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Bordeaux 2012 Primeurs: Pauillac

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

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I have to say that overall I found Pauillac a bit tricky to assess in 2012. I’d really have liked to have recommended these wholeheartedly, but there was real variation in the two passes I made on these wines at the Union des Grands Crus events. Only a handful of wines were completely consistent on both occasions. I’ve already written on the first growths. For me Chateau Mouton-Rothschild leads the pack with Lafite and Latour behind, though in the overall qualitative list I’d put Chateau Pontet-Canet up in this group too. Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste also looked good as did Pichon-Comtesse de Lalande. Taken together these are my picks at the very top level.

At the less expensive end Chateau Batailley and Haut-Batailley, the latter tasted at Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, also looked liked good efforts, though quite different from each other. Chateau Haut-Bages-Libéral was also consistent, if typically leaner and more sappy in style.

The rest? Well one sample of Lynch-Bages looked very good, the other disjointed. Likewise Pichon-Longueville was tad variable too. One sample looked very promising, another pretty tough and dry. These are barrel samples, of course, and they should all settle down but, from memory, things were more consistent here in 2011. I was also more impressed with Clerc-Milon and d’Armailhac when tasted at Mouton than I was at the UGCB, where I tasted them twice on different days. There the wines felt  a little dumber and harder.

This variability puts me in a bit of a quandary. I found more consistency in St Julien and certainly in Margaux than in Pauillac in 2012. The Cabernet Sauvignon is sulky this vintage. There isn’t the ripeness of 2009 or 2010, or, dare I say it, even  perhaps 2011 in a few cases. Personally I don’t see a huge qualitative difference between 2011 and 2012 in Pauillac at this stage, no matter what’s been said. You’d need to see these vintages side by side to be sure of course, but I suspect, that in time, we may perhaps even come to favour 2011 more in Pauillac than 2012. Certainly, save for a few properties [Mouton and Grand-Puy-Lacoste spring to mind] there is no real urgency to buy these wines en primeur on the basis of price or quality. This was also true of 2011. You may as well buy Pauillac that’s already bottled and of a similar quality from vintages like 2004, 2006 or 2008. They will work out cheaper and you can lay your hands on them already.

My own vote would be to opt for a little bit more 2009 from those producers who are still under-the-radar, like Chateau Haut-Batailley and Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse, or even Chateau Lynch-Moussas. I’d also consider others that are seriously top notch but that remain under-valued, such as Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste. I’d also consider Latour’s third wine, Pauillac de Latour, if you see it about. It’s not cheap but it is a beauty. And a little beauty is, I feel, what the vagaries of the weather have in many cases robbed us of in Pauillac in 2012.

The following twenty-two wines are in alphabetical order. In some cases I’ve tasted the samples three times, in most cases twice. I’ve included both sets of notes and scores, though the notes are, as always, more important than the numbers!

Château Batailley

Deep; healthy looking; some chalk, wet rock and depth; chewy with sturdy fruit but tannins a little angular. 86-88 Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note – better] Deep colour; healthy at edge; deep nose; attractive and feels full; palate reasonably caressing; full and nicely balanced wine; flesh and fine tannin. Good effort; feels ripe and nicely balanced with chew on the finish. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. Tasted UGC Tuesday, April 9, 2013. 88-90+

Carruades de Lafite

Mid depth; fresh looking; pretty and perfumed; ripe, quite layered; blackcurrant and black cherry notes; menthol too; feels quite tight on the palate with grip; bite; good-ish length; delicacy here and fairly early maturing. Cabernet Sauvignon 53%, Merlot 42%, Cabernet Franc 3%, Petit Verdot 2% 12.7% Alc. 90-91

Château Clerc Milon

Mid depth; pretty, some perfume and blackcurrant cassis; blackcurrant fruit on the palate but a little hardness; fresh but a little angular on the finish. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 87-88+ [Earlier] Glossy and dark; ripe pure blackcurrant and cassis; some wet rock; elegant palate; blackcurrants; fruit here more plushness on this sample than at the UGC. Nice length. Good and pure. Tasted at Mouton, Tuesday April 9, 2013. 90-92 [Earlier at UGC] Mid depth; perfume, rose petal; blackcurrant; some lift; similar tones on the palate; bit chewy on the finish. Lean. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmenere. 87-88

Château Croizet-Bages

Mid depth; stalky Cabernet fruit; little awkward; lean on the mid-palate and tannic and grippy on the end. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. 85-87 [Earlier note – better showinh] Deepish; healthy looking; lighter nose; some fruit. Blackcurrant notes and some depth and layers here; not unattractive; goodish palate, cassis little lean perhaps but should be good-ish. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc. 50% new oak. 86-88

Château d’Armailhac

Mid depth; deep core; stalky berry fruits; some red fruit tones; softer palate than previous UGC sample; more mid-palate richness to this. Chewy finish. Tasted UGC April 11, 2013. 87-89 [Earlier note] Mid depth; more perfume; blackcurrant tones; some cassis; more elegant and a fraction softer than the UGC samples. Nice length. Tasted at Mouton, Tuesday April 9, 2013. 88-90 [Earlier note] Mid-depth; deep core; some perfume, blackcurrants; some oak influence but a little disjointed; settled with some aeration; blackcurrant fruit on the palate with oak influence; little drying on the finish. Feels quite tannic and disjointed [cold samples?] though there appears to be good fruit. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. 86-88

Château Duhart-Milon

Deeper than Carruades; very blackcurrant nose; tobacco too and coffee bean hints; cassis and blackcurrant really come through on aeration; again earthy note like Lafite here; firm, quite dense palate; some leafy hints; mid-palate a fraction pinched and firmness to the tannins at the end. Good-ish length. 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot. Tasted at Lafite April 9, 2013. 90-91+

Les Forts de Latour 2012

Deep and saturated; vibrant at edge; sweet; some smoke; cassis; minerality; graphite tones; more immediate prettiness than Latour on the nose; some smoked meat tones when it opens up; quite dense; some chew; not austere but structured; little lean maybe in the middle; correct and not flamboyant or as show stealing as their 2010 Les Forts; overall sinewy palate; tannins fine; finesse and elegance. Good length. 76.1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 12.8% alc, IPT 71 42.2% of production. Tasted Friday April 12, 2013. 91-93+

Château Grand-Puy Ducasse

Deep and saturated look; perfume; blackcurrant tones and lift; precise and pure on the nose; with some fat Merlot here; wood on the palate but lots of fruit; feels a little disjointed but should meld as there is lots of extract, fruit and density tp soak this up. Fresh finish. Tasted at Chateau Meyney, Thursday April 11, 2013. 87-89 [Earlier UGC note] Mid depth; healthy looking; pure blackcurrant aromas; nice cassis tones; oak dominated the palate a bit but should settle as there is plenty of fruit. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. 87-89 [Additional note] Mid depth; purple at edge; blackcurrants, cassis; some oak; needs to integrate further; pretty pure overall and extract and tannin on the finish. Feels chewy and tannic at this stage. Should settle. Tasted UGC April 9, 2013. 87-89

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Deep and saturated look; cassis, blackcurrants; very dense and very attractive; layers of cool blackcurrants here; good on the palate with lots of chew and depth; lovely balance here; extract but tannins fine and really impressive length. Tasted Friday April, 12, 2013 at Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste. 91-93+ [Earlier notes from UGC] Deepish; pure Cabernet aromas and some perfume; blackcurrants beneath; earthy entry; very good density and pretty fine. Fresh finish. This is better than Pichon-Baron this year. Good effort. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. 90-92+ [Earlier note] Mid depth; vibrant edge; lots of attractive Cabernet fruit here; blackcurrants; some stalks; sense of freshness and vibrancy; again lively Cab on the palate; quite tight on the end but plenty of extract and material. Nice length if grippy at present. Promising. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot. 89-91+

Château Haut-Bages-Libéral

Mid depth; vibrant edge; high toned; some perfume and violet lift; almost floral tones; blackcurrants on the palate; little dryness and tannins very present. Palate feels a little lean. Should fill out but will always be ‘fresh and grippy’. Tasted UGC April 11, 2013. 86-88 [Earlier note] Mid depth; not as saturated as Lynch-Bages; more floral tones; pretty and lifted; spice, perfume and blackcurrants. Attractive and pretty on the nose; more earthy notes on the palate; leaf and blackcurrant and a bit of undergrowth; tannins dry and lacks a bit of mid-palate richness. Will fill out but will always be a leaner, sappy style. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot. 87-89

Château Haut-Batailley

Good looking; polished; very attractive, pretty nose; blackcurrants, smoke, earth; very nicely done; palate attractive too [little oak to integrate] but nice layers here with some cream and plenty of blackcurrant tones; nice balance and harmony. Good length and good effort. 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 60% new oak. Tasted Friday April, 12, 2013 at Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste. 88-90+

Lacoste-Borie

Deep and healthly looking; very pretty nose; lots of fat, primary fruit – plums, blackcurrants; mid weight on the palate but pretty harmonious [probably the fair wack of Merlot]. Coffee and spice tones on the finish. Good effort. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc. Tasted Friday April, 12, 2013 at Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste. 87-88

Château Lafite Rothschild

Deep and saturated; tight to the rim; very deep and layered on the nose; quite packed with aroma; usual core of blackcurrant fruit; cassis; coffee beans and an earthy note too; concentrated palate and pretty tight; clearly lots of material and density and grip on the end. That earthy note again. Usual Lafite paradox – fleet of foot but full in flavour. Very good in vintage context, though they have the financial luxury to make the hard choices necessary to do so. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8.5% Merlot and 0.5% Petit Verdot. 94-96

Château Latour

Very deep and saturated look; healthy colour; vibrant; very pure blackcurrant aromas; lots of layers and a real seam of precision; depth; oak present; very precise and focused; quite sinewy on the palate; very fine tannin; elegant with layers of flavour; quite serious. Elegant style, not the powerhouse of 2009 or 2010 but this is the vintage here. Finesse. 90.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.6% Merlot, 0.2% Petit Verdot 12.8% alc, IPT 73 35.6% of production. Tasted Friday April 12, 2013 at Chateau Latour. 94-95+

Château Lynch-Bages

Deep and dense looking; dusty nose; quite dumb; blackcurrants and some wet rocks; cool and fresh palate with stalky Cab notes; pretty tannic and dry on the end. Feels austere. Too much oak here I wonder? 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 75% new oak. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. 87-89+ [Earlier note] Deep and concentrated look; dense; ripe blackcurrants; some lift on the nose; depth; deep palate; lots of cassis and blackcurrant; feels pretty good effort. Tannins feel ripe and extract is there. Needs to fill in a bit. Elegance. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 90-92

Château Lynch-Moussas

Mid depth; little hardness on the nose; dumb; closed sample; dry palate feels less impressive than earlier. UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. 85-87? [Earlier – and better- note] Mid depth; some purple ; ripe aromas; supple and attractive; some spice; open palate; ripeness; blackcurrants; supple texture; elegant and attractive. 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 87-88

Château 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]

Pauillac de Latour

Nice saturated colour; healthy; fresh blackcurrants, some cassis; attractive fruit bit stalky in part; elegant palate; fresh; quite clean and with acid; correct and good effort in vintage context. Polished. 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 54.5% Merlot, 1.6% Cabernet Franc, IPT 63 12.8% alc 22.2% of production. 87-89+

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. 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. 92-94+

Château Pichon-Longueville

Deep and saturated colour; some cassis and blackcurrant notes; feels fresh Cabernet with stalky note; fresh Cab on the palate pretty dense  and feels lean and a bit over-extracted; dry finish. Very tannic and chewy. Tasted UGC April 11, 2013. 87-89? [Earlier note] Very deep saturated look; powerful nose; black fruits; black cherry; wet rocks; depth and cassis; palate full; lots of material and fatness – quite big. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot. 80% new oak. 90-92

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Good depth; healthy looking; nice elegant blackcurrant tones on the palate; glossy; elegance again on the palate; blackcurrant but a minerality and lean-ness on the mid-palate. Stalky blackcurrants. Nevertheless fine tannins and very good length. Will fill out. Tasted Thursday April 11, 2013. 89-91+ [Earlier note] Mid depth; fresh looking; good Cabernet fruit; stalky blackcurrants; layers; fresh and elegant; pure Cab on the palate; quite silky with elegance and balance; maybe lacks a bit of stuffing in the middle currently but should fill out. Nice length on the finish. 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit-Verdot. 13% alc. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 90-92.

Château Pontet-Canet

Deep colour; very healthy looking; saturated blackcurrant aromas; cassis; little lift from the oak; black cherry notes too; very attractive and open; reminiscent of their 2011 [one of the red wines of the vintage for me last year]; lots of depth to the palate; real blackcurrant purity; clean and precise on the finish with freshness. Not overdone in the slightest. Excellent length. Tasted at Chateau Pontet-Canet April, 12, 2013. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 93-95+

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