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2010 Bordeaux: Quest for Values in Another Excellent Vintage

2013 January 30

Clos Fourtet in St. Emilion (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Bordeaux is unquestionably the source of some of the world’s greatest wines—ageworthy reds based primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; dry, minerally whites blended from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon; and luscious sweet white wines from the Sauternes and Barsac appellations.

There is a long history to the great producers of this region, which includes a classification going back to 1855 of many producers on the Left Bank—a hierarchy based on market prices in those times that continues to impact status and prices today.

Unfortunately, this is also the fine wine region that has long been the most commoditized of any in the world. Dewey Markham, Jr., in his book 1855: A History of the Bordeaux Classification, amassed decades worth of detailed pricings compiled by brokers and merchants based on appellation and hierarchy going back to 1647. The tradition of banks, insurance companies and other business entities buying Bordeaux châteaux as investments is also long standing, as is Bordeaux’s practice of having brokers or courtiers standing between producers and merchants.

Bordeaux was the first region to carefully orchestrate campaigns and marketing strategies, including “en primeur” advanced sales, designed to fully maximize the prices for their product. Part of this scheme has involved inviting select writers and journalists to elaborate tastings of barrel samples and initial assemblages of the wines.

I’ve tasted a lot of barrel samples, enough to know that from a large vineyard like those of Bordeaux there will be great barrels and mediocre barrels, so that barrel samples may give some notion, but only a very preliminary one, as to how the final product might taste. Nonetheless, pricing in Bordeaux has long been driven both by the hierarchy of classifications as well as critics’ reports from these questionable tastings held in advance of bottling.

Wines from the top ranked châteaux are highly collectible and often acquired more as investments than sources of pleasure. Indeed, there is a veritable industry these days of wine investment houses that scrutinize, week by week, the auction prices of past vintages of higher end Bordeaux and purchase or unload inventory accordingly. In recent years, prices have also seen rises due to large purchases at auction and en primeur by growing numbers of status conscious collectors in Asia.

Despite the commoditization and very high prices, however, there remains a level of winemaking and perfect matching of grape with soil and climate that sustains Bordeaux’s importance and relevance in today’s fine wine world.

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
2012 UGC Tasting at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel

One of the best tastings of the year, which typically launches the new year’s season of important trade tastings, is the annual U.S. five-city tour of Bordeaux Châteaux organized by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC). This association, which dates back to 1973, consists of 132 member estates from all the major appellations within Bordeaux.

The UGC does not include the famous Left Bank first growths—Châteaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton and Haut Brion—or the most illustrious Right Bank producer, Château Pétrus. Nonetheless, the majority of the other major producers participate in the U.S. tour, which always focuses solely on the current available vintage—this year, the 2010.

In this wonderfully well organized tasting, held in San Francisco in the glitzy ballroom of the Palace Hotel, the producers are arranged by appellation—i.e., the whites and reds of the Graves appellation are the first to be found, to one’s left as you enter; next to them are the red wines of the Right Bank, the St. Émilion and Pomerol appellations; followed by the red wines of the Left Bank appellations; concluding, all the way to one’s right, with the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.

I managed to taste all 115 wines offered for tasting at this year’s event, from 101 producers. The only producers offering more than one wine were the white wine producers of the Graves and Pessac-Léognan appellations, most of whom also make a red wine. Many of the producers on hand also make a second, or even a third wine, in addition to their “grand vin,” but those are apparently not allowed to be shown at this event.

The 2010 vintage, which was both a very dry and relatively cool growing year, was highly praised by most of those who attended en primeur tastings as one that is even more structured and balanced, i.e., with more tannins and higher acidities, than the much ballyhooed 2009 vintage. The 2009 vintage was lauded for its ripe fruit and relative approachability for a new vintage, as well as its aging potential. Robert Parker gave an unprecedented number of perfect scores to wines from the 2009 vintage, based on barrel samples, and that vintage fetched record prices at the en primeur level with no shortage of buyers.

Despite almost equally good press for this latest vintage, sales have not gone so well en primeur for the 2010s. This may be due in part to price increases of 10 to 20% by many producers for the 2010s, as well as to the fact that the high end wine market was already saturated by massive purchases of the 2009s.

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Château Pétrus and Le Pin

As to prices, we are talking truly stratospheric for wines at the top end of the hierarchy. The 2010 vintage of Château Pétrus, regularly the highest priced wine from the region, is currently available for an average U.S. price of $3,094 a bottle. Le Pin, another highly sought after wine from the Pomerol appellation, fetches $2,738. A bottle of the top two first growths of the Left Bank, Château Latour and Château Lafite, will set you back $1,771 and $1,623 respectively. That makes fellow first growths Château Mouton and Margaux look like relative bargains at only $1,172 and $1,169. And since Château Latour produces on average about 18,000 bottles a year, that means their output alone is theoretically worth over $38 million, without even counting their very popular second wine, Les Forts de Latour.

By contrast, the highest priced wine presented at the UGC tasting was Château Figeac, which retails for an average of $273 a bottle in the U.S. The average U.S. price for all 115 wines poured at this event is $77.46 a bottle, i.e., a lot more than the average American would ever spend on a bottle of wine.

So given the rarefied prices for the wines presented here, does their quality and the drinking experience justify them? That’s not normally a question I ask at a high end wine tasting, but the highly attuned market mentality of Bordeaux requires one, I believe, to look at these products through that prism, more so than in the case of other regions’ wines. In other words, when it comes to evaluating Bordeaux these days, I find I have to rely not only on my sensory evaluation and tasting notes, but also spreadsheets I populate with market prices, my scores and my own specially designed logarithm for quantifying price to value ratios.

That said, there was definitely high quality on display at this tasting, a function not only of a great vintage but also of the best equipment, facilities, grape selection and winemaking that money can buy. The dry white Bordeaux were at least as good as the 2009s, and in some case better, showing complexity, concentration and minerality. The Sauternes were good, although not nearly as impressive as the 2009s. The red Bordeaux were generally quite strong from all appellations, especially, for me, from Pomerol, St. Julien, St. Émilion and Pauillac, in that order.

Contrary to some of the advance press, I did not find the tannins overwhelming on most of these wines—I found them instead to be sweet, fine and well balanced. Those tannins, together with higher acidities than the 2009s for most producers, promise long-lived wines. I also found many of them quite approachable now, as were the 2009s, although they will certainly benefit from at least a few years of cellaring in most cases.

As to the value question, I think a handful of these wines do represent fairly good buys for the money. Much better buys, of course, can be found from most other winemaking regions of the world. Still, the 2010 vintage is a very good one and Bordeaux crafts an excellent product, even if it also usually finds a way to demand top dollar for it.

So my picks for the top values are as follows:
For white Bordeaux, the best bet is Château La Tour-Martillac Blanc, which I scored 93 points and which sells in the U.S. for an average of $41. Those on a tighter budget are likely to prefer the Chantegrive Blanc, which I scored 91 points, since it goes for an average of $21. My favorite white Graves were the Château Pape Clement and Château Smith Haut Lafitte, both of which I scored 94 points. They are selling, however, for $177 and $120 respectively.

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
Domaine de Chevalier wines

Amongst the reds, the single best ratio of quality to price can be found in Pomerol—surprising because wines from that Right Bank appellation, home of Pétrus and Le Pin, are usually among the highest priced. There were also a few decent values in St. Émilion and the Graves.

The best QPR has to be Pomerol’s Château La Pointe, selling for $52 (I scored it 93+ points). Good deals from St. Émilion are Château Grand Mayne at $49 (93 points) and Château Berliquet for $43 (92+ points). From Graves, I recommend Domaine de Chevalier, a pricey $88 but scoring 94+ points, and Château de Chantegrive ($24, 90 points). Another relative bargain was the lowest priced wine of the tasting, Château Beaumont ($17, 88 points). And the best QPR performer among the classed growths is second growth Château Gruaud Larose, whose delicious offering I rated 94.5 points. Its average U.S. price is “only” $88.

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
Gruaud Larose’s David Launay

Relative values are even harder to come buy amongst the sweet wines, whose average price exceeds $86. And, as I said, I prefer the 2009s in Sauternes and Barsac. Nonetheless, Château Guiraud is a relative bargain in the sweet category for $58 (92+ points).

As to the very top wines of the tasting regardless of price, for me those were Château Troplong Mondot (95+ points, $190), Château La Conseillante (95 points, $256) and Château Pichon Lalande (95 points, $242).

For my tasting notes on all 115 wines, organized by appellations, as well as further comments regarding the showings of each appellation in 2010, see below.

2010 BORDEAUX AT 2012 UNION DES GRANDS CRUS DE BORDEAUX TASTING – Palace Hotel, San Francisco, California (1/18/2013)

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF

Graves/Pessac-Léognan – Whites and Reds

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
Although a handful of producers in other appellations (e.g., Lynch Bages in Pauillac and Château Margaux in Margaux) make dry white wines, in very small quantities, the bulk of Bordeaux’s dry whites are to be found in two of its most southerly appellations, lying directly south of the city of Bordeaux. Those appellations are Pessac-Léognan and Graves. With a few exceptions (notably Château Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement and Smith-Haut-Lafitte), I typically find the dry whites of these appellations to be more consistent and interesting than the reds. This was a remarkable vintage for the whites, which were rich, complex and balanced. My favorite whites were the Pape Clement and Smith Haut Lafitte, both of which I scored 94 points, followed by the Malartic-Lagraviere Blanc at 93+ points, and the Domaine de Chevalier and La Tour-Martillac at 93 points.

On the red side, my favorites were Domaine de Chevalier at 94+ points, followed by Haut-Bailly and Pape Clement, both at 93 points. I thought the showing for the reds was overall stronger than I’m used to for this appellation, with lots of complexity, menthol notes and minerality.

  • 2010 Château Carbonnieux Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; white jasmine, ripe peach, tart pear nose; tasty, rich, ripe pear, white jasmine palate with integrating oak; medium-plus finish (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Carbonnieux – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark red violet color; ripe red currant, floral nose; tight, ripe red currant, floral palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (91 points)
  • 2010 Château de Chantegrive Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    Light lemon yellow color; floral, honeysuckle, ripe citrus nose; floral, honeysuckle, ripe citrus palate; medium-plus finish (91 points)
  • 2010 Château de Chantegrive – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    Dark ruby color; ripe red currant nose; tasty, ripe red currant, raspberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (90 points)
  • 2010 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; very appealing, lime cream, smoky, green fruit nose; tasty, poised, lime cream, ripe green fruit, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (93 points)
  • 2010 Domaine de Chevalier – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, ripe black currant, ripe black fruit nose; tasty, elegant, plush, tart black currant, tart black fruit palate with sweet tannins; medium-plus finish 94+ points (94 points)
  • 2010 Château de Fieuzal Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; lightly smoky, tart peach nose; tasty, balanced, tart peach, mineral, tart lime palate with firm textured; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2010 Château de Fieuzal – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark ruby color; ripe red currant, tart blackberry nose; ripe red currant, tart blackberry palate; medium-plus finish (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château de France Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, grassy meadow, light smoke nose; oily textured, heavily Semillion, smoke, ripe pear palate; medium-plus finish (85% Semillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château de France – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Opaque red violet color; pencil lead, tart black currant nose; appealing, pencil lead, tart black currant palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Haut-Bailly – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Dark ruby color; focused, tart currant, pencil lead, cedar nose; tasty, tart currant, pencil lead, cedar palate; approachable now but could use 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Haut-Bergey Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; lifted, smoky, tart pear nose; tasty, tart pear, mineral palate with firm textured; medium-plus finish (92 points)
  • 2010 Château La Louvière Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; aromatic, smoke, mineral, tart green fruit nose; smoke, mineral, tart green fruit palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (91 points)
  • 2010 Château La Louvière – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, pencil lead, tart red currant nose; suave, tart red currant, green olive, mineral palate with fine tannins and medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; tart peach, light smoke nose; tasty, fleshy, tart peach, ripe pear, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark ruby color; pencil lead, tart black currant nose; pencil lead, tart black currant, mocha palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château La Tour-Martillac Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; appealing, tart citrus, smoke, mineral nose; tasty, tart citrus, smoke, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (93 points)
  • 2010 Château La Tour-Martillac – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark ruby color; pencil lead, tart black currant nose; pencil lead, tart black currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light lemon yellow color; very appealing, white jasmine, honeysuckle, tart peach nose; creamy textured, white jasmine, honeysuckle, tart peach, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Malartic-Lagravière – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark ruby color; ripe cassis, vanilla nose; ripe cassis, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Olivier Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; tart peach, smoke nose; very tart peach, smoke, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Olivier – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark ruby color; tart black currant, menthol, pencil lead nose; tart black currant, menthol, pencil lead palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Pape Clément Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light lemon yellow color; appealing, light menthol, smoke, tart peach nose; tasty, rich but poised, lightly oily textured, ripe pear, tart peach mineral palate; medium-plus finish (94 points)
  • 2010 Château Pape Clément – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Opaque red violet color; fresh, tart black currant, loam nose; tasty, rich, tart black currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish (62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Picque Caillou Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; smoke, tart pear, poached pear nose; smoke, ripe fruit, tart pear, poached pear palate; medium finish (89 points)
  • 2010 Château Picque Caillou – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark ruby color; loam, tart red currant nose; loam, tart red currant, herbaceous palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot) (88 points)
  • 2010 Château Rahoul Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    Light yellow color; oak, tart green fruit nose; ripe citrus, mineral, oak palate; medium finish 88+ points (65% Semillion, 35% Sauvignon Blanc) (88 points)
  • 2010 Château Rahoul – France, Bordeaux, Graves
    Opaque red violet color; ripe red currant, oak palate; ripe red currant, oak palate; medium-plus finish (79% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot) (87 points)
  • 2010 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Light yellow color; very aromatic, smoky, tart pear, grasses nose; tasty, classic, lightly oily textured, tart rounded pear, smoky, mineral palate; long finish (94 points)
  • 2010 Château Smith Haut Lafitte – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, fresh, tart currant, pencil lead nose; tasty, focused, tart red currant, pencil lead, cedar palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot) (92 points)

St. Émilion

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
St. Émilion is one of the two Right Bank appellations, where the wines are based primarily on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, instead of the Cabernet Sauvignon that dominates on the Left Bank. I thought the wines showed very well from the 14 St. Émilion producers on hand. The fruit was plush and appealing, while the tannins were sweet and refined. These wines, along with those of Pomerol, will give pleasure earlier on, but still are capable of aging well. My favorite wines from this appellation were Troplong Mondot, at 95+ points, followed by Canon at 94 points, and Figeac, Grand Mayne and Pavie Macquin all at 93. The best values, however, as mentioned above, are Grand Mayne and Berliquet. Figeac is the most upside down in terms of value of any wine at the tasting, at $273 (93 points).

  • 2010 Château Berliquet – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very dark red violet color; pencil lead, cedar, tart currant nose; tasty, poised, pencil lead, cedar, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Canon – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, lifted, ripe black currant, berry nose; tasty, plush, ripe black currant, blackberry palate with sweet tannins; long finish (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) (94 points)
  • 2010 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Opaque purple red violet color; very appealing, ripe black currant, blackberry nose; tart black currant, olive, herbaceous, cedar nose; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish (55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Dassault – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Opaque red violet color; ripe currant, cedar nose; ripe currant, cedar palate; medium-plus finish (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Figeac – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very dark red violet color; espresso, roasted black fruit nose; tasty, espresso, tart black fruit, cedar palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot) (93 points)
  • 2010 Clos Fourtet – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Opaque purple red violet color; mocha, ripe black currant nose; rich, mocha, ripe black currant palate with low acidity; medium-plus finish (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Franc-Mayne – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Dark ruby color; appealing, tart red currant, pencil lead nose; tart red currant, pencil lead, light menthol palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Grand Mayne – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very dark purple red violet color; appealing, tart blackberry, black currant nose; tasty, rich, California style, ripe black currant, blackberry, espresso palate; long finish (80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château La Couspaude – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very dark purple red violet color; ripe black currant, brett, graphite nose; ripe black currant, brett, graphite palate; medium-plus finish (89 points)
  • 2010 Château La Dominique – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Opaque red violet color; very ripe black currant, blackberry, oak nose; plush, ripe black currant, berry palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (92 points)
  • 2010 Château La Gaffelière – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very dark red violet color; intriguing, tart black currant, pencil lead nose; plush, tasty, tart black currant, ripe berry palate with lowish acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Larcis Ducasse – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very dark ruby color; oak, ripe red currant nose; oak, ripe red currant palate with sweet tannins; needs 3-plus years to integrate; medium-plus finish (85 % Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc) (89 points)
  • 2010 Château Pavie Macquin – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Opaque red violet color; lifted, pencil lead, tart currant nose; tasty, ripe red currant, pencil lead palate; medium-plus finish (85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Troplong Mondot – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very dark red violet color; very appealing, lifted, ripe berry, blackberry, pencil lead nose; tasty, rich but balanced, ripe black fruit, blackberry, black currant palate with polished tannins; long finish 95+ points (87% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc) (95 points)
  • 2010 Château Villemaurine – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Opaque red violet color; pencil lead, ripe black currant nose; plush, pencil lead, ripe black currant palate; medium-plus finish (95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc) (91 points)

Pomerol

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
Pomerol is the other Right Bank appellation, where the wines are based primarily on Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This appellation includes some of Bordeaux’s very highest priced wines–Châteaux Pétrus and Le Pin. There were only six producers on hand from Pomerol, but their average point scores–93.5–were the highest for any appellation in the tasting. My highest scorer here was La Conseillante at 95 points, followed by Clinet and Le Bon Pasteur at 94. The best values from this appellation are La Pointe, as mentioned above, and La Cabanne, $51 (92+ points).
2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF

  • 2010 Château Clinet – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Very dark red violet color; entrancing, cedar, pencil lead, ripe red currant nose; oak more noticeable on palate, ripe red currant, cedar palate; needs 4-plus years to integrate the oak; long finish (85% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc) (94 points)
  • 2010 Château Gazin – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, cedar, ripe black currant nose; rich, ripe black currant, black fruit, espresso palate with lowish acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points (86% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc) (92 points)
  • 2010 Château La Cabanne – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Very dark ruby color; ripe black currant, loam nose; plush, ripe black currant, espresso palate; long finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2010 Château La Conseillante – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Very dark red violet color; ripe black currant, blackberry, mocha nose; tasty, rich, hedonistic, ripe black currant, blackberry palate with sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) (95 points)
  • 2010 Château La Pointe – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Dark ruby color; appealing, aromatic, tart black currant, cedar nose; tasty, rich but poised, tart black currant, blackberry, espresso palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Le Bon Pasteur – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, cedar, floral, tart black currant nose; rich, plush, ripe black fruit, mocha, ripe black currant palate; long finish 94+ points (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc) (94 points)

Listrac-Médoc and Moulis en Médoc

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
There were five producers on hand from these two smaller appellations, which can be the source of more value-priced wines. My average score for these five wines was 87.5 points. The best wines were both from Listrac, Clarke and Fourcas Hosten, at 89 points. Clarke was also the best value at $25.

  • 2010 Château Chasse-Spleen – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Moulis en Médoc
    Dark ruby color; pencil lead, ripe red currant nose; pencil lead, ripe red currant palate; medium finish 88+ points (88 points)
  • 2010 Château Clarke – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc
    Very dark ruby color; tart black currant, espresso nose; tart black currant, espresso palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) (89 points)
  • 2010 Château Fourcas Hosten – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Listrac-Médoc
    Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart currant, olive, pencil lead nose; light, tart currant, menthol, olive palate; medium finish (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc) (89 points)
  • 2010 Château Maucaillou – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Moulis en Médoc
    Very dark red violet color; olive, tart currant nose; olive, tart currant palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 87+ points (87 points)
  • 2010 Château Poujeaux – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Moulis en Médoc
    Very dark ruby color; tart red currant, menthol nose; tart red currant, menthol palate; medium finish 87+ points (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot) (87 points)

Haut-Médoc and Médoc

These two broader appellations likewise can be sources of good values. My average point score for the nine wines hailing from these two appellations was 88.5. The best wine from this appellation was Cantemerle, at 91 points ($43). Next best was La Lagune at 89 points ($79). The best value was Beaumont (88 points, $17), followed by Coufran (88 points, $21).

  • 2010 Château Beaumont – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Dark ruby color; herbaceous, olive, Cabernet Franc nose; tart currant, herbaceous, olive palate; medium-plus finish (53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot) (88 points)
  • 2010 Château Belgrave – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Very dark red violet color; olive, herbaceous, tart currant nose; olive, herbaceous, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (52% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc) (88 points)
  • 2010 Château Cantemerle – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Opaque red violet color; tart red currant, menthol nose; poised, tart red currant, menthol, loam, pencil lead palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Citran – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Very dark red violet color; tart red currant, menthol nose; tart red currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 points)
  • 2010 Château Coufran – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Very dark red violet color; olive, herbaceous nose; olive, herbaceous, tart red currant palate; medium-plus finish (88 points)
  • 2010 Château de Camensac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Dark ruby color; menthol, tart currant nose; menthol, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 points)
  • 2010 Château La Lagune – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Very dark red violet color; olive, tart currant nose; olive, tart red currant, tart black currant palate; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot; 50% new oak) (89 points)
  • 2010 Château La Tour Carnet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, ripe red currant, menthol nose; ripe red currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 points)
  • 2010 Château La Tour de By – France, Bordeaux, Médoc
    Very dark red violet color; ripe currant, menthol nose; ripe currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (87 points)

Margaux

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
This appellation showed better for me than in 2009, with an average point score for the 16 representatives of the appellation of 90.125 points. For what it’s worth, there’s also a high concentration of second and third growth producers here. The best wines from Margaux for me, both scoring at 92 points, were second growths Rauzan-Gassies and Rauzan-Ségla. The first is a lot better deal than the second ($73 versus $153). The best value of this appellation that was relatively lacking in QPR wines is du Tertre (91+ points, $47), followed by Siran (89 points, $35) and d’Angludet (91 points, $44).

  • 2010 Château d’Angludet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark red violet color; ripe currant, mocha, pencil lead nose; ripe currant, mocha, pencil lead palate; medium-plus finish (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Brane-Cantenac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark ruby color; menthol, tart black currant nose; menthol, tart black currant palate; medium-plus finish (62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Cantenac Brown – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Dark ruby color; appealing, black currant, menthol nose; tasty, black currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Menthol) (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Dauzac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Opaque purple red violet color; ripe black currant, pencil lead nose; tasty, tart black currant, ripe berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot) (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Desmirail – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark ruby color; menthol, tart currant nose; menthol, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot) (89 points)
  • 2010 Château du Tertre – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Opaque red violet color; tart red currant, menthol nose; tasty, tart red currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Durfort-Vivens – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart currant nose; menthol, tart currant palate; medium finish 87+ points (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc) (87 points)
  • 2010 Château Ferrière – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart black currant nose; menthol, tart black currant palate; medium-plus finish (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc) (89 points)
  • 2010 Château Giscours – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart black currant nose; tasty, menthol, tart black currant, light brett palate; medium-plus finish (71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot) (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Kirwan – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark ruby color; menthol, tart black currant nose; menthol, very black currant palate; medium finish 88+ points (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot; 18 mos in 45% new French oak; 13.5% alcohol) (88 points)
  • 2010 Château Labégorce – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Opaque red violet color; tart black currant, oak nose; tart black currant, oak, mocha palate; medium-plus finish (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot) (89 points)
  • 2010 Château Lascombes – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Opaque red violet color; intriguing, tart red currant, tart black currant, ripe blackberry nose; tasty, tart black currant, tart red currant, ripe blackberry, mocha palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Prieuré-Lichine – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Opaque red violet color; tart red currant, herbaceous, cedar nose; tart red currant, herbaceous, cedar palate; medium-plus finish (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot) (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Rauzan-Gassies – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, tart black currant, mocha nose; tasty, tart black currant, mocha, pencil lead palate; medium-plus finish (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot) (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Rauzan-Ségla – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark ruby color; pencil lead, ripe black currant, ripe black fruit nose; tasty, pencil lead, ripe black currant, ripe black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 3.5% Petit Verdot, 1.5% Cabernet Franc) (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Siran – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Very dark ruby color; pencil lead, tart black currant, menthol nose; pencil lead, tart black currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (47% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot) (90 points)

St. Julien

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
This appellation boasts the other highest concentration of second and third growth producers. The wines from the 10 producers on hand averaged a very high 92.8 points for me. My highest scoring wines from this appellation were second growth Gruaud Larose (94+ points, $88), followed at 93+ points each by Beychevelle ($100), Branaire-Ducru ($90) and Leoville Barton ($137). As mentioned above, the best QPR in the appellation is also Gruaud Larose.

  • 2010 Château Beychevelle – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, tat black currant, cedar nose; tasty, tart black currant, cedar, pencil lead palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 93+ points (54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Branaire-Ducru – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Nearly opaque red violet color; very appealing, tart black currant, tart blackberry, pencil lead nose; tasty, tart black currant, tart blackberry, pencil lead palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Gloria – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very dark ruby color; ripe red currant, menthol nose; ripe red currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Gruaud Larose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very dark red violet color; very appealing, tart currant, graphite, pencil lead nose; tart currant, mineral, pencil lead palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish 94+ points (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot) (94 points)
  • 2010 Château Lagrange (St. Julien) – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very dark purple red violet color; appealing, herbaceous, menthol, deep black fruit nose; ripe black currant, menthol, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Langoa Barton – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very dark ruby color; lovely, herbs, fresh tobacco, tart currant nose; tasty, tart currant, herbs, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points (73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc) (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Léoville Barton – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very dark red violet color; pencil lead, cedar, tart black fruit nose; tasty, poised, elegant, tart black fruit, tart black currant, cedar, pencil lead palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 93+ points (77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc; 60% new) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Léoville Poyferré – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Opaque purple red violet color; very appealing, mocha, tart black currant, cedar nose; appealing, mocha, tart black currant, cedar palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Saint-Pierre – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very dark purple red violet color; mocha, menthol, ripe currant nose; rich, mocha, menthol, black currant palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Talbot – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Dark red violet color; herbs, tart red currant, tart berry nose; tight, tart black fruit, tar, olive palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot) (91 points)

Paulillac

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
Pauillac has the largest concentration of fifth growths represented at this tasting, along with two of the so-called “super seconds,” Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande. The wines overall showed very well, with an average point score of 91.75 points. My highest scoring wines in this appellation were Pichon Lalande at 95 points ($242), followed by Pichon Baron at 94 ($239) and Grand-Puy-Lacoste at 93+ ($107). Good QPR wines are very hard to come by here–the best it gets is, again, Grand-Puy-Lacoste.

  • 2010 Château Clerc Milon – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, menthol, tart currant nose; tasty, tart currant, menthol, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmenere) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Croizet-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Very dark ruby color; herbaceous, olive, menthol nose; herbaceous, olive, menthol, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc) (88 points)
  • 2010 Château d’Armailhac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Nearly opaque red violet color; menthol, tart red currant, cedar nose; tasty, menthol, tart red currant, cedar palate; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Grand-Puy Ducasse – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Very dark ruby color; ripe black currant, tart berry nose; tasty, ripe black currant, tart berry, light menthol palate; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, tart black currant, menthol, tart berry nose; tasty, poised, tart black currant, tart berry, espresso palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Haut-Bages Libéral – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Very dark red violet color; ripe black currant, tart black fruit nose; ripe black currant, tart black fruit, pencil lead palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot) (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Lynch-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Dark ruby color; appealing, ripe black currant, blackberry, vanilla nose; ripe black currant, blackberry, vanilla palate; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish (79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot) (93 points)
  • 2010 Château Lynch-Moussas – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Very dark ruby color; menthol, herbaceous, mocha nose; menthol, herbaceous, mocha, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot) (88 points)
  • 2010 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, lifted, ripe blackberry, ripe black fruit nose; tasty, rich but poised, tart black fruit, tart black currant palate with sweet tannins; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish (79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot) (94 points)
  • 2010 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, tart black currant, ripe plum, vanilla nose; tight, delicious, tart black currant, black fruit, espresso palate with plush, sweet tannins; needs 3-4 years; long finish (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) (95 points)

St. Estèphe

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
St. Estèphe can be a relative source of values for the better Bordeaux appellations. My highest scoring wine here was Lafon-Rochet at 92 points ($55), but the best relative value is Les Ormes de Pez (91 points, $41).

  • 2010 Château Cos Labory – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Very dark ruby color; lifted, ripe black currant, oak, ripe berry nose; ripe black currant, blackberry, cedar palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château de Pez – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, tart red currant, menthol nose; tart red currant, menthol, cedar palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (52.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47.5% Merlot) (90 points)
  • 2010 Château Lafon-Rochet – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Opaque red violet color; ripe black currant, ripe berry, cedar nose; tasty, plush, ripe black currant, ripe berry, cedar palate; medium-plus finish (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot) (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Les Ormes de Pez – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Very dark red violet color; tart red currant, menthol, mocha nose; tasty, rich, tart red currant, menthol, mocha palate; medium-plus finish (57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Phélan Ségur – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart red currant, olive nose; plush, menthol, tart red currant, olive palate; medium-plus finish (59% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon) (91 points)

Barsac and Sauternes

2012 UGC Bordeaux tasting SF
Although the weather was relatively cool in 2010, somehow the sweet wines didn’t get to the high level of acidity one wants in the finest Sauternes vintages, like 2001 and 2005. As mentioned above, I preferred the balance on the sweet wines in the 2009 vintage. That said, there are still some very tasty wines from the sweet appellations in this vintage. The best for me was Climens at 94 points ($136), followed by Coutet at 93 ($88). As mentioned above, the best QPR among the nine sweet producers represented at this tasting was Guiraud (92+ points, $58), followed by Rayne-Vigneau (92+ points, $63).

  • 2010 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    Light medium yellow color; botrytis, creme brulee, coconut nose; delicious, ripe pear, creme brulee, honeyed palate; long finish (94 points)
  • 2010 Château Coutet – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    Light golden yellow color; appealing, botrytis, ripe pear, confectioner’s sugar nose; delicious, ripe pear, candied pear, confectioner’s sugar palate; long finish (93 points)
  • 2010 Château de Fargues – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Light medium yellow color; coconut, vanilla nose; tasty, creamy textured, coconut, vanilla, ripe pear palate; long finish (92 points)
  • 2010 Château de Rayne-Vigneau – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Light medium yellow color; focused, ripe apricot, coconut nose; rich, focused, ripe apricot, coconut, sugared palate; long finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Doisy-Daëne – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Light medium yellow color; sugared, ripe apricot, honeyed nose; sugared, ripe apricot, honeyed palate with citrus acidity; long finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Guiraud – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Light medium golden yellow color; appealing, tart orange, ripe lemon, sugared nose; tart orange, ripe lemon, sugared palate; long finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2010 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Light golden yellow color; rich, baked apricot, baked pear nose; rich, baked apricot, baked pear, sugared palate; long finish 90+ points (90 points)
  • 2010 Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Light medium yellow color; redolent, apricot, baked lemon nose; apricot, baked lemon, sugared palate; long finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 2010 Château Suduiraut – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Light golden yellow color; botrytis, tart apricot nose; botrytis, tart apricot, powdered sugar with good acidity; long finish 91+ points (91 points)
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4 Responses leave one →
  1. February 4, 2013

    Dear Richard,

    Congratulations for your very complete article, regarding the 2010 Bordeaux Grands Crus Tasting.
    I am very impressed you managed to taste every wine, in such a short time, and scored very fairly.
    All the best.
    Ronan LABORDE

    • Richard Jennings permalink*
      February 4, 2013

      Messrs Ronan and Frederic,
      Thank you for visiting the site and for your kind comments. Thank you too, for the terrific wines. All the best,
      Richard

  2. February 4, 2013

    I agree with Ronan, impressed by your tasting of all these wines in such a short time ! well done !

    And Coufran as a good value : you are so right !! ;)

    Cheers

    Frederic Vicaire

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