Hervé Berland, Château Montrose’s new managing director, is rightly proud of the wine here in 2012. Alongside Mouton and Léoville-Las-Cases this is one of the most powerful wines of the Médoc. It was also amongst the very last picked, a risky business enabled only by the terroir of Montrose. The soils here, gravel with a clay base, were sufficiently well draining for the rain that arrived at vintage time, but water retentive enough to resist the very dry period between August and late September. This dry period created fruit with especially thick skins, helping the grapes [Cabernet especially] resist the threat of botrytis that accompanied the late October wet weather. It was this that let Montrose snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Having read quite a bit about the tricky 2012 growing season and harvest on the left bank before arriving for the primeurs tastings in April, the wines at Montrose, amongst the very first I tasted, left me more than a little stumped. They immediately turned all my assumptions about the vintage upside down. Later in the week I was in no doubt just how tricky things were after tasting a number of fair to middling wines in St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien, but these Montrose offerings seemed to belong to a different vintage entirely, a far more powerful and successful one than I’d been led to believe. I had the same immediate response after tasting the wines at Château Léoville-Las-Cases this year too. Had they both switched vintages? It is a reminder that it is what’s in the glass that counts. Great success can come even in the most challenging of years.
And we all know by now what a challenging year it was. Flowering occurred at Montrose over a very extended period in poor weather. The beginning of July was wet. The dry and sunny weather in late July and August made a good vintage possible, but the continued drought into September threatened final ripening, only mitigated by the late September rain.
As outlined in the opening, the outcome of all this was that the fruit still had very thick skins in October. Ironically this put the grapes in a good position to deal with the moist and wet conditions that arrived, enabling the property to push back the harvest dates as far as they did. They didn’t even begin on the Cabernet Sauvignon until October 13 and picked until October 20. This must rank as one of the latest Médoc harvests of recent years. The resultant musts were high in colour and material and the thick skins that the vintage produced needed long maceration periods [26-28 days]. Château Montrose represents 53% of the vintage, the excellent La Dame de Montrose 29%.
For those with the cash, the grand vin went on the market a week ago and can still be had for £640 [$1000] a case. This is more expensive than some recent vintages  where available, but it is worth considering for the quality. Frankly it is not that far behind 2010 and better than 2011. Chateau Calon-Ségur offers even greater value potentially but there is no doubt that Montrose is the star of St Estèphe in 2012. I’ll post on the seductive and powerful Cos d’Estournel shortly.
Château Tronquoy-Lalande also looks a good bet in this vintage. It is full and complete. Still, if you are looking for advice on a real bargain [aren’t we all surely?] then I suggest you consider Montrose’s neighbour Château Meyney. I’ll be posting a quick note on this little 2012 gem next.
The following wines were tasted on Monday, April 8, 2013 at Chateau Montrose.
Deep and dense looking; very dark and saturated; tight to the edge; vibrant meniscus; strong nose; full and deep; feels pretty profound for 2012; great depth; little new oak resin at the back; dense; big structure and lots of material here; chew and real density; somewhat taken aback at the lashings of fruit and material; lots of chew and density; and lots of length. Pretty big wine. Real success. Seems late picked Cabernet has triumphed here. 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 13.2% alc. 53% of production. Tasted at Chateau Montrose Monday April 8, 2013. 94-96
La Dame de Montrose
Thick and dense in the glass; very vibrant edge; colour tight to the rim; lots of black cherry fruit; quite lush but fresh too; pretty deep and quite polished; and a sweetness at the edge; some smoke and graphite too; lots of fruit on the palate; black cherry, blackcurrant; density but tannin not dry [but present]. Lots of richness. Nice length. Chew on the finish. Great effort. Tasted at Chateau Montrose Monday April 8, 2013. 76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon. 29% of production. 90-92+
Château Tronquoy Lalande
Deep and dense; very vibrant purple at edge; dense looking; layers of black cherry fruit; real purity here; very clean; and lots of fruit; mineral tones too; palate had density and concentration; a great amount of fruit here; lots of grip and chew. Very clean and tannin [lots] feels ripe. Fresh acidity too. Very good. 57% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 60% of production. Tasted at Chateau Montrose April 8, 2013. 89-91+
Tronquoy de Sainte Anne
Deep colour; legs; vibrant; lots of summer compote fruit tones; quite delicious and appetizing; some minerality too; attractive palate; black cherry notes; some chew and sap. Fades on the finish but pretty good. 20% of Tronquoy Lalande’s production. Tasted at Chateau Montrose April 8, 2013. 87-88+