Bordeaux 2022, Saint Julien: full tasting notes
Our Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay continues his en primeur journey to St Julien, where he finds truly excellent wines and a region that is remarkably homogeneous. Here are his full tasting notes.
A note on the ratings
This year, as for the 2021 vintage before it, I have decided to provide an indicative rating for each wine alongside the published comment. All such comments and ratings are necessarily subjective (they cannot be anything else, when one thinks about it). I would urge you to look at the two together and, if anything, to privilege the comment over the rating. My aim is more to describe the wine in the context of the vintage, the appellation and recent vintages of the same and similar wines, rather than to judge the wine per se.
The ratings, of course, reflect my subjective evaluations and relative preferences between wines. Your palate is likely differ from mine. I hope that my comments give you at least enough information to be able to recalibrate my ratings and, in so doing, to align them more closely to your palate. To give an example: if the idea of the ‘new classicism’ leaves you cold, you may well wish to discount the (typically high) ratings I have given to wines described in such terms.
2022 is, of course, a far from entirely homogeneous vintage – and, consequently, my ratings span a considerable range (from the very top of the scale downwards). I see little interest, either for the consumer or the producer, in publishing very low scores. Consequently, I have decided not to publish scores for wines that I have rated below 90 (here the range 89-91). Where no rating is published, the wine would have scored 88-90 or below.
Finally, élevage is likely to be very important in determining the quality in bottle of these wines (like 2021 and rather more so than in other recent vintages). I am no soothsayer and cannot predict how that will turn out. All en primeur ratings should be treated with caution and taken with a certain pinch of salt.
Detailed tasting notes
- Beychevelle 2022 (St Julien; 54% Cabernet Sauvignon; 42% Merlot; 4% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 36 hl/ha; 14% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Walnut shell, walnut oil, walnut skin, cedar, a little pencil-shaving and a lovely dark intense black berry, bramble and mulberry fruit – a little red and black cherry too; there’s an alluring hint of rose petal too. So soft, sleek, refined and elegant on the entry, with the fine tannins slowly outlining the ample contours of this exquisitely soft wine. Silky with fabulously detailed, a cool mirror-pool mid-palate and great length, this is both opulent and yet subtle and elegant. Very ‘Beychevelle’ and very beautiful in this vintage. 95-97.
- Branaire Ducru 2022 (St Julien; 60.5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 31.5% Merlot; 5.5% Cabernet Franc; 2.5% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; 14% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Even more floral than Beychevelle, with rose petals and a touch of violet alongside the dark stone and plump berry fruit. The cedar arrives with gentle aeration, bringing even greater class and complexity. Incredibly soft and svelte, with a gracious and impressively dense and compact mid-palate. Fresh, bright and lively on the vivid finish, this is the best I’ve tasted from here. I find more and more similarities with its near-neighbour Gruaud Larose. 94-96+.
- La Bridane (St Julien). Very expressive aromatically and very expressive of its St Julien terroir, with a subtle walnut and almond note accompanying the soft, ripe, rich, plump plum fruit. On the palate there’s a little red berry fruit too. This is gentle and shows a very fine and light-touch. It doesn’t have the density or concentration of its illustrious neighbours, but it sings in harmony with them and is highly recommended in this vintage. 90-92.
- Clos du Marquis 2022 (St Julien; 45.5% Merlot; 44.5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10% Cabernet Franc; pH 3.6; IPT 84; 14.25% alcohol). Las Cases may well be the star of the appellation, but don’t overlook Clos du Marquis. Lovely, heathery, herbal, leafy, briary fruit – very autumnal and cool. Refined, classy and with that slight nutty – walnut and almond skin – St Julien typicity. Gracious cedar-wrapped fruit – with copious handfuls of plums black cherries on the palate. Sumptuous and yet offering great detail and clarity too, this is superb. So fresh. So harmonious. Certainly the best in recent years. 93-95+.
- La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou 2022 (St Julien; 66% Merlot; 32% Cabernet Sauvignon; 2% Petit Verdot; pH 3.75; 14% alcohol; Eric Boissenot is the consultant). Very expressive aromatically and very expressive too of that punchy Ducru style. Toasty. Glossy. Intense. Dark. A little graphite.. Crushed and concentrated bramble and black berry fruit, a little black cherry hinting at the opulence and ripeness. Energetic. Blowsy, with soft velvety tannins. This is big-boned, dense and compact. A chunky, almost chubby wine, plump and plush, with considerable gravitas. It growls on the palate. Substantial and with tannins still to resolve. Quite a vin de garde. Very true to its style. 92-94.
- Ducru Beaucaillou 2022 (St Julien; 82% Cabernet Sauvignon; 18% Merlot; a final yield of around 30 hl/ha; pH 3.8; 14% alcohol; Eric Boissenot is the consultant). Brighter and fresher than La Croix with more fruit complexity too – some red berry fruit lightens the profile. Raspberry, loganberry and mulberry, a little leafiness, a little damson. It’s less overtly spicy too. More black cracked peppercorns. Juicier and with much more levity than La Croix. Indeed, I find this much more ethereal and the oak is almost imperceptible which is rare here at this stage. Tense and ultra-sapid with lots of energy and a satisfyingly bright crispness. Long and layered with lots of detail, more present because of the gentle extraction and slightly less obvious presence of oak, though it accentuates the subtle florality on the nose (the signature of the vintage in St Julien). Still considerable, but more finely detailed than in recent vintage. Reminiscent of the 2010 or 2016 in terms of the quality of the tannins. 96-98.
- Gloria 2022 (St Julien; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 35% Merlot: 6% Cabernet Franc; 9% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; 13.8% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Cool, subtle, a little more oaky than some of its neighbours and maybe with a little less complexity, but a wine of great quality and with a lovely sinuous mid-palate that brims with crystallinity, detail and fresh juiciness. Texturally very impressive though maybe with a little less complexity than some of its neighbours. 92-94.
- Gruaud Larose 2022 (St Julien; 64% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 4% Cabernet Franc; 2% Petit Verdot; 13.6% alcohol; with a new label for the vintage and the first vintage certified organic). Quite closed at first. Tender. Broad. Succulent. Ample. Showing lovely restraint. So succulent and fresh and vibrant but with that refined classy slightly ‘held back’ quality. This builds slowly – but, gosh, how it builds! Cedar and graphite – rather more of the latter for the moment – subtly intermingling with and reinforcing the fruit. That fruit is very Gruaud – black cherry and the additional freshness from fruits of the forest and briary autumnal fruits. Cool. One feels the energy from the biodiversity in the vineyard. Fantastically layered and finely pixilated. Extremely poised and precise. Crystalline. Like the 2020 but less evident at this stage, more profound and even more ‘grand’. The quality of the tannins reminds me more of Las Cases or Pichon Comtesse de Lalande than any other wine. More lithe and fresh and fruit-fresh above all on the finish. At least as good as the 2020 which was my previous benchmark here. A wine of incredible harmony. I love the fantail after the pinch just before the finish. There’s just nothing out of place. 96-98.
- Lagrange 2022 (St Julien; 86% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12% Merlot; 2% Petit Verdot; pH 3.63; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Another very floral St Julien in this vintage. Aromatically explosive, with loads of cedar, lilac and assorted black berry fruits with a little plum and damson too. Fresh peppery notes bring added interest. On the palate this has a lovely tension, lots of grip from the fine-grained tannins and a fluidity that comes from the radiantly bright, crunchy, berry fruit juice charged with refreshing acidity – red and blackcurrant freshness gives this fabulous energy. Excellent. 93-95.
- Langoa-Barton 2022 (St Julien; 56.5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 41% Merlot; 2.5% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; 14.2% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). A little reductive at first, there’s a little more oak here than with some, a pleasing almond and frangipane nuttiness, and assorted red and darker berry and stone fruit. There’s a generous dollop of graphite and a hint of the cedar to come. Graciously and soft despite the amplitude and the IPT count and, like Lagrange, just remarkably plush with fresh juicy, sapid gloriously energetic bright fruit juiciness. An incredibly dynamic mid-palate. Brilliant stuff from an appellation that truly excels. 94-96.
- Léoville-Barton (St Julien; 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11.5% Merlot and 5.5% Cabernet Franc; a fnal yield of 30 hl/ha; 14.1% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Incense, cordite, patchouli, candlewax, cedar (of course), graphite (of course), almond shell and that ultra-dark intense berry fruit that is the essence of Léoville-Barton all melt together to form the most expressive and attractive of aromatic profiles. Staggeringly impressive in its gravity-defying combination of crystalline levity and incredible depth and concentration. A very pure fruit that is just a shade darker in its fruit profile and more profound than Langoa but with precisely the same sense of vivid energy and vibrancy across the palate. Spectacular. 96-98.
- Léoville Las Cases 2022 (St Julien; 83.5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10.5% Cabernet Franc; 6% Merlot; includes 8% press wine; pH 3.8; IPT 85; 14.25%;). Wonderful. Wondrous. I’m searching or superlatives and immediately asking myself whether this is the wine of the vintage! Rose petals, violets (giving a lovely natural sweetness to the nose), a little brioche, so much intensity of dark berry and cherry fruit. Glossy, soft, gracious, elegant, refined, very slightly sombre and austere in its personality – which I love – giving this a Lafite-esque gravitas. A touch of almond and walnut skin. More St Julien than Pauillac at least in this vintage – it’s very much on the border and sometimes has a certain Pauillac character to it (with 94% Cabernet in this vintage). The touch of cedar and graphite is beautiful. I have another tear in the corner of my eye (I think for the first time ever here). Really succulent and sumptuous. Texturally somewhere between silk and cashmere. So layered, so pixilated and yet so utterly complete. A candidate for wine of the vintage on the left-bank. Fabulous, utterly! The tannins are so disguised. Very long, this feels almost eternal and it doesn’t really even taper on the finish. It just becomes ever so slightly more diffuse like a fading apparition. 98-100.
- Léoville-Poyferré 2022 (St Julien; 58% Cabernet Sauvignon; 34% Merlot; 4% Cabernet Franc; 4% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 33.4 hl/ha; pH 3.87; IPT 93; 14.4% alcohol; tasted first at the UGC press tasting and then re-tasted at the château where it was a little closed). A vibrant purple in the glass, with crimson and violet highlights. Beautiful aromatically and very ‘Poyferré’, with a gracious deep dark black cherry fruit graciously enrobed in cedar and graphite and a hint of wild spring flowers. On the palate the tannins are incredibly soft and when they eventually grip they release a fabulous juicy sapidity, breaking up the lushness of the attack and mid-palate and imparting little fountains and rivulets of fresh black cherry juice. The effect is spectacular – as is this wine. Brilliant. It’s almost impossible to reconcile the IPT count (93) with the satinous texture of this wine. 95-97+.
- Moulin Riche 2022 (St Julien; 65% Cabernet Sauvignon; 25% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; tasted at Léoville-Poyferré). Full and rich, in keeping with its name, with a plump red and darker cherry and bramble fruit. Nicely textured, with very svelte tannins and impressive density in the mid-palate, if not the delineation or detail of the grand vin. But suave and well-composed nonetheless and I love the black cherry skin note on the finish. Impressively focussed. Precise. Nicely in the style of the grand vin. 91-93.
- Le Petit Ducru 2022 (St Julien; 70% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5% Petit Verdot; pH 3.77; 14% alcohol; previously Lalande Borie, until the 2019 vintage). Note the higher Merlot proportion in the blend this year. Smokey, with crunchy bright dark berry fruits – brambles and blueberries above all. A little toasted brioche. A little herbal note. Walnut oil. This is pure, crunchy and with a nice fluidity in the mid-palate. Fresh liquorice and mint and cassis leaf on the tapering finish. 89-91.
- Sarget de Gruaud Larose 2022 (St Julien; 64% Cabernet Sauvignon; 30% Merlot; 4% Cabernet Franc; 2% Petit Verdot; 13.5%; the second of three selections here and it shows in the quality of this wine). Gracious, with a lovely dark berry and stone fruit. Sloes and damsons, just a little black cherry on the nose, though it builds with aeration. Plush, plump, with considerable forward momentum, this is ample and round and fresh. Really excellent and an enticing introduction to the grand vin. 91-93.
- Saint Pierre 2022 (St Julien; 80% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12% Merlot; 6% Cabernet Franc; 2% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; 13.9% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). Refined, subtle, cool, calm and collected with a wonderful sense of harmony and elegance. Juicy and sapid, with incredibly soft tannins, this is a most beautiful wine. The wood is so delicately deployed as to be almost imperceptible (but you’d know if it weren’t there). Excellent choices. Shimmering and with a plunge-pool mid-palate. 93-95.
- Talbot 2022 (St Julien; 70% Cabernet Sauvignon; 25% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 40 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol; tasted at the UGC press tasting). So true to personality and identity and a wine it would be easy to pick blind with loads of cedar, pencil-shavings and a plump, bright, fresh dark cherry and damson fruit profile. A little more compact than some and even more densely fruit-charged in the mid palate for that, adding an additional degree of layering, profundity and complexity, this is very appealing and has almost a hint of the 2020’s austerity to it that I really like. 94-96.
Please click link for db’s 2022 en primeur vintage report, along with appellation-by-appellation reviews (links updated as they become available) on Margaux, St Julien, Pessac-Leognan & Graves rouge and blanc, St Estèphe & Haut-Medoc, Pauillac, Pomerol, Saint-Émilion and Sauternes.