The annual Bordeaux tasting at the Royal Opera House was rather less busy than normal, but those who did attend were in up-beat mood. Our friends from Aquitaine arrived fresh from an Indian summer that has lifted spirits and hopes for the 2014s. And it would appear that the worst of the ‘Bordeaux Bashing’ may be over. Clients are beginning to re-visit this once darling region and re-discover their love affair with Claret.
2012 was far from an ideal growing season and the harvest was particularly precarious. Initially we thought this favoured the early ripening Merlots from Pomerol and Pessac. The challenge on the left bank was to wait for maturity and risk dilution and rot or cut one’s losses and harvest before the rain. At the time of the primeur tastings our Chairman said that ‘terroir, technique and timing were all key to success in 2012’. How right he was.
On the evidence of Thursday’s tasting, it is the usual suspects who have risen to the top of the pile. Perennial successes such as Grand Puy Lacoste, Domaine de Chevalier, Malartic Lagraviere, Smith Haut Lafitte and the two Pichons have made beautiful wines with concentration, vitality and freshness. It is not a blockbuster vintage, that is for sure, however, there are wines that will give enormous drinking pleasure and are sensibly priced. Xavier Borie’s GPL and Olivier Bernard’s Domaine de Chevalier Rouge deserve special mention – these are both tremendous value.
Stylistically the 2012s are, well, very stylish. There is a purity and sweetness to the fruit that is instantly appealing, coupled with refined tannins and probably the stand-out quality of this vintage, freshness. Some would say they have the charm of the 2001s, or maybe they represent a more elegant interpretation of the 2004s or 2008s. In truth, it is hard to make comparisons, but we are sure that these will provide enormous pleasure in four or five years' time and the best examples have the concentration and balance to keep improving for fifteen years or more.