After a week of holidays in France and the UK, the Bordeaux en-primeur campaign is back in full swing. Prices are consistently being set only slightly lower than 2011, except for the Pichons, which are down 20%. Pichon Comtesse Lalande is as dependable as ever, but Pichon Longueville Baron, which is usually denser and richer, is said to have more Latour-like finesse in 2012.
Two of the most classically styled wines in Bordeaux are Léoville Barton and Calon Ségur. Both châteaux continue to make austere wines that require a decade or more of maturation before reaching their peak. Calon Ségur 2012 is described as ‘the Lafite of Saint-Estephe’ by Stephen Spurrier.
More modern offerings this week are the Smith Haut Lafitte pair as well as Clos Fourtet. The latter is owned by the Cuvelier family of Léoville Poyferré and has fast become one of the most sought-after St-Émilions. Smith Haut Lafitte continues its rise in Pessac-Léognan, with a red and a white that are among the region’s most concentrated and impressive.
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Léoville Barton 2012
This well-made, complete St.-Julien possesses a dense purple color as well as surprisingly soft tannins for this wine which tends to be jacked up with a lot of structure, masculinity and muscle in most vintages. The 2012 offers attractive cedary, black currant fruit and vanilla notes, and a medium-bodied, denser mid-palate than many of its peers. The tannins are noticeable in the finish, so give this wine 4-5 years of cellaring and drink it over the following two decades as it will be one of the longer lived wines of the vintage. – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
The Grand Vin is a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc picked between 3 and 15 October at 32hl/ha. It is more introspective than the Langoa at this early stage, but perhaps more complex with subtle tertiary and pencil lead scents infusing the black fruit profile. The palate is superbly balanced with fine tannins, delineated black and red fruit infused with graphite borrowed north from Pauillac. It exudes focus and precision and should be one of the finest Saint Julien 2012s. – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Pichon Longueville Baron 2012
A strong effort from this Pauillac chateau, most of the old vine Cabernet Sauvignon from their parcels near Latour made it into the 2012 Pichon Longueville Baron’s final blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. A dense purple color is accompanied by an attractive bouquet of incense, cassis, cedar and toasty oak. It is medium to full-bodied as well as bigger, richer and brawnier than most Medoc 2012s. Noticeable tannin in the finish suggests 3-4 years of cellaring is warranted. Drink it over the following two decades. – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Tasted en primeur at the château. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot picked between 1st and 17th October, the old vines picked form 8th October. It has a strict, quite conservative bouquet that is very focused: sous-bois, graphite and just a touch of mint. The palate is medium-bodied with a grainy entry. There is a good edginess here lent by the citric acidity with a very composed, harmonious finish that lingers nicely in the mouth. Very fine – but much more classic in style than recent vintages – in fact, more like Latour! – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Pichon Comtesse Lalande 2012
Coming in at a lofty 13.2% natural alcohol, it offers up scents of black currants, white chocolate, berries, cedar and forest floor. Sweet tannin, a round opulence and medium body result in a classic, supple-textured Pauillac that should drink well young and keep for 12-15 years. It is very much in keeping with what most readers would consider the “house style” of Pichon Lalande, despite the fact that they are moving toward more Cabernet Sauvignon and less Petit Verdot in the final blend. Fifty percent of the crop made it into the final blend of 2012 Pichon Lalande, which includes more and more Cabernet Sauvignon under the new ownership of the Roederer Champagne firm. The 2012 is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Focused and very pretty with ultra-fine tannins and dark chocolate, dark fruit. Fine texture. A beautiful center palate and finesse here. Creamy tannins. 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. – James Suckling
Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge 2012
A brilliant success again, this blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot is a medium-bodied, impressively concentrated wine with copious quantities of red and black fruits. Licorice, roasted herbs and a touch of background oak are present in this slightly precocious wine, which should be accessible when released. It has the depth to evolve for 20 or more years. Talk about a severe selection – only 41% made it into the grand vin! – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Tasted from a barrel sample at en primeur. The 2012 is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot that is being raised in 60% new barrels. It has a intense bouquet, very lifted with the Merlot lending it a very floral aspect. Touches of crème de cassis develop with time. The palate is very well balanced with a smooth texture although you can feel the tannins exert their influence on the structured, much more Left Bank style finish that leaves a tertiary/tobacco aftertaste. This might be a long-term SHL. – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2012
This is fabulous. It’s a white that is so vertical with wonderful depth of fruit and structure. It goes on for minutes. Dense and complex. It’s so structured and amazing. Peaches and mineral with a salty and savory character. It is captivating to taste now. – James Suckling
Under the capable hands of the Cathiard family, this property has been producing fabulous red and white wines. The 2012, another brilliant effort, exhibits notes of orange rind, figs, mangoes, pineapples and caramelized citrus presented in a full-bodied, heady, powerful style. It should drink well for 15-20 years. Drink: 2013 – 2033. – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Calon Ségur 2012
The 2012 reveals an opaque ruby/purple color along with sweet tannins, low acidity, medium to full body, and abundant cedary, foresty notes intermixed with black cherries, black currants, caramel and spice box. This medium to full-bodied St.-Estephe should drink well in 4-5 years (atypical for a Calon Segur), and last for two decades. Calon Segur has one of the top dozen terroirs in all of Bordeaux, so I’m waiting to see how spectacular it can become under its new ownership. Certainly the team brought in to push the quality is the right one. I don’t know what the final blend of the relatively soft 2012 was, but I suspect it includes a copious percentage of Merlot, although Cabernet Sauvignon has dominated over recent years. – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Superbly rich colour, nose still discreet but of great class, great purity of flavour, tannins present for the long-term, “an iron fist in a velvet glove”, a beautifully structured wine for the long term, the Lafite of Saint-Estephe. 18.25/20pts ( 94/100pts) Drink: 2018 – 2035. – Steven Spurrier, Decanter
Clos Fourtet 2012
The 2012 Clos Fourtet was cropped at 32 hectoliters per hectare and achieved 14% natural alcohol. The final blend was 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. It offers an opaque dense purple color along with attractive blackberry, licorice, truffle and cassis fruit notes. It is full-bodied and dense with an authoritative mid-palate, sweet tannin and a layered mouthfeel that builds incrementally into a stunningly long finish. Precocious and charming already, it will drink better at an earlier age than the massive, prodigious 2009. Drink this killer St.-Emilion over the next 15+ years. – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
The Clos Fourtet has a far more restrained bouquet than exhibited in recent vintages, with well defined black cherries, fresh strawberry and a touch of cracked black pepper. The oak is very well integrated. The palate is medium-bodied with fresh blackberry and fresh raspberry fruit. It is missing a little depth on the mid-palate, but I appreciate the linearity and focus on the finish. Very fine. – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate