The clues were there. Fewer big gun proprietors stood behind the tables at this year’s Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting. Some château regulars to Covent Garden were missing completely. And the braying roar of excitement from the trade that accompanied the 2009 and 2010 in-bottle tastings was missing here, replaced by a low, gentle, pinstriped murmur, ‘What on earth are we going to do with this vintage?’ I’m exaggerating a little because there were some good Bordeaux reds from 2011 on offer at the tasting, though relatively few set the pulse really racing. The real joy in this vintage is amongst the whites, particularly the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, and the dry whites from Pessac-Léognan, though that’s not much consolation for a region mostly concerned with red wine production.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau La Dominique’
There can be no doubt that outside Pomerol, St Emilion has put in the strongest performance in 2012. There is great beauty to the best wines. The vintage was not without its own problems of course as detailed in earlier posts – various heavy bouts of rain in October; the difficult start to the growing season which lead to uneven and protracted flowering; the risks of mildew in early July and botrytis in October. The most attentive and diligent have triumphed and the quality of the best Merlot is stunning.
At the primeurs tastings in Bordeaux in April 2011 I had thought that St Emilion in 2010 had bettered the wines made here than in 2009. That vintage, for me which had looked in many cases a bit over-blown and tannic early on, rounded out during elévage nicely. Now tasting through the 2010 wines at the same stage after this vintage has finished its time in barrel, it doesn’t feel quite as knockout as I had imagined. That’s not to say there aren’t many excellent wines from this appellation in 2010, but I was disappointed by some which misfired and, as ever, a number of wines that feel reduced, late picked and over-extracted – not a problem if you like leaden, plodding wine, but surely one if you like a bit of vitality and freshness.
I think St Emilion has made a good fist of 2008. There’s plenty to enjoy in a lot of the wines if you can get past the winemaking in some cases – unless you’ve a fondness for treacle and liquorice. The best here are full and generally have plenty of fruit and no shortage of ripe tannin. There are quite a few who seem to like to make their wines super-ripe and super-reduced – wines of staggering concentration without regard for drink-ability – though the modesty of the vintage has largely kept things in check.
The vagaries of the 2011 season effected St Emilion in pretty much the same way as it did the rest of Bordeaux. A precocious start in spring got the vineyards off to a flying start. Extremely high temperatures at the end of June, recorded at 44C in the shade at Chateau Figeac, caused problems and would have stalled vine growth. Cooler and wetter weather in July and August helped spur things along but clearly the fluctuating climatic conditions necessitated a huge investment of labour in the vineyards in terms of canopy management and the like to maintain a healthy crop. There was also some localised rain at harvest which would have proved problematic although here, as elsewhere, September was generally sunny and warm.
I came away from the primeurs tastings in St Emilion last year a little bewildered. There were undoubtedly great wines produced in this vintage but at that stage for me it felt very difficult to assess St Emilion, at least in such glowing terms as in the Médoc, Pessac and even in neighbouring Pomerol. The problem was with the tannin, thick, dense and chewy and, wow, such a lot of it, just how would these wines settle? Admittedly over-extraction and over-ripeness are not new concerns for this appellation, but it did concern me when I first tasted these 2009s. It wasn’t a problem across the board by any means but there were many that felt overdone.