2012 is a very good vintage in St Emilion. There are lovely fruit tones to the wines and many have an attractive freshness that keeps them nimble. The wines are generally ripe and forward and many are good to drink already, though the best will age nicely in the medium term. I was especially impressed with Château Canon, Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Château La Dominique [a real beauty], Château Figeac, Clos Fourtet, Château Pavie-Macquin [very strong], Château Troplong-Mondot and Château Trottevielle.
I have to say [and I’ve probably said this before] that I almost prefer the freshness of a year like 2012 to the big years like 2009 and 2010, partly as many estates, in the big years it seems, suffer the twin temptations of leaving the fruit out on the vine for too long and then get rather carried away in the cellar, resulting in wines that feel far too much of a good thing. The 2012 vintage, by contrast, had a degree of humidity during the harvest that perhaps urged caution as to how long it was sensible to hold grapes on the vine before picking. There’s no under-ripeness here, but equally little over-ripeness. Also growers seemed alert to the delicacy of the fruit harvested in 2012 and haven’t [for the most part] over-extracted things in the cellar. This has resulted in wines with attractive bright fruit characters and, all importantly, zesty acidity which in many cases gives the wines delicacy and harmony.
For me Clos Fourtet, Château La Dominique, Château Figeac and Château Pavie-Macquin were the top of my list, though all are different in style. La Dominique was a real stand-out, a beauty with wonderful fruit tones and plenty of sap and vigour on the palate. Clos Fourtet, a class act most years, and has produced an extremely pure 2012. Figeac, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon this year, has finesse and balance and Pavie-Macquin has genuine power and depth.
The Canons have also produced excellent, and as usual, contrasting wines. Château Canon itself has produced a typically intense wine that is layered and silky on the palate. Château Canon-la-Gaffelière is a seductive effort, with plenty of spicy fruit and nice depth. Château Troplong-Mondot looked good, a little less overblown than usual, and more the better for it. Château Trottevielle, just down the road from Troplong, has very good delicacy and balance.
Château Berliquet was very attractive on the day [this is a wine that represents good value for the quality]. Thienpont stable-mate Larcis Ducasse, which clearly has class, was surprisingly subdued. Given the track record of this property, I’d very much expect this to come out of its shell in the medium term. Château La Gaffelière was similarly a little closed and this wine, along with Larcis, needs a year or two in bottle to settle. Château Beau-Séjour Bécot was also a bit awkward and low key for the property. Maybe it too needs some time in bottle? I was impressed with Château Grand Mayne which has made a really good wine in 2012 with lots of plummy, spicy fruit tones.
Château Cap de Mourlin, Château La Couspaude, Château Franc Mayne, Château La Tour Figeac and Château Villemaurine have all produced good St Emilion for early to medium term consumption. The emphasis here is on bright fruit in a sappy, vigorous style with chunky tannins. Franc Mayne is more extracted but works nicely, as does a very lifted and forward effort from La Tour Figeac.
Below are the individual tasting notes taken at the UGCB event in Covent Garden last month.
Château Balestard La Tonnelle
Thick and quite dark looking in the glass; fruit here but dips in the middle; spicy fruit but lacks intensity. OK overall. Drink 2015-2022. 86
Château Beau-Séjour Bécot
Deepish and dark at centre; some wet rock and open fruit tones; little resin; sweet ripe fruit on the palate but with some chew to the tannins; little dry on the finish. Goodish if a little low key for this property. Needs to settle? Drink 2018-2025. 88
Deep and saturated looking; juicy fruit tones, ripeness with black fruits and spices; quite lush palate with black fruits; ripe palate with some liquorice notes. Nicely ripe with attractive sap. Drink now-2022. 90
Mid depth; deepish at centre; intense and pent-up [as usual]; some mineral and wet rock notes; layered and polished; palate is all silk and spice with layers of fruit tightly woven together; there is flesh but there is nice tension between this and the grip. Serious finish. Pretty complete and fine. Drink 2016-2025. 92+
Deep; earthy red at the rim; menthol, spice and attractive depth to the aromatics; ripe fruit with seductive qualities; plums, red fruits and spices; nice depth and good finish. Drink now-2025. 92
Château Cap de Mourlin
Mid depth; ripe and savoury elements on the nose; some jam but feels substantial; palate full with some structure and spicy fruit; chunky style with some chew to the tannins but plenty of depth to the fruit. Good effort. Drink now-2022. 88+
Château La Couspaude
Deepish colour; spicy red fruits on the nose; some menthol and fresh tones; little more grip and sap on the palate than some [not a bad thing]; good fruit; acttractive, sappy St Emilion if with slightly chunky tannins. Drink now-2022. 88+
Château La Dominique
Deepish colour; quite deep; spicy blackcurrant notes with some undergrowth; very attractive; full palate; caressing with beautiful fruit tones which manage to be seductive and fresh; there is vigour and sap on the finish and plenty of fruit and texture. A beauty on the day. Drink now-2027. 93+
Mid depth; lovely Cabernet aromatics with Merlot plushness; this is a beauty on the nose; elegant palate with creamy tones; very polished and nicely done; intensity to the fruit and length on the palate shows genuine class. [40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc.]. Drink 2016-2027. 93+
Mid depth; creamy purity to the aromatics; spicy menthol and fresh plum tones – fresh and clean as whistle; polished and creamy palate of considerable beauty; purity here. Attractive palate. Very enjoyable already but will take some age. Beautiful. Drink now-2025. 93
Château Franc Mayne
Dark in the glass; liquorice and spice on the nose; some menthol tones on the palate; depth here and density with chewy fruit tones; rich and saturated style. Drink now-2022. 89+
Château La Gaffelière
Mid depth; wet rocks and minerals on the nose; more plumpness than expected on the palate; full-ish; good structure; not especially showy at this stage; more longer term prospect here. Classic La Gaffeliere in that respect. Drink 2017-2027. 90+
Château Grand Mayne
Mid depth; cream and attractive aromatics with nice purity; plum and plush; attractive ripe fruit on the palate; soft and forward; really showing well; tannin soft and good-ish length. Ready to drink almost. Drink now – 2022. 91
Château Larcis Ducasse
Saturated colour; little closed on the nose; less flashy and flamboyant than usual [seems to be suffering from bottle shock more than others]; palate caressing with nice plushness evident; density and chew on the finish but the tannins are nicely ripe. Needs a bit of time. Drink 2017-2027. 91+
Château Pavie Macquin
Deeply coloured; some liquorice and camphor notes alongside creamy plum tones; lots of depth to the nose; layered; creamy and substantial palate with lots of depth and potential; pretty fat in the middle; very nicely extracted overall and polished as you would expect. Powerful wine. Nicely handled. Drink 2016-2028. 93+
Château La Tour Figeac
Deep and pretty saturated looking; ripe, lifted red fruit aromatics; strawberry tones; little undergrowth note with some liquorice; forward palate; wine already enjoyable. Soft tannins. Drink now-2022. 89
Château Troplong Mondot
Deep and saturated colour, tight to edge; plump fruit tones on the nose; fresh fruit on the palate; quite chewy and well structured but plenty of fruit here; pretty intense feel overall but not overblown. Think I prefer this property in fresher vintages [like 2012] than the blockbuster years when it feels really rather over-endowed. Drink 2017-2027. 92+
Deep and healthy looking; colour tight to rim; beautiful spicy Cabernet Franc tones on the nose; fresh palate with elegance; positive; fruit qualities attractive too; a lightness and elegance here overall. [49% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon]. Drink 2016-2026. 91+
Dense colour; nice attractive fruit qualities; lively and layers of fruit; nicely balanced palate with good fruit profile, nice structure and ripe tannin. Drink now-2022. 89+
Tags: Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2012, Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle, Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot, Chateau Berliquet, Chateau Canon, Chateau Canon La Gaffelière, Chateau Cap de Mourlin, Chateau Figeac, Chateau Franc Mayne, Chateau Grand Mayne, Chateau La Couspaude, Chateau La Dominique, Chateau La Gaffelière, Chateau La Tour Figeac, Chateau Larcis Ducasse, Chateau Pavie Macquin, Chateau Troplong Mondot, Chateau Trottevielle, Chateau Villemaurine, Clos Fourtet, St Emilion