Bordeaux’s 2012 Wine at a Glance

If you are looking to taste or to buy ( !!!) a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem 2012 well you might consider yourself out of luck! The famous chateau – whose wine sells for a 3 digit per bottle price – scraped its entire vintage due to the raining conditions that plagued the summer and fall of 2012 in the Sauternes region. This is what Chateau d’Yquem writes on its site:
…” The weather in October severely upset the process of concentration in the grapes. Even so, a few barrels exceeded 21° potential alcohol thanks to extremely meticulous picking. However, these did not pass the final test: tasting. Every year, this operation eliminates the part of the vintage deemed unworthy of Château d’Yquem (20-100%).”…
The same decision of not releasing 2012 wines has been taken by two other “grand crus classes” chateaux of the region: Suduiraut and Rieussec.
The weather of 2012 was indeed tricky for the Bordeaux wine growers. The spring was late and rainy and the summer was short and dry. After a hot August and mid-September – that allowed some of the grapes to ripen nicely – the rain started again. Merely the early ripening varieties such as Merlot grown predominantly in the Pomerol and Saint Emilion regions –to the east of Gironde estuary – got the time to fully mature before the arrival of the rain . On the, predominantly later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, left bank of the estuary – in the Medoc and Pessac wine regions – only the chateaux that got to pick their grapes by mid-September could escape the rain. According to an article published in the Financial Times no less than Chateau Margaux had to use some chaptalisation to make for the natural sugars lacking in the berries.

April is since …two centuries(!) the month of the “En Primeur” Event of Bordeaux – the world renown wine tasting event that allows the region’s wine chateaux to present and sell their – still in the barrel – previous year wines (2 years before of their bottle release) .
The event is open only to wine professionals.
April 2013 was not an exception and Bordeaux welcomed around 5800 wine professionals (an increase of 7% from last year*).
Here are some extracts of what the professional tasters say about the Bordeaux 2012 vintage:
“Now comes 2012, which defies generalizations. There are good wines from almost every part of Bordeaux, at almost every price level — and very disappointing ones, too. Quality is unusually heterogeneous. It is what is sometimes called, euphemistically, a “winemaker’s vintage,” one that favors those with the skills and experience to deal with a challenging growing season.” Eric Pfanner / New York Times.
“From the few wines I tasted in early March, my impression was that the fruit was expressive and ripe, but the wines lacked the weight and structure of 2010.”
Will Lyons/ Wall Street Journal .
“Wines to be drunk quickly
For reds (90% of production in the Gironde), the 2012 does not have the power and length of 2009 and 2010. But it has its charm: the fruit and freshness for a quick pleasure, with little capacity to last.”
César Compadre/Sud Ouest.
The April value of the Bordeaux Index – a real-time index that tracks live changes of the prices of over 80 of the most traded Bordeaux wines (principally Grand Crus) – is at 126.23, 24.28 lower then its all time high of June 2011.

Update #1: Today, April 20, 2013 the Bloomber News citing Decanter.com anounces that Mouton-Rothschild cut the prices of its 2012 first wine by 33% by comparison with the 2011 prices (from $314 to $240) and by 8% of its second wine “Petit Mouton”. The same article says that Château Rauzan-Gassies (“Second Grand Cru Classe”) slashed the prices by 37% for 2012 wines (to 36.50 euros a bottle).

Update #2: Following Chateau Mouton price cut, the Lafite-Rothschild anounced on Monday April 22, 2013 it is releasing its 2012 vintage at €280/bottle making it the most affordable “premier grand cru” in almost any vintage.**

Update #3: April 25, 2013 The Decanter reported today that, following another “first grand crus” Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux released its 2012 first wine at a 33% down by comparison with 2011 price of €240/bottle (this price is still an 85% increase from the 2008 price). The second wine of Chateau Margaux, Pavillon Rouge, is also down 12% to €75 per bottle.

Update #4: May 1, 2013 Two other Bordeaux “Grand Crus” Châteaux have released their prices for the 2012 vintage.
The third cru Chateau Palmer – appelation Margaux – prices its first wine 2012 vintage at 160 euros ($210) a bottle, just 1% below its 2011 price (which is still 88% higher then the 2008 vintage price). Its second wine, Alter Ego, was released with a 5% drop to €37.5/bottle.
Chateau Giscours – third grand cru – has come down almost 10% from its 2011 price, to €26.40 a bottle.
The Saint Emilion’s Château La Gaffeliere is at €31.20/bottle down 13.3% from the 2011 price.*

Update #5: May 2 2013 “First growth Haut Brion has decided to match its fellow firsts, Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild, and dropped 33% on its 2011 price from €360 per bottle to €240 per bottle.
Its sister property La Mission did likewise with a 30% drop from €216 /bottle to €150 /bottle.
Pauillac property Pontet Canet meanwhile has not dropped so far, only shaving 9% off its 2011 release, from €66 /bottle to €60” anounced today The Drink Business.

*Source: http://www.decanter.com
** Source http://www.decanter.com/bordeaux-2012/en-primeur-coverage/583813/bordeaux-2012-lafite-releases-most-affordable-vintage

For a crush course on Bordeaux wines, Grand Crus, and famous Bordeaux wineries check out our story Bordeaux – the wine and the wineries

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