Saint Emilion: modest highs and lows in 2012, Cheval Blanc rides above the rest

After a blind tasting of Saint Emilion (along with Pomerol – which you can read here) at Chateau La Cabanne in Pomerol, I was joined by Canadian wine expert Jessica Harnois, who was less impressed with the wines, for a brief and windy analysis (see above). I found some things to like in Saint Emilion. Not that I tasted all of them. Indeed, the only Premier Grand Cru Classé I tried (non blind) was Chateau Cheval Blanc, which I really liked (not that the price will come down enough to garner my practical interest).

Most difficult was my tasting of Saint Emilions at the Cercle de Rive Droite – for notes on Saint Emilion Grand Cru. click here.

For the notes on the slightly better Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé samples at the Cercle de Rive Droite, here.

A somewhat lackluster tasting on another day at Chateau Pavie Macquin where I fear that too many wines by Stephane Derononcourt came across as heavy handed, where the extraction was felt at the expense of the elegance and potential freshness… although some wines were pretty good there.

Anyway, yet more evidence that 2012 is generally a rather ho-hum vintage.

In the meantime, Canon stood tallest among the Saint Emilions I liked from a blind tasting, below, at La Cabanne on Tuesday 9 April.

Blind tasting Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion tasted blind at La Cabanne on Tuesday 9 April 

Flight One – None of these really excited me, but they were all adequate. How to score them? At this point not so excited to do so.

Chateau Grand Mayne: 87-90?

1: Oak derived, some vanilla, yet also floral notes. The attack is quite soft, yet tonic. The palate medium bodied. Tannins are not drying. Could they be a touch on the hard side? But a lightly refined aspect if also a touch ho-hum. Certainly barrel aging will fill it out, correct? Potential…

Chateau La Dominique: 87-90?

2: Candied fruit on the nose. Like a bon bon anglais. Moderate juiciness on the mid palate, displaying light and pleasant fruit and a medium finish. OK.

Chateau Villemaurine: 88-90

3: Deeper fruit on the nose. Mocha/espresso aspect. Medium bodied. Tannins build up towards a foreboding and slightly hard finish.

Chateau Trottevieille 89-91+

4: Reduction on the nose, hard to ascertain, but the palate is medium bodied, with cranberry tartness throughout – more red fruit. A bit hard on the finish. Second sample proved better, with more floral aspects and greater freshness. This is in the mold of a 1985. Fine job. Tasted again at Chateau Batailley, tasting note more or less confirmed, with tannins a bit more foreboding. One of the best of the Saint Emilions.

Chateau Dassault: 86-88+

5: Nose is darker fruit. This has somewhat drier tannin. A bit of cooked fruit aspects. Somewhat drying on the finish.

Flight Two

Chateau Berliquet: 87-89+

6: Aromatics are rather floral here. Palate is medium bodied and on a certain level of tartness, cranberry again… Shortish finish. Tasted at Chateau Pavie Macquin and was one of my preferred wines there.

Chateau Soutard: 88-90+

7: Deeper nose. This has more grip on the palate, which seems to have moderate plus intensity of flavor, and riper fruit perhaps. Tannins are quite present and there is some oak derivation, but enough fruit to keep up, hopefully!

Chateau Canon: 90-92+

8: Somewhat like a fruit basket nose. A smooth palate, medium bodied but also fine grip and finer grained tannins here than above. Ripeness perhaps (even) more evident? Medium plus finish. Tasted again, and I can confirm that they did a very fine job in 2012 at Canon. Wine of the tasting.

Chateau Balestard La Tonnelle

9: Reduced nose. The palate is marked by sulfur here. I can sense medium concentration but note is reserved.

Chateau Troplong Mondot: 86-88+

10: Slightly reduced nose. Deeper fruit on the nose. Adequate concentration. Somewhat drying tannin on the finish. Second sample was rather oak derived on the nose. Deep fruit, medium intensity on the mid palate. Again, slightly drying tannin on the finish does detract. Not particularly exciting.

Flight Three (Saint Emilion)

Chateau Figeac: 89-91?

11: Aromatics are medium intensive, and one obtains the telltale “green” from some Figeac barrel samples (could it be more prominent than it ‘should’ be in 2012?), but the palate has tonicity and freshness. Borderline red bold…

Chateau La Couspaude: 87-89

12: Oak derivation on the nose. The palate has sap however, if somewhat firm tannins. Medium range flavor intensity, medium minus finish, with somewhat drying tannin.

Chateau Clos Fourtet: 88-90

13: Nose is on the light fruit side, with pleasing floral aspects. Indeed this is an herbal Saint Emilion that is on the lighter side. It is OK, but lacks its more expected concentration. Time in barrel will likely fill it out.

Chateau Pavie Macquin: 87-89

14: Intriguing clove and spice on the nose, coming from oak derivation. The palate is of medium flavor intensity, if somewhat drying towards the finish. Tasted again at Chateau Pavie Macquin, similar result. I can taste the extraction: not a good thing.

Chateau La Gaffeliere: 88-90

15: A fresher nose here, with intriguing white flower and cracked pepper. The palate is of strictly moderate intensity, with tannins that are polished enough – if somewhat short on the finish.

Flight Four (Saint Emilion)

Chateau Larmande: 86-88?

16: Stem aromatics, just a bit. There is a lack of concentration as if the mid palate is somewhat hollow. Like others, here, really. Hopefully barrel aging will “fill it out”…

Chateau Beau Sejour Becot: 88-90?

17: More depth on the nose, with somewhat riper fruit, albeit oak derived aromas add to a certain rich aromatic profile. This is not a bad thing in 2012. The attack is brisk enough, but then it gets to medium minus flavor intensity and a somewhat drying finish. Not sure.

Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere: 88-90?

18: Similar to the above… the aromatics are somewhat oak derived and the palate, while quite mouth filling in a good way – with adequate sap – is somewhat drying on the finish.

Chateau Cap de Mourlin 88-90+

19: This has some light mocha notes on the nose and palate, which is of medium plus intensity. The tannins are somewhat drying but overall a decent freshness, especially on the mid palate.

Chateau Larcis Ducasse: 89-91

20: Quite appealing nose, albeit oak vanilla too. The attack is more on the supple side, with a medium plus intensity of flavor, some plum aspects, and then you have a medium plus finish. Good sap here. Not bad in the context of the vintage.  Tasted again at Chateau Pavie Macquin and the result was about the same.

Chateau Franc Mayne

21: Nail polish… bad sample.

Chateau La Tour Figeac: 89-91

22: Chipper quality, fresh and tasty. The proverbial luncheon claret. Light but fun and with barrel age, will fill out into something even better methinks. Good job!

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

 

Tasting Saint Emilion at Cercle de Rive Droite on Sunday 7 April – video summary above favors… the whites

 

Château Trianon AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 86-89: Ho hum but not bad. Chipper and tasty… Agreeable.

Château Pindefleurs AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 86-88: This has more punch, seems to take “more risks” and then you have drying tannin on the finish.

Château Carteau Cotes Daugay AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 87-89:  A better version of the above – some pleasing chocolate. Good focus, not as drying — but it does dry. More tame.

Château Magrez Fombrauge AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 88-90: Surprise, surprise. My initial feeling was, “Hey this is tasty!” It has balance… ripe (very ripe, fellow taster Kevin Shin said). OK, a touch of heat, but the wine has the most character so far.

Château Rol Valentin AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 87-89: This plays things close to the vest. Ho-hum. And a bit drying?

Château Grand Corbin Manuel AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 86-89: Chipper – but tannins are bit drying.

Château Roylland AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 83-85?: Oak derivation here… very extracted. Oak oak, and more… oak.

Château Croix Cardinale AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 85-87: A better more chipper aspect here, but drying tannins on the finish!

Château du Parc AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 85-87: Smooth nose. Chipper and more focused than others – it seemed to me, after lunch.  Tasted in reverse order, the wine opens smoothly but then has a hard landing on the finish. Noticed more non blind….

Château Boutisse AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru ??? / A bit more of a “burnt” aspect … Indeed, this wine showed some road kill on the nose and palate and some harsh tannin. Note reserved.

Château La Grangere AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru ??? /  Asphalt aromas alas followed through on the palate. Note reserved.

Château Trimoulet AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 85-87 / Chipper and some brisk qualities initially but then a bit extracted and even harsh on the finish. Tasted a better sample at Château Pavie Macquin on Tuesday 9 April, although still drying tannins detract.

Château Laplagnotte-Bellevue AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru ??? / Cardboard? Reserve judgment. Going back to this, and I get green on the nose. No thank you.

Château La Fleur AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 85-87 / Richer and friendlier – but a bit drying on the finish! Ho hum aspect. Where is the fruit?

Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 86-88? / Here the wine plays it safer. There is more softness here. Better when tasted in reverse order – and yet, there is again some drying tannin that is disagreeable.

Château Lynsolence AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 85-87 / Oak and fruit on the nose. Viscous looking. I can taste the extraction more than the wine… Why do this in 2012?

No shortage of samples at the Cercle de Rive Droite tasting

Château Ferrand Lartigue AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 86-88 / Here we have a glossy modern wine… not bad actually, because it is smooth.

Château La Fleur d’Arthus AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru 85-87 / The nose here has more character – more punch, also on the palate. There is a punch of fruit – but then it falls flat with lots of hard tannin and an extracted feel. What the hell?

Château Pas de l’Ane AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru ??? / Road kill nose. The palate is also a bit wall like. Not sure what to think of this as it has hard and dry written all over it…

Clos les Grandes Versannes AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru ??? / Reductive notes. Hard to assess.

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

 

Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – also tasted at Cercle de Rive Droite – some of the classés show a bit more, er, class. 

Hats of to Chateau Barde Haut for an impressive tasting space and tasting conditions for the Cercle de Rive Droite

Château Côte de Baleau AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 88-90 / Flavorful with sap and a smooth finish… tasted non blind

Château Faugères AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 87-89 / Some oak derivation but also flowery aspects. A touch of oaky juice on the palate but not so egregious, as there is some fruit and sap, but it lacks freshness or lift on the finish: a bit, well, wooden.

Château Fombrauge AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 87-90 / This has more focus than the above but remains a bit hard. The mid palate conveys a certain amount of pleasing sap however.

Château Grand Corbin d’Espagne AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 87-90 / This has a better nose. Some oak derivation on the palate, a bit hot and hard on the finish. Tasting backwards, this is better than 119.

Château Fleur Cardinale AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 85-87+? / Jus de barrique… if you like it, go for it.

Château Saint-Georges Cote Pavie AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 85-87+/ Some minty freshness on the nose, but there is wet sock, too. The palate seems to lack ripeness and there is new oak tannin that comes more to the fore.

Clos la Madeleine AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 86-88 / Ho hum. Candied fruit on the nose. OK. There is fruit but the finish seems pinched.

Château Peby-Faugères AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 86-88 / Oaky aspects but also ripe fruit on the nose. This is OK. It has decent sap and plays things closer to the vest on the palate. Though some hard tannin on the finish – just a bit.

Château de Pressac AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 86-88 / Reduction on the nose. The palate is smooth enough, not over extracted or hard. Not bad… But, again, it lacks excitement…

Château Fonplegade AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 87-90? / Fruit and agreeable nose. The palate – tasted in reverse order – is superior to following wine. Has more freshness, if still marked by hard tannins on the finish.

Château Ripeau AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 84-86 / More oak like here, the nose. Gum staining – or at least, quite drying oak stave juice. Not for me. Score higher if you like evident oak.

Clos des Jacobins AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 87-90? / Dark fruit nose. There is a decent alcohol level here- one can get the heat. Smooth, but glossy and modern. Having said this, this is perhaps quite appealing in the context of the vintage. Some heat on the finish!

Château Rochebelle AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 86-89 / Fine ripe fruit on the nose. The palate is a touch hard however. Why am I not surprised?

Château Destieux AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – 89-91 / Fine overall here. I am rather impressed by this wine’s overall freshness and approachability. One of the rare very good samples tasted today.

Château Fonroque AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 86-87 / Deeper color, more extraction. Oak juice notes. A rich if somewhat warm mid palate ends on somewhat drying tannins.

Château Le Prieure AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – 86-88? /Sap here that is agreeable but some “extracted” aspects, and with drying and somewhat hard tannin on the finish. Still, the mid palate is juicy enough

Château Bellefont Belcier AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé – 87-89 / An oak derived nose, but fine sap on the mid palate, with a smooth finish.

 

Château Cheval Blanc tasted on Tuesday 9 April

A top ten wine from 2012, albeit still too expensive

Chateau Cheval Blanc’s Kees Van Leeuwen compared the 2012 to 2000, which I think may be stretching things. But truth be told, Cheval Blanc did a fine job in the vintage. Sure, the dry weather and the careful green harvest later in the cycle led to a sample of excellent quality – marked by perfume and refined tannic grain. While it did not match the depth or freshness of vintages like 2005 or 2010, it can easily go to a top ten list, among the samples I tried. Trotanoy and Palmer seem better, but this is on par with the refined and fine Vieux Chateau Certan. There was some sample variation however, so it was important to try several samples. Chateau Cheval Blanc: 92-95

The second wine Petit Chevalcontained lots of Cabernet Franc and was quite fresh as a result. This and Alter Ego were really excellent second wines in 2012, at least as barrel samples. 89-9

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 Medoc1

 

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