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Bordeaux 2012 outshines early fears

Despite its 2012 vintage keeping a relatively low profile so far, Bordeaux producers are reporting good results and strong international interest in the run up to next week’s en primeur tastings.

Chateau Margaux
Paul Pontallier, director of Château Margaux, described 2012 wines from his best plots as “exceptional”

“What I find interesting about 2012 is that not many people are talking about it,” Melanie Tesseron, co-owner of Château Pontet Canet told the drinks business.

Against the recent backdrop of acclaimed vintages such as 2009 and 2010, she remarked: “There have been a couple of tendencies in the media to talk about a vintage before it’s made. That’s not the case this year, but already we have more people registered to come to Pontet Canet than last year.”

Over at St Estèphe estate Château Phelan Segur, which expects to host around 4,000 visitors for next week’s UGC tasting, managing director Veronique Dausse suggested that 2012 might prove a pleasant surprise for many.

“Overall it’s much better than what people had started to think about the vintage,” she reported. “There’s structure but more fruit too – the wines are not big but they are in balance.”

Similarly Chrisian Seely, managing director of AXA Millesimes, which owns Château Pichon Baron, described himself as being “pretty bullish about 2012,” explaining: “Everyone who’s tasted it with me so far has been very positive and after the UGC tasting 10 days ago we’ve had very positive feedback from all the negociants.”

For Seely, 2012 marks “a slight step up from 2011, which was a very nice vintage.”

Offering a general picture, he remarked: “The best ones have lovely fresh ‘croquant’ fruit, vitality and enormous charm – I think people are going to be pleased and I think people are going to be sensible about their prices.”

While many producers expressed pride in the result from 2012, they acknowledged the challenging conditions which are set to create a greater disparity in quality between estates than in more straightforward years.

Even within a single estate this variation in quality proved the case, as Paul Pontallier, director of Château Margaux confirmed: “In 2012, as is usual when things are not as perfect as we would like them to be, there are big differences between the terroirs and a big difference between our first and fourth wines.”

However, while some vineyard blocks struggled with the summer drought, he stressed, “the best plots were just exceptional.”

Likewise Dausse admitted: “With the dry weather we were a bit concerned,” recalling how the grapes ripened later than usual – early October for many producers – and then needed to be picked quickly before the rain arrived.

This sense of challenge was echoed by Tesseron, who described 2012 as “a very turbulent year.” Although the biodynamic Pauillac estate “lost a lot of crop” as the harvest progressed, Tesseron concluded: “We are very proud of our 2012; there’s real persistence of freshness.”

However, she suggested that the challenging conditions last year may have temporarily slowed the region’s embrace of biodynamic practices. “Anybody who had started has stopped – they don’t want to lose their whole crop,” she remarked. Having fallen victim to this same fear in 2007, she confirmed that Pontet Canet had “no concerns” about sticking to its biodynamic approach when faced with similar challenges in 2012.

Referring to 2012 as “a drinking vintage,” Tesseron predicted: “I think the traditional markets, the US and Europe, will come through this year. The US hasn’t bought for a couple of years now because they’re more sensitive to the big vintages, but they need more wine.”

Pontallier was similarly upbeat about the commercial prospect for the vintage. “I think the market is always excited by great or very good Bordeaux; it’s just a matter of price,” he observed, maintaining that among Bordeaux’s top producers “the wines have never been as good as they are today or enjoyed such a worldwide level of recognition.”

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