I must say it’s always a treat to have Lafite Rothschild, Carruades and Duhart-Milon lined up in front of you, regardless of the vintage. Last year there was some sharp disagreement over Lafite itself. I liked it and thought it very good in the vintage context. I feel the same way about 2012. It’s a good effort that reflects a huge amount of effort combating the vicissitudes of a difficult growing season and harvest. But, in the end, even Lafite can’t quite escape the vintage, and one that appears to have been a bit tricky in Pauillac.
This appellation covers a vast amount of ground and very differing terroirs. It’s always a bit odd to lump together say Château La Lagune and Château Cantermerle who border [and resemble] the wines of Margaux, with that of Château Belgrave, Château de Camensac and Château La Tour Carnet just to the west of St Julien, alongside Château Coufran, the northernmost Haut-Médoc château, past St Estèphe in St Seurin, but there we are. Overall the best Haut-Médoc 2012s have gone for elegance and balance. Some are quite attractive, others vigorous with plenty of bounce and freshness. Quite a few are a stalky and angular with a fair amount of grip, a bit reminiscent of 2011, so you do need to tread carefully. Again generally I don’t quite see the urgency in picking these up en primeur when there are still lots of 2009 and 2010s on the market for a fraction more.
As you’d imagine Moulis and Listrac are fairly tight, tannic bunch in 2012. There is not the gloss here of the really great years like 2009 and 2010 when these properties provide real value. Most should settle ok. The real bright spot, as ever, is Château Poujeaux, which has crafted a very fine effort in this tricky, rain-affected vintage. Listrac has produced a chewy set of wines, but Château Fourcas-Dupré and Château Fourcas-Hosten should prove gutsy drinking. Still, with so much 2009, 2010, and even 2005, still widely available and drinking nicely, it doesn’t seem to make much sense tying up your cash in these right now.
I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly knocked over by the showing of the wines of St Julien in 2012 despite two detailed passes of the commune on separate days. Yes the best are correct enough and will make decent wine, but many don’t set the pulse racing, or offer the immediate charm of the best properties in the Margaux or Pessac-Léognan appellations or the potential of the even better wines on the right bank. Overall they feel a bit joyless, like the vintage rain has dampened their spirits. Unless they are released at prices less than available vintages now, few make sense as an en primeur purchase today.