Tag Archives: Margaux

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.



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!