The top Pauillac 2012s are elegant in the best sense, not in the euphemistic way sometimes used to describe a disappointing vintage, but genuinely elegant in terms of relying on charm, balance and harmony to pique interest and intrigue. There are some disappointments [a few wines felt clipped, lacking stuffing] but there are also a number of pure, harmonious efforts here in this vintage. Top of the list in this fashion are Château Pichon Lalande, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Château Lynch-Bages and Château Pichon-Longueville. Château Batailley, Château Haut-Bages Libéral and Château Grand-Puy Ducasse have also succeeded in different styles.
As should be clear, 2012 is no blockbuster vintage. There is none of the extraordinary power here of 2010 [an update on this vintage very soon] nor the succulence and remarkable fruit character of 2009. In Pauillac, as elsewhere, 2012 simply put is a ‘good’ vintage at the top level, a year that has produced medium weight wines in the main that [mostly] will be early maturing. There is more substance here I reckon than in 2007 and greater harmony than in 2011. It is also looks to be a considerably better vintage than 2013. Nevertheless 2006 and 2008 are probably more classic vintages in Pauillac, outside of the great years of recent times [2005, 2009, 2010].
For sheer balance and harmony you can’t really get much better than Château Pichon Comtesse de Lalande and Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste in 2012. These were the best wines shown in the appellation by the UGCB in October [in a line-up sans the first growths, Pontet-Canet and Duhart Milon]. There is real purity and balance on display in both wines, though GPL is the bargain by value. Château Lynch-Bages looks very good [excellent purity] alongside a benchmark effort from Château Pichon Longueville. Not far behind is a pretty complete Château Grand-Puy Ducasse. It has produced a comparatively full and attractive Pauillac in 2012. Château Haut-Bages-Libéral has vigour and purpose and Château Batailley has good balance.
Château d’Armailhac and Château Clerc Milon, from the Mouton stable, were a little solemn on the day. D’Armailhac felt clipped and chewy, with not a lot of flesh evident, and while Clerc Milon offered more depth, it too needs to fill out. Presumably they will both settle, but neither sang. Château Lynch-Moussas was modest but drinkable and Château Croizet-Bages rather dusty and hollow in comparison with the best.
Below are the full notes on 11 Pauillacs tasted at the UGCB event in London back in October, 2014.
Mid depth; lighter at core; wet rock, little apple notes; some blackcurrant aromatics; some blackcurrant and red fruit tones on the palate with some chew to the tannins; feels a little clipped at the back and not a huge amount of flesh currently evident. Drink 2017-2025. 86
Mid depth; perfumed and forward aromatics; attractive blackcurrant notes; lifted and forward; medium bodied with blackcurrant fruit tones on the palate; soft and harmonious tannins; lacks a bit of depth but round and enjoyable. Drink 2016-2025. 88
Château Clerc Milon
Mid depth; solid notes; chalky/wet rock; blackcurrants and cherry fruit tones on the palate with a salty/saline note; structure and acidity; a minerally Clerc Milon that needs a bit of time and that is currently lacking in expression. 2017-2025. 87+
Lightish red; dusty red aromatics; easy palate; soft but lacking in concentration and a little hollow; easy-going nevertheless. Drink 2015-2022. 83
Château Grand-Puy Ducasse
Deep and dark looking; sturdy blackcurrant aromatics; full with an attractive smoky edge; blackcurrants and spices on the palate; full and attractive with supple, harmonious tannins. Easygoing but sturdy enough to take some age. Good effort. Drink 2016-2028. 89+
Mid depth; charming aromatics; blackcurrants, some pencil shavings; nicely complex; fine and harmonious palate with lovely balance; real purity to the fruit and genuine harmony. Medium weight, so not a blockbuster, but everything in proportion here. Drink 2016-2030. 91+
Château Haut-Bages Libéral
Mid depth; fresh and vigorous blackcurrants on the nose; some stalky notes; entry soft and vibrant with attractive blackcurrant tones and spices; some development here; perhaps a little compact [the vintage] but round and nicely handled in the cellar. Elegant and vibrant Pauillac. Drink 2016-2025. 88+
Mid depth; nice fresh blackcurrant aromatics; purity; sings from the glass; good and vigorous palate with blackcurrant fruit; lacks the power of the best recent vintages [2009 and 2010] obviously but wisely they’ve kept their feet of the gas in the cellar and the wine feels nicely balanced and harmonious for it. Drink 2017-2030. 90+
Mid depth; soft and forward aromatics; polished with earthy blackcurrants and tobacco/undergrowth tones; soft and light on the palate [dips in the middle] but round at the end. Early drinking, forward Pauillac. Drink 2015-2025. 86
Mid depth; dark at core; seam of pure blackcurrant fruit; elegant not full throttle; restraint; very attractive blackcurrant flavours on the palate with harmony and balance; tannins soft and round. Drink 2017-2030. 90+
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Mid depth; fresh blackcurrant aromatics; some briary and spicy notes; attractive and sophisticated; creamy blackcurrant flavours on the palate; very good purity; nicely done; plushness here; stalky note [not unattractive]; very good positive finish. Excellent effort for the vintage. Drink 2017-2030. 92
Tags: 2012, Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2012, Chateau Batailley, Chateau Clerc-Milon, Chateau Croizet-Bages, Chateau d’Armailhac, Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse, Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal, Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau Lynch-Moussas, Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac