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Bordeaux 2012 Primeurs: Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

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This morning’s release of Mouton-Rothschild at £1400 [$2100] per six has led me to shunt this particular review up the batting order. The price, 33% down on 2011, will be sure to send the cat amongst the pigeons and is something of a relief given concern about Bordeaux pricing. I’ll be following soon in more detail about Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Chateau Latour, as well as the other Pauillac chateaux, following the continuation of my Right Bank coverage.

Overall vintage 2012 was far trickier on the Left than on the Right Bank. There is no doubt that vintage rain affected the harvesting of the Cabernet Sauvignon in Pauillac especially. Some proprietors were forced to pick earlier than they would have ideally liked. The major effect of this was on affecting tannin ripeness. This didn’t appear to be an issue at Mouton Rothschild in terms of what’s actually ended up in the glass, though the estate’s director Philippe Dhalluin had a keen eye on the weather and assembled an impressive band of some five hundred [yes 500!] pickers who could probably harvest a vineyard the size of a football field inside half and hour.

Certainly the growing season at Mouton, as elsewhere, was one of sharp contrasts. There was cool weather in the early growing cycle, mixed weather in early summer followed by an extremely dry and hot August. A few days of rain at the end of September did help with the final ripening of the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The harvest at Mouton occurred between October 1-15 starting with the Merlot. If I recall correctly much of the Cabernet Sauvignon that ended in the Grand Vin harvested between between October 8-11.

2012 is the first vintage to be made in the new vat room that has been constructed at Mouton [presumably at great expense]. In terms of fruit characters Philippe Dhalluin feels there are similarities with 1995, though winemaking perspectives have moved on since then, particularly in-terms of harvesting at better tannin ripeness and more sophisticated extraction in the cellar. This difference in perspective was pretty sharply in focus at Chateau Latour during primeurs week for reasons I’ll explain in a later post.

As in 2011 there is great roundness and harmony on the palate to the Grand Vin at Mouton in 2012. There is elegance to the tannins too but more depth and concentration than the previous year. In fact it’s a tribute to Mouton’s terroir, diligence in the vineyard and the technical team’s prowess that in tasting the wine you don’t get a sense of just how complicated the growing season was. The real head-turner at the tasting turned out to be the sample of Petit Mouton. This was on terrific form and really seductive in the glass. It’s far and away the best young Petit-Mouton I’ve had. If it provides anything like a snapshot of how Mouton will be in a few years, 2012 could prove as exciting a year here as it was in 2006.

The following notes were taken at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild on Tuesday 9th Aprl 2013. I’ll post on Chateau Clerc Milon and Chateau d’Armailhac later.

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

Deep and very dark in the glass; fresh and vibrant at the edge; little dumb at first; pure Cabernet aromas; blackcurrant, cassis, lots of depth; less showy on the day than Petit-Mouton; little perfume at the edge; palate ripe and with impressive density but tannins very round and a real lightness of touch in the cellar. Fine tannin and very well balanced. Exceptional length. For me Mouton is the most immediately impressive of the Pauillac first growths in 2012. 95-97+ [90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot & 2% Cabernet Franc]

Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild

Deep and concentrated look; very seductive nose; smoked meats, spices, some fruitcake, oak and loads of blackcurrant cassis notes beneath; wonderful stuff; lots of blackcurrant fruit on the palate, which is extremely polished and caressing. Actually feels very supple and extremely flattering. Best Petit Mouton I’ve yet had. Gives you a certain measure of the Grand Vin well in advance. 92-94+ [79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc]

Aile d’Argent, Blanc du Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Pale silver/green; legs; lots of grapefruit and citrus aromas; real spice and wax; very ripe on the palate; full bodied with a certain weight and sweetness. Very good length. Maybe lacks a little zip, but that’s the vintage speaking as much as anything. Very attractive and full bodied white. 92-94+ [63 Sauvignon Blanc, 27% Semillon]

IMG_4389Petit Mouton: Very seductive and forward in 2012

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