by Juel Mahoney
After two days, our impressions of the left bank are very mixed. 2012 is not a uniformly good vintage for Pauillac, St-Julien, St-Estephe and Margaux. There are some good to very good wines but there are also some fiercely tannic, extracted and very difficult wines. As Ben Collins said on the way over the bridge to the right bank, “There are wild swings in likeability.” He immediately followed this up by asking whether likeability was even a word. Regardless of what the OED might say, the sentiment is correct.
Some wines were hard work while others were a breeze; some tasted like the sort of wine we like to drink and others – those that were obviously manipulated or over-extracted – did not.
This state of affairs should not a surprise if you remember back to last year’s weather of heavy rain in April and drought-like conditions in late summer. In Bordeaux, the rain returned at picking time, which was quite late in October. It all spelled trouble for the vineyard managers.
Often we have found that all the energy has gone into the Grand Vin, whilst the quality of the second wine has been sacrificed. Compared to 2011, the fruit can be very intense and concentrated in the better wines. This is due to the ruthless selection of grapes. Only those deemed perfect make it past the beady eyes that patrol the sorting tables.
Of course, the top chateaux can afford to be selective and compromise quantity to ensure quality. They are also aided by new developments in technology. It seems all much of the proceeds from the bumper 2009 and 2010 vintages have been re-invested into the latest equipment for the vineyard.
So, is it all doom and gloom? Absolutely not – 2012 tastes similar to a more concentrated version of 2008. Not a vintage of the century but neither is it a write off. Let’s be straight: there will always be smart finds in Bordeaux every year and there are definitely some beautiful gems amongst the 2012s if you look hard enough.
However, both merchants and consumers will have to be very selective about what to buy. Get the right advice. If the Bordelaise are sensible with prices, there will be plenty of very enjoyable wine for several years to come.
Here are our standouts from the Left Bank:
Ashika Mathews – d’Issan & Palmer
“One of the best wines from d’Issan I have tasted – ripe, clean, delicious fruit. Palmer was lifted, classy and understatedly sexy”
Alex Marton – Sociando-Mallet & Grand Puy Lacoste
“Sociando is still something of a hidden gem – good effort this year in a difficult vintage. GPL is yummy – lovely, silky wine”
Juel Mahoney – Lacoste Borie
“This is wine. Power but not forced, round and supple – this second wine of Grand Puy Lacoste is a great taste of this blue-ribbon Chateau”
Ben Collins – Tronquoy-Lalande & Pichon-Baron
“Tronquoy-Lalande is like a mini-Montrose with volume turned down and it should be a sensible price, too. Over at Pichon, years and years of work is really paying off. Top, top, top.”
Today we are visiting the great wines of Pomerol and Cheval Blanc. We have hunch there might be some more favourites to come. Stay tuned…