. Neal Martin, Parker’s successor, tasting in June this year, remarked ‘…this is clearly a candidate for the wine of the vintage, equal to if not surpassing the First Growths’.

On the back of an exceptional vintage (and 2009 was extraordinary) it was initially hard to convince critics that 2010 was another great year, but En Primeur tastings showed that the unthinkable had happened – two great vintages in a row. A dry summer, and late sun and cool nights in September and October allowed the grapes to ripen at their own pace. Here in Pauillac, many critics lean towards 2010’s wines as being slightly better, though it’s a close call.

A Cabernet-Sauvignon led blend, Lynch-Bages is known for its concentration and balance. Parker’s tasting note speaks for itself:

“The 2010 blew me away on each occasion I tasted it during my two week sojourn in Bordeaux. Tannic and concentrated, this huge Pauillac boasts an inky/purple color as well as impressive notes of creme de cassis, smoke, graphite and spring flowers. This dense, seriously endowed, monstrous Lynch Bages is reminiscent of some of the wines made at this estate in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It will require 4-5 years of cellaring and should be drinkable for 3-4 decades.” Wine Advocate, 2011

Tasting in 2012, Neal Martin observed that the wine had ‘gone back into its shell’ – a common issue with Bordeaux wines that are intended for long-term cellaring. Flavours can be muted, and essentially this is the wine telling us that it needs more time. Tasting in 2013, Parker suggested it would be ready to drink from 2018 and would keep until 2048.

This means Lynch-Bages 2010 is truly one for the cellar. In 3 years we anticipate 39% growth, and in 5 years 39.5%. This is such a big, structured wine, and critics seem to universally acknowledge that we haven’t seen the best of it yet. I imagine they will be cracking open a few bottles next year in anticipation of Parker’s prediction that it may start to be approachable, although still very much at the start of its journey.