A First Look at 2012 Right Bank Bordeaux

“It’s not an exceptional vintage but it’s a good vintage. It’s not effortless, as in 2009 and 2010, but then you can’t ask vines to produce the top level possible every year.” -Alain Raynaud, president of the Cercle Rive Droite

The initial reactions from those who attended the en primeur Cercle Rive Droite tasting in London were rightfully cautious. Tasting any barrel sample to assess the quality and trajectory of a wine is a tricky feat. Tasting Bordeaux blends that have barely just finished malolactic fermentation and have recently been introduced to heavy treatments of new oak can be borderline useless and beyond the capability of all but the most experienced. Cercle Rive Droite takes it one step further into the realm of the quasi-useless by presenting a group of Right-Bank wines that is generally considered “highly selective and unrepresentative.” Notes and impressions resulting from such an event should never be taken as gospel, however, what is without doubt a truth is the difficulty of the vintage in France.

“The 2012 growing season is notorious, especially in France and England, for the appalling weather at the beginning of the summer, with hailstorms in April, rain for most of June, followed by a heatwave in the third week of August in which temperatures in Bordeaux reached 42C, causing vines to shut down and fruit to burn, and then more rain at harvest. Winemakers present at the tasting said that it was a vintage that required great attention to detail, in the vineyard and the winery. Grapes tended to have thin skins requiring much more extraction for tannins and colour.”

Full Article: http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/583734/bordeaux-2012-mixed-verdict-on-first-look-at-right-bank



Bordeaux Boycott

Following on the re-release last week of 1995 Latour and 2005 Forts de Latour and my resulting sarcastic post, is the move by negociant Millesima to refuse future allocations from Chateau Latour and in effect boycott the brand:

“We strongly believe that en primeur is an excellent opportunity to get your wine brand in to the public consciousness and to raise its value. We believe what Latour is doing undermines the whole system, and that a chateau that doesn’t sell en primeur does not respect how Bordeaux works… Much of our turnover is dependent on the system of futures selling – that is how top growth Bordeaux operates, and when one party decides to retain almost all the profit, clearly something is not working.” -Patrick Bernard, Millesima Owner

While I find Latour “double-selling” each vintage, starting with 1995 and going forward, to be somewhat less than charitable to the consumer, their stated intent is hard to fault:  

“Assuring the provenance of the wine is our key intention… A wine that has been stored in the chateau will always taste better in the glass than one that has been round the globe three times. This is one of the key assurances that we want to be able to make to our clients.” -Jean Garandeau, Comercial Director at Latour

This is a contest for public opinion between two rich men representing two very profitable brands. Latour is at once threatening the core values of the establishment in Bordeaux while simultaneously grabbing for more money, which is so uniquely Bordelais. I can picture Mr. Bernard sitting on a pile of money and cursing Latour while imagining his future en primeur profits, once so dependably punctual, shrinking; it must be maddening.

Full Decanter Article:



Latour Vintage Re-Release

After 2011 Latour left the en primeur trade in order to release “ready to drink” wine with perfect provenance. Was anyone wondering how they would make money until they caught up to a ready to drink 2012 vintage? The answer is remarkably simple, tap into prodigious stores of back vintages and re-release wines that have already been sold en primeur. The first item up for re-release is the 1995 which was originally released en primeur in 1996 for 737gbp per case. Apparently perfect provenance is worth 4,238gbp. This is the first salvo in the “double sale” era of Latour and contrary to the new way of doing things it feels very much like business as usual in Bordeaux.



“New breakaway sparkling wine appellation to rival Cava”

In an effort led by an MFW favorite and leading Penedes producer, Raventos I Blanc, the D.O. framework for a new sparkling wine appellation called Conca del Riu Anoia has been proposed. Debate is ongoing as to whether quitting one appellation to start another is an act of cowardice, read and decide for yourself…