Bordeaux 2012: Our Fine Wine Buying Director’s thoughts so far
Author: Max Lalondrelle
We have just returned from a week tasting where we have visited 57 properties and attended a major private négociant tasting. During the week, we tasted over 100 wines, 80% of which we actually tasted twice. Over a three-week period most of the wines will have been tasted thoroughly by our Fine Wine Account Managers, four to six times overall, which will give us an unrivalled level of expertise on the vintage.
Our duty as a Wine Merchant is to provide the best possible guidance to our customers in helping them to make the right choice. There is no doubt that the vintage has been difficult. The weather in the spring was very wet and resulted in a difficult flowering. August was, however, very hot which helped to re-balancing the vintage. However, mid-October was very wet and made the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly.
St Emilion and Pomerol were largely untouched by the bad weather, as the majority of the Merlot grapes had had time to ripen before the rain. Some of the Cabernet Franc was affected but the overall result should be quite good, and in line with the 1998 vintage. This generally also applies to the best estates in the Graves area. I am generally not a fan of big Merlot wines as I find they can be flabby and alcoholic but this vintage has given freshness to the Merlot and toned down most of the usual blockbusters, resulting in some cracking wines.
On the Left Bank, the weather suppressed the last two weeks of ideal ripening condition ideally needed for optimum ripeness in the Cabernets, which resulted in a patchier outcome. All in all, the châteaux that have produced very good wines are those which have worked tirelessly in the vineyard to make sure that the fruits remained as healthy as possible, and to let the wine make itself in the winery; in other words, those that did not apply over-extraction and make-up in the winery. We left, however, in high spirits in the knowledge that a good 40 to 50 wines are very good to excellent, and 20 to 30 are very good. At the correct price these will represent excellent bargains for the cellar; most of the wines in my cellar are from vintages such as 2002, 2004 and 2008 as these will provide me with excellent, good value and long term drinking for years to come. In the knowledge that there will be little chance of securing such great wines at affordable prices in the coming years, there is no reason why 2012 should not be a great source of drinking wines for years to come.
There are lots of rumours that the châteaux will release early, following a letter from Olivier Bernard (Domaine de Chevalier and president of the Union des Grands Crus) to the major players in Bordeaux highlighting the debacle from last year en primeur campaign where as many as 48 châteaux released in one day. There are actually less than 40 days to release 500+ wines before Vinexpo 2013 on June 16th, so a bit of organisation will be required to make sure that all goes well and everybody has a chance to buy their favourite wines in a stress-free manner. A lot of négociants are still showing round buyers from around the world this week, and therefore we do not expect to see any major releases quite yet – but things are likely to start moving quickly from the 22nd onwards.
We will, of course, keep you updated with the latest news from Bordeaux, and will be ready to offer the best advice to our customers as soon as the wines begin to release.