Bordeaux 2012 Tasting Trip Day 3 – Pauillac to St Julien and Back
Author: Berry Bros. & Rudd
Pauillac was our destination as we boarded the minibus and, as usual, Ch. Pichon-Lalande was our first appointment. An estate that has improved impressively during recent years, the wines of 2012 certainly caught our attention. Low yields are found here again – 30hl/ha, with a target for the estate being 45hl/ha, and the requirement for rigorous selection via their optical sorting system (which measures acidity in the juice as well as colourful appearance of the grape) was very important.
Ch. Batailley boasts a long and proud history, with their vineyard planted in classic Pauillac proportions. It is typically a favourite of ours and often one of the best value wines from the commune. We also took the opportunity to taste several other wines from the Borie-Manoux stable including Domaine de l’Eglise and Ch. la Croix du Casse.
5ème Cru Classé estate Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste was our last visit of the morning and they have again outperformed their classification with a super 2012. François-Xavier Borie was keen to point out that their dedicated team of pickers ensured that only the best grapes made it to the cellars. The wine has lovely fresh and vibrant red fruits with good length and a lingering finish. Ch. Haut-Batailley was neatly rounded with good length too.
Tasting continued at Ch. Lynch Bages just before lunch, where Jean-Charles Cazes explained that the harvest reception system has been changed once again, with two extra reception lines created to destem/sort and then sort again. The result is a very clean crop. We were very impressed with their 2012 wines, including Ch. Villa Bel-Air, Ormes de Pez and Echo de Lynch Bages, which showed an abundance of fruit and poise that has been lacking in some wines of similar levels that we have tasted. The Grand Vin is a real powerhouse and shows a density of fruit and complexity which we have grown accustomed to taste.
The afternoon began at Ch. Beychevelle in St Julien, a property which boasts one of the most impressive châteaux in the whole of the Médoc. It is a joyful mouthful, with soft and ripe tannins and the yield was 42hl/ha. Our next stop was conveniently across the road at Ch. Branaire-Ducru, often a producer of pure, elegant and classic Claret. Patrick Maroteaux explained that the blend was fairly typical, with more or less the same proportions of Merlot (24%), Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) Petit Verdot (5%) and Cabernet Franc (3%). He believes that the style is the same as the last few years, with pure definition of fruit, freshness and elegance . The management and balance of tannin is quite exemplary.
The 2ème Cru Classé property of Ch. Gruaud Larose tends to produce one of St Julien`s most full-bodied and long-lived wines and this year they have really impressed. The Sarget de Gruaud Larose is nice and soft, juicy and with a splendid perfume. The Grand Vin contains 6.5% Petit Verdot, the whole crop for 2012. The freshness is delightful, with ripe yet delicate tannins all harmoniously integrated, before a tremendously long finish.
Ch. Léoville-Barton and Langoa-Barton (both certainties for our buying list this year), Ch. Léoville-Poyferré (promising fruit, good acidity) and then Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou (91% Cabernet Sauvignon, showing Grand Cru finesse, being silky and tremendously well-made) finalised our day.
2012, as with recent Bordeaux vintages like 2011, looks set to be a vintage for relatively early drinking in many cases, but one will need to be carefully selective in choosing the wines. Wines will need to be bought based on the merits of each individual property, rather than the commune or the overall impression of the vintage. It is also worth emphasising once again that we are appraising wines in the context of this vintage, where some have been on really very good form, and some less so.
Remember to return to the blog tomorrow morning for the review of our fourth day in Bordeaux and to follow us on twitter @BerryBrosRudd for live news about our tasting experiences and insights from our team and the producers themselves.