The Best of Bordeaux 2012

L’Hospitalet de Gazin 2012   x 12  En Primeur        £199 / €229

Providence 2012    x 6   En Primeur            £255 / €285

Pontet Canet 2012    x 12   En Primeur        £690 / 825

Pontet Canet 2012    x 6   En Primeur        £345 / €412.50

Domaine de Cambes 2012   x 6   En Primeur        £134 / €158

Tertre Roteboeuf 2012   x 6   En Primeur        £548 / €648

Roc de Cambes 2012   x 6   En primeur        £195 / €230

Larcis Ducasse 2012   x 6   En Primeur        £390 / €460

Bordeaux 2012 – the story so far…

What an interesting ride we have had on the crest of the 2009 Bordeaux en primeur wave: the flurry of activity on the 2009s, then the stunning 2010s with their eye-watering prices, the dip with the disappointment of 2011 and then we all treaded water before wading gently into 2012. Rather than do the full En Primeur week in Bordeaux, I seized the opportunity to taste the benchmark chateaux from each commune over the 2009 – 2012 vintages at a tasting in London recently. My conclusion?  I was pleasantly surprised by the 2012s but also would urge “caveat emptor.” The Right Bank has performed very well, particularly those chateaux who took the care, time and had the resources to cope with a very uneven weather pattern. The Merlot dominated wines are charming; there’s a lightness of touch and a freshness to them, with the best wines showing no sign of the greenness I found in many of the 2011s. They will offer very enjoyable drinking in the short/ medium term while we wait for the leviathans of 2009 and 2010.We have bought cautiously and are totally confident in recommending every one of our small select band below, all from the Right Bank. The wines listed are available in tiny quantities and will arrive here in May 2015. I can also say that those of you with 2010s in your portfolio have bought very wisely and are in for a treat. The top wines have such concentration, structure and longevity that they are likely to outlive many of us!

Jane Boyce MW
Fine Wine Manager, JNwine

You may be interested in Mr Parker’s opinion as well!  The following is taken from his very comprehensive vintage report:

“My tastings clearly revealed the overall success of the Merlot crop, with the most successful appellation being Pomerol, followed closely by Pessac-Léognan, which in some cases had begun their harvest before Pomerol. Because of its vast size, St.-Emilion offers virtually everything from top-flight wines that are not far off the mark of 2010 and 2009, to wines that are hollow, overly extracted, rustic and astringent. The Médoc is the area of most concern for the following reasons:

1. Some wines lack a mid-palate
2. Some are herbaceous, even vegetal
3. Others are too tannic

Nevertheless, many Médoc producers aimed for forward, fruit-driven wines and kept the extraction process to a minimum, often succeeding in fashioning charming, mid-weight, delicious wines without an excess of concentration or tannin. By and large, the acidity levels in the 2012s are relatively low (obviously much lower than in 2011), and the tannins are relatively high. In the best cases, the tannins are sweet, especially in Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan, and to a certain extent, St.-Emilion.

While 2012 is not a great vintage, it is an excellent one in Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan and for some St.-Emilions. In the Médoc, 2012 tends to be average to above average depending on the château. It was a disappointing year for the sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac, which is evidenced by the fact that four well-known châteaux, Yquem, Rieussec, Raymond-Lafon and Suduiraut, all declassified their entire harvest. In contrast, the dry white wines of Graves are beautiful. 2012 is clearly a top vintage for these wines, which are rich, soft, intense and honeyed.

The World Marketplace

There is very little stock of the 2009 Bordeaux left in the world’s marketplace (unless the wines are offered in auctions held in London, New York and Hong Kong). The 2010s came out at even higher prices, and while it’s a great vintage (see Issue #205), prices were astronomical for the famous names, and many potential buyers either balked at the price or cancelled the reservations they had already made. Consequently, considerable quantities of 2010s are still in the pipeline. They will sell sooner or later simply because the wines are fabulous. 2011 was also too expensive when it came out, and the wines have not sold well. Now we have the 2012s ready to be priced, and in another 5-6 months, 2013 will be coming down the Route du Vin in Bordeaux. Prices have to drop significantly in this vintage for consumers to jump back on the Bordeaux bandwagon. Do I think that’s going to happen? While everyone talks about lowering prices and giving consumers a fair deal, I have heard that song so many times that I am very sceptical it will happen. At press time, Christian Moueix had released a handful of 2012s at prices 20% below their 2011 prices, and that’s a good move, because he is one of the more forward thinking people in Bordeaux, and has tended to keep the prices of the Moueix exclusivities at a reasonable level. However, Bordeaux is at a crossroads. While it provides indisputably the world’s greatest wine, produces the largest quantity of great wines on planet Earth, and will never lose favour, concerns must be raised about the viability of buying Bordeaux as a wine future if prices do not drop and make such a proposition attractive to the wine trade as well as to the ultimate drinker of this product, the wine consumer!

If the movers, shakers and powers that be in Bordeaux don’t listen, there is no tomorrow.

When will the 2012s be drinkable?

An interesting observation is that the tannins are sweet, the acidity is low, and by and large this vintage, even most of the Médocs, will be accessible after bottling. None of the wines possess the concentration, opulence, texture or full-bodied majesty of the 2009s and 2010s, but I do think that at the top level, the 2012s are clearly superior to the 2011s. It also has the advantage of being relatively approachable in its youth." Robert Parker, March 2013.