Thin Lizzy wasn’t back in town, but last week the merry band of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux descended on Hong Kong for the last leg of their Asia tour to promote their 2012 vintage.
Some may think being an owner, or representative, of a chateau must be a glamorous job. However, these guys undergo a grueling schedule on these trips having crammed as many tastings and dinners in as short a period of time as they can. This whirlwind trip had seen our friends hopping around China, Taiwan, and Singapore with their final stop in Hong Kong. Despite their tiring itinerary (and some feeling under the weather from the dreaded airplane lurgy) as the lyrics of the song go they “hadn't changed”, but they did have something to say.
This was the Hong Kong office’s first chance to taste of the 2012 vintage and with a spring in our steps we headed to the Intercontinental Hotel in TST. We have to admit the “spring” was somewhat lost having to go via the two MTR stations with the longest entry and exit!
The setup at the Intercontinental made the tasting so much easier. Rows of tables formed wide thoroughfares with staff constantly changing and clearing the spittoon stations located within. These tastings are always popular which means even the largest of Hong Kong ballrooms is full and often the hardest part of a tasting can be actually trying to get to the table to get a sample. With no such fears here, so clipboards and tasting sheets at the ready we hit the room.
The 2012 vintage was a difficult vintage. Not to bore you too much with weather and growing conditions, in short 2012 was cool and wet. With such conditions the vines were behind schedule and there were fears that the grapes may not have been able to achieve ripeness. Relief came with a sunny and warm Indian Summer. But there was still a risk, would the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have enough time to ripen before the rain and rot were to set in?
The timing of the harvest was the key to success in this vintage, as well as the skill of the winemaker. On the whole, we found that most of the wines tasted charming. They are, of course, still very young but, they are approachable now. What became clear was that 2012 is going to be a vintage that will be excellent for drinking early rather than one for the long haul.
On Saturday I was lucky enough to attend James Suckling’s “Bordeaux Confidential” tasting. There was a range of chateaux and vintages on display, many showing their great wines from the 09 and 05 vintages. Whilst we cannot compare the 2012s to either of those (or indeed the 10s or 00s); I did get rather excited about them, being a merchant at heart. The 2012s look set to be the next great “trade” vintage. A vintage that will be easy and appealing to drink with soft attractive fruit, and, most importantly, one that currently shows value for money within the market. When the 2007s run out, this will be a perfect follow on for Bordeaux drinkers.
Below are our top picks from the tasting:
Cantemerle – lovely juicy dark cherries and red fruits, with a touch of spice. Some complexity and length on the finish. At under 15 GBP a bottle this is really a bargain – all you would expect from a classic claret but at a fraction of the price.
Domaine de Chevalier Rouge – lots of ripe fruit here with good balancing tannins. The palate is complex with notes of vanilla pods, a touch of funghi and a hint or smokiness with a clean and elegant finish. Another bargain at just 335 GBP per case.
Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge -dark black cherry fruit, still a bit closed on the nose but quite rich and full on the palate. Lots of licorice, cassis and graphite here. Lovely length and class. Again good value at 430 pounds per case.
Leoville Barton – always such a reliable and consistent chateau and yet again it doesn’t disappoint. Dark ripe fruit, lots of spice and minerals. On the palate there are notes of cassis, spice and pencil shavings. There is still quite a grip to it with the tannins ensuring that this is a wine that will have some time ahead of it – a true and proper claret at just under 500 GBP per case. Langoa Barton showed very well too!
Pape Clement Rouge – lots of ripe brambly fruit here with an earthy, tarry character. Full-bodied on the palate with red and black plums, vanilla and some spice. Round and smooth. 450 GBP per case.
Pichon Lalande – a juicy and creamy nose, dark cherry fruits, licorice and coffee beans. This is beautifully balalanced with a long, smooth finish. At 625 GBP / case it is a rare opportunity to buy the wine of this famous chateau at such a low price.
La Conseillante – dark black rich fruit, cocoa and spice. Lovely balance on the palate having that characteristic silky quality, yet it still has a bit of power and weight to it. For 630 GBP / case it’s a quite a bargain for a top notch Pomerol
I’ve mainly concentrated on the reds here but if you are into whites then the dry whites of 2012 are not going to disappoint – we didn’t get to taste many but Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier and Pape Clement were right up there. 2012 is a top notch dry white vintage.
The Bordeaux market has taken a bit of a beating over the last couple of years and there is much talk about how consumers may have fallen out of love with the region. Not only were the Bordelais back in town, but with the 2012 vintage now physically available and offering attractive early drinking, Bordeaux should soon be back on the table.