Thursday, 11 April 2013

Bordeaux 2012 - Day 2

Posted by Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux Buyer

Paul Pontallier, courtesy of Peter Richards MW
Day two started with a drive into the hills of Castillon for a tasting with Paul and Cedric Valade. As we have come to expect, the wines are sumptuous, serious and punch well above their price points. An acquisition of 2.5 hectares takes the total area of Chateau Valade to almost 6 ha. The wines are perfumed, balanced and will give so much pleasure in a couple of years. Bravo chaps!

We wound our way back to St Emilion for our first UGC. Time limits prevented a thorough tasting, so we were slightly selective. There were quite a few standouts, but none more so than Clos Fourtet: a really spectacular wine and an estate well and truly on top of their game. Other noteworthy properties included the Thienpont and Derenoncort collaborations: Larcis Ducasse and Pavie Macquin. Next stop, a whirlwind stop at Conseillante to taste at the Pomerol UGC. Again, the clock was ticking. Gazin stole the show; a really classy bitter-sweet, Sanguinello orange style with loads of depth, complexity and sumptuous tannins. Clinet will probably hit all the right notes with Mr P, but found few admirers in the J&B team.

Back in the wagon and over two rivers to Haut Brion, or is that La Mission Haut Brion. A 50:50 chance, but the Bordeaux Buyer was wrong again, the story of the week... La Mission incorporates one of the highest percentages of Merlot ever, but is uncharacteristically closed. Usually the exuberant sibling at this stage, it’s cloaked, but possesses enormous potential. Haut Brion by contrast is atypically open, even flamboyant. Two great wines that will be fascinating to watch develop.

Olivier Bernard was our most generous host for lunch. A flight of `82, `92 and `02 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge and Blanc accompanied a spectacular lunch. His 2012s are equally magnificent. The Blanc is definitely one of the best examples we have tasted from DDC and the Rouge is sumptuous, sexy and will give drinkers masses of pleasure in a few year’s time.

Post lunch we tackled the Pessac UGC at the charming and anchient Chateau Olivier. Quality and consistency seem to be the bywords here – a really exceptional selection of wines topped by the splendid Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge. Whites fared well too with too many highlights to mention; this is a successful vintage in the early ripening Pessac Leognan commune.

Back around the Rocade and up to Margaux to finish day two. Paul Pontalier was at his ebullient best, and his wines certainly didn’t disappoint. The reds are wonderfully perfumed, taut, classical examples, whilst the Pavillon Blanc is the best to date in our opinion. Neighbour Chateau Palmer gets the thumbs up too. Alter Ego and the Grand Vin are sumptuous, even decadent wines that we like a lot!

Our final appointment of the day was with our old friend Luc Thienpont. The highlight of the tasting was the stunning Clos des Quatre Vents, although the Villa des Quatre Soeurs and the Z are both excellent and will be perfect for the dinner table in a couple of years.

So, we’ve tasted from four communes in one day and we’ve discovered many exciting wines, and almost as many that haven’t hit the mark. Some estates have pushed too hard and some just don’t have the terroir to produce good wine in 2012. Some by contrast have had their hands forced by the weather and have resisted the temptation to harvest late and therefore their wines have more restraint and precision. It is not a homogenous vintage; in fact it’s a year that sorts the best terroirs and the best vignerons from the rest. The peeks can be quite high, but research is essential and there are more than a few troughs...