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Bordeaux Primeurs 2012: Margaux

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

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Overall a surprisingly homogeneous and really encouraging set of wines that confirms, for me at least, that the Margaux commune probably out-performs St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien in 2012 in terms of consistency, delicacy and drinkability. Early maturing certainly but not in the under-ripe, hollow sense. There is genuine lushness in many of the wines, layers of ripe, velvety fruit provided by the beautiful Merlot that the vintage produced. It combines nicely with the tighter, admittedly fresher, but rarely angular or green Cabernet Sauvignon. The combination works well. Given the right pricing [critical] the best are seriously worth considering. Certainly they are a far better set of wines overall than in 2011.

As usual the wines come in a range of styles. Some of these variations are terroir driven – Margaux is a very large appellation that covers a big patch of the southern Haut-Médoc – some of them are stylistic. At this stage in wines that are less then five months old you are looking for depth of fruit and purity. There are a number that provide this and look pretty exciting. As I’ve already said Merlot has succeeded very well here in 2012 but the Cabernet looks good enough and, in several cases, really impresses.

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Château Margaux, for instance, as produced an exciting wine based on 87% Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Pavillon Rouge is also impressive this year and largely Cab based. There is nearly 70% Cabernet Sauvignon in Château Brane-Cantenac’s delicious offering and in Château Giscours too which also looks very appealing. These properties all have exceptional terroir. Clearly this has come into play in 2012, and, together with diligent work in the vineyard, the Cabernet here seems almost unaffected by the October rain. They are elegant but seem perfectly ripe. Further north you go [St Julien, Pauillac & St Estèphe] you do get the impression of more stalky, grippy Cabernet Sauvignon [I also found this the case with some in Pessac-Léognan] but not so much here. The key ally, of course, is the Merlot here, but it does  not feel like it is hiding or disguising un-ripe Cab. Many wines feel complete, front to back.

That said the Merlot is beautiful here. Château Palmer and their excellent Alter Ego have a wonderfully lush and velvet quality because of it. These characteristics can also be found elsewhere. Château Rauzan-Ségla looks an excellent offering, serious as ever, but with layers or creamy fruit on offer which surely reflects the Merlot’s beauty.

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I’m also a fan of Château Angludet and Château du Tertre who make pure, elegant Margaux, unadorned with oak or fatigued by cellar hi-jinks. These also look good bets in 2012 for value and for relatively early drinking. Château Siran also impressed. There is more grip and sap here for sure but there is plenty of lush fruit and this should come together nicely. Likewise Château Prieuré-Lichine continues the evident improvement in recent years. There’s a lots of flavour here, lushness and the feel overall is far less chunky than usual. Greater delicacy for sure. I’ve enjoyed Château Labégorce a lot recently but felt there was a fraction too much oak masking this young wine and the tannins a fraction drying. Nevertheless the fruit is obviously good here and it should settle. Château Ferrière looks good in its tight, sappy way and there is more flesh on the bones than usual. It should prove good, lively Margaux. Château Kirwan also looks very good this year. There is more plushness and less extraction and the overall package feels fine and attractive.

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Château Lascombes and Château Malescot St-Exupéry are very similar in style, very reduced and sublimated, concentrated definitely, with lots of lush fruit, but fairly heavy use of oak. The oak is integrated but masks the purity of their fruit. There are those that would give these the higher marks but I’ve held back on these, very good though they obviously are. This style appeals less and less to me these days.

Then there are those that are over-extracted and overworked. Château Marquis des Terme felt stretched and over-extracted with very drying tannins. Château Cantenac-Brown was inconsistent, one sample chewy and dry, the other a little green somewhere. Château Dauzac was also inconsistent. One sample had a vegetal note [parsnips!] and both felt chewy.

The following wines were tasted by-and-large at the UGC Margaux tasting at Château Labégorce. I tasted the wines twice on two separate occasions. The other notes are from tastings at Château Margaux, Château Palmer and a few from elsewhere. I hope they are helpful. As ever the notes are more important than the numbers – banal perhaps but seemingly essential these days.

Alter Ego

Deep and saturated; very bright; tight to edge; lots of ripe fruit on the nose; pretty; almost some fatness; lush and layered; very sweet and ripe entry; lush fruit; nice tension on the finish; very polished but lots of pretty fruit. 51% Merlot, 40% Cabernet 9% PV 13.4 alcohol 91-93. Tasted at Chateau Palmer Thursday, April 11, 2013.

Château Angludet

Mid depth; some purple at edge; creamy tones; nice freshness; elegance; Cabernet here; cleaner than before; ripe entry, harmony, elegance; polish and finesse; attractive elegant, mid-weight wine 89-91+ UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Mid depth; stalky blackcurrant notes, little ‘gout de chais’/reductive note but this should clear up; more freshness and perfume on the palate; reductive notes again, some spice. Slightly awkward sample. 40% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot. 87-89 UGC Tuesday April 9, 2012

Château Bellevue de Tayac

Very deep and saturated; little more freshness and lift; fresh; ripe and pretty lush; elegance and freshness. 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon 88-90. Tasted with JL Thunevin, Friday April 12, 2013.

Château Brane-Cantenac

Very good colour; deep and saturated; dense to edge; violets, layers, very composed and excellent manners; lushness too; quite tight on the palate but obvious depth and layers; some earth, little undergrowth; structure beneath but very attractive overall; grip and chew on the end. Consistent notes. 92-93+ UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated colour; very fresh and elegant; vivacious on the nose; real delicacy here; very attractive; palate very flattering with real delicacy and lush flavours from what appears to be extremely attractive Merlot in the blend; very good wine with some grip at the end. Nicely done. 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot. 92-93+ Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château Cantenac-Brown

Deep and saturated colour; tight to the edge; chalky, mineral nose; wet rocks; some plushness; slightly green streak somewhere; a plusher and lusher sample than before; not as tannic as before but green streak. Inconsistent notes. 86-88? Tasted Thursday April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Deep and very extracted looking; lots of oak [someone remarked it smells like a white wine]; quite sublimated in feel; very thick and extractive palate – wow – Merlot 60% new oak – loads of tannin; feels very recipe wine making for me. Very dry and astringent on the finish. May settle but will always be chunky and lacking finesse. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot. 86-88. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château Dauzac

Deep and saturated colour; tight to edge; quite lifted; slight parsnip note again; oak, apparent depth; palate a little less vegetal than earlier; lots of plush fruit and ripe Merlot; not too extracted but a chewy finish. 87-88 Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated colour; vegetal nose; parsnips, earthy notes and equally lush in some ways [on the nose] very soft and easy palate; lush and lashings of oak and saturated flavours; not that bad in a thick, melded way but not sure about the vegetal note. Chewy finish. 37% Merlot, 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 70% new oak 13% alc 85-87 Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château Desmirail

Deep and dense; lively at edge; spicy, attractive nose; fruit cake and spicy plum, little undercurrent of earth; earthy entry; modest palate already quite forward and enjoyable; soft and early maturing style. Overall attractive. 87-88+ Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated; tight to the edge; some spice, oak and coffee bean; lifted and quite integrated; some perfume; easy entry, attractive mid palate; lacks a bit of tension on the finish. Also maybe a little too much oak? Not bad though. 54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Sauvignon 12.2 degrees Alc 86-88 Tasted Tuesday, April 9, 2013.

Château du Tertre

Deep and healthy looking; vibrant edge; fresh, stalky Cabernet; some black cherry [Angludet-like]; layers beneath; fresh Cab on the palate but with some weight behind; works very well; elegant yet more-ish. Very nicely handled and balanced. 90-91+ Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Mid depth, vibrant edge; very cool and fresh; with delicacy, perfume and life; very balanced palate and nicely harmonious. Very good effort and classical Margaux. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. 90-91+ Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château Ferrière

Deep and saturated look; glossy; elegant and fresh notes; Cabernet feels ripe; some layers [oak at the back]; perfume; some black fruits; grip and structure; density with lots of material; chewy finish. Better sample than before. Tighter styled Margaux but pent up and should open nicely. 89-91+ UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Saturated and deep; some lift; quite fragrant and elegant if tight on the palate [as ever] but there is attractive fragrance and enough fruit. 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. 87-89 UGC Tuesday April, 9, 2013.

Château Giscours

Deep core; vibrant edge; healthy; elegant and fresh aromas; ripe; blackcurrant, some plum; more-ish; violet perfume; fresh palate; lush entry with cool blackcurrant fruit; does very well. Nice balance. Elegance but with layers and flesh. 90-92. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Mid depth; some purple at edge; stalky Cabernet on the nose with freshness and purity; no hard edges suggested; Cabernet again on the palate with a ripeness and good grip; elegant. Nice Margaux. Good length. Not a blockbuster but has real finesse and you’d expect it to fill out further. 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. 90-91+ Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013

Château Kirwan

Deep and saturated; tight to edge; lush and layered; lots of fruit here; some minerality; quite dense, serious with lots of material; layers again on the palate; lots of material; some oak influence and chew but plenty of fruit. Much better showing than earlier. 90-92 Tasted UGC Thursday, April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Deep and extracted look; some vibrancy at the edge; slightly higher toned than some [though a cool sample bottle]; some cassis, blackcurrants and layers; quite tight; lots of fruit, quite layered and nice extraction; ripe and fine tannin. Grip on the finish. 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. 13.3 degrees, 45% new oak. 88-90

Château Labégorce

Deep and dense; lifted nose; some perfume; oak; layered and attractive; lots of fruit here; some violet lift too; nice palate; good balance; lush quality; little drying from the oak [40% new]. Chewy finish. 87-89 Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Deep and saturated; smoky, lush and very forward; some violet notes; cassis, plums; nice palate with lots of lush fruit but nicely done; elegance to a degree; plenty of extract and material but ripe and supple. Very good effort and length too. 53% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. 88-90 Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château Lascombes

Deep and saturated; very worked and lifted nose; sublimated style with coffee and mocha notes [oak]; yet [somehow] purity of fruit beneath; violets; palate very lush, plenty of fruit; loads of it in fact; nice texture if in a sublimated, worked style. Lacks a bit of acid? Chewy finish. If they stepped back from the oak and let the fruit express itself this would be so much better for me. 90-91. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Deep and saturated colour; lots of density but very lush indeed; deep; coffee bean notes from toasty oak; very lush palate, saturated palate but tannins are very fine and it doesn’t come across as over-extracted. Violets too. Chewy finish but good length. 80% new oak, 48% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot 13.3 degrees alc 90-92+ Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château La Tour du Mons

Deep healthy colour; nice perfume; blackcurrant lift; nice; some spice; more oak on the palate which gives a little disjointed feel but should meld. Some chew and sap at the end. Fresh finish. Improving estate. 40% new oak. 49% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. 86-88

Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry

Deep and saturated; very lush; a boat load of ripe, lush fruit; saturated nose with sublimated fruit tones; violets, black cherry; more purity here; lots of lush fruit on the palate; some stalky cab too; lovely fruit here. Big and with a chewy finish. Overall more impressive than before. 91-93+ Tasted UGC April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Deep and saturated; violets, cassis and coffee; very, very lush and sublimated style; lots of oak on the palate but lots of lush fruit. Feels like it fades a tad on the palate and lacks grip? 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc 13.2 degrees. 89-91? Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château Margaux

Mid depth; healthy looking; perfume; cassis and blackcurrant from the Cabernet; layers and perfume here; violets and depth; layered and tight yet ripe on the palate; density but not dry tannin; very precise and focused with structure; very fine tannins; very nice length; very good purity overall and far, far better than 2011 here; 100% new oak but not at all noticeable. Very good length indeed. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. 95-96+ Tasted at the chateau Thursday April 11, 2013.

Château Marojallia

Big and deep looking in the glass; saturated to the meniscus; lots of depth and perfume; feels very polished; very deep and concentrated style of Margaux; lots of fruit and very extracted; slightly woody note but will settle. Big certainly but maybe not quite as refined as the very best Margaux in 2012. See how it settles. 89-91. Tasted at JL Thunevin, Friday April, 12, 2013.

Château Marquis de Terme

Deep and saturated; red fruits – strawberry, redcurrant; bit jammy; sweet ripe entry on the palate and then drying palate; tannic; feels stretched and over-extracted to me. Lacks freshness and feels stretched. 86-88? Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Deep and saturated; quite melded, lush and lifted; red fruits and jam; worked; lots of oak on the palate; chewy red fruits and oak; forward and pushed tannins at the back. Oak tannin on the end too. Too forced and worked relative to the fruit. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. 87-88? Tasted UGC April 9, 2013.

Château Monbrison

Deep colour; some fresh Cabernet fruit; spices; palate spicy, less lush than many; feels more angular and tannic. Dry on the finish. Not a success for Monbrison on the basis of this sample. Inconsistent notes. 85-86? UGC April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Deep, vibrant edge; legs; some pure fruit, some violet perfume; nice layers here; fat Merlot; vibrant palate with some acid and maybe a little angularity from the Cabernet coming through, 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 3% Petot Verdot. 13 degrees. 87-88 Tasted UGC April 9, 2013.

Château Palmer

Deep and saturated; colour right up to rim; lots of saturated fruit with a little oak present at the edge; very deep; focused and precise; very plush too; lots of saturation on the palate; voluptuous and yet also a lot of density and layers to this; very nice length and excellent concentration for the vintage. Will be a beauty early on. 13.5 degrees alc, 48% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot. 94-96. Tasted at the chateau Thursday, April 11, 2013.

Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux

Deep saturated colour; glossy; pretty nose; very attractive fruit tones; some spice, some polish and minerality; nice layers to the nose; little cherry too; sweet entry on the palate; round and nicely balanced; creamy notes; nice bite and balance. Very good effort. Quite structured and tannins very mannered and precise. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot 1% Cabernet Franc. 91-93+ Tasted at the chateau Thursday, April 11, 2013.

Château Prieuré-Lichine

Deep and saturated; purple at edge; looks fresh and vibrant; elegant, delicacy on the nose; layers of fruit and nice blackcurrant tones alongside plums; attractive entry; material and density with plenty of fruit; flesh here; little grippy on the finish but a good effort. 88-90+ Tasted UGC April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated; nicely layered nose; plush fruit here; some spice and a very enticing combination; very flattering palate, ripe, easy and perfumed; nicely done. Very flattering and good length. Chocolate and mocha on the finish. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot 13 degrees. 89-91+ Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château Rauzan-Gassies

Deep and saturated; purple at edge; fresh; pretty, some perfume and blackcurrant notes; palate ripe entry; lacks a bit of finesse and focus of some; more extracted on the finish chewy but overall [for Gassies] not that bad. 87-88. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Deep and dark looking; some stalky Cabernet – spicy and fresh; some layers; nice entry, quite fat and dense but with some angularity to the tannins and the finish. Nevertheless not a bad effort. 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot. 86-88 Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Deep and saturated; tight to the rim; creamy, layered nose; lushness here; seam of fruit; blackcurrants; nice palate with very good entry; focused and precise; some tannin at the end but very much in keeping with the fruit and structure of the wine. Serious but plenty of material. Very impressive. 92-94+ Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated looking; some spices, ripe fruits and layers; nice seam of fruit; nice entry, full, lush and layered with extract and material. A supple quality here too [usually a little stern and correct]. Well balanced and harmonious. 54.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 1.5% Petit Verdot. 13 degrees 92-94+ Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Château Siran

Healthy looking; vibrant; violets, some perfume; some chalk; refined entry; cooler and fresher fruit; bit grippy and sappy but should come good; nice freshness and spice to the palate. Good length. Vigorous Margaux. 87-89. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Mid depth; ripe, attractive fruit with perfume and a certain elegance; very good palate – ripe and lush; very attractive; some grip too but overall a very attractive and forward style. Very good supple and attractive offering from Siran. Good length and will be great value. 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot 13.4 degrees. 88-90. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013.

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