2012 is a winemaker’s vintage, where severe selection and good wine-making has been practised some excellent wines followed with good ripeness and fruit concentration. Conversely poorer efforts have resulted in thin wines, particularly on the left bank, devoid of weight in the mid-palate. Broadly speaking it is a better vintage than 2011 and where chateaux have reduced their prices from last year one can find real value for drinking and an incentive to buy En Primeur for capital growth once again.
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Investment and Consumption
Lafite Rothschild, 6x75cl – £1,975
This is beautiful for the vintage. Full body and very tender with fine tannins and a pretty finish. Attractive currant, cedar, and sweet tobacco character. More delicate than the 2011. 92-95 points Robert Parker
Mouton Rothschild, 6x75cl – £1,500
Mouton Rothschild has produced one of the vintage-s most profound wines in 2012, and possibly the -wine of the Medoc.- About 49% of the production made it into the 2012 Mouton, which is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. The harvest took place during the middle two weeks of October. This may be one of the few 2012s that comes close to equaling what was achieved in both 2009 and 2010, two far superior vintages. 95-97 points Robert Parker
Palmer, 12x75cl – £1,700
The 2012 Palmer’s inky/purple color is more saturated than most Margaux’s, and it offers complex notes of blackberries, cassis, licorice, truffle and spring flowers. The wine is dense, rich and full-bodied with a muscular appeal, but the tannins, as high as they are, are sweet and well-integrated. None of the new oak used during the wine-s upbringing is noticeable. Interestingly, this wine showed no evidence of dilution from the October 7-9 rainfall. I suspect it will require 3-4 years of cellaring, and should last for two decades. 92-95 Robert Parker
Pape Clement, 12x75cl – £550
The 2012 Pape Clement is one of the stars of the vintage, which is not surprising given this estate’s performances over the last 10-15 years. A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc, it exhibits an opaque ruby/purple color along with a beautifully sweet, graphite-scented nose with hints of black currants, Asian plum sauce, soy and forest floor. Impressively built with medium to full-bodied flavors, it has more layers than many wines from this vintage, an appealing density and a velvety texture. 92-95 points Robert Parker
l’Evangile, 12x75cl – £1,100
The 2012 is an outstanding effort displaying copious quantities of black raspberry and blackberry fruit intermixed with hints of camphor, black truffles and subtle new oak. Opulent, round and generously endowed with impressive purity as well as a forward style, it should drink well young yet age for 12-15 years. 90-94 points Robert Parker
Troplong Mondot, 12x75cl – £595
Bravo! From a 63-acre vineyard on the high plateau (called the Plateau of Mondot) adjacent to the famous limestone hillside, the Cote Pavie, the 2012 Troplong Mondot is another fabulous success. Cropped at 31 hectoliters per hectare with malolactic in barrel, this blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon hit 14.2% natural alcohol. Three-fourths of the production went into the grand vin. 94-96 points Robert Parker
Lynch Bages, 12x75cl – £670
A fruity wine for the vintage with dense tannins. Full body, with impressive structure. Long finish. Generous and attractive. I like the balance and precision for the vintage. 92-95 points James Suckling
Cantemerle, 12x75cl – £195
Cantemerle’s ethereal elegance and racy, classy style are unmistakable in this understated yet pretty, dark ruby-colored 2012. Offering lots of cherry, raspberry and black currant fruit, this is a wine of unmistakable finesse and delicacy. Enjoy it over the next 10-12 years. 89-91 points Robert Parker
Talbot, 12x75cl – £290
A strong effort from Talbot, this sexy, medium to full-bodied, richly fruity 2012 exhibits lots of creme de cassis, licorice, roasted herb and spice box characteristics in an evolved yet elegant, round, lush style that was surprisingly seductive and disarming. This offering stood out as one of the stars of St.-Julien. Drink it over the next 12-15 years. 90-92 points Robert Parker
Alter Ego de Palmer, 12x75cl – £420
The second wine, which has gone from strength to strength over recent years, the 2012 Alter Ego de Palmer, is a blend of 51% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot. Spicy and earthy, displaying notes of new saddle leather, roasted herbs and meaty barbecue, it is a medium-bodied, fleshy, attractive wine to drink over the next 10-12 years. 88-90 points Robert Parker
Echo de Lynch Bages, 12x75cl – £250
“This has incredible length for a second wine. Full body, with dark berry and raspberry character, ultra-fine tannins, and a long, long finish. Tiny grape yields for the vintage.” 92-93 pts James Suckling
“18% press wine, pH 3.65. Quite strong leafy Cabernet aromas, but lovely freshness and round tannins. Is this like Palmer of old? I don’t think I would guess this was majority Merlot… Just slightly green on the end. 13.4%. Drink 2019-2027.” 17/20 pts Jancis Robinson
Canon, 12x75cl £410
A dense ruby/purple color is followed by notes of black raspberries, blueberries, crushed rocks and spring flowers. This medium to full-bodied, well-endowed, authoritative Canon reveals some serious tannin in the finish, so 4-5 years of cellaring will be needed after bottling. It should last 15-20 years.
Owned by the Wertheimers (also the proprietors of the enormously successful haut-couture house of Chanel), this is a pure, stylish, nicely textured, impressive effort from a superb terroir on the limestone plateau of St.-Emilion. The final blend was 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, and yields were a modest 35 hectoliters per hectare. 91-94 points Robert Parker
Ormes de Pez, 12x75cl £190
Good acidity along with fresh, clean cut red and blue fruits characterize this straightforward, meaty, fruity offering. It lacks some concentration, complexity and overall gravitas, but it does offer good fruit and ripe tannin in a medium-bodied, easygoing style. Consume it over the next 7-8 years. 85-87 points Robert Parker
Sociando de Mallet, 12x75cl £215
A noteworthy success for this conscientiously run property that has overperformed for much of my 35-year career, the black/purple-hued 2012 Sociando Mallet reveals notes of camphor, black truffles, asphalt and abundant blue and black fruits. Layered, rich and concentrated with sweet tannin and a more forward, precocious personality than is normal for this estate, it should drink well for 10-12 years. 88-90 points Robert Parker
2012 En Primeur Report
Robert Parker’s 2012 Bordeaux en primeur report will be released at the end of the month, however, releases will start as early as next week. After speaking with the proprietors and negociants it is clear that the mind-set is more commercially sound than last year. Two precepts abound: prices need to be closer to those in 2008 thus lower than the 2011s. Moreover, the chateaux need to release evenly, not in a mad flurry five weeks into the campaign…common sense really. Several top estates are expected to release before Parker’s verdict.
2012 was dominated by vagaries of weather. A rainy spring caused cool damp conditions slowing vine growth; diminutive flowering proceeded slowly throughout the first weeks of June and this was the primary reason for reduced yields.
Summer finally began at the end of July; August was very dry and sunny with several days of high temperatures and drought. The excellent weather continued into September which may have resulted in heat strain and cessation of the ripening process; much needed rain arrived in late September, but a deluge between the 7th and 9th which saw 90 to 100mm of rainfall created rot issues.
2012 by Village
The right bank villages of Pomerol and Saint Emilion – which are Merlot dominate – could be picked before the rot and deluge issues occurred and to this extent the right bank has produced an excellent vintage, with sweet tannins, ripe fruit and good mouth feel. Chateaux Clinet, La Conseillante and of course Cheval Blanc, Angelus, Beausejour-Duffau Lagarrosse and Pavie, all performed extremely well, producing wines that are ripe, plump and long in finish. In fact Parker commented that some right bank 2012s, while not legendary, are not far behind the great 2009s and 2010s.
The Medoc was hurt by the deluge in October and the top estates countered this with severe selections, only 30-35% of the crop going into their first wines, with the remainder going into their second and third wines. The wines of the Medoc seem to be very well structured and well-made although they lack the abundance of fruit we saw in the 2009 and 2010 vintages.
Starting north and heading south we visited the great estates of Montrose and Cos d’Estournel in Saint Estephe. Montrose is a structured concentrated wine, full of black fruit with high notes of mint and ripe tannins. Cos d’Estournel on the other hand was more elegant with a velvety mouth feel and enveloping layers of flavour.
In Pauillac, Mouton Rothschild demonstrated great concentration with notes of chocolate, coffee and a touch of cedar. The wine showed finesse and was certainly more dense than the 2011. The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tastings gave us a chance to try many of the wines side-by-side. Lynch Bages was another magnificent effort from Jean-Charles Cazes, no doubt achieved by their lowest yields since 1991. It is full-bodied and densely packed with black fruit and a touch of smoke, a classic Lynch Bages. The adjacent Pichon estates were equally as good; in particular Pichon Baron combined black fruits, mocha and strawberry jam; both were muscular and structured.
Before enjoying the great lunch and famous cheese selection of Pontet Canet we were welcomed by Alfred and Melanie Tesseron to taste their first wine. This was another wonderful effort to compliment the 100 point 2009 and 2010 vintages. The wine was fragrant boasting soft blueberries, violets, white flowers and elegant smoke, though with some noticeable warmth from the alcohol at 13.5%. An interview with Alfred Tesseron will follow this report. It is noteworthy that we drank a 1995 Pontet Canet at La Tupina on Monday evening, which remained incredibly youthful, more like a 2006 than a wine made a decade before.
Broadly speaking Saint-Julien did not match the high standards of Pauillac. However, Leoville Poyferre was a high point with flavours of pepper, cloves and good minerality.
Entering the village of Margaux we were very well received by the charismatic Thibault Pontallier of Chateau Margaux, son of Director Paul, who will feature in an interview to follow. Margaux was once again an excellent wine with plenty of red and black fruit and a classic scent of violets. One of our white wines of the vintage was Pavillon Blanc where 30% of the crop was used meaning 800 cases of the 2012 vintage will be produced. It vaunts a pronounced bouquet of lemon, peaches and apricot, with a fat mouth feel, balanced acidity with honeysuckle on the finish. Palmer was the wine of the vintage for us in 2011 and in the opinion of Charles Sichel, whose family own one third of the Chateau, 2012 is even better.
Pessac Leognan and Graves fared well, with their higher proportion of Merlot. The top wines have excellent mid-palates and density, with Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion achieving alcohol levels close to 15%. Both wines include their highest ever proportion of Merlot with over 60% in their blends. These are our wines of the left bank, breaking the trend of the 2012, they are rich and exuberant combining their tell-tale cigar box with, brioche, pepper, sweet spices and dried raisins, creating a truly pronounced nose. On the palate they were full bodied and voluptuous, La Mission displaying a subtle white chocolate and a long finish of Cinnamon.
We will provide further information as releases continue.