Ahead of the latest En Primeur campaign later this spring, the Bordeaux bandwagon is gradually rolling back into life. Much attention is naturally starting to focus on past vintages (2012’s are bottled and due for release shortly), significant changes in the world of the critics (Robert Parker relinquishing his EP tasting duties to Neal Martin, as well as re-reviewing the epic 2005 vintage), and indeed just what the Bordelais are going to do with their pricing on the 2014’s. Our Director of Fine Wine, Joss Fowler, recently wrote about the mixed emotions that Bordeaux can draw out these days from both merchants and consumers, you can read it here. Upon whichever side of fence it is that you sit – I, for one, am still a sucker for a great glass of claret. No matter how much I try to look elsewhere, nothing provides the same fix as Bordeaux.
Hong Kong continues to be the major hub for fine wine in Asia and the lion’s share of activity is still very much driven by Bordeaux sales. Last week, therefore, we were treated to two major wine tasting events in the city: the Union des Grands Crus tasting of the recently bottled, soon-to-be-released 2012’s; and James Suckling’s now annual Bordeaux showcase of a variety of top Chateaux from both the left and right bank.
The UGC takes in cities across the world, giving winemakers an opportunity to share their wines with merchants, usually focusing on the most recently bottled vintage. The 2012’s were an uneven year – strong for Pomerol and favourable in general for Merlot; and arguably still in the shadow of the brilliant 2009’s and 10’s. A few of the wines we tried showed a lack of balance – generally a lot of extraction which wasn't matched by the necessary acidity and tannin – but plenty were very charming, well-crafted and are going to give their owners a great deal of pleasure within the next 5-10 years. This is an approachable vintage now and there’s a lot of character and individuality in those that got it right.
James Suckling continues to provide opportunities for both trade and consumers to try a great variety of wines at his numerous tastings in the US, Europe and Asia. This latest event, in association with Hong Kong Tatler magazine at the Shangri La Hotel, featured the likes of Mouton Rothschild, Pichon Baron, and Smith Haut Lafitte – across a variety of vintages. During the tasting Suckling took time to speak with those who had attended, and drew focus on 2012 as a ‘sleeper vintage’ which he recommended seeking out, as well as to underline his belief that Hong Kong is ‘the greatest market for Bordeaux in the world’.
Below are some of the wines which stood out for us at both tastings:
2005 Mouton Rothschild
Very poised in the glass, structure like silk as it rests in the mouth. Sings. Layers of mint, leather, black fruit and red berries. Leaves a great memory on the palate, like a ghost, so smooth. Richness without heft. Superb.
2009 Pichon Baron
Looks majestic as soon as it hits the glass – is that possible?! Mint and eucalyptus – what else? Masses of fruit but this is not in the least bit jammy. Hints of violets lift across the palate. Sweetness develops at the front of the palate. Precise pencil lead too. Sits well all the way through, a beautiful wine. Imagine what this will be in another 10 years…
2010 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
Burgundian notes on the nose – result of the oak but it’s well integrated. A paper-like quality and build. Incredible weight and grip throughout. Acidity is biting – give it plenty of time and space. Thoroughbred – a born winner.
2012 Smith Haut Lafitte
Classic Graves – a gravelly, mineral nose, you can almost feel the driveway of the Chateau. Supple and elegant body. Screeching red fruits, ripped acidity and lots of fine tannin. Got the legs to go on and develop into something very, very good.
2012 Pichon Lalande
Compared to other efforts out of Pauillac, this is much more restrained and refined. They've clearly tried to create something a little bit more elegant. Soft with good acidity yet great purity of fruit. Opulent. They've toned this down and could be well rewarded with something quite delicious already.
2012 La Conseillante
While this was a strong year for Pomerol and Merlot, I feel like the Cabernet Franc is rounding this off at the moment? Sharp and precise red fruits on nose; by contrast the palate is lush, with a velvety texture. Milk chocolate and coffee. Makes me feel very happy.
Head of Asia Pacific
If you are interested in any of the wines mentioned in this article, please see our website, or contact us for more information.