In the last five years I can’t remember this appellation disappointing. Pomerol in the right bank is what St Julien is to the left bank. Year in, year out, it is reliable and homogeneous, a barometer for what can be achieved in every vintage. I happen to think that 2012 vintage is better in Pomerol than 2011, though time will only really tell. Clearly 2011 isn’t in the same order as 2009 and 2010, but there is good fruit and density in the best allied to greater freshness and acidity than in these previous vintages. I reckon 2012 has more body, fruit and richness than 2011, but these two vintages will provide a fascinating comparison down the line. Both have the relative advantage of being cheaper, to a degree, than the fashionable years of 2005, 2009 and 2010, so they are worth considering for those who enjoy the freshness and enjoyment of this appellation.
Now the wines are in bottle St Emilion seems to have faired better in 2011 than the Médoc. These are solid wines with plenty of fruit, weight, chew and grip. Things are by no means homogeneous though. One thing to keep a beady eye out for in St Emilion is over-extraction. There are properties that are pushing things too much in this vintage, though the best proprietors mercifully have kept their foot of the gas in the cellar.
While this vintage here can’t compare to the wonders produced in 2009 and 2010, the reds are better than expected given the tricky vintage. The wines displayed plenty of sap and bite at last week’s UGCB tastings but the fruit is there. There hadn’t been much doubt about the quality of the whites though from the very start. During the primeurs tastings Pessac-Léognan’s white wines showed plenty of fruit and style and none of these characters have been lost now that they are in bottle. Some are already delicious if you like wines with zest and life but many will benefit from a few years in bottle to broaden further.
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.