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.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte’
Several wonderful red wines have been made in Pessac-Léognan this year but the real successes are amongst the whites, not just up at the highest echelons but further down there are many refreshing, fruity white wines to be had too. The very best are rich, weighty, almost fat, with a fraction less zip than 2011, but very attractive nevertheless. The reds? I found them a little bit of a mixed bunch. There is no doubt that the wet weather caused problems for the Cabernets as it did elsewhere. Some of the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, while certainly ‘fresh’, were often angular in tannin, and many are a bit ‘grippy’ and ‘chewy’, even despite the fat, ripe Merlot on offer. My overall feeling with these is that you need to tread carefully. That said, it’s clear that great effort was put in by proprietors to try and make the very best reds they could in a challenging year, one that got increasingly so as the harvest progressed.
Great white wines have been produced by Chateau Pape Clément and Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in 2012. Full and sumptuous they have lots of weight and style. Their reds look good too. Pape Clément in particular is an extremely lush offering and benefits from a larger percentage of Merlot [65%] this year, which usually sits 50:50 with the Cabernet. Huge effort was put in at Smith Haut Lafitte during the red wine harvest to mitigate the weather. Amongst other things they doubled their pickers to 200. They have been rewarded with very good wine that has plenty of fruit if slightly firm tannins. Chateau Haul-Bailly is a chewy number at present. I’d expect this to settle as there is plenty of material and extract but it always looks a bit backward early on.
In Pessac-Léognan, estates seem pretty bullish about the quality of the 2012 harvest and resultant wines, red and white. The weather pattern here was similar to the Haut-Médoc – a wet and cool spring and a difficult early summer followed by a hot and dry August. Rain arrived here too in late September and again in mid October, but Pessac-Léognan’s best terroirs seem very happy indeed with quality. We will soon see for sure in the up-coming primeurs week tastings [7-11 April] exactly how good the nascent wines are but the talk is certainly very encouraging.