With the 2012 weather conditions known to have favoured the earlier ripening Merlot grape, it was hardly surprising to find the most successful wines of the vintage on the right bank where Merlot prevails. However, I'm sorry to report that there is still an unwelcome annual trend of finding too many over extractions occurring in St Emilion. Over ripe wines with large swaths of oak & drying tannins are no fun to taste young. More importantly, this also creates some uncertainty for me about the wines longterm development. Of course that's what we are trying to get a handle on! Thankfully, nearly all the Pomerol's I tasted managed to avoid this trait. There's some lovely, fresh tasting wines to be had here & if priced well I'll be very happy to own one or two. I made my first visit to Ch Le Pin this year which was a huge privilege for me. This is a wine I'm lucky enough to have a small allocation to sell but It's not the sort of wine one can (afford to) open & taste in normal circumstances. This was a rare chance to confront it. They have a fantastic perfectly formed new winery (pictured) to create their tiny crop of 5 contiguous parcels into Le Pin This has ended the 'few barrels in a garage' days & added more precision to the whole affair. The 2012 is 100% Merlot from yields of 32hl/ha. It has a vivid colour & wonderfully expressive aromas of violets & cherries. I also picked fresh coffee & the wine had such an incredibly long finish. To slot in my visit, I had to lose my usual transport & get back into Bdx by blagged lift to the rocade & then tram. I sat on this still tasting the wine all the way back into town. They had a difficult spring in Pomerol but great weather all summer. The picking was a bit delayed by the rain but they seem very happy with the result & so was I. I don't have a lot to compare it to though as I haven't tasted the 100pt 09 & 10. I have tasted a fair amount of Vieux Chateau Certan though & can vouch this is another high quality VCC in 2012. It's different to the 2011 though, in that they used much less Cabernet Franc in the 12. It's 87% Merlot & very opulent & velvety for it. The touch of Cab Franc adds delicacy & complexity. Like other Ch, they have a problem comparing it to other vintages. The 2011 maybe like the 1988 but the 2012 is the 2012. If pushed they mention the 85. Whatever, it really is worth owning this wine if the release price is similar to last year about £5-£550 per 6. It's rare v top end Pomerol. Also La Conseillante was an amazing success. I bought the 2011 for my cellar thinking I might just be able to afford drinking it & I'd do the same with this no problem. It's perfectly balanced with that glossy sheen of juicy young Pomerol. It also assumes considerable complexity. It was nice to visit the Chateau for the first time too. If these Premiership Pomerols are out of your price range, then consider the Croix de Gay at some point. They were sensibly pouring their 2012 samples from decanter (not bottle) which gave a far wider view of it. Masses of fruit & it's a joyful wine. The difference is with the big boys is perhaps a touch of rusticity but I'm cool with that! La Pointe was a more tannic animal & I maybe would opt for Croix de Gay over it at this stage. Petit Village really stood out as a Chateau on the rise in quality. It doesn't always raise it's head but it really did this year. I wasn't totally convinced with the Clinet I tasted though...the nose seemed muted compared to the others on display. Gazin as well but I'm looking forward to another tasting in London soon of both these. I really must mention Ch L'Eglise Clinet & Denis Durantou's stable of tiny cuvees in Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol & St Emilion. The Ch L'Eglise Clinet itself was one of the purest wines I tasted all week. Denis never over eggs the extraction on any of his wines & the 2012 Grand Vin is 90% Merlot 10% Cab franc & poised to be a fantastic Claret for years to come. This guy makes superb wines that suit my pallet & I'm more than happy to recommend them. There's gentle sweetness, super length & sappy, supple, enticing fruit aromas & on the palate. It's creamy but not oaky. The second wine Petit Eglise is 100% merlot & very natural & fresh tasting. Berry compote. Les Cruzelles is richer with coffee aromas & La Chenade is not as complex but such a fun wine & always such a cheap price. I always buy his young vine St Emilion 'Saintayme' too every year & happy to continue that with the 12. There's only 2000 cases of it & I supply it to restaurants so I need to grab it EP to make sure of stock. There's not a huge need to buy it early otherwise but it's so cheap there's no risk attached.
But what of other St Emilions? Well as I said I felt many were unnecessarily over extracted, almost like they'd been made to a formula...ie- what they think RP will mark highly. He may not follow suit actually. I must say in fairness that this wasn't only happening in St Emilion. It is the worst offender thaough - It's obviously a temptation for them to do this. The ones I did like were more restrained & fresh tasting like the Pomerols. It's not the best vintage in the world & impossible to artificially make it so. I can be a very enjoyable drinking vintage though if treated as such. The St Emilions I liked included Ch Fleur Cardinale, Canon La Gaffeliere, Clos de L'Oratiore, Franc Mayne, La Gaffeliere. I also thought that Ch Figeac was on form & had bettered it's rivals like Beau Sejour Becot & Clos Fourtet. Wines like Pavie Macquin, Troplong Mondot & Grand Mayne, which I have loved in the past, I found a bit monster-esq at this stage. I just can't call them & I think I'll wait till they are in bottle & make my mind up. 2 years to wait for that but as I said, I'm going to taste many again from barrel over the next 2 months as well. I'm not adverse to wines that are bold & tannic at all...it just needs to balance out with fruit & sometimes that get's lost at EP tastings...fingers crossed not forever! Ch Angelus had made a great wine better than 11 I noted...purity & freshness again. Cheval Blanc is top drawer if you can afford it. All in all the right bank is the most successful side of Bdx 2012 but as always choose carefully. I'm more than happy to discuss my thoughts with you on any particular wine you are interest in...just email me?