Saint Estephe barrel samples show promise in 2012
April 21, 2013
Now I have not tasted either Montrose or Cos d’Estournel, but I will do so in June. Part of the reason I did not bother is … price. I have just gotten annoyed with the ridiculous price tags of Bordeaux in recent vintages and as much as I l0ve Montrose in particular, there was a certain amount of “Why Bother” entering my mind. But that is not very professional now, is it? I will taste both in June and update this page . Now, I must say, that many barrel samples for Saint Estephe proved promising – more so that I would have expected… Here goes.
Blind tasting on Thursday 11 April at Grand Puy Ducasse – blind samples of Saint Estephe. Not the best time of day, heavy atmosphere pressure, with rain and clouds. We tasted alongside samples from Haut Medoc, Saint Julien and Pauillac and Saint Estephe did rather well.
Chateau Lafon Rochet 89-91+
1: Reduction on the nose, but herbal freshness. Smooth attack, supple mid palate. Softness. Not what I was expecting? This was quite smooth indeed! Nice job.
Chateau Cos Labory 86-88+
2: Rich Butterfinger nose. Soft notions of caramel and mocha. The attack is more raw, here, with tannic edginess, but a moderately intense mid palate, and a modest finish.
Chateau Phelan Segur 88-91
3: More floral and freshness aromatics. Herbal but not without ripe black fruit. The palate is somewhat tight but has grip, the finish marked by tannic austerity – but this is after all Saint Estephe.
Chateau de Pez 88-90
4: Red berry fruit. Impressive aromatics. The palate is marked by tannic structure but containing opulence. There is a tannic wall towards the finish. Also fine.
Chateau Ormes de Pez 90-92
5: Pure and clean freshness on the nose. Cedary freshness. The palate is bracing. Finish is marked by tannic austerity, but overall the best of the Saint Estephe barrel samples tasted blind… Nice job!
Afterwards we tried Château Meyney (88-91+)which was quite fine and robust. Flavorful. Another one to buy – at least if you come across it at a restaurant for example, several years down the road .
Vertical of Château Calon Segur on Thursday afternoon 11 April
Also tasted Château Calon Segur, a vertical with director Vincent Millet. Interesting how opinions varied. Could be a question of samples. Cheval Blanc, to take one example. Calon Segur, another? How else can you explain such varied points of view: Jane Anson was not thrilled but was not condemning it, as did Jeff Leve and a Bordeaux negociant. Then there is Kevin Kelly who liked it, as did I…
Here the notes: Key date for Vincent Millet was 27 September, when 40mm of water fell, refreshing the Cabernets and allowing for maturity.
The Calon Segur 2012 (90-92) still had less Cabernet than in 2009 (90% Cabernet) or 2010 (85%). A blend of 78% Cabernet, 20% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot but still with 100% new oak. This was charming from the get go, but mid palate and especially to the finish much rigor, a more old school Saint Estephe, which I suspect will calm down. Not as charming as the 2011 was at this stage, but focus and linearity that pleased my palate in 2012.
Give it time in barrel, and I am willing to bet that this will turn out to be a successful vintage. A bit like 1988?
The 2011 was difficult to assess as it had just been fined and racked, so the oak influence dominated the flavor profile. But it shows fine volume and depth.
Next came two great vintages at Calon. The 2010 (95), which had seemed so imposing en primeur, now displays a lot of power, but in a more suave manner. Very cassis, red fruit, deep and pure, with underlying power, plenty of mid palate substance and a long layered finish.
The 2009 (96+) seems to have even more finesse on the nose, pure cassis fruit, lead pencil. The palate conveys tension, like coiled energy, you can sense it has closed down a bit, but that is has such power, too – not quite as obvious as the 2010. Very pure impression overall. Anyone who has this vintage should be very happy. I am.
On Wednesday, 10 April, tasted at Cercle de Rive Gauche, I was not that impressed with Château Tour de Pez, which seemed to have a bit of hardness to it, suggesting extraction of not so ripe pips? Will need to revisit… However, on Friday, 12 April, I was rather pleased with the rather fine freshness coming from Château Beau Site (88-90), a cru bourgeois Saint Estephe that was smooth on the mid palate ending with foreboding but ripe tannins.
See my notes for barrel samples from the other Bordeaux appellations in 2012: