Bordeaux 2009 and 2010: wines to drink now

They are two of the greatest – and most expensive – Bordeaux vintages ever. For those lucky enough to have them in their cellar – or wanting to splash out in lockdown – which wines are most approachable now?

Words by Adam Lechmere and Ella Lister

Photography by Facundo Bustamante

A closeup of a glass of Bordeaux wine

There are many reasons why the 2009 and 2010 vintages have earned such repute – and most of them have to do with the astonishing quality of the wines. There are other reasons of course, chief among them the egregious prices, but we won’t dwell on those.

For the past few years, London wine merchant BI (formerly Bordeaux Index) has run a February tasting it calls simply ‘Bordeaux 10 Years On’. There are usually some 70 bottles, spanning all the crus classés from Pomerol to Pauillac, first growths to fifths. Certain vintages have attracted more attention than others, of course – and this year and last, critics making their way to BI’s headquarters in Hatton Garden did so in in fevered fashion.

On both occasions Ella Lister tasted the wines exclusively for Club Oenologique. Her report on 2009 was published in Club Oenologique a year ago; her second report, on 2010, is freshly published today.

While many of the starriest wines from these vintages can be cellared for many years yet, some of the wines are surprisingly approachable. Here we present a selection from those great years that are – according to Lister – ready to drink from 2020, together with a précis of her comments on the two vintages.

Vines at Château Ausone
Photo by Tim Hall

Bordeaux 2009 became a legend almost overnight. A glorious growing season produced monumental wines, and they quickly reached prices that had all but the hardiest collectors grimacing. The best wines are flirtatious, beguiling and intoxicating, but they are also incredibly fine, pure and elegant. And, crucially, they are more approachable than the indomitable 2010s. Some caution is required: the weather was so generous that vignerons needed to take care with extraction. Those who didn’t produced wines that are beginning to look tired. This is also (apart from 2010) the most consistently expensive Bordeaux vintage: more circumspect readers may consider waiting for vintages such as 2014, 2015, 2016, and even 2010, that offer better value for money and may be a better investment. But 2009 it is a hedonist’s vintage, and it should not be missed.

2010 manages the feat of matching, or even outclassing, 2009 – while being utterly different. Where 2009 is hedonistic and seductive, 2010 is classical and structured. Ten years on, some of the 2010s are delightfully approachable; others need another decade to unfurl their brilliant colours. A largely cool and dry season produced small, thick-skinned berries with perfect polyphenolic ripeness. The wines are concentrated and expressive, with very fine tannins. While the great wines are magnificent, some smaller properties, from Vieux Château Certan and La Fleur-Pétrus, to Gazin, L’Evangile, and Clinet, really overperform. Pauillac and Pomerol stand out (Margaux can be slightly flat), Saint-Julien is solidly excellent, Saint-Emilion consistent. Again, this is an expensive vintage, but the best wines will almost certainly merit their price tags.