Bordeaux tasting at the Garden Court of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco

Bordeaux tasting at the Garden Court of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco

2012 was a difficult vintage by all accounts. Those wineries leaning more heavily on Merlot did better, as the Merlot ripened before the rain hit. The Cabernet Sauvignon was late in ripening; rain hit in the last week of September and continued on and off through October. A lot of work had to be done in the vineyard before harvest, dropping crop, thinning vegetation, and still some wineries had to chapitalize (add sugar) to achieve full fermentations. Nonetheless, many good wines were produced. I may be in the minority, but I prefer the 2012s to the charmless 2011s.

All of these wines are too expensive for the average consumer. It’s sadly a natural consequence of supply and demand. However, if you’re looking for a wine to put away for a special occasion, you could do worse. The prices I’ve listed are gleaned off the Internet. It’s possible that the reputation of this vintage may drive prices down, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Of the three dozen I tasted, these are my favorites:

Chateau Pape Clement

Chateau Pape Clement

Château Pape Clement, Graves:

49% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot.

Super vibrant, fresh blackberry fruit with subtle dried herbs. Medium bodied, with supple tannins and a fleshy mid-palate, it has layers of deep, deep fruit and minerality. A wine along classic lines.

$88. 93 points


Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac:

55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot.

Elegant, classy, restrained. Subtley complex — blackberry and cassis with a light touch of vanilla. Very fine balance.

$100. 92 points5

 Chateau Lynch Bages

Château Lynch Bages, Pauillac:

72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot.

Sour cherry, blackberry, with a smokey top note, integrated tannin and juicy finish. Perfect balance. Fine stuff, if a bit dear.

$135. 91 points


Château Clinet, Pomerol:

90% Merlot, 9% Caberent Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc.

Black plum, chocolate, black olive, with soft tannin, good depth and length. Very satisfying.

$78. 91 points

 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac:

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc.

Not a wine for those with a New World palate, it’s dry and lean, with mineral overtones, dried black fruits and herbal notes. Well balanced and extraordinarily long.

$55. 90 points


Château Talbot, Saint-Julien:

68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot.

Classic cassis and cedar, supple tannins, fleshy mid-palate displaying subtle layers of blackberry, blueberry and wet straw.

$50. 90 points


Château Picque Caillou, Pessac-Léognan:

50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Undoubtedly the value of the bunch. This wine strikes a balance between the lean and lush styles of Bordeaux, and certainly benefits from a large slug of Merlot. It’s rich and ripe on the nose, more mineral on the palate, framing a core of cranberry and plum. Soft tannins. Vibrant mineral finish. A good candidate for further aging.

$32. 90 points


Château Le Bon Pasteur, Pomerol:

80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc.

Almost New World in style, with fresh blackberry flavors. Dense and concentrated, with smokey notes in the finish. Marred only by slightly bitter tannins. It benefits in this vinage by being heavy on the Merlot. Good but pricey.

$100. 89 points


Château La Lagune, Haut-Medoc:

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot.

Old school wine with a core of dried black fruit (plum, cherries), herbal top notes and a long finish.

$62. 89 points


Château Pichon-Longueville, au Baron de Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac:

62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot.

Lush cassis with sour pickle notes, perfectly integrated tannin, classic structure, long finish. I wouldn’t age it long term, but expect it to improve over the next decade.

$106. 89 points

 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan:

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot.

A happy marriage of plenty of fruit and plenty of oak, giving you cassis and vanilla flavors. Perfectly balanced with soft tannins, tart acid backbone, and a stoney-mineral finish. Again, not for long term aging, though it does have the potential to acquire more nuance with five to ten years in the bottle.

$73. 88 points


Château Gloria, Saint-Julien:

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot.

Dense blackberry with licorice. Soft, though somewhat bitter tannins and a chewy finish. Has potential.

$36. 88 points














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