Plenty of decent Pauillac barrel samples in 2012

Here is the outcome from an afternoon tasting at Château Lafite Rothschild with director Charles Chevallier on Thursday 11 April. The weather was not ideal for tasting barrel samples: cloudy and rainy.

Overall an impression of classicism. Chevallier said that he does not feel that these wines will last as long as his wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages, but that they will provide mid term drinking. As you can see in this video of Charles talking about the vintage, he said that an intern they hired to study the vineyard was the only person smiling at all the diseases encountered – because it was a perfect way to practically understand his studies…

Having said that, I really liked the smooth classicism of Lafite in 2012, and in particular, a very strong showing from Duhart Milon, the only fourth growth Pauillac.

Château Duhart Milon (91-93): The blend is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot. Cabernet was more successful than Merlot, remarked Chevalier. The aromas included pure red fruit, including cherry and cassis, and left on the palate an overall impression of precision and fine smooth length. There was some steeliness, some tannic austerity, but not at the expense of the fruit. Fine job!

Château Lafite Rothschild (93-95): Classic freshness here, very lead pencil and graphite like. The aromas precede a streamlined palate that reminds Charles Chevalier of a more classic 1980s vintage such as 1985. The mid palate exuded fullness and depth, with a certain tannic austerity on the finish. This will need time indeed. While not reaching the scale of a vintage like 2009 or 2005, it is not far behind 2008, which is a very good candidate for wine of that vintage. Cabernet dominates here with 91%, along with 8.5% Merlot and .5% Petit Verdot.

The second wine, Carruades de Lafite, and its 42% Merlot, comes across as more inviting but lacks the precision and depth of the grand vin. Having said that, the barrel sample provided was giving off some sweet and pleasing red fruit.

Thursday 11 April began at 9:30 am with a tasting at Mouton Rothschild.

Normally could have harvested on 28 September but decided to do so 10 days later to get enough concentration, remarked director Philippe Dhalluin. 2012 reminds him of the 1995 vintage, with thick-skinned grapes. There was a need to avoid too much extraction. Harvest ended on 15 October, just before torrential rainfall. Very homogenous crop for Cabernet, Merlot more difficult, he said. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon at Mouton. Most ever (60%) for Clerc Milon, at least since the 1980s, Dhalluin said.

Mouton Rothschild (92-95) had a floral quality about it on the nose, fresh and refined. While Lafite – tasted later that afternoon – seemed more lead pencil cedar, the Mouton conveyed a creamier aspect. Both had some “steeliness” about them, and that could have been as a result of the bad weather tasting conditions. Mouton seemed to convey a bit more richness while Lafite a bit more elegance, so they were true to their styles. To sum it up, a rather successful Mouton in 2012, but one that will need time to develop and will certainly close down. Not as opulent as in 2009, but its classical quality bodes well.

The second wine, Le Petit Mouton, exuded a more flower like nose and it showed fine sap on the mid palate, but the finish was tight as a drum! Let’s see how it tastes from bottle…

I also tasted both Clerc Milon and d’Armailhac at the Château Mouton Rothschild but my notes can be read below, combined with my impression of both estates when tasted blind along with other Pauillacs later in the morning of 11 April…  I preferred Clerc Milon.

Blind tasting on Thursday 11 April at Grand Puy Ducasse. These Pauillac wines were tasted alongside Saint Julien, which was less consistent, and Saint Estephe, which represented too small a sample set to get an idea, but proved good overall. A grey and cloudy day with some rainfall: not the best time to taste barrel samples to be sure… Later in that day, I tasted Lafite Rothschild.

Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 90-92

1: Mocha nose. Sweet. The palate is marked by tannic power with structural elements to the fore. But the concentration is there with fine ripeness, and a graphite echo on the finish. Old School Pauillac. And I thought this was Batailley!

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse 91-93

2: Plum, damson – some oak derivation. Fine sap on the palate, which is quite delectable up to the finish. Tonicity, and some tannic austerity in the lingering finish push this wine highest among all the Pauillacs in this blind tasting. Where was the Baron???

Chateau Croizet Bages 89-91+

3: Raspberry/strawberry jam. A pleasingly brisk attack, tannic bite, but also moderate concentration leading to a moderate finish. Fine job by this estate. Bravo!

Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse 86-88

4: More oak derived aromatics? There is a tannic drying here. Gums are not aggressed but they feel the tannin. Time in barrel required!

Chateau Lynch Moussas 87-89

5: Mint freshness. Slightly austere overall. This sample seemed reduced, hard to assess. Tasted again at Chateau Batailley, where the sample was better. While director said he was very impressed with the wine, it was OK to me. Not as interesting as Batailley.

Chateau Haut Bages Liberal 90-92

6: Blackberry and blueberry, with floral freshness. Attack is brisk, mid palate is fluid, of modest flavor intensity, overall freshness, and the finish lingers, with a certain austerity.  Fine job at this estate!

Chateau Clerc Milon 90-92

7: Blueberry jam nose. Pepper spice. Brisk attack, supple mid palate. Tonicity is adequate. There is a slightly modest finish marked by tannic bite. Tasted earlier at Mouton Rothschild and I liked the purity of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite a success.

Chateau d’Armailhac 88-90

8: Somewhat confectioned fruit on the nose. The attack is brisk, with moderate flavor intensity on the mid palate and juiciness towards the modest finish. I think I had a better sample at the chateau… but even there, not as good as the Clerc Milon.

Chateau Batailley 90-92

9: Freshness on the nose. More on the floral/plant register. Supple and rather opulent overall. Mid palate presence is of moderate intensity. Tannic bite towards the end, with a moderate and bright finish. Wow: superb job by this estate which is getting better and better.

Chateau Lynch Bages 88-92

10: Juicy fruit ripeness on the nose, plum, and black currant with mint. The attack is supple. Mid-palate suave. Tonicity is moderate but a somewhat choppy finish detracts a bit. Prices need to come down, as Lynch Bages has been absurdly overpriced. Similar in quality, Grand Puy Lacoste has been a far better purchase for educated consumers of Pauillac.

Another notable Pauillac I tasted, on Friday 12 April at Château Batailley, was Château Haut Bages Monpelou (89-91+), which came across as very suave and smooth with medium body. This should not cost much – a wine to seek!

While visiting the newborn Cercle de Rive Gauche, I tasted Château Bellegrave (88-90), which seemed to be another successful Pauillac but not quite as impressive as the Haut Bages Monpelou and a far more ‘tough as nails’ Old School Château Fonbadet (85-87), which appealed less to me, but – who knows? – it may soften with time in bottle and turn out OK…

See my notes for barrel samples from the other Bordeaux appellations in 2012:

Back to the main 2012 from barrel page

Graves and Pessac Leognan / Sauternes and Barsac / Margaux-Moulis-Listrac / Pauillac / Saint Julien / Saint Estephe / Saint Emilion / Pomerol / Haut Medoc

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