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Entries in Pomerol (2)

Friday
May172013

BDX Files: Ralph's 2012 Bordeaux Vintage Report Preview

By: Ralph Sands | K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist

2012 Bordeaux: Is it too Late?

I have just returned from Bordeaux and the evaluation of the 2012 vintage. This marked my 44th visit to the region and my 23rd vintage evaluation. With well over 1000 wines tasted. I believe I’ve wrapped my arms around 2012 pretty well, understand the style of the vintage, and have identified the best wines.

As always, the weather makes the wine. In 2012, the weather was normal…which means very difficult! Near-perfect vintages like 2005 and 2009 are very rare. Almost every vintage has numerous problems during the growing season, and 2011 and 2012 certainly had their share of problems.

Weather-wise, 2011 and 2012 could hardly be more opposite. 2011 had a warm spring with early bud break and early but uneven flowering; a mixed bag from May to June, mostly cold and wet. The summer was overcast and very cool. The vintage was saved by a warm/hot September and an early harvest ensued.

In 2012 the opposite occurred. Cold/wet conditions kept bud break late. Uneven flowering spread out for weeks, pushing things almost a month behind. Cool and wet conditions continued, causing worry of mildew. On July 15th (on the dot!) the weather switch-flipped and sunny conditions took over August and September, causing some stress in some plots and continued uneven ripening. Harvest was late everywhere. Most of the Merlots were harvested at good ripeness and mostly in nice conditions but a lot of the Cabernet Sauvignons on the left bank were picked in the rains of mid October. The rain and the fact that some Cabernet Sauvignon was just not completely ripe at harvest keep 2012 out of the very good category. These conditions also resulted in a small crop overall, with most estates making about 50% of their normal amounts.

It is common to refer to a Bordeaux vintage as either a Cabernet Sauvignon vintage or a Merlot vintage, and 2012 is definitely a Merlot vintage. The Right Bank commune of Pomerol made some fantastic wines across the board, with very good consistent quality also in St-Emilion. The areas of Pessac-Leognan and the Medoc were very uneven with many wines showing aggressive dryness and green notes on the finish. That being said, there some fine successes in 2012 from the left bank that do not have those green and drying notes, but certainly not as many as I would have liked.

I’m lucky this year as I will be going back to Bordeaux in June and I am looking forward with great eagerness to taste many of these left bank wines again. The main reason for this return is that the one month lateness of the vintage at all stages, especially the lateness of the harvest, delays all the stages of fermentation/blending and putting into barrel. So when I along with everyone else tasted this year on April 1st , it was a month early as far as the wine was concerned, and the weather had been very cold. There is no dancing around the fact that these wines were well behind in their development and difficult to access. So the expectation is that the six week period of additional development along with warmer spring weather should give the Cabernet Sauvignon blends a much better and fairer showing in June.

While 2011 produced elegant wines with strong acidities, 2012 produced riper wines with a darker core of fruit and more flesh, so I absolutely prefer 2012 to 2011. Where does 2012 fit in comparison to other vintages? Well, while it may not be in the league of great vintages like 2010, 2009, 2005 or 2000, I like it at least as well if not more than 2008, 2006 and 2007. My strongest comparison at this early stage would be to 1998, also a late and very fine Merlot vintage while being much tougher and closed on the left.

I have learned over the years not to dismiss the “tough to taste young” vintages on the left bank too soon. These wines develop slowly and vintages like 2004, 2002 and 1998 have turned out much better than most of the scores and reviews reflected at the time of release. Many have fooled us at recent blind tastings in Bordeaux where we thought they were from outstanding years.

The Blancs: The whites from Pessac-Leognan showed very well, refreshing and floral wines that are more on the elegant side. The Petite Chateaux and inexpensive Blancs also showed very well. Overall, 2012 is a nice vintage for the Blancs.

The Sweeties from Sauternes and Barsac: For lovers of the sweet wines this will always be a confusing vintage because Ch. d’Yquem publicly stated that they would make no wine in 2012 before the En Primeur tastings, which leads many to assume there will be no wine made anywhere. This is simply not the case across the board. While it is true that in the slow-growing gravel soils of d’Yquem and in neighboring Fargues (Ch. Rieussec, Ch.Guiraud, Ch. Suduiraut, and Raymond Lafon), little to no wine will be made; the grapes were so far behind that when good conditions for the boytrytis happened in these soils, the rains and humidity took over. However, just north in the sandy, clay and limestone soils of Barsac, the grapes were further ahead maturity wise and handled the conditions just fine in between periods of rain. Some lovely wines were made. These wines are not in the big, thick and powerful style; they are sweet, but elegant, fresh and charming. While tasting these wines I could not help but think about how nicely these wines will drink, even by themselves, on a warm summer afternoon or evening because they are so refreshing and not big and thick. Lovely wines were made at Ch. Clemens, Ch. Doisy-Daene, Ch. Doisy-Vedrines, Ch.de Malle, Ch. de Myrat, and Ch. La Tour Blanche, Ch. Haut-Peyraguey, Ch. Rabaud Promis, Ch. Rayne-Vigneau and Ch. Siglas-Rabaud, to name a few.

The Prices: Last but not least is the question of pricing. This will be a key factor in the success of the vintage sales-wise. We firmly told everyone in Bordeaux who would listen that 2012 presents a great opportunity to get people back to loving Bordeaux before it is too late…that they should offer this good vintage at steeply reduced prices, giving everyone a reason to buy and stimulating the marketplace. We will see if they listen or not.

Please feel free to contact me anytime with any questions or for advice on the wines of Bordeaux. I can be reached at extension 2723 or by email at Ralph@klwines.com.

Cheers and Go Giants!

Ralph Sands

 

Ralph Sands

Bordeaux Expert

Senior Wine Specialist

K&L Wine Merchants

Redwood City and San Francisco Ca.

1-800 247-5987 Ext# 2723

Direct Line 650-556-2723

Email- Ralph@klwines.com

Company Website- klwines.com

 

 

Thursday
Apr082010

Trey's Blog: Day 7 Bordeaux En Primeur

Friday, April 1st: The Right Bank

The K&L Team at Ausone

9 a.m. – Ausone

I have only been to Ausone a few times. It is hard not to be “star stuck” when you are here, though. We tasted several wines. My favorites included:

’09 Moulin Saint Georges: Perfume aromas, fleshy ripe nose, very expressive for being so young; I thought this wine was delicious.

’09 Ausone: – Concentrated flavors of red fruits, minerals, cedar and earth; this wine showed a bit tight, maybe due to the weather. It was not my favorite of the trip but I think I may be in the minority on this one.

9:45 a.m. – Moueix Tasting in Libourne

A fair number of wines were poured here. Highlights for me included the La Serre, Latour Pomerol, Bourgneuf and La Fleur Pétrus. They were all solid wines but nothing really jumped up and knocked me out. I was a bit disappointed in the Trotanoy—for me is was not easy to taste at this stage.

11 a.m. – Pétrus

’09 Pétrus: I think this will end up being my favorite wine of the trip. It was loaded with fresh crushed berries, spice, licorice, a velvety texture, pure ripe fruit and had a fresh, lively finish; an amazing balance between power and finesse.

The Vineyards at Lafleur

11:30 a.m. – Lafleur

The Lafleur tasting included the 2009 Grand Village, which they also make. It is reasonably priced and really a good value. 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. This wine was fresh, clean and showed clean, mineral-driven fruit.

’09 Lafleur: Big, tight and intense, this wine is deep and powerful and showed firm tannins. I think the middle was a bit closed. Tough to taste so young.

Tasting and lunch at Ch. Le Gay

12 p.m. – Tasting and lunch at Le Gay

Our tasting included some really excellent wines before a light lunch.

’09 La Graviere: Spicy, sweet nose, fleshy fruit, very ripe mid palate and a velvety soft texture; could almost drink this wine now.

’09 Violette, Pomerol: Dark cherry fruit, sweet aromas, chewy dark chocolate texture and a lush, lush finish. Very good balance for such an extracted wine; I liked this.

’09 Le Gay, Pomerol: Loads of coffee, cola and sweet black cherries, spice, velvety texture and a long ripe finish, This is one for me to buy.

2 p.m. – Clos l’Eglise

A quick tasting of several wines, including Haut Bergey, Barde Haut, Branon and Clos l’Eglise. The two that stood out for me were the Haut Bergey and the Clos l’Eglise.  

2:30pm – Angélus

What I thought would be a quick tasting ended up being a room full of all the wines that Hubert de Boüard is involved in. We didn’t have time to taste all of them, so I focused on the wines that I knew we would buy. My favorites included:

’09 La Fleur de Boüard: Flashy, new wave style. This wine was intense, juicy and extracted without being out of balance. This is a wine I will buy if the price is reasonable.

’09 Angélus: Big and dense with a thick mid palate, chewy tannins and a firm structure. Seemed a bit disjointed, but that could be the sample.

3 p.m. – Pomerol UGC tasting at Gazin

We had a few standouts here, including a second tasting of the Petit Village, which again showed excellent. It is easily the best one I have tasted out of barrel. I was also impressed with the Gazin and La Croix de Gay. Both are solid efforts. The other real standout, next to the Petit Village, was the Clinet. One to buy if the price is reasonable!

St-Emilion

4 p.m. – St-Emilion UGC tasting a Beauséjour-Becot

I think all of us were extremely impressed with the quality of the wines from St- Emilion. In recent vintages these wines have not been our favorites, as we found them to be a bit over-extracted and harsh. I think the combination of the vintage and, maybe, the owners not trying to do too much with the wines, helped make some of the more successful wines of 2009. Our highlights from here included the killer Troplong Mondot, Larcis Ducasse, Beauséjour-Becot and Canon. These were some of my favorite wines of the day.

5 p.m. – Canon-La Gaffelière

The last big tasting of the day is always difficult. Still the ’09 d’Aigulilhe showed well along with the La Mondotte. Both are in that flashy extracted style but I thought they showed well.

K&L Team with Helene and Michael Affatato at La Gatte

7 p.m. – Tasting and dinner at Château La Gatte

Sure we were at Pétrus, Ausone and Angélus today, but the most fun we had was at Château La Gatte with owners Hélène and Michael Affatato. We did some barrel tastings and had a terrific meal of grilled duck. The evening was very enjoyable and relaxed, just what we needed! We currently have their Blanc and Rosé in stock. Both are screaming deals at around $10.

Trey Beffa