Bordeaux En Primeur
2012 was, overall, a difficult vintage for Bordeaux. Click here to read the daily blogs from our April tasting trip during which we tried hundreds of en primeur cask samples.
The growing season was a very tricky one, dominated by rain which, in some places, led to coulure and uneven ripening. High temperatures followed – practically a heat wave – and finally, at the end of the growing season, a semblance of normality returned with more temperate conditions. All of this contributed to many châteaux producing lower volumes than in 2011.
The Médoc had an especially difficult time as the Cabernet Sauvignon struggled to ripen. Vignerons waited and waited and then could not wait any longer, so the timing of the picking has become vital to the success of these wines. Those that got it right have very decent, on occasion excellent, wines on their hands. Those that did not get it right have hard wines with an inadequate concentration of fruit. We liken 2012 in the Médoc to a vintage like 2004 – the high points are very good (some made wines that defy the vintage conditions) and overall there will be some charming wines for drinking. However, it is important to get the right advice as to which wines to buy.
In Graves and on the right bank of the river, the story is a little different. Merlot did not struggle to ripen as much as Cabernet and so in St Emilion and Pomerol (particularly Pomerol), there are some exceptional wines that remind us (in places) of 1998 or 2001. Some vignerons in Pomerol are calling 2012 the new benchmark by which to measure other vintages. St Emilion was perhaps a little less consistent (picking times were again important). In the Graves, those châteaux that could incorporate more merlot into their blend (such as Haut Brion) made fabulous wines which again remind us of the 2001s. This also appears to be a very good vintage for the dry whites of Bordeaux and we have compared the prices of these wines to the 2010s. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the majority of Sauternes. In fact, several of the great names (including Yquem and Rieussec) will not be producing any wine at all in 2012. That said, the area shouldn’t be completely written off as there were several wines worth a mention.
We say it every year but price, perhaps this year more than any other, is going to be the key to this vintage. Without doubt there are some wines from 2012 that people should buy, drink and enjoy if the price is right. 2011 was, in general, a commercial failure because Bordeaux ignored the need for the wines to be sold to consumers at a price that matched (or beat) prices for similar, physical vintages. Given that 2012 is not a great vintage like 2009 or 2010, it is absolutely critical that these wines represent value-for-money for the consumer.
Our own tasting notes, scores and recommendations are published on the en primeur pages of this site and we will be adding those of respected independent commentators and critics, as and when they are available. For your information, we show the current UK market price of the 2004 vintage of each Médoc wine and 2001 for each right-bank wine, along with our estimates for the 2012. It is important to note that these estimated prices are liable to change at the end of April when the all-important Robert Parker scores are released because, as we all know, a good or bad Parker score makes a significant difference to the price and demand. Customers who have pre-ordered or wish listed wines can amend these at any time until the wine is released and in any case we will advise of any changes to our estimates.
We anticipate (and hope) that this en primeur campaign will get under way earlier and be over sooner than in recent years (a prolonged campaign serves nobody’s interests) and we would advise customers to "pre-order" or "wish-list" now the wines in which they are interested. That way, as soon as a wine is released, we will be able to offer it to those who have requested it. Please see the "How to Order" section for full details. Please also note that our system for taking bottling instructions has been simplified - please click here to find out more or speak to one of our team on 020 7821 2000.
One of the best technical reports on the vintage is written by the Cazes family of Château Lynch Bages that we are pleased to show here.