Revisiting Bordeaux 2012


With the 2012 Bordeaux vintage now in bottle, the famous Union des Grands Crus of Bordeaux and some 100 Chateaux and their owners came over to London to show this latest vintage in bottle.

In only 3 hours it is impossible to taste everything so it is important to be selective. I naturally concentrated on the Medoc, some of our favourite estates in St Emilion and Pomerol, and a small selection of whites.

This is a great event. With the 2014 vintage safely gathered it gave us an opportunity to hear about its success or otherwise and taste the strikingly appealing 2012s.

Producers are always optimistic about their new baby at harvest time and 2014 is no different. Following one of the bleakest summers for many years, at the end of August Chateaux owners’ heads were down. Whilst there was masses of fruit, the quality was looking as if it would be very indifferent indeed. Then September arrived and 5 excellent weeks of sunshine with the odd sprinkling of rain to refresh the vines meant the vintage was saved.

Whilst they are not claiming it is an outstanding year the quality will be good and in particular the early buzz is that the Merlot based wines could be quite special… we wait and see…

Back to 2012. This has always been a vintage that I have liked. Whilst nobody ever claimed its greatness, tasting en primeur the successful wines had a charm, subtle succulence and accessibility. Tasting the wines in bottle these characters still remain.

In the flight of 2011, 2012 and 2013, the 12s are most definitely the most appealing. They are forward drinking and will give huge pleasure in a few years’ time; one could even pull some of the corks today! The secret to success was not only meticulous vineyard management but also careful winemaking and not to force anything that wasn’t there out of the pips or skins. The most relaxed wines are definitely the most appealing.

In general at the tasting there was a strong level of uniformity. As one taster commented “not many dogs here are there David!” I have picked out a few of favourites but other wines should not be ignored.

Whilst in general my preference was for the northern Medoc estates, in Margaux, Brane Cantenac was hugely impressive and amongst my top 3 wines in the room, refined, balanced and sophisticated.

In St Julien there was a huge selection of very complete wines, Beychevelle, the Barton wines, Talbot and Poyferré but again another standout sometimes overlooked was Lagrange.

In Pauillac I loved Grand Puy Lacoste. Batailley and Lynch were very Pauillac and Pichon Baron excellent. Further north the delightful Basile Tesseron’s estate Lafon Rochet was delicious.

On the right bank Canon la Gafellière, Canon, Clos Fourtet, La Conseillante, La Croix de Gay and Gazin were all beautifully rewarding.

To complete the day, in Pessac both wines from Domaine de Chevalier were sensational and Haut Bailly from the lovely Veronique Sanders, as always, hit the spot.

To conclude, whilst 2012 was not necessarily a vintage to buy en primeur, in bottle and at their time of drinking they should not be ignored. When priced correctly they will give huge pleasure and allow Bordeaux lovers to correctly age their 2010s and 2009s to allow them to reach optimum maturity.