2012 Bordeaux: A game of three halves

Matthew Jukes samples the best of Bordeaux's 2012 vintage.

I spent the whole of last week in Bordeaux, tasting the 2012 vintage, and I was very impressed with the best wines. While they are not in the same league in terms of intensity and sheer scale as the 2009s and 2010s, there are some stunning wines in this vintage.

The remarkable balance and mid-range alcohol levels make these wines refreshing, crunchy, sensual and classically dimensioned characteristics I love.

The 2012 vintage in Bordeaux was a game of three halves. A trio of distinct and challenging climatic conditions defines the wines. Early spring was very cold and wet and it rained all of the way up until July. This meant that the harvest was to be down on volume and this was compounded by problems with heightened humidity, which brought in mildew and other nasties. Then, suddenly, it got hot.

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The dry weather continued into September and all was well. That was before my aforementioned third half' kicked in. In late September, the skies opened again. By this time most of the grapes were nearing ripeness, and with the cool nights throughout the vintage the ripe sugars and skins were balanced with crisp natural acidity.

Picking took place in the first two weeks of October, punctuated by rain. Well-drilled squads of pickers were then deployed to bring in the fruit in perfect condition, albeit with lower alcohols than in both 2009 and 2010.

The best wines have dark colours, sleek fruit, crisp tannins and long, lithe finishes. Cabernet sauvignon was king on the Left Bank, with merlot not quite ripening enough to play a major role in many of the top wines.

On the Right Bank, the reverse was true and merlot managed to ripen with 14% plus alcohol. These wines have a lusty, juicy core and very attractive fruit. I always dislike charry oak and over-extraction and there were guilty parties on the Right Bank, but not as many as you find in so-called great vintages' when the sun plays a much more impactful role than in the more classically shaped' years like this one.

As far as sweet wines were concerned, sauternes and barsac suffered the most, with the wrong sort of rot taking hold, thanks to the rain. Lighter, non-botrytis (the welcome noble rot' which concentrates the sugars) wines are the result. For this reason a few top estates such as d'Yquem, Rieussec and Raymond-Lafon have decided not to release a wine.

It is a shame that this world-class sweet-wine region has suffered in 2012, but I urge you to chase down Lion de Suduiraut (Suduiraut itself was not made and was declassified into this bargain-priced beauty) and a handful of other decent wines because they will not be too dear.

As always, prices will be the key to a decent en primeur' campaign. Many of the chteau owners admitted they knew that they had to bring their prices down to regain the enthusiasm of the world's wine drinkers.

After the failed 2011 campaign and the large amounts of unsold stock both in Bordeaux and on wine merchants' books nothing less than a 30% reduction in prices will do in my opinion.

As always, my full list of scores is available for free on my website at Matthewjukes.com.

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Chteau Mouton-Rothschild, 1er Cru, Pauillac19Chteau Desmirail, 3me Cru, Margaux17.5
Chteau Ptrus, Pomerol19Chteau La Serre, Grand Cru Class, Saint-Emilion17.5
Chteau Palmer, 3me Cru, Margaux19Chteau Moulin Saint-Georges, Grand Cru, Saint-Emilion17.5
Chteau Ausone, 1er Grand Cru Class A, Saint-Emilion19Chteau d'Angludet, Margaux17
Chteau Margaux, 1er Cru, Margaux19Chteau Capbern-Gasqueton, Saint-Estphe17
Chteau Le Pin, Pomerol19Chteau Le Crock, Saint-Estphe17
Chteau Latour, 1er Cru, Pauillac19Chteau Labgorce, Margaux17
Chteau Cos d'Estournel, 2me Cru, Saint-Estphe18.5Chteau Lacoste Borie, 2nd wine, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac17
Chteau l'Evangile, Pomerol18.5Chteau de Villegeorge, Haut-Mdoc16.5
Vieux-Chteau Certan, Pomerol18.5Chteau Pibran, Pauillac16.5
Score is my score out of 20
Matthew Jukes

Matthew Jukes has worked in the UK wine business for well over three decades and during this time has written 14 wine books.  

Matthew regularly lectures, judges, speaks at wine conferences and runs masterclass tastings for both corporate and private clients all over the world. Matthew is also the creator of his ground-breaking initiative, the One Day Wine School, an indulgent day of tasting and learning first performed in 2006.

He has been the MoneyWeek wine correspondent since 2006 and has written a weekly column for the Daily Mail’s Weekend Magazine since 1999. His four highly-acclaimed, annual wine reports – the Burgundy En Primeur Report, the Bordeaux En Primeur Report, the Piemonte Report and the 100 Best Australian Wines – are published on his website, www.matthewjukes.com.

Matthew is one of the world’s leading experts on Australian wine and, with Brisbane-based wine writer Tyson Stelzer, runs an annual competition in Australia to find ‘The Great Australian Red’.  He was made Honorary Australian of the Year in the UK at the 2012 Australia Day Foundation Gala dinner. 

Matthew is a winner of the International Wine and Spirit Competition's Communicator of the Year Trophy.  His thoughts, recommendations and tastings notes are followed very closely by the wine world at large.