Bordeaux 2012 Tasting Trip Day One – It starts in St Emilion


We awoke to a wet, dark Monday morning on the Left Bank in Margaux and the poor weather continued throughout our journey to the Right Bank and St Emilion

There is something special about tasting wine at the site where it is created and having the chance to take in a vineyard’s terroir, topography and location. Not only does it enhance the experience, it also focuses the mind, and it is certainly much easier to appraise a wine in such an environment.

As in previous years, we took the opportunity to taste one or two wines from the new vintage on Sunday evening, to whet palates and remind ourselves that we were tasting samples from barrel. Alexander Van Beek, General Manager at Ch. du Tertre and Ch. Giscours, told us that, whilst 2012 isn’t an exceptional vintage, it has certainly produced good wines – the aid of technology, education and greater attention in the vineyard, as well as more focused selections on the sorting table, really means that disastrous vintages should be issues consigned to the past.

We tried many wines at Moueix, but La Fleur-Pétrus and Ch. Hosanna certainly caught our attention. Christian Moueix explained that 2012 was a difficult vintage with challenging climatic conditions, resulting in disease and uneven berries. This ultimately led to a reduction in yields, to almost half the usual harvest. A new addition to the itinerary was to taste at Ch. Pétrus this year; Simon Staples found the 2012 to be racy, harmonious and beautiful. The appearance in the glass was simply stunning as well – so appealing.

Ch. Larcis Ducasse, long regarded as a property possessing exceptional terroir, has created a lovely, serious and well-structured 2012 from its clay and chalk soils found on the famous Côte Pavie. We also tasted many wines from the Thienpont stable, including Ch. Berliquet, Ch. Pavie Macquin (very generous, abundant fruit) and Ch. Beauséjour – all of which suggest that the Merlot in St Emilion could be a success this year.

Ch. Figeac is a favourite of our former Wine Buying Director, Alun Griffiths MW, and we’re sure he will enjoy their 2012. Containing an equal 40% of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon alongside 20% Cabernet Franc, it is precise, deep, tightly knit and pretty with red berry and blackcurrant fruits combining superbly with impressive tannins.

Our final stop of the morning took us to Ch. Angélus, recently promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé A status in the 2012 St Emilion re-classification. It is found less than a kilometre from the famous St Emilion steeple. The wine is complex this year, tightly woven and showing effective grip, but it has a thorough backdrop of fruit to please as well. Hubert de Bouard supported the words of Alexander Van Beek with regards to improvements in winemaking, as well as suggesting that, unlike today, 25 years ago such a vintage would have created very average wines indeed.

Ch. Ausone, one of the most stunning châteaux in Bordeaux, whose vineyards flourish on a steep, south-east facing slope. The wines showed well including Ch. de Fonbel and Ch. Moulin St-Georges. Ch. Cheval Blanc followed, as is customary on these tasting trips, and the Grand Vin displayed a classically crunchy palate of fruit. We really enjoyed tasting the Grand Vin this year.

The two most famous Pomerol estates, Vieux Château Certan (VCC) and Ch. la Conseillante, were our mid-afternoon appointments. VCC is regularly praised by leading wine critics and journalists and Alexandre Thienpont’s wine is on good form as usual.  Ch. la Conseillante can trace its history back to 1735 and is always bottled unfiltered. Yields were high this year, so they were able to be very selective, yet still produce more of the Grand Vin than in 2011. Jean-Michel Laporte tells us that it is 89% Merlot this year. It is seamlessly balanced and wonderfully generous, and was a personal favourite of mine from this first day. 

Tasting at Le Pin brought our first day to an excellent conclusion; it is the second year in succession that we have tasted at their unassertive new winery. ‘Rare’, ‘expensive’, ‘mysterious’, ‘super-concentrated’ and ‘sublimely elegant’ are all words often associated with Le Pin and Jacques Thienpont has produced another charming wine in 2012. Clean, fresh and full of fruit, it lingers on the palate long after tasting. It is a real triumph.

As we round off our first day, it is difficult to draw too many conclusions about the vintage – especially as we have only tasted in Pomerol and St Emilion – but Merlot appears to have been particularly successful on the Right Bank.

Tasting Trip Day 2 >