One of the advantages of having a sparse crowd was that I got to spend much more time with the estate representatives. My strategy was to get the Rep's perspective on the vintage (2012 was on offer) and then to taste the estate's top wine to see how the vintage conditions were represented therein. My overall impression was that, while the white wines were exceptional, the reds were, in general, fruit-forward and not built for the long haul. This was definitely not what comes to mind when I think of Bordeaux. Below I present summaries of selected conversations with Chateau representatives and impressions about the wines.
Chateau Clinet Pomerol 2012
The Chateau was represented at the event by Ronan Laborde, CEO. He said that the vintage, for his estate, was characterized by difficult flowering. The early stages of fruit development had been marred by rain and had not been too warm. This resulted in uneven flowering and inconsistent grape ripening in the vineyard. Pickers had to make three passes in order to harvest fully ripe grapes.
The resulting wine was fruit-forward (almost Napa-like), with vanilla and a hint of greenness on the palate. International in style without the associated power. Burning in throat and chest belied the nominal 13.5% abv.
Chateau La Croix St George Pomerol 2012
This Chateau and the following were represented by Jean-Philippe Janoueix. This 4.5 ha estate is situated on gravel soil which allows the grapes to ripen well in terms of both sugar and phenolics. Conditions for the 2012 vintage were not too hot and not too cold. The blend is 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. The wine presented brooding, dark fruit with a slight greenness, chocolate, smooth tannins, a saline character, and an astringent, bitter finish.
Chateau La Confession St Emilion Grand Cru 2012
This estate is 6.5 ha in size and, according to Jean-Philippe, key words normally associated with its wines are balance and finesse. The 2012 blend is a mix of 1/3 Merlot and 2/3 Cabernet Franc which were subjected to: natural yeast vinification (6 to 9 days); cap management by pumping over and punching down, the latter with diminishing frequency the longer AF extended; 18 - 23 days post-AF maceration; malolactic fermentation, part in barrel, part in tank; and 14 - 19 months in oak. Jean-Philippe compares the 2012 vintage to 1986 which, he said, was panned initially but is still drinking well today. The wine was creamy and fruity on the nose with rich, dark fruit on the palate. Still waiting for the acidity.
Chateau Pavie Macquin St. Emilion Grand Cru 2012
According to the rep, this vintage (a blend of 84% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon) provides sensuality, less acid, smoothness, purity of fruit, and approachability. The vines are grown on a limestone plateau which is overlain with red clay. I saw the wine as presenting ripe, dark fruit, licorice, and spice, being acid deficient, and having a somewhat woody finish.
Chateau Leoville-Poyferre 2012
Estate represented at this event by Anne Cuvelier, co-owner. According to Anne, 2012 was a late vintage, the latest that they have started picking since 1983. They started late because they were waiting for phenolic ripeness. In this vintage they do not have the tannins they would normally have nor the yields (34 hl/ha versus a desired 45 hl/ha). In her view, the 2012 vintage was reminiscent of 2008. They now have a reverse-osmosis machine and have been utilizing cold maceration since 2010. They had to use all of their techniques, technology, and knowhow to get the most out of this vintage. The blend was 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot. The wine was juicy and fruity with notes of oak, leather, and coffee. Dark fruits on palate with significant alcohol burn on the finish.
Chateau Pape Clement 2012
The estate experienced a nice summer and then a very bad period during harvest. Not a good situation for Cabernet Sauvignon as the rain diluted the concentration of the fruit. They picked a fair amount of water-logged grapes. They normally shoot for a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon but the 2012 vintage was 53% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1 % Petit Verdot. According to the Rep, if you compare the 2011 and 2012 vintages, you will note that 2011 is structure-driven while the 2012 is Melot-driven and, as a result, is round, delicate, and drinking now. I found the wine to have rich black fruit, with a little green, and notes of turpentine and mahagony. Lacks concentration. Atypical Pape Clement nose. I am normally a big fan of this label but not so much for the 2012.
Chateau Lynch-Bages Blanc 2013
Malou Le Sommer represented the Lynch-Bages label at this event. The wine was a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (2/3) and Semillon (1/3) and was vinified 50% in tanks and 50% in oak. It was subsequently aged for 12 months in 50% new oak. The wine was very aromatic with guava, nesberry, lemom-lime and some tropical fruits on the nose. Bright, brambly with a long, dry finish. I liked this wine a lot and was amazed at the QPR. I bought a case.
Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac 2012
Malou indicated that the 2012 vintage had a very cool spring and hot August. The harvested fruit was mature but lacked concentration. In her view this a is a "charming vintage without power" and is made to be drunk; and soon. They had to handle every aspect of winemaking gently and tenderly in order to come out with the wine they eventually did. Everything was fragile.
The nose did not present the rich, coconut-oiliness that I have come to associate with Lynch-Bages. The wine presented big, thick, dark fruit, cassis, and licorice and was weighty on the palate. Lacking in acidity though.
Chateau Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2012
The second of the three whites I tasted at the show. All three wines were very good but they all had distinctly different characters. While the Lynch Bages and this wine had the same blend (percentages and varieties), where the Lynch-Bages was bright and springy, this was a more muted wine; and weightier (It should be noted that the L-B is a younger wine). But excellent nonetheless. This wine was vinified (natural yeasts) and aged in 1/3 new oak barrels. Green papaya, lemons and gooseberry on the nose. Great weight on the palate. Length of finish. Has used its 1 year advantage over L-B well and, if a roadmap as to what I can expect from the L-B in a year, I have made an excellent purchase. This is annually one of the best Blancs in this price range coming out of Bordeaux. This vintage did not disappoint.
Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc 2012
The estate was represented by its Sales Director, Ludovic Fradin. This wine is a blend of (90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris and 5% Semillon. It shows herbs, spices, vanilla and citrus notes and is elegant, smooth, and refined on the palate. Balanced, with a long, fresh finish.
Chateau Brane-Cantenac 2012
This estate was represented by Marie-Hélène Dussech, Sales Director. Marie-Hélène indicated that they grow on 40% of the plateau and also have some vines on the slope. The plateau-grown grapes are the ones that make it into this wine. Thick, rich dark fruit on the nose with herbs, cassis, and a savoryness. Delicate, balanced, with a long, elegant, silky finish.
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2012
The estate was represented by its Technical Director Jean-René Matignon. The wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and the remainder Merlot. According to Jean-René, conditions were unstable during much of the growing season but stabilized towards the end. Yields were pretty low and they had to apply strict selection in order to come away with quality fruit.
The wine exhibited very ripe dark fruit with rich cassis. Levels of acidity which was rare for the wines on display tonight. Bordeaux on the palate but not as robust as I would have liked. Thin finish.
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