2012 has produced mid-weight, neat and polished wines in St Julien that are relatively restrained. There is more flesh here than in 2011, a vintage that was leaner and more angular at the same stage, and there is more generosity too in 2012 than in 2013. The appellation is pretty homogeneous [as you’d expect] with Château Léoville Poyferré and Château St Pierre as the standouts amongst the wines shown. Château Gruaud Larose also continues a good run of recent form whilst Château Léoville Barton is classically fresh and bracing.
Two big hitters are not members of the Union des Grands Crus – Château Ducru-Beaucaillou and Château Léoville-Las-Cases – so the UGCB line-up was not entirely comprehensive. That said 2012 seems to be delivering on its primrose of nicely mannered wines, a little tighter perhaps and more in need of a few years in bottle than the more immediately appealing wines from Margaux in this vintage [though that is as it should be]. So the vintage overall in St Julien is good, though not spectacular.
There is still a fair bit of 2012 about and where prices are competitive these are potentially interesting purchases [the wines were originally released more sensibly than the 2011s]. Château Léoville-Poyferre and Château St Pierre would be the principal candidates. Poyferré has a lot of depth for the vintage and it is a very nicely proportioned effort from Didier Cuvelier and his team. St Pierre is more forward and sexier but it hides considerable structure and a fair pinch of tannin at the end. Both these wines will be enjoyable over the next two to five years but improve with a decade of ageing I’d have thought.
Next up qualitatively for me was Château Gruaud-Larose. This property had been on the up since 2009 and the 2012 offers plenty of fruit with a typically attractive savory/meaty undertow. This is attractive and textured St Julien with good depth for the vintage.
The Bartons – Château Langoa Barton and Château Léoville Barton – are fresh, with bright acids and plenty of blackcurrant fruit. They will appeal to classicists and both will benefit from a year or two to round out further. Léoville Barton has the greater depth. It’s a sturdy effort with a fair bit of tannin. Both will easily age for a decade.
Château Branaire-Ducru and Château Lagrange are similar qualitatively speaking. Chateau Branaire-Ducru was closed on the nose, but showed complexity on the palate and an attractive tension between the flesh and the acidity. Lagrange looked good – linear and mid-weight with sufficient blackcurrant fruit and a creamy texture to the mid-palate. This is a promising mid-term prospect. Château Beychevelle felt closed on the day. The wine will probably fill out but it currently lacks the flesh of Lagrange or Branaire-Ducru.
Château Gloria remains in a category of its own. You can’t fault this wine in 2012 and there is such a lot to like about this crowd-pleasing St Julien. Gloria has plenty of fruit and texture and is drinking nicely already. Château Talbot lacks the depth by comparison. It is an elegant enough effort with supple tannin. It might fill out a bit further, but lacks concentration and it felt a little off the pace of the best.
The following ten St Juliens were tasted at the UGCB event in October 2014 in London.
Mid depth; cool aromatics [a little reduction] but linear; spicy tones and some oak resin; more structured on the palate with flesh and bright acidity; little boney nevertheless; elegant and leaner style; dry on the finish but the length is good. Needs a few years to fill out. Drink 2017-2025. 88
Mid depth; little wet rock/chalky note; not that expressive at first; elegant blackcurrant and spice tones on aeration; blackcurrant fruit with some depth to the palate; savoury edge; flesh and grip [more flesh evident than neighbour Beychevelle]. Palate has complexity. Drink 2018-2026. 89
Mid depth; easy, sexy and open style; attractive and forward aromatics; satin and spice on the palate; medium bodied with blackcurrant and spice tones; soft tannins. Very enjoyable and open St Julien from this good value estate. Drink 2016-2025. 89+
Château Gruaud Larose
Mid depth; satin aromatics with blackcurrant fruit tones and earthy notes; very St Julien; blackcurrant spice with a smoked meat and savoury edge on the palate; nicely attractive; the wine has depth and texture on the palate. Good effort. Drink 2017-2027. 90+
Mid depth; clean and quite precise blackcurrant tones; quite linear; some vigour and freshness to the palate; blackcurrants flavours again; polished and reasonably creamy mid palate; nicely made mid-term prospect. Drink 2017-2025. 89+
Château Langoa Barton
Mid depth; creamy blackcurrant freshness here with some stalky notes; quite tight on the palate but with good fruit; some flesh here and nice grip. Clean and freshly styled St Julien as usual from here. Drink 2017-2025. 88
Mid depth; little more solid and closed at first than Langoa; blackcurrant fruit beneath on aeration; spicy St Julien qualities revealed; blackcurrant and fresh tobacco notes; quite sturdy palate with tannins a bit angular; acidity present and freshness; a classical, rather bracing St Julien which will come good with time. Drink 2018-2030. 90
Château Léoville Poyferré
Deep attractive colour; pretty fruit on the nose, spice and depth; attractive fruit on entry – blackcurrants – layers of fruit here; full and some weight and grip; all the elements are in proportion and tannins supple and ripe [but considerable]. A very good effort this from Didier Cuvelier and his team. Has power but will be reasonably approachable early on. Drink 2016-2030. 92+
Château St Pierre
Deep colour; earthy, sexy Cabernet tones with tobacco and spices; really attractive aromatics with lovely blackcurrant fruit; similar ripe fruit tones on the palate in a mid-weight style. Some tannin to resolve at the back but this is very good wine. Drink 2017-2028. 92+
Mid depth; slightly higher toned this; little dusty note; quite forward blackcurrant fruit; lacks a bit of depth and has pretty fresh acids. Vibrant and elegantly styled Talbot. Needs a couple of years to knit. 2017-2025. 87+
Tags: Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2012, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau Beychevelle, Chateau Branaire-Ducru, Chateau Gloria, Chateau Gruaud Larose, Chateau Lagrange, Chateau Langoa Barton, Chateau Léoville Barton, Chateau Léoville Poyferré, Chateau St Pierre, Chateau Talbot, Merlot