I have to say that overall I found Pauillac a bit tricky to assess in 2012. I’d really have liked to have recommended these wholeheartedly, but there was real variation in the two passes I made on these wines at the Union des Grands Crus events. Only a handful of wines were completely consistent on both occasions. I’ve already written on the first growths. For me Chateau Mouton-Rothschild leads the pack with Lafite and Latour behind, though in the overall qualitative list I’d put Chateau Pontet-Canet up in this group too. Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste also looked good as did Pichon-Comtesse de Lalande. Taken together these are my picks at the very top level.
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Château Haut-Batailley released last week and their en primeur prices look competitive, given the quality here. Whilst things are a little up and down in the Pauillac appellation in 2012, not so at Domaines François-Xavier Borie. There’s excellent blackcurrant purity on Grand-Puy-Lacoste, second wine Lacoste-Borie looks an early maturing delight and ‘GPL’ sibling Haut-Batailley, a by-word for elegance and finesse, has made very appealing wine. These are really Pauillacs to consider in 2012.
Château Latour has produced a focused set of wines in 2012. They have finesse and precision but felt perhaps a little leaner than 2011 at the same stage. Now that Latour have abandoned selling en primeur the snapshot of these wines in their youth is possibly a bit academic given that it will be a few years, at least, before even the most junior Pauillac will be released, let alone Les Forts and the grand vin itself. Handy, then, that the wine that stole the show on the morning I tasted at Latour was their Pauillac 2009, the current release of the ‘third’ wine. It’s stunning. Immediately it reminds you just how pedestrian much Pauillac is in 2012. Oh 2009, how we miss you!
Château Pontet-Canet continues its run of form with an extremely seductive and open Pauillac in 2012. There is something Burgundian about the wine and the set up here, with the emphasis on the vineyard and the impressive bio-dynamic regime established over a number of years. Little wonder this wine is the darling of the markets, delivering flavour and quality at a comparative fraction of Pauillac’s established [and in certain cases] neighbouring heavyweights. It’s also human thing too, for all the fashionable talk of terroir. Alfred Tesseron and his family come across as genuine, open, warm-hearted people and part of that spirit rubs off on what you find in the glass. It’s called soul, and their wines have it.