My penultimate day in Bordeaux was spent catching up in St Emilion. Even though the Union des Grands Crus tastings have finished, there are still plenty of opportunities to visit and taste, and quite often a broad range of wines at each visit.
I kicked off at 9am at Château Pavie, which remains a building site at present; below is an image of some “terroir” being returned to the vineyard from within the tracks of a digger at Pavie, taken at 8:55am on Friday morning. As for the wines, they showed well this year I thought, with none of the baked, sur-maturité that bores me so much. But then, it’s not really a vintage for sur-maturité, so I’m not about to predict a broad and sweeping change in style here. The rest of the range followed suit, even Monbousquet showing rather well, with only one wine teetering on the brink of being overtly over-worked. By chance I also bumped into Jeff Leve who has a well-known Bordeaux-focused site, Wine Cellar Insider. Jeff is a huge Bordeaux fan and it was a pleasure to meet him.
Thereafter I zipped up to Château Ausone for a tasting of the range there. Although the grand vin and even the second wine showed well, the difficulties obtaining ripeness in Cabernet Franc came through in some of the lesser wines, which showed rather leafy characteristics. It’s clear that you can’t simply regard 2012 as a ‘Right Bank Year’ for this reason as much as anything else.
After finishing there I flew over to Château La Fleur de Boüard where Hubert de Boüard de Laforest was hosting a tasting of wines on which he consults, as well as his own properties, including Château Angélus. Despite being in Lalande-de-Pomerol it was only ten minutes from one venue to the next. The tasting would usually be at Angélus but as this has been nothing more than a building site for the past few years the tasting called for a change of venue. A good Angélus this year, and a few other decent wines here too.
Then it was back to St Emilion again to taste through the wines of Comte Stephan von Neipperg at Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, including the Pessac-Léognan Clos Marselette, which I have already tasted several times during the week, right up to La Mondotte. Interestingly, here the Cabernet Franc component showed better than it did at the lower levels at Ausone, so greenness is not a fait accompli.
I popped into Château Figeac to taste their 2012, which was classic Figeac, and showing just as we would expect given the characteristics of the vintage. More fuel for Parker’s disdain of the château here then; it will be fascinating to see what happens here now that, having failed to gain promotion in the 2012 St Emilion classification, Michel Rolland has been signed up to consult. Reflecting on this after tasting the wine, it seems to me that his being signed up is a clear indication of what drives promotion in St Emilion. You need good terroir, yes, and there are all sorts of other hurdles to jump, but reputation – in other words price, surely – accounts for 35% of the score for the premier grand cru classé ranking. Prices depend on points, of course, so those estates supported by Parker are much more likely to be elevated. Parker seems to despise the wines of Figeac – comments on his forum recently have been almost vehement – and so it is clear that if you want to remedy the situation, even at the expense of the style of wine you are known for, you hire a consultant who makes wines that appeal to Parker’s palate. How far will they go with Rolland, I wonder? A little picking advice, as per Léoville-Poyferré? A little blending advice? Or something more drastic? The 2013 vintage will be the one to watch.
Then it was on to taste the wines of Jean-Luc Thunevin, including Château Valandraud; the samples were very good, but it was pointed out that they were not finished blends, and so they have t be taken with a larger pinch of salt than my other barrel sample notes. The wines of Jonathan Maltus were next, down at Château Teyssier. Lots of good quality here, and proof that you could ripen Cabernet Franc this year. It was also great to meet the team from the US retailer JJ Buckley, who have a strong interest in Bordeaux, and so have flown in pretty big team. I’m flying solo in Bordeaux (as you probably know by now); they had about 15 staff tasting and judging. It was a pleasure to meet them all, especially (but not exclusively) Edward, Roland and Chuck. I’m afraid three names is the most I can remember in any one day.
After Maltus, the wines of François Mitjavile. I tasted with François first, then his son Louis, looking at Château Tertre-Roteboeuf first, but also the wines of Roc de Cambes and L’Aurage. I tasted 2012 and 2011 across the range, then selected wines from 2010 and 2009. These are very distinctive wines, very savoury, spicy and complex, a complete contrast to the richness and polish of Le Dôme. And it was a good way to end the day. I finished up with a long drive back to my accommodation, with heavier traffic than expected for Friday evening.
That’s it for my blog updates on Bordeaux 2012. Saturday morning I am visiting an interesting Médoc cru bourgeois estate, and then typing up some of my reports in the afternoon, before heading back to the UK for some fizz and a good sleep, I hope.