This article was posted today on Livex, the fine wine exchange.
I’ve tasted over 500 Bordeaux wines from the 2012 vintage in April.
Key points about Bordeaux 2012
1. 2012 is a good to very good vintage, but not a great one.
2. It’s certainly a vintage for drinking, not investment. Many wines will be good to drink in the short to medium term.
3. 2012 was a late harvest which tended to favour the earlier ripening Merlot over the Cabernets, partly because drizzle, humidity and finally heavy rain set in from the second week of October onwards.
4. It’s an uneven vintage but hundreds of reds have lovely colour, supple fruit, crowd-pleasing texture and no hard edges.
5. Happily, very few wines show any green, unripe character. The fruit is ripe (thanks to ten weeks of sunshine from mid-July onwards) even if many wines lack real depth, complexity and length.
6. 2012 is notably strong in the ‘précoce’ terroirs of the Right Bank, and south of Bordeaux in the northern Graves. More often than not, for Merlot.
7. The plateau of Pomerol is successful, but it’s tiny and expensive. Several candidates for ’wine of the vintage’ come from here.
8. Merlot on the clay and limestone terroirs around the town of St-Emilion (and beyond) also fared well. Here there are some great wines, although you have to pick those that suit your palate, and pocket.
9. There are many attractive Crus Classés in the Medoc, yet few big scoring wines for me (or for Mr Parker, I’d suggest). It might have been different if October had been kinder to the Cabernets.
10. There are some real successes, and possible values, from all four of the major Medoc appellations (Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estephe) but there are several fairly disappointing wines, including some big names. I think you have to treat them on a chateau by chateau basis.
11. It’s not quite correct to say that it’s a Right Bank vintage, however. There are some lovely wines from Pessac-Leognan on the left bank, south of Bordeaux, and many estates there produced fine dry whites to boot. The Graves should prove to be a source of values in 2012.
12. There are many pretty wines from the petit chateaux of the Right Bank, less so for the Cru Bourgeois of the Left. It’s a vintage to re-evaluate after bottling at this level.
13. Élevage – barrel ageing – will be key. With such gentle fruit, new oak could dominate while older oak barrels can dry out a wine. It’s not that the wines are over-oaked; they could simply be under-wined.
14. Thankfully, few estates got it wrong with the dreaded ’over-extraction’.
15. Hundreds of estates have seriously upped their game in the last decade or so. There’s much more precision than there used to be – in the vineyard, with picking dates, in sorting the grapes, in the wine-making – and there’s stricter selection for the final blends. It shows in the wines, almost more so in 2012 than in a uniformly good year like 2010.
16. It’s a fine vintage for dry whites, and not just at the top level in Pessac-Léognan. Most Sauvignon and Sémillon across Bordeaux were picked in fine weather in mid-September, in very good condition.
17. The summer drought and October rains proved difficult for sweet wines after three excellent years on the trot. Although some big names declared that they wouldn’t be making a wine this year (Yquem, Rieussec and so on) there are, in fact, some heroic efforts from Sauternes and Barsac. In small quantities.
18. Comparison with another vintage? None, as far as the climate goes. 1998 perhaps, 2001 even? Not really. As it was a case of ’picking before the rains’ for many chateaux, 2012 could even be a modern take on 1964 (great Pomerols, St-Emilions and Graves, awkward in the Medoc on the whole). But much has changed since the Beatles.
Actually, never mind 1964, a lot has changed since 2004. Not least, the prices. Onwards and upwards.
Here are my top 40 wines, with the appellation, my score from 100, estimated maturity, and the likely en primeur or ‘futures’ price in the UK – per case of 12 ‘in bond’ (ex duty and VAT).
|La Mission Haut-Brion||Pessac-Leognan||93-95||2019-2033||£4,500|
|Smith Haut Lafitte||Pessac-Leognan||91-94||2017-2032||£450|
|Léoville Las Cases||St-Julien||91-93||2022-2036||£970|
|Vieux Château Certan||Pomerol||91-93||2019-2033||£800|