The Haut-Médoc appellation covers a vast amount of ground and very differing terroirs. It’s always a bit odd to lump together say Château La Lagune and Château Cantermerle who border [and resemble] the wines of Margaux, with that of Château Belgrave, Château de Camensac and Château La Tour Carnet just to the west of St Julien, alongside Château Coufran, the northernmost Haut-Médoc château, past St Estèphe in St Seurin, but there we are. Overall the best Haut-Médoc 2012s have gone for elegance and balance. Some are quite attractive, others vigorous with plenty of bounce and freshness. Quite a few are a stalky and angular with a fair amount of grip, a bit reminiscent of 2011, so you do need to tread carefully. Again generally I don’t quite see the urgency in picking these up en primeur when there are still lots of 2009 and 2010s on the market for a fraction more.
The pick for me was Château Cantermerle who have a very nice offering in 2012 and who have come out at a competitive price that does look interesting [around £200/$300 a case]. Here they described 2012 as the polar opposite to 2011, at least in terms of harvest. They had completed picking 2011 by October 1st, the date when the 2012 harvest began. For them there was no doubt that 2011 was the easier vintage to make, but 2012 looks much better to me than their 2011 at the same stage and should drink nicely early on.
Near neighbour Château La Lagune has also come up with a pure and elegant wine. No surprises there. Two much cheaper standouts for me in the fresh and vigorous category were Château Beaumont and Château Coufran. Both had lots of bounce and freshness. I was also struck by Château Belle-Vue, evidently very nicely handled, and the wine has good mid-palate richness. Their 2007 tasted blind one evening in Bordeaux also looked very good for the vintage.
Of the Haut-Médoc crus classés west of Château Lagrange and St Julien, Château La Tour Carnet looked very full and typically forward and works well for me. I’m usually a great fan of Château Belgrave and have bought the 1996, 2000, 2005 and 2010 in the past. The sample of 2012 fell short – all upfront and too oaky on the finish. Let’s hope it settles. Château de Camensac is usually more elegant with emphasis on structure and balance. There is plenty of blackcurrant fruit here as well as appetizing sap and freshness. Grippy for sure, ‘classical’ I suppose, but overall it works pretty well.
The following wines were tasted at the UGC event at Château Foucas-Hosten and at the Cru Bourgeois event at Château d’Agassac.
Mid depth; spicy and fresh; really stalky Cabernet; palate mid weight with some soft fruit tones and spices; grippy finish. Sappy red. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. Tasted at the Cru Bourgeois tasting Tuesday, April 9, 2013. 84-86
Deep and dense looking, vibrant edge; slightly spicy fruit with some vibrancy and bounce; creamy entry on the palate; attractive Cabernet Fruit; some tannin at the back but also freshness. Simple but clean and fresh. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013 86-88
Deep and dense; thick; integrated nose with some layers; some jam and spice; earthy note; palate quite rich but lots of oak and oak tannin. Not caressing. Tannins at the end. Overall dry, oaky finish. A disappointing showing. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 84-86?
Deep and earthy looking; mineral tones; wet rocks, sturdy; attractive palate with surprising mid-palate richness for the vintage and appellation. Good and gutsy. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot. Tasted at the Cru Bourgeois tasting Tuesday, April 9, 2013. 86-87+
Château Bel-Orme Tronquoy de Lalande
Mid depth; chalky nose; ripe fruit notes on the palate but a little pinched and angular on the finish. 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. Tasted at the Cru Bourgeois tasting Tuesday, April 9, 2013. 83-85
Deep and healthy looking; attractive round nose with some elegance and polish; blackcurrant fruit and some cassis; nice fruit on the palate, elegant and nicely balanced. Good vibrancy too. Good effort. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6& Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc, 40% new oak. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013 89-91+
Deep and saturated; some pine, menthol and spice; quite integrated; spicy fruit; lots of extract on the palate and spicy tones; chewy finish. Should come good but will always be a gutsy effort. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2012. 85-87
Mid depth; vibrant edge; spicy fruit [like Beaumont]; blackcurrant and plums; lots of bounce, purity and freshness; fruit on the palate. Gutsy but bright fruit. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 86-87+
Mid depth; nice red black fruit tones on the nose; dense palate; with guts and grip. Should settle. Tasted at the Cru Bourgeois tasting Tuesday, April 9, 2013. 85-87
Château de Camensac
Mid depth; more Cabernet freshness on the nose; some earthy notes and blackcurrants; fresh blackcurrants on the palate, little sappy with grip as you’d expect from this estate; earthy blackcurrant favours on the palate. 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2012 86-88+
Château de Lamarque
Deep and saturated; red fruits with some stewed prune notes; jammy and quite thick and dense; thick and chewy overall. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2012. 83-85
Château La Lagune
Deep and saturated colour; some fruit pastels and boiled sweet notes; red fruits too; palate ripe and real elegance here; lacks a bit of stuffing maybe but fresh, elegant and pretty pure. Should fill out too. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2012 89-91+
Château La Tour Carnet
Deep and saturated; tight to rim; quite deep and layered wine on the nose; ripe fruit; ripe and lots of fruit on the palate; extract here and pretty thick. 65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 88-90+
The 2012 growing season was as tricky up in the northern Médoc as it was elsewhere on the left bank, with the advantage here that the blends often have a higher proportion of Merlot, the variety that succeeded in the vintage. Not that Merlot escaped entirely. One of the consequences of the very cool weather around flowering was considerable flower shatter [coulure] on the Merlot, reducing yields, although this was reported as having a positive effect on quality, increasing concentration. Nevertheless the cool and wet start to the growing season certainly led to uneven development in the grapes. Ripening did catch up with the warmer and very dry period spanning mid-July to late September, but the harvest was always going to be a late one, one that would ultimately be influenced by October’s wet weather. Nevertheless the best wines have good fruit and weight from the Merlot.
For me, three wines stood head and shoulders above the rest, two with substantial resources and know-how behind them. Château Potensac has produced a very fine effort in 2012 and worth considering for the price [released around £140/$225 per dozen]. La Goulée, now in its tenth vintage, looks very polished and promising from the team at Cos d’Estournel. Château La Tour de By [£110/$170 a dozen] also looked pure and nicely judged and will provide a very attractive glass of Médoc.
The notes and scores on those cru bourgeois tasted at Château d’Agassac are provisional as I arrived extremely late in the day and tasted in a mad dash. Nevertheless Château Blaignan [also tasted separately], Château La Cardonne, Château Loudenne, Château Noaillac, Château Les Ormes Sorbet and Château Patache d’Aux all looked to be good-ish Médocs with sap and vigour.
Nice colour; fresh and attractive looking; some blackcurrant, earth; soft and easy palate; lacks a little definition. Easygoing. Tasted at Château Meyney April 11, 2013. 85-86 [Earlier note] Earthy blackcurrant, sweet; some Ribena and fruit pastel notes; easy and soft. Good-ish effort. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 85-86
Château Blaignan Quintessence
Deeper; more depth and intensity to the nose; blackcurrants; some cassis; more depth and chew to the palate; soft in the middle. Attractive overall. Tasted at Château Meyney, April 11, 2013. 86-87
Château La Cardonne
Nice lift, some perfume; earthy red fruits on the palate; some earth; chewy finish. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 85-86
Spicy tones with bubblegum; stalky and spicy; palate soft with some chew on the finish. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 84-86
Chapelle de Potensac
Mid depth, pretty dark; vibrant meniscus; creamy nose; ripe; cassis; bright; nice entry to the palate; good-ish density and sap; some creamy tones; juicy and vibrant; little simple on the finish but vigorous. 56% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. Tasted at Château Léoville-Las-Cases Friday April 12, 2013. 86-87
Château Les Grands Chênes
Earthy, spicy and oaked; still reasonable integration; tannic and dry on the palate. Ok but chewy. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 84-86
La Goulée by Cos d’Estournel
Deep colour; healthy at edge; very primary fruit; briary and brambly notes; some spice; little earth and mineral tones; polished palate; clean and vibrant; some creamy qualities and very harmonious and elegant. Good length and a good effort. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. Tasted at Château Cos d’Estournel April 12, 2013. 88-90
Stalky nose; vegetal and feels green; very tannic and dry on the palate. Unripe to me. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 82-84
Deep and saturated look; some perfume, some oak; good depth and chew if oaky palate; fruit sweet and ripe enough. Tasted at Château Haut-Marbuzet April 11, 2013. 84-86
Redcurrant tones alongside stalky fruit; clean; palate creamy to begin with then grippy finish. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 85-87
Some dark fruits; spicy tones; sappy and grippy palate with chewy tannin but lots of guts. Will be ok. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 85-87
Château Les Ormes Sorbet
Fresh and stalky like Loudenne; chewy and dense on the palate; plenty of fruit and chew. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 85-87
Château Patache d’Aux
Earthy; red fruits here and ripe Merlot influence; grippy palate with some angularity to the tannin. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 85-87
Very nice healthy look; deep and vibrant at edge; saturated aroma; depth here and attractive; cassis and minerals; pretty dense palate; lots of material; some grip and tannin on the finish. Chewy but plenty of fruit here and nice length. Good Potensac. Tasted at Château Léoville-Las-Cases April 12, 2013. 48% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% 88-90
Pretty lifted nose with perfume; some grip and acid in palate; lean and lacks middle. Cru Bourgeois tasting April 9, 2013. 83-85
Château La Tour de By
Deepish; earthy, blackcurrant tones; ripe; juicy and appetizing; palate eqully juicy, ripe and extremely enjoyable; very forward, fruity and attractive. Tasted UGC April 9, 2013. 87-88
MOULIS & LISTRAC
As you’d imagine Moulis and Listrac are fairly tight, tannic bunch in 2012. There is not the gloss here of the really great years like 2009 and 2010 when these properties provide real value. Most should settle ok. The real bright spot, as ever, is Château Poujeaux, which has crafted a very fine effort in this tricky, rain-affected vintage. Listrac has produced a chewy set of wines, but Château Fourcas-Dupré and Château Fourcas-Hosten should prove gutsy drinking. Still, with so much 2009, 2010, and even 2005, still widely available and drinking nicely, it doesn’t seem to make much sense tying up your cash in these right now.
Dense colour; glossy look; some bright fruit, black cherry, fresh. Purity on the nose. Fresh palate but oaky and feels very dry. Angular finish. 85-87 UGC Tuesday April 9 2013
Dark and deep; nice purity of fruit, Cabernet but ripe; some tightness on the palate; lean and lacks mid palate richness. Should meld but dry finish. 84-86 UGC Tuesday April 9 2013
Deep and saturated colour; tight to the edge; blackcurrant and briary fruits on the nose; quite open and seemingly a lot of fruit here; palate full and firm; lots of elements acid, tannin and fruit and considerable structure. Goodish effort – evidently lots of fruit here. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc. 87-89 UGC Tuesday April 9 2013
Deep and dense looking; some wet rock, chalk and blackcurrant notes beneath; feels ripe; some pretty fruit on the nose; some hardness to the palate; dense and chewy. 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5% alc 85-87 UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013
Deep and dense; more oak lift, some resin, some layers, quite seductive almost, meaty and oak palate; oak tannins, feels a liitle overdone. Dry palate. Tannic. Some length but oak and tannic at present. 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot 13.5% alc 30% new oak. 84-86 UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013
Château Fourcas Dupré
Dark centre; vibrant at edge; some perfume, prettiness on the nose; some cherry; depth not unattractive; good entry, ripe fruit, chewy but good nevertheless. Lots of guts. Chewy finish but will work. 86-88 UGC Tuesday April 9 2013
Château Fourcas Hosten
Deep and saturated; much more oak on the nose; toasty and espresso notes; some fruit layers beneath; oak very present on the palate; feels disjointed; a certain hardness. Fruit masked a bit at present. Lots of guts and material on the palate but pretty grippy and lots of tannin from the wood. Should settle. 85-87 UGC Tuesday April 9 2013
Château Mayne Lalande
Earthy looking; some smoke, ripe and some polish here; depth, rocks and some minerals; grippy and earthy palate with density; lots of structure and grip. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc. 84-86 Tasted at La Fleur de Bouard, Wednesday April 10, 2013.