The 2012 vintage in Bordeaux
by Aymeric de Clouet
Originally written in French
This week, to verify the consistency of the 2012 Bordeaux vintage, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux held the first « in bottle » tasting since the “in primeurs” round.
The general impression is of an average vintage. Even if modern methods of wine-making can help to avoid the great catastrophes witnessed in the past, the 2012 Bordeaux wines are not great. Fortunately, even in such average vintages, there are some great discoveries to be made, and not always the expensive ones.
I started with the Graves region (Pessac-Léognan), as I like to start with whites. After the exceptional 2011 vintage -one of the best in the last decades for white Bordeaux-, 2012 could only be disappointing, not unpleasant but lacking some nerve. A beautiful length for Domaine de Chevalier, and a very good value for Latour-Martillac and La Louvière, two very good wines which remain affordable. That is the extent of my selection. As far as the red Graves go, not bad at all, but heterogeneous: very good (***) for Les Carmes-Haut-Brion and Domaine de Chevalier, good (**) for Château de France (a surprise), La Louvière, Malartic-Lagravière, Olivier, and rather good for Latour-Martillac, Picque-Caillou and Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Two big contenders went down : Haut-Bailly and Pape-Clément. For the latter, power is not everything, they should try to make a wine with a taste of grape instead of alcohol and wood. What a shame!
Saint-Emilion is next : an average vintage here too, Figeac, despite the family issues, stands out, the rest is hardly average. Pavie-Macquin distinguishes (disappointedly) itself with its taste of Port and sugary finish. When I want Port, I drink Port! Not a Saint-Emilion.
Pomerol does not do any better than its neighbour. Beauregard,Le Bon Pasteur, and La Croix de Gay were fair. Clinet and La Conseillante, rather good. That’s it! Really average.
Therefore my surprise was big when I moved on towards Listrac and Moulis, two honest wines from these villages in the Heart of Haut-Médoc, with a very traditional style of Bordeaux (in term of Cabernet blends and terroir). I was met with a correct Château Clarke (*) and a quite good Fourcas-Hosten (**), followed with good (**) Chasse-Spleen and Maucaillou, as well as a very tannic Poujeaux. A good ensemble.
The rest of Haut-Médoc was also interesting, with a good Camensac, one of the best value for cru classé. Almost all the other wines were fair. Almost? Once again, La Tour Carnet distinguishes itself with a very poor taste, and for once La Lagune appears to be completely flat.
The day is not over yet, but I still have all great Médoc appellations to taste; I am so amazed by those “tasters” who would have hundreds and hundreds of wines, keep them for two minutes in their mouth, and would still tell the difference on each of them… Every decent professional knows that it is impossible! My magic powers for young wines have a limit, so I move on with Margaux.
Curiously, the first, d’Angludet, is quite good, but the rest is not so interesting : Brane-Cantenac, Cantenac-Brown, Dauzac, Durfort-Vivens (watery), and du Tertre were disappointing. Desmirail, Labégorce, Lascombes, Marquis de Terme, even Rauzan-Gassies were correct, as well as Rauzan Ségla and Siran. As a whole, not bad, nothing worth storing, but ok for a Restaurant wine list.
The Saint-Juliens are much better, with the exception of Beychevelle and, to my great surprise, Branaire-Ducru (a château I love for their fantastic wines at very good prices). Apart from these, all wines were rather good with Lagrange being a little bit above the others.
I have now reached 107 wines tasted, and it would be unfair to Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe to keep going on. This tasting was only one afternoon, so no break possible here, as opposed to the Primeurs tasting which lasts three days. There, you can do it all day, generally 4 rows of 40 wines a day. But I got the general idea for 2012: better than expected in Médoc overall, and not a vintage to be cellared but convenient for a restaurant’s consumption, plus a series of good value wines in Listrac and Moulis. Not so bad, after all.