I love this tasting. It is by far the most relaxed and enjoyable way to taste wine during Primeur. It is put on by one of the large negociant houses in Bordeaux and they set you up at your own table with everything you need and then bring the wines to you in flights.
They also provide you with a wonderful lunch. This year the starter buffet included local, white asparagus, local oysters, and tuna sashimi marinated in soy. The main course was rack of lamb with sauteed green beans, and roasted vegetables.
It was accompanied by some Thienot Champagne, 2006 Ch. Marsau (which was drinking extremely well) and of course – finished with some 1998 Ch. d’Yquem.
St. Julien: I wanted to re-taste these wines because my tasting earlier in the week ended up with disappointing results – so I wanted to see if it was becuase of the samples or the day. It was not. The wines are not as good as normal. For me the Branaire-Ducru
and the Lagrange were good – but not great and the Leoville Barton was far below expectations.
Paulliac: The wines in this flight were pretty consistent. They were all in the 87-89 point range for me. In order of preference they were: Clerc Milon, Pedesclaux, Haut Bages Liberal, d’Armailhac, Lynch Moussas, Grand Puy Ducasse, Croizet-Bages. They all had dry harsh tannins on them that detraced from the ripe fruit finish.
Pessac-Leognan: There was far more variation in these wines. Pape Clement was the best but still far below its normal showing. It had less oak than normal and was perfectly in balance – a classic elegant styled Pape Clement. One of my perrenial favorites Haut Bailly was disappointing – still a good wine but not the reference point for the appellation this year. Les Carmes Haut Brion and Carrbonnieux were quite good but not great. I was pleased to see that both Smith Haut Lafite and Domaine de Chevalier seemed to reign back on their aggressive new oak regimes this year to make more balanced wines.
St. Emilion: These were the stars of the tasting. All the Merlot wines are showing well in the 2012 vintage and they seem to be very homogenous at a high level of quality. For me Ch. Canon was by far the best – a little more muted and elegant in style than some of the others. Troplong Mondot was very good – but not it normal sexy voluptuous self – this is a more structured and linear wine than normal. Fleur Cardinale and Figeac also showed very well. Grand Mayne made a wine far beyond what it normally does and should be a good value in the vintage. La Gaffeliere and Clos des Jacobins are good but not great and maybe a step below the quality of the wines they each have been producing over the last 4 years. This was also the first time that I got to taste Valandruad and Virginie de Valandraud and I came away not impressed. This is the wine that started the Garagiste movement in Bordeaux with huge extraction practices. In this vintage it back-fired and the wines – to me – are undrinkable (at least if you enjoy drinking wine with your dinner).
Pomerol: I was not as impressed with the Pomerol wines as the St. Emilion wines in this tasting – but it was a very small sample. La Conseillente was excellent with silky tannins and a long elegant finish. Le Bon Pasteur was also very good in a different more concentrated style. The others were good but not great. In order of preference they were: Ch. Le Gay, Rouget, Feytit-Clinet, and La Pointe.
Overall, it seems to be a good year for Merlot and the key for all the wines seems to be managing the tannins. Wines traditionally made in extracted styles are not showing as well as wines made in more elegant styles. I am interested to taste some of the more elegant St. Emilions like Quinault L’Enclos and Rol Valentin to see how they fared in this vintage. I will update you when I do.