Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Reviewing Bordeaux 2012

Two years back during the Bordeaux 2012 en primeur campaign a friend asked if I thought that it was worth buying into the futures, noting that the pricing seemed reasonable. My reply was that there was better value to be found elsewhere, and that prices only looked reasonable because they went up so high for the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Since then, prices for most wines from this vintage have either been stable or drifted lower. A notable exception is Château Angélus, and this can be explained by its promotion to Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” in September 2012, a perch on which only three other St-Émilion châteaux roost.

The UGC (Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux) tasting held in Singapore last month afforded a more detailed look at the vintage, now that it has had time to settle in bottle. To give a summary, the vintage was notable for its cold and wet start that delayed budbreak, and mid-October rains that raised the spectre of berries splitting. Due to its propensity to ripen earlier, Merlot-based wines fared better in 2012, while the late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and the sweet wines of Sauternes had a difficult time. For those wineries that had the luxury of deep pockets, strict selection and a lot of work in the vineyard resulted in higher quality wines.

While this is a vintage where the producer makes all the difference, I did find that the St-Émilion wines on display were very approachable and full of plump, sweet fruit. In general the classed growths did well too, and the second growths displayed potential to develop further. Also the sweet wines shouldn’t be completely written off, as producers such as Coutet and Doisy Daëne made some very fine wines. The white wines from Pessac-Léognan also showed well with freshness and appealing fruit.

The 2012 vintage looks weak compared to 2009 and 2010, but on taken on its own it delivers plenty of charming wines that for the most part are already accessible. Of the last three recent vintages (2011-2013) it is also the best, although the buzz on the grapevine is that 2014 shows promise. The pressing question is whether Bordeaux still remains relevant in the minds of consumers given numerous alternatives from other wine regions. Winemaking in Bordeaux has been improving year-on-year, but countries such as Argentina, Chile and Italy have not been twiddling their thumbs either. Consumers can afford to be selective in this vintage, but should not neglect the fact that there are some vinous gems to be uncovered.

Tasting notes:

Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2012 – A refined and appealing wine that offers immediate pleasure. Barrel aging for 10 months with 30% new oak has provided the wine with an attractive texture backed with lemon curd and light vanilla notes. A balanced and complete wine.

Château Pape Clément Blanc 2012 – A medium gold appearance hints that this wine is rather more substantial than your typical Bordeaux Blanc. The texture is rich and oily, with notes of honeysuckle, lemon and stone fruit. The wine is a blend of 45% Sauvignon Blanc, 45% Sémillon, 5% Muscadelle and 5% of the obscure Sauvignon Gris.

Château Lascombes 2012 – Deep ruby with aromas that jump out of the glass – a mélange of sweet black fruit, spice, cedar and pencil shavings. If you are familiar with the Lascombes style however this will seem a little hollow and even a bit watery in comparison.

Château Kirwan 2012 – Winemaker Philippe Delfaut has crafted a stunning wine in this vintage. A restrained and yet concentrated nose reveals notes of black cherry and blackcurrant, with a fine-grained palate and refreshing acidity. Since 2009 the winery has been practicing co-inoculation, where the malolactic fermentation takes place at the same time as the alcoholic fermentation, and this has resulted in a more upfront fruit character.

Château La Dominique 2012 – Rich, intense and vivacious, this St-Émilion wine displays notes of savoury wild berries, crushed blackcurrants and an earthy undertone. Well-defined with persistent length.

Château La Gaffelière 2012 – This château is run by the de Malet Roquefort family, who have been in St-Émilion since 1611. A well-made wine with ripe fruit and a medium level of tannins. The richness of the Merlot shows through here and there is a firm footing that should see this wine keep for a decade or more.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2012 – Immensely likeable, this classy wine shows attractive toast and cedary aromas, with fine fruit intensity. There is real verve and tension on the palate, making it one of the standout wines of the tasting. Beautiful now, but given its potential a decade or two would be worth the wait.

Château Giscours 2012 – A welcome improvement from the 2011 vintage. This wine showed a deep, inky colour with attractive depth of fruit and thoroughly modern cassis and oak character. Finishes with a flourish.

Château Coutet 2012 – The name Coutet comes from the Gascon word for knife, a reference to the wine’s cutting acidity. This wine is from Barsac, an appellation for sweet wines that has limestone and clay soils resulting in wines that generally lighter than neighbouring Sauternes. The 2012 Coutet showed gorgeous notes of orange marmalade and pineapple, a fine streak of tangy acidity and a long, stunning finish.

Château Doisy Daëne 2012 – The bubbly Di Dubourdieu Sun explained how dry weather in Barsac allowed the wines to fare better than Sauternes in 2012 by allowing noble rot to develop rather than its undesirable counterpart grey rot. This wine divulged plentiful flavours of honey, pineapple, and yellow apricots with a pleasant bittersweet orange base. Fresh throughout with a long, focused finish.

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