En Primeur, Day One: The Surprise Vintage
A sneak peek at the striking reds, plus reviews of select Sauternes and Barsac.
The 2012 Bordeaux red vintage surprised attendees of the annual barrel tasting event currently underway in Bordeaux for two reasons: One, the quality is strikingly good considering the difficult growing season, and two, tasters had no expectations since the Bordelais didn’t buzz about the vintage in advance.
So what are buyers and importers specially saying about the reds at this much-anticipated event—organized by Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux? For one, that the Merlot is quality.
“With the Merlots, we were able to take advantage of the warm summer,” says Thomas Duroux, director of Château Palmer in Margaux. Of his wine, which is half Merlot and half Cabernet, Duroux says, “The [Merlot] is from a hot, ripe vintage.” By contrast, because of rain at harvest, “the Cabernet is from a cool, Atlantic vintage.”
Another outstanding quality of this year’s barrel tastings is the fruit-forward character of the red wines. The black currant fruit and fresh acidity drive the flavor—these are characteristics that will lead to delicious wines that can be drunk young. That same fruitiness and freshness is also evident in the dry whites—arguably the best white vintage since the superb 2007.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the sweet wines of Sauternes. After several great vintages, this year proved unimpressive. In fact, three top chateaus—Château d’Yquem, Château Rieussec and Château Suduiraut—did not produce Sauternes this year. Only the cooler, lighter Barsacs upheld the sweet end of the Bordeaux spectrum.
Check out my top 10 Bordeaux 2012 Sauternes and Barsac barrel-tasting ratings and reviews.
Bordeaux wines tasted from barrel are awarded scores in three-point ranges. When the wines are bottled in two or three years, the wines are reassessed, and final ratings are given.
93–95 Château La Tour Blanche 2012 (Sauternes). Barrel sample. A gorgeous wine that's very opulent while also structured. It has richness and weight, and is remarkably dry at the core, but with surrounding delicious sweetness. It's likely to be a long-lived wine. —R.V.
92–94 Château Filhot 2012 (Sauternes). Barrel sample. This wine is ripe and soft with hints of caramel, biscuit and vanilla, as well as full and ripe fruits. There's remarkable concentration and a smooth, soft texture with great acidity at the end. —R.V.
92–94 Château de Myrat 2012 (Barsac). Barrel sample. Rich and spicy and full of ginger flavors, this is a concentrated wine that is still coming together. The wine is very rich and full of dry botrytis—a fine wine for this difficult vintage. —R.V.
92–94 Château de Rayne Vigneau 2012 (Sauternes). Barrel Sample. This wine feels concentrated and densely structured with a great texture of spice, botrytis and acidity. It's a success for the vintage—full and richly structured—with fruit and dry botrytis well in balance. —R.V.
91–93 Château de Malle 2012 (Barsac). Barrel sample. A ripe wine with great freshness at the same time. The palate is concentrated, attractively rich and ripe. It has weight and delicious tropical fruits with smooth dollops of honey. —R.V.
91–93 Château Broustet 2012 (Barsac). Barrel sample. Powerful and intense, this is a wine that's full of sweet and honeyed flavors. It has great power and concentration, and is packed with smooth peach and dried apricot flavors. —R.V.
91–93 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2012 (Sauternes). Barrel sample. Fragrant aromas mark this almost delicate wine. While it does have richness and a full textured character, it's the lively acidity and crispness that gives it great elegance. —R.V.
90–92 Château Romer 2012 (Sauternes). Barrel sample. With some sumptuous texture and fruits, this is a full and ripe wine. It has a ripe, rich character, and is quite forward and fruity. —R.V.
90–92 Château Doisy-Védrines 2012 (Barsac). Barrel sample. Attractive and fruity, a wine that has soft texture with light touches of botrytis. It's warm and rich, with a fine final texture of dryness and acidity. —R.V.
90–92 Château Guiraud 2012 (Sauternes). Barrel sample. A rich and smooth wine with delicious sweetness, great acidity and good balance. The wine has weight, orange marmalade and spice, and bright acidity on the finish. —R.V.