Black and white close up of two bottles

Tasting Bordeaux 2012 at Southwold

24 January 2012

Tom Jenkins

The great and the good of the wine trade (and yours truly) recently descended upon the little Suffolk seaside town of Southwold for yet another epic blind tasting.

This year was the turn of the 2008s. Initially tasted in the spring of 2009 in the wake of Lehman Brothers’ collapse and the first credit crunch, some merchants boycotted the tastings altogether. J&B made the annual pilgrimage, and with certain caveats, we liked what we saw. It was evident that the estates with the best terroir and the deepest pockets fared best. Some lesser properties displayed green notes - not unsurprising given the cool growing season.

Angelus released before Easter and the First Growths released soon after at very attractive prices. This gave the campaign some impetus, but it was when Robert Parker raved about the wines that the campaign really took off. In retrospect, Big Bob was a little over zealous; the two subsequent vintages, which can both stake claims to being potential vintages of the century, rather overshadowed the 2008s, so the downgrades came as no surprise.The great and the good of the wine trade (and yours truly) recently descended upon the little Suffolk seaside town of Southwold for yet another epic blind tasting.

Over the three days we tasted over 250 wines by commune. I am not permitted to disclose average or other individual’s scores, but I can disclose by own thoughts, so what follows is my personal view from the tasting and is not necessarily the consensus of the group. 2008 is a very mixed bag. There are many highlights, particularly in the northern Medoc and Pomerol. Wines that showed extremely well for me included: Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Calon Segur, Lafite, Mouton, Lynch Bages, Pontet Canet, Pichon Lalande, Leoville Las Cases, Leoville Poyferre, Langoa and Leoville Barton, Ducru Beaucaillou, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, Palmer, Margaux, Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Carmes Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Malartic Lagraviere, Le Pin, Petrus, Eglise Clinet, VCC, Evangile, Providence, La Fleur Petrus, Hosanna, Cheval Blanc and Tertre Roteboeuf. Particular mention should go to Angelus and Pichon Baron, both were real over-performers.

As to the character of the wines, there were a few changes and themes. I noticed a sweeter character to the fruit in the flights of St Estephes and St Juliens, however, this was not evident in the Pauillac flights. I have no evidence, but estates are permitted to add up to 15% of the final blend from other vintages and there was a decidedly 2009 style to some of these... They will no doubt give much early drinking pleasure. The top wines from the Medoc are more structured than I remember. This could be a result of press wine added to the blend. Tannins are ripe, but they are big and solid and acidities are high. This should bode well for long keeping, but one required a bit of stamina to taste through some of these flights (maybe I’ve just gone soft after the 2009s and 2010s...).

After the palate-pounding two days, we tasted a couple of flights of Sauternes to finish. The first flight of less well known estates didn’t really do much for me. The final flight including the likes of Yquem, Climens and de Fargues was considerably more interesting. It was a tiny crop, I believe yields were as low as 3hl/ha and most of the fruit came from the first two picks as latter tries encountered problems with frost. Yquem, Suduiraut and Guiraud topped my list; all displayed ample sweetness, lovely precision, pure flavours and great balance. It is a somewhat overlooked Sauternes vintage, but don’t dismiss the 2008s, these are charming wines.

Beaune

Clos du Roi

Domaine Tawse, Domaine Camus-Bruchon, Domaine Tollot-Beaut

Les Aigrots

Sebastien Magnien

Epenottes

Dominique Lafon

Les Bressandes

Domaine des Croix

Pertuisots

Jean-Yves Devevey