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Bordeaux 2012: St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien & Margaux

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Despite the vagaries of the vintage it would be a mistake to overlook St Estèphe in 2012. At the top end excellent wines have been made at Chateau Calon-Ségur, Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Chateau Montrose especially. Further down the chain there are values to be had if you pick carefully. I’ve written about the excellent effort at Chateau Meyney, but very fine wine has been made at Chateau Phélan-Ségur and there is a surprisingly good Chateau de Pez. The vintage can’t be compared to 2009 and 2010 but it’s probably better than the 2011 vintage here at least. Where the price is right, and in a few cases it is, you could consider some of these wines en primeur.

The 2012 vintage is not homogeneous in St Estèphe. Certain properties succeeded, others haven’t. The essential elements were well-drained but sufficiently water retentive soils, diligent vineyard work and an extremely steady nerve at harvest. Fortune favoured the brave. If your fruit was healthy and you had the resources to pick large areas in a speedy fashion then your best bet was to pick as late as you possibly could, despite the dark clouds and wet weather that accompanied the very end of the harvest. This is how Chateau Montrose triumphed. Great terroir and due diligence also lies behind the fine, classical effort at Calon-Ségur. Lavish attention and ambition has also allowed Cos d’Estournel to deliver power and panache from its own enviable terroir.

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The other thing to remember is that Merlot did succeed in 2012, being riper sooner than the Cabernet Sauvignon, it was not hit by the bad weather [or the threat of it]. Many blends in St Estèphe favour Merlot, if not in the majority, often up to 30-40% of the blends. The variety is fuller, more gutsy and tannic here than the more delicate, perfumed Merlot on display in the Margaux commune in 2012. Nor does it have the sheer beauty of Pomerol’s Merlot, but it has helped fill these wines out and, accordingly, quite a few properties have upped the Merlot used in the blend this year.

There was a little variability in the Union des Grand Crus tastings, some chateaux showed well one day and not so well a few days later. I think we can probably say that these will settle overtime. Chateau Ormes de Pez and Chateau Cos Labory were both in this category, with samples being alternately impressive, then a bit angular and sullen. I’m now wondering if it was atmospheric pressure [I’m not entirely joking] but either way I’d expect these wines to settle in the long run, Ormes de Pez especially.

A few properties hadn’t done as well as you might expect. Chateau Haut-Marbuzet, was much less exuberant than usual and Chateau Lafon-Rochet, though pure enough, felt a little lean. I’m sure Lafon-Rochet will fill out but there is not really much sense in splashing out on either of these when so much of their excellent 2009s and 2010s can still be spotted about. These wines really are worth the extra premium. Lafon-Rochet’s 2009 is a wine of remarkable concentration and depth.

So what to do if you’re a St Estèphe fan and on a budget [like me]? Do consider Chateau Meyney [see earlier blog post]. It’s a treat in 2012. I was also impressed with Chateau de Pez on the two occasions I tried it. It has lots of fruit and style. Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande, from the team at Montrose, is full and nicely made and very much worth considering. Chateau Capbern Gasqueton, Calon-Segur’s other property, was a little sinewy but certainly has vigour and life. Chateau Le Crock looked neat and polished, a good effort I thought from the dedicated bunch at Chateau Léoville-Poyferré. I also caught up with Le Crock 2010 in bottle which looks good to me [I will update their profile shortly].

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Although the usual advice is to steer clear of ‘second’ wines in tricky vintages, the very top estates are producing wines of cru classé quality, year in, year out. La Dame de Montrose, Les Pagodes de Cos and Marquis de Calon, in their different styles, are all reliable brands. All look good in 2012.

I did manage a very brief look at several other St Estèphe’s at the Cru Bourgeois tasting at Chateau d’Agassac, but I’ve not included the notes here. I only got round to these at the end of a very heavy day’s tasting. I looked at Chateau Beausite, Chateau Le Boscq, Chateau Clauzet, Chateau La Commanderie and Chateau Lilian-Ladouys. Overall nothing sung to me at all. I hope to catch up with these wines again at Vinexpo and, with a fresher palate, I’ll post notes on these then.

In the meantime here are the notes on seventeen St Estèphe tasted a various chateaux and at the Union des Grand Crus event at Chateau Phélan-Ségur. Hope they are helpful. As usual, notes more important than the numbers….

Chateau Calon-Ségur

Deep and saturated; quite tight on the nose initially; lots of extract on the palate; real density and pretty structured; this is a very serious, classically styled wine; tight but very dense. Grip and sap but plenty of material. Feels long term and classically styled St Estephe in the very best sense. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. 13.6% alc. Tasted at Calon-Segur April 11, 2013. 91-93+

Marquis de Calon

Deep and dense; quite tight again; some prettiness from the Merlot (69%); dense and structured on the palate; full and big but also pretty tannic. What the hell, this is St Estephe after all! 69% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon 14.4% alc. Tasted at Calon-Segur April 11, 2013. 90-91+

Chateau Capbern Gasqueton

Deep looking; stone fruits on the nose; some mineral tones; fresh; grippy, stalky Cabernet fruit on the palate; sappy and quite lean in style; bit backward but will doubtless fill out. Chewy finish. 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot. Tasted at Calon-Segur April 11, 2013. 87-89+

Chateau Cos d‘Estournel

Deep and saturated; colour tight to the rim; thick and dense in the glass; serious nose; layered; lots of fruit here; a seam of focused and precise fruit; freshness with some creamy notes; very consistent on the palate; tight seam of blackcurrant fruit again; very pure and nicely layered; quite big and lots of material and evidently ripe tannin. Gives the wine density and chew at the back. Cassis and blackcurrant tones linger. Pretty serious effort. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 70% new oak. 13.8% alc. TA 3.2, pH 3.75 IPT 95. Tasted at Cos Friday April 12, 2013. 93-95+

Les Pagodes de Cos

Deep and saturated; slightly looser at the rim than the grand vin; spices, mincemeat, wonderfully ripe tons; satiny; layers here and expression of what I imagine is wonderfully plump Merlot; lots of layers and concentration on the palate but delivered in a very harmonious and balanced way; acidity gives some life and freshness too. Nice length. Very good. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. 13.5% alc, IPT 75 TA 3.1 pH 3.73. 50% of production. Tasted at Cos April 12, 2013. 90-92+

Chateau Cos Labory

Deep and saturated; quite enticing; ripe; plums, black cherry but ripe and layered; little oak on the palate; some tightness from the Cabernet Sauvignon; little extracted at the back but will settle nicely. Tasted UGC April 11, 2013. 87-89+ [Earlier note] Mid depth; looks lovely; quite lifted; some red fruits; ripe; oak on the palate [little dryness from the oak] firm and dense; tannin little more chewy. 50% Merlot, 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% new oak. 13.65% alc. Tasted UGC April 9, 2013. 86-88

Chateau de Pez

Mid depth; ripe blackcurrant and plum tones; good fruit here; attractive nose; quite seductive; sweet entry, ripe feel, lots of material. Chewy. Fades a tad but great effort from de Pez. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. 87-89 [Earlier note] Pretty saturated look; thick; some oak on the nose but well integrated with [considerable] fruit; feels pretty fat on the nose; quite big palate; lots of fruit here; chew and density; pretty good effort – full of flavour and lots of fruit. 47% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 88-90

Chateau Haut-Marbuzet

Deep and saturated look; perfume, some cherry; quite lush; little compact on the palate; fresh style; less impressive than Chateau Meyney tasted immediately before; lean for Haut-Marbuzet. 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. Tasted at Chateau Haut Marbuzet April 11, 2013. 86-88

Chateau Lafon-Rochet

Mid depth; glossy looking; little dumb at first; not leaping out the glass; depth though; sweet ripe attack on the palate; dense and feels a touch dry on the end. Tasted UGC Thursday, April 11, 2013. 86-88 [Earlier note] Mid depth; purple at edge; quite pure Cabernet nose; stalky; some earth and depth; palate has purity and freshness; blackcurrants; more sappy style but like the purity in this sample. 67.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 1.5% Petit Verdot. 50% new oak. Tasted UGC April 9, 2013. 87-89

Chateau Le Crock

Mid depth; nice polished colour; focus to the nose; layers and precision; very mannered; nice black fruits; some minerality; firmish palate with fine tannin. Little on the lean side though should fill out. Very nicely done. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc. IPT 79, Acidity 3.35 pH 3.83. 13.3% alc. Tasted Monday April 8, 2013 at Chateau Leoville-Poyferre. 87-89+

Chateau Meyney

Deep and saturated; lots of black cherry and blackcurrant fruit; deep; lots of depth here; impressive; nice entry on the palate; very good indeed; lots of material; nice tension on the palate; creamy tannins; very good length. This is an outstanding effort for the vintage and recalls some of Meyney’s great efforts in the past. Should be a good value buy. 42% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot. 90-92+

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. Tasted at Chateau Montrose Monday April 8, 2013. 90-92+

Chateau Ormes de Pez

Deep and dense looking; black fruits, Morello cherry notes; some lift; feels like it will be dense and deep; chewy palate, in fact much more chew than expected; almost austere on the finish. Grippy and tannic sample. Tasted UGC Thursday, April 11, 2013. 85-87 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated; healthy looking; very ripe nose; fat Merlot on offer; blackcurrant, black cherry; very good and enticing [nice purity]; big and tannic; quite dense and chewy; should settle; sappy finish. Gutsy and full St Estephe and better than 2011. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot 45% new oak 87-89+

Chateau Phélan-Ségur

Nice glossy look; dark; blackcurrant fruit, some plum, some minerality; lots of depth and interest here; cream and cassis too; palate quite dense at first; lots of fruit here; oak a little present; some length and a bit of chew at the finish. Overall feels nicely balanced and elegant. Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013. 87-89+ [Earlier note] Deep and saturated look; lovely pretty fruit; some rose petal; blackcurrant and black cherry; some mineral and earth; very attractive; good entry; positive palate and a certain elegance to the extraction; nicely balanced on the palate; tannin fine; bit of zip on the finish too. Impressive effort. 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% new oak, 13.2% Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 89-91+

Chateau 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+

PAUILLAC

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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.

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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 Leland

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+

ST JULIEN

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I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly knocked over by the showing of the wines of St Julien in 2012 despite two detailed passes of the commune on separate days. Yes the best are correct enough and will make decent wine, but many don’t set the pulse racing, or offer the immediate charm of the best properties in the Margaux or Pessac-Léognan appellations or the potential of the even better wines on the right bank. Overall they feel a bit joyless, like the vintage rain has dampened their spirits. Unless they are released at prices less than available vintages now, few make sense as an en primeur purchase today.

That’s not to say that if you are a die-hard St Julien fan that there aren’t wines to consider. The best wines are undoubtedly the Léovilles – Château Léoville-Las-Cases [and their excellent Clos du Marquis], Château Léoville Poyferré and Château Léoville Barton. Château Saint-Pierre [photo above] also looked good in a fresh, blackcurrant style along with Château Langoa-Barton. I didn’t make it to Château Ducru Beaucaillou. Amongst the values Château Gloria had plenty of fruit and sap, but, again, it all depends on price.

The rest? Château Gruaud-Larose looked pretty consistent, Château Branaire-Ducru a little lean and chewy to me but it’s usually a bit slow to come forward early on. There was inconsistency in the samples of Château Lagrange, one was extremely dry and tannic, and Château Talbot felt pretty grippy and angular. Château Beychevelle had a curiously jammy note yet then felt stretched in the mid-palate and dry on the end. All these wines should be better down the track, and that’s when we should be considering them too, certainly not as en primeur purchases, unless offered at a compelling discount to available vintages.

At the time of writing few St Julien properties have released prices, save for Talbot coming in at around £300 a case. The message for the rest has to be come in at 10% or 20% less for the price your 2008s or 2006s are now trading at, to make a mark.

Château Beychevelle

Mid depth; little oak influence; some jam; red fruits; black cherry too; palate feels a bit hard; finishes dry. Should fill out further but feels a little mean on the finish. 2011 felt a little better to me. 85-87 UGC Tasted April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Deep looking; red fruits, jammy note; strawberry tones; red fruits and feels a little worked; some tannin to resolve at the end, feels extracted and a little stretched. Will probably settle but feels a little hollow to me after the up-front jam lift. 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc. Harvested Cabernet between October 12-18, so relatively late. Tasted UGC April 9, 2013. 86-88.

Château Branaire-Ducru

Deep-ish; fresh looking; some fresh, sappy Cabernet tones on the nose; quite taut palate; angular and grippy quality to the tannins; firm acid; chewy palate. Overall the wine has a certain density but also angularity and grip. Not a huge joy. 87-88  UGC Tasted April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Mid depth; some stalky notes; fresh Cabernet; some spices; feels fairly high-toned and ‘boney’; angular palate [sample a little cold] feels a bit pinched. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 86-88.

Château Gloria

Deep and dark at centre; fresh blackcurrants; clean; some spice; fresh and grippy palate but with chew and density; tannic and dry on the finish. Lots of extract and material so should come good. 87-89 Tasted UGC Thursday 11, 2013 [Earlier note – slightly better] Deep and saturated; looks enticing; lots of fresh blackcurrant fruit and spices; some cherry; lots of fruit evident on the nose; lots of fruit and purity; chew also. Chewy with plenty of extract. Should settle nicely. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 88-90.

Château Gruaud Larose

Mid depth; nice layers to the nose; attractive; some perfume and lift; grippy palate, fresh with acid and tannin firm; will fill out I expect but will always have bite and grip. 87-88 Tasted UGC Thursday April, 11, 2013 [Earlier note – better showing] Mid depth; some stalky Cabernet, some earth and tobacco tones; quite open and attractive on the nose; palate has a nice tension between earthy Cabernet and grip; pretty sinewy effort though. Still reasonable texture and fruit. 66.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and 6.5% Petit Verdot. Tasted Tuesday April 9, 2013. 88-90+

Château Lagrange

Deep and saturated; dumb, little dusty;  palate quite tight and astringent; chewy and lacks appeal; may fill out [I certainly hope so] but not much joy here at present. 86-87 Tasted Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note – better] Mid depth; some meal, earth and mineral; little neutral overall though; palate mid-weight; earthy notes; ripeness and nice-ish chew at the back. 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot. Tasted Tuesday April 9, 2013 87-89

Château Langoa Barton

Mid depth; nice purity of fruit on the nose – blackcurrants and black cherry notes; cool; palate nice blackcurrant tones with Morello cherry; mid-weight with acid and some chew. Fresh. 86-88+ [Earlier note] Deep and healthy looking; purple at edge; quite lifted; black fruits; palate fresh; lots of acid and freshness alongside the blackcurrant fruit tones. Will come good, but will always have sap and grip. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc 60% new oak. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 87-89

Château Léoville Barton

Deep coloiur; vibrant at edge; some blackcurrant; black cherry; quite deep; fresh and grippy palate; correct; has purity and tannin but will come good. Fresh. 89-91 Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note – better showing] Deep colour; very nice purity of fruit; cassis; blackcurrant; fruit compote; blackcurrants on the palate; quite fresh; stalky Cab; but clean and fresh with sap and tannin [and plenty of material]. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc 60% new oak 13% alc. 90-92

Château Léoville-Las-Cases

Deep and saturated looking; vibrant edge; very deep nose; enticing, focused and precise; layers; excellent depth of fruit on the nose. The palate is full of fruit, material and ripe tannin; there is a lot of stuff here but it is very focused indeed. There is a roundness and ripe quality which gives a balanced and harmonious feel to the palate. Excellent length and very nicely done. 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc 80% new oak, 13.47 alc IPT 70 pH 3.6. 94-96+ Tasted at the Chateau Friday, April 12, 2013.

Le Petit Lion du Las Cases [Second wine of Léoville-Las-Cases]

Deep and saturated; minerality; blackcurrants; cassis and some blackcurrant lift; purity here; life and spice too; nice entry; cassis; blackcurrant; nice balance this is attractive and quite supple and round. 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc 13.53 % alc 20% new barrels yield 33hl/ha IPT68. pH 3.59 89-91+Tasted at the Chateau Friday, April 12, 2013.

Château Léoville Poyferré

Deep and tight to the rim; saturated colour; healthy purple at rim; lots of blackcurrant cassis; layered and mannered; precise; blackcurrant notes, some smoke and meat; tight palate, lots of fruit evident; minerals; good focus again; lots of fruit here but very focused. Didier Cuvelier thought it closed on the day. Very expressive nose. Looks very good indeed, should blossom further. 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot 13.4% alc, IPT 82, pH 3.8. Tasted Monday April 8, 2013 at the Chateau. 92-93+ [Additional notes from UGC] Deep and saturated look; ripe; lots of fruit on the nose; thicker and layered; nice palate with good depth and density. Tannic grippy finish but need a bit of time. UGC Thursday, April 11, 2013. 91-92+ [Additional note] Deep and saturated look; ripe and deep on the nose; smoky notes, blackcurrants; lots of finesse; palate has a lot of material; nicely composed; layers of fruit if firm tannins at the back. Chewy finish but very good material. UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 91-92+

Clos du Marquis

Very saturated looking; cassis, blackcurrants, freshness and purity; lots of stuff going down here; real polish and layers; full; quite taught palate with lots of extract and material and very nicely handled it all is too. Very concentrated but manages surprising elegance and freshness. Really lots of material here and grip too. Tannin feels ripe. No problems here at all. Good length. Good buy I expect. 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. 40% new oak, 13.5% alc, IPT 65 pH3.64 Tasted at Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases Friday April 12, 2013. 92-93+

Château Moulin Riche

Mid depth; rich colour and looks polished; smoke, black fruits and layers to the nose; later blackcurrant, cassis and black cherry notes; more structure evident than in LP; feels string and dense with a chewy finish. Precision but not as much flesh evident as Leoville-Poyferre. 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 13.2% alc, IPT 73 pH: 3.8 88-90

Château Saint-Pierre

Deep and saturated look; blackcurrants and black cherry; freshness; chewy palate; density and material; pretty classic with lots of fruit and extract but fruit is there. Good effort potentially. 90-92 Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Deep and dark; nice blackcurrant notes; depth; good purity; similarly pure blackcurrant tones on the palate; nice and clean and will fill out. Mid-weight and nicely done. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot 60% new oak. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 89-91+

Château Talbot

Mid depth; some Cabernet notes and spice on the nose; feels ‘high toned’; suggests angularity on the palate; some flesh but still a pretty angular effort here with a chewy, dry finish. Will fill out I expect but will always be lean and angular. 85-87 Tasted UGC Thursday April 11, 2013 [Earlier note] Mid depth; stalky blackcurrant notes; freshness; some spicy characters; palate has blackcurrant fruit and some spice and undergrowth; chewy on the finish and fresh acid; Sappy and angular but probably sufficient fruit here. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. 87-89 

MARGAUX

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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.

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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