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The 2012 vintage in Bordeaux

12 bordeaux


This week, to verify the consistency of the 2012 Bordeaux vintage, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux held the first « in bottle » tasting since the “in primeurs” round.

The general impression is of an average vintage. Even if modern methods of wine-making can help to avoid the great catastrophes witnessed in the past, the 2012 Bordeaux wines are not great. Fortunately, even in such average vintages, there are some great discoveries to be made, and not always the expensive ones.
I started with the Graves region (Pessac-Léognan), as I like to start with whites. After the exceptional 2011 vintage -one of the best in the last decades for white Bordeaux-, 2012 could only be disappointing, not unpleasant but lacking some nerve. A beautiful length for Domaine de Chevalier, and a very good value for Latour-Martillac and La Louvière, two very good wines which remain affordable. That is the extent of my selection. As far as the red Graves go, not bad at all, but heterogeneous: very good (***) for Les Carmes-Haut-Brion and Domaine de Chevalier, good (**) for Château de France (a surprise), La Louvière, Malartic-Lagravière, Olivier, and rather good for Latour-Martillac, Picque-Caillou and Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Two big contenders went down : Haut-Bailly and Pape-Clément. For the latter, power is not everything, they should try to make a wine with a taste of grape instead of alcohol and wood. What a shame!
Saint-Emilion is next : an average vintage here too, Figeac, despite the family issues, stands out, the rest is hardly average. Pavie-Macquin distinguishes (disappointedly) itself with its taste of Port and sugary finish. When I want Port, I drink Port! Not a Saint-Emilion.

Pomerol does not do any better than its neighbour. Beauregard,Le Bon Pasteur, and La Croix de Gay were fair. Clinet and La Conseillante, rather good. That’s it! Really average.

Therefore my surprise was big when I moved on towards Listrac and Moulis, two honest wines from these villages in the Heart of Haut-Médoc, with a very traditional style of Bordeaux (in term of Cabernet blends and terroir). I was met with a correct Château Clarke (*) and a quite good Fourcas-Hosten (**), followed with good (**) Chasse-Spleen and Maucaillou, as well as a very tannic Poujeaux. A good ensemble.
The rest of Haut-Médoc was also interesting, with a good Camensac, one of the best value for cru classé. Almost all the other wines were fair. Almost? Once again, La Tour Carnet distinguishes itself with a very poor taste, and for once La Lagune appears to be completely flat.

The day is not over yet, but I still have all great Médoc appellations to taste; I am so amazed by those “tasters” who would have hundreds and hundreds of wines, keep them for two minutes in their mouth, and would still tell the difference on each of them… Every decent professional knows that it is impossible! My magic powers for young wines have a limit, so I move on with Margaux.

Curiously, the first, d’Angludet, is quite good, but the rest is not so interesting : Brane-Cantenac, Cantenac-Brown, Dauzac, Durfort-Vivens (watery), and du Tertre were disappointing. Desmirail, Labégorce, Lascombes, Marquis de Terme, even Rauzan-Gassies were correct, as well as Rauzan Ségla and Siran. As a whole, not bad, nothing worth storing, but ok for a Restaurant wine list.

The Saint-Juliens are much better, with the exception of Beychevelle and, to my great surprise, Branaire-Ducru (a château I love for their fantastic wines at very good prices). Apart from these, all wines were rather good with Lagrange being a little bit above the others.

I have now reached 107 wines tasted, and it would be unfair to Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe to keep going on. This tasting was only one afternoon, so no break possible here, as opposed to the Primeurs tasting which lasts three days. There, you can do it all day, generally 4 rows of 40 wines a day. But I got the general idea for 2012: better than expected in Médoc overall, and not a vintage to be cellared but convenient for a restaurant’s consumption, plus a series of good value wines in Listrac and Moulis. Not so bad, after all.



1982: the most overrated vintage of the century?


Ducru-Beaucaillou 1982
Léoville-Poyferré 1982
Léoville-Las-Cases 1982
Duhart-Milon 1982
Lynch-Bages 1982
Margaux 1982
Latour 1982
Lafite-Rothschild 1982

It is with great excitement that we organised this exceptional tasting. 1982 is widely regarded (at least in the Anglo-Saxon world) as one of the greatest vintages ever. Thirty years is a good minimum to truly evaluate great Bordeaux, so the timing was ideal.

First, a disappointment : Ducru-Beaucaillou is rather bitter and acidic, and we move on to the next wine Léoville-Poyferré, quite good although not at the same level as the 1986 or 1990 vintage years. The worst will come now : Léoville-Las-Cases, a flat wine, flawless but with no real quality!

Now the better wines : Lynch-Bages is good, not one of its best vintages, but still decent. Duhart-Milon is very good; I have always liked this wine, especially since an incredible 1945 vintage, and it always tastes quite well in primeurs (at least much better than Carruades de Lafite, from the same producer). 1982 Duhart is well-balanced, very pleasant, both simple and marvellous, easy-drinking but in the good sense of the term.

Time for the premiers crus : Margaux goes first, simply because of its poor image in 82, suffering from the comparison with the 83, one of the best vintages ever (for Margaux). In fact, for the first time I could compare the 82 Margaux to other 82 Bordeaux, and it is really impressive. A lot of aromas, a great complexity, fantastic length on the palate, a great wine.
Latour is now entering the dance: second time I am tasting it, it is the same average quality indeed. I admit that it is a good wine, but not more. It has power, a little bit like the 75 vintage, although not at the same price, but nothing to compete with the magnificent 1970. Average.
Last but of course not least, Lafite-Rothschild : here comes the king of all 82s ! It needed a long time to open, and it was only at the end of the meal (by the second tasting round) that it expressed all of its potential. Words lack to describe the sensation. Powerful, but a controlled power, expressive, but not in excess, it is a great wine with still a great ageing potential.

Conclusion : 1982 is not a great vintage overall, it is a vintage with great successes. And disappointments too!

Expected achievements : Lafite, Poyferré, Lynch-Bages
Unexpected achievements : Margaux, Duhart
Disappointments : Latour, Las Cases, Ducru




The tasting note: 1986, a great vintage in Médoc?

lafit 86

Let us start with a confession: in 1987, during the primeur tastings for the 1986 vintage, all Bordeaux producers, brokers and experts were unanimous: 86 was as good as 82 for Médoc vintages. But the famous you-know-who American lawyer and (self-appointed) wine critic decided otherwise. The 1986 Médoc vintage never quite recovered from his (relatively) poor rating. Still today, prices for the 86 vintage are lower than for the 82.

It was a good reason to organise a tasting dedicated to this subject, with some of the best 1986s (as judged at the time of the primeur tastings). You will notice the absence of Château Latour, which is terrible in that particular year; in fact the whole decade is very poor. You will appreciate as well the low number of bottles tasted, since there were only six of us.

Here are the results:
Mouton-Rothschild ****
Lafite-Rothschild *****
Margaux *****
Gruaud-Larose ****
Rausan-Ségla **
Léoville-Poyferré ***

One common characteristic is that 86 has become a powerful vintage, more so than at the time of the primeur tastings in 1987.

All wines were decanted 3 hours before.

We started with the Léoville-Poyferré, then the Gruaud-Larose, then the Rausan-Ségla. Three seconds crus classés in a row. Léoville-Poyferré was the finest, Rausan-Ségla was quite pleasant but with a slightly bitter or vegetal finish, and Gruaud-Larose was the most brilliant one, with a lot of body and a very expressive nose.
Moving on with the Château Margaux (to remain in the same area as Rausan’s), the world suddenly felt different… Château Margaux 86 is a magnificent wine, not only full and round, but also fine and complex, with an incredible length on the palate. Absolutely flawless! It has everything you could hope for, and it will probably remain so for many years to come.

After this revelation, Mouton-Rothschild suffered a little bit by comparison! But it is an excellent wine, soft and mellow, ready to drink, shorter than the Margaux, but very good indeed. Lafite-Rothschild came last in the tasting order, but not in term of result: I expected a magnificent wine, having already tasted it ten years ago and 1986 being one of this château’s great vintages. I am glad to report that it was brilliant. Château Lafite 86 is fantastic, probably the best nose of them all, only dominated by Château Margaux’s incredible presence in the mouth. The greatest complexity, the finest wine of all, it was an expected triumph for Lafite… though… on this day, Château Margaux ended up the winner!

Is 86 a better vintage than 82? Well, it is true for Margaux, though Lafite is extremely good in both 82 and 86, same as Mouton very good in both vintages… It may be safe to say that 86 has a better ageing potential, but I would not draw any definitive conclusion on the subject of 82 vs. 86: the inquiry goes on!