On the Trail

More Thoughts on 2012 Bordeaux

On the Trail

Back in the bar this week, we delved into the wines of Bordeaux.  People say Burgundy is a complex roulette, hit-or-miss, a prince’s gambling ground. Personally I’ve always found the world of Bordeaux to be even more of a closed door. Given the structure and power of these wines in their youth, the palate feels handicapped in judging their potential and character. With a region so dependent upon vintage, everyone is eager to play the stereotype game: “’09s show fruit” “cellar those ‘10s” “’15s will be the next best vintage since 2000”, etc. But with a wine so powerful and long-lived, how can we generalize? I don’t know what my own face will look like in twenty years, much less this gosling of a wine.

So how do we cope? What we’ve got to do again and again is taste, re-visit, and by all means refrain from the stereotype. There were initially a lot of negative things said about the ’12 vintage. The prices reflect this, but I tasted some fabulous ‘12s in this lineup. Not necessarily “classic” or “in character” either, just delicious wine that indicates its going somewhere. Do I know where it’s going, or when? Perhaps not yet, but good wine should surprise you, take you off guard and delight you. Here were the highlights: 

2012 Pavillon Beauregard, Lalande de Pomerol—This wine certainly takes you by surprise. The fruit is delicate, showing strawberry, cherry, even cola notes like a Burgundy, but with that classic hint of eucalyptus and the solid structure of Cabernet. I was very impressed with the lighter, prettier side this Bordeaux exhibited, probably something you could pair with any number of dishes, and a wine underscoring the diversity in this “king” of wine regions.

2012 d’Issan, Margaux—I thought I knew this Chateau’s characteristics from past vintages, but there was something here unexpected. I still found the classic dark fruit and cedar with silky tannins and pretty, violet aromas I associate with this winery, but the wine felt softer and more integrated than I had anticipated. Although all the elements are already coming into play nicely in this wine: fruit, tannin, acidity and oak, I can’t help but wonder where it will go.

2012 Clinet, Pomerol—Almost the opposite of the d’Issan and Pavillon Beauregard tasted earlier, this wine showed plenty of hearty structure, and even laid the foundation of savory, gamey elements to come. But for all that savory character, it exhibited deep blueberry and blackberry fruit. Perhaps not as integrated as the d’Issan, this Clinet certainly has all the elements in place for stunning development.

2012 Ducru-Beaucaillou, St-Julien—Another surprisingly soft wine from 2012, soft but without loss of structure and integrity. The aromatics are what stood out by a mile in this wine with notes of pencil shaving, red plum and mocha. The red fruit carried through on the palate, complementing the round, softer tannin, and underlying acidity structure. The Ducru is certainly a powerful wine, but with surprisingly refined aromatics and a surprisingly luxurious fruit character.

Even though these wines are young, I found a lot to delight here, and I’m excited about their future.

-Heather Vander Wall