Bordeaux has produced a “fabulous vintage” in 2012 depending on soil type, said Château Cheval Blanc’s technical director, Pierre-Olivier Clouet, speaking at a tasting in London last week.
Château Cheval Blanc
Clouet made the comment having shared wines from Cheval Blanc’s 2012 harvest – the first time the St-Emilion property has ever poured barrel samples for the public outside the château – giving UK press a preview of the vintage ahead of primeurs in April.
In answer to questions about 2012, Clouet explained that it “will be a vintage for terroir,” due to the uneven rainfall during the growing season.
“It was a specific vintage, with very high precipitation in April as well as high in June, and average in July, but very low in August and September – and it is this which saved the vintage; the end of August changed everything,” he said.
Such was the reduction in rainfall during the summer months, Clouet showed data to prove that 2012 was the sixth driest vintage in the last 50 years.
“We classify vintages at Cheval Blanc according to the stem water potential, and the driest vintage in 50 years was 2005, then 1998, 2010, 1995, 1989 and 2012,” he stated.
According to Clouet, the extremes of rainfall from very high to almost arid conditions favoured clay – the underlying soil of Cheval Blanc’s best vineyards – due to the soil’s natural ability to retain water.
“Average terroir can have a problem in 2012 with too much water and then not enough,” he said, referring to the more free-draining gravel or sandy soils, also found at the property.
“But in 2012 clay performed very well because the regulation of water was perfect. Water control is the most important point in 2012 – it was a classical vintage with average temperatures, so its success is because it is a dry vintage. “
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Continuing he said that warm temperatures alone won’t guarantee quality in Bordeaux, noting that 2003 “is not exceptional” because the extremes of heat were combined with a lot of summertime rainfall.
On the other hand he declared 2010 one of the best vintages at Cheval Blanc because temperatures were “fresh” and the total rainfall was three times less than the average.
Then, switching the focus to 2012’s traits, he said, “Yes 2012 will have more structure and tannin than 2011.”
And, referring to the wines tasted, particularly the Merlot and Cabernet Franc from clay soils, he spoke of 2012’s quality.
“All these wines are still in barrel, and I’m not sure that you will find one note of wood in these samples… with 2012 it’s just fruit, and when you get fruit like that, it is a fabulous vintage.”