A quick campaign!?
In a complete reversal on the late and sporadic releases of last year, it looks as though the Chateaux of Bordeaux won’t even allow the trade back to their desks before releasing their prices in this year’s campaign. Early reports claim that the campaign should all be over by Vinexpo, which runs 16th to 20th June, much earlier than last year’s finish in July.
So, with that in mind, and the possibility of further large releases during the course of this week (Source: Decanter), we will keep our report brief. In our opinion, if the pricing is right, this is a vintage not to be missed. There are some excellent wines to be had, with a quality that reaches higher points than 2011 did.
The Ditton team of two were in Bordeaux last week to find out exactly what the wines are like, and where they should be placed in the market. Having purposefully avoided all tasting notes and vintage reports already released, we went over there with no pre-conceptions as to the quality of the wines. I think it is fair to say we were pleasantly surprised.
Chateaux Clinet & l'Eglise Clinet
As promised above, we want to keep this brief – so, as in “here’s one someone else prepared earlier” style – courtesy of Jancis Robinson and Gavin Quinney – an excellent weather report can be found here.
One of the key points here, is that following on from the two excellent previous vintages, 2011 and 2012 have it pretty tough. But, and this is key, they (‘11 & ’12) are not nearly the same vintage due to completely differing weather conditions throughout the two vintages. It is likely though that the two will be compared, simply because they are not 2009 and 2010. So, prices are bound to be compared to the 2011 releases. And on that factor, I think it is fair to say that any 2012’s released at a lower price than the 2011’s will look a relatively good buy. It is, on the whole, and in our opinion, a better vintage than 2011.
The buzz words in the 2012 vintage will be “fresh, balanced, approachable, and elegant,” to name a few. These do provide a pretty fair description. The 2012’s are not “classic” Bordeaux to put away for 30 years (with some exceptions.) On the whole, they are wines that will really appeal to drinkers. They have the typicity of their appellations; they will be approachable early on. In short there are some spectacular wines to be had, especially on the right bank, where this is a vintage that has allowed Pomerol in particular to produce wines with brilliant balance, incredibly fine tannins, and a real elegance.
The Vineyard's of Vieux Chateau Certan
It looks likely that some big names will be released prior to Parker’s scores, such as this morning’s Chateaux Gazin, which can be bought from us at £450/ 12. This, we feel, is excellent news! Although we’ll happily give you a few of our highlights, these are very unlikely to move the market. It is anyone’s guess as to which wines will perform well with Parker, and therefore too, a gamble as to which wines will offer potential re-sale value. Again, a huge positive for the drinker!
Pomerol is the area that really stood out for us – with La Fleur Petrus, l’Eglise Clinet and Vieux Chateau Certan all excellent. The fantastically intense Conseillante will divide opinion, while Chateau Clinet have continued their run of exceptionally well made wines.
5 minutes down the road in St Emilion, Ausone, although impossibly difficult to assess at this stage, shows superb promise, along with its second wine Chapelle d’Ausone with similar characteristics, yet more approachable now. Clos Fourtet we felt was another excellent St Emilion, along with Cheval Blanc, Figeac, Troplong Mondot and Clos de Jacobins.
Tasting at Ausone
Over on the left bank, the vintage becomes harder to group. Pauillac, St Julien and St Estephe are all inconsistent in terms of quality. Chateau Latour, as well as showing their 2012’s, also showed their latest “ready to drink” ex Chateau releases, as part of their plan to remove themselves from the En Primeur system. More about those later, but I think it is fair to say I would rather be buying the Forts de Latour 2005 than the 2012. Although we’d heard of bad samples in the past, at Lafite we think we encountered one, and so it would be unfair to pass judgement without trying it again. The Carruades however, was one of the best we have tasted. Of the first growths in the Medoc, it is perhaps Mouton who have produced some of the finest wines in 2012, where special mention should go to Clerc Milon. Mouton and Petit Mouton are both brilliant.
Bruno Borie has made some special wines at Ducru Beaucaillou, with both the Grand Vin and the second wine Croix de Beaucaillou performing well above the average. Should the price be right on Lalande Borie, this too will offer lovely mid-term drinking.
Tasting at Ducru Beaucaillou
Pontet Canet, in recent years always one of the most consistent, have produced arguably the best wine on the left bank in 2012. Other gems include St Pierre, Branaire Ducru and Lynch Bages.
Sadly, we felt Margaux was a little disappointing, with some highlights, including Brane Cantenac, Giscours, Rauzan Segla and Malescot. Unfortunately because of time restraints, we did not manage to taste in Graves, and so notes on those wines will follow soon. Finally, unless priced well below market, most Sauternes will be trumped by their 2011 counterparts.
Horses & tasting at Pontet Canet
2012 Bordeaux vs others –
To summarise, the 2012 vintage has produced some truly brilliant wines, but of course, whether or not to buy them will depend much on price, and whether or not it makes sense compared to previous vintage prices of equal quality. What we must remember though, is that quality in 2012 can be very high. Having spoken to many Chateaux owners, and wine-makers, it is very difficult to compare this vintage to any other previous vintage. 2001 & 1999 were mentioned, but we were told on many occassions you might have to go back to the '70's to find similar.
If you are new to buying Bordeaux En Primeur, the 2012’s will offer an excellent opportunity to start your collection, as many will offer short to mid-term drinking, yet there are those that will evolve beautifully over the next few decades. En Primeur is also an excellent time to get requests in for larger format bottling, as well as half bottles.
As stated above, we prefer this vintage overall to 2011, and would urge consumers to buy, provided releases are at the right price. We’re very happy to advise on your favourite Chateaux, regions, or whether a wine looks good value for money and may have the potential for re-sale in the future.
With every release we offer, we’ll show its price in comparison to previous vintages, any tasting notes available, and we’ll also provide our own thoughts on the wine. This is however a very difficult vintage to compare to previous vintages in terms of quality – but placing it above 2011 gives some idea.
If you have any ‘wants-lists,’ or wines you’d particularly like to be kept updated on, please do let us know and we will do our best to offer these to you as soon as possible.