Saturday, 13 April 2013

Bordeaux 2012 - Day 4

Posted by Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux Buyer
A green harvester at Ducru Beaucaillou...

Day four and there was still lots to cover, four UGCs (Sauternes, Moulis - Listrac and Haut Medoc, Margaux and Pauillac - St Julien and St Estephe) as well as a few last Chateau visits. First stop, the Pichons. We unanimously preferred Lalande to Baron and this was confirmed by re-tasting at the UGC. Pichon Lalande has real charm, grace and Pauillac character. It will be a lovely drink in eight years’ time.

The Pauillac, St Julien and St Estephe UGC was a little patchy, but there was much to admire. Re-tasting Lynch Bages and Grand Puy Lacoste confirmed their class, while Gloria looks like a great value from St Julien. Langoa and Leoville Barton both showed well, but we thought we’d pop in to see Lilian and taste at the Chateau on the way to Ducru. Both wines performed even better when tasted at the Chateau. There was also an opportunity to taste the 2011s a year on. Langoa is stunning, while Leoville is big, tannic and impressive. It is slightly awkward at the moment, but has good potential.

Our last tasting before lunch was with Bruno Borie at Ducru Beaucaillou. Toby wasted no time in his interrogation, quizzing Bruno on his choice of harvesters in the glossy brochure. Bruno was prepared, explaining that he prefers blondes for the green harvest and brunets for the vendage. That cleared up, we got on with the tasting; the results were spectacular. Lalande Borie is juicy, yummy and should be good value, Croix has real depth and class and the Grand Vin is serious, sexy and long-term. A cracking range.

Ulysse Cazabonne was our generous host for lunch. Once again their chef treated us to an extravagant lunch, including some delicious clarets from 2001 – a really friendly, attractive vintage. There was also an opportunity to taste and re-taste some wines in their cellars. John Kolasa’s Chateau Canon was exceptional. This is an estate on top form, showing well at Southwold and their 2012 rates amongst the top wines of the right bank.

The afternoon was a big disappointment. Leaden skies and pouring rain added to our downbeat mood, but the wines were the main reason for our disenchantment. Sauternes seemed saccharine, lacking botrytis and complexity. Unless they are super cheap, there’s no point buying them; we recommend the excellent 2011s which are widely available at opening prices. Margaux UGC was if anything a bigger anti-climax. Some big names just really didn’t get it. The best performers were Rauzan Segla, Brane Cantenac and Malescot St Exupery. We should add that the Margaux UGC has been a bit of a challenge for the last few years, so the wines probably deserve the benefit of the doubt – they will no doubt work themselves out in time. So it was left for the Moulis, Listrac and Haut Medoc tasting to raise our spirits, and actually, there were quite a few very good, honest, well made wines here. Cantemerle continues its good form, Chasse Spleen and Poujeaux are both solid efforts and Beaumont is excellent value for money. Some tasters were left head scratching. Had this minor UGC trumped the somewhat grander Margaux UGC? Well expectations were somewhat lower, but we definitely left in a more upbeat mood.

So after four days of tastings, we have a picture of the 2012s. It is not an easy vintage to pigeonhole. Pomerol estates maybe had an easier time than the other communes, but they didn’t have it all their own way, and a lot of hard graft was required to produce high quality wines. The Medoc probably had the most challenging conditions, but here we have estates with incredible resources and resourcefulness and there have been some very smart wines produced. Sauternes is weak and the decision by Yquem and Rieussec not to release looks astute. The dry whites are delicious; 2012 must rank as an excellent vintage for this style.

To loosely paraphrase our Chairman, the highs are higher than in 2011, but there is less consistency. We like the purity and precision in the best wines and feel that they will be delightful wines to consume in 8-10 years’ time.