Bordeaux En Primeur always reminds me of waiting on football results – no matter how much you like or dislike it Robert Parker’s scores on each vintage have an effect on the positioning of each wine in the market. Winners and losers are revealed at the stroke of a pen, or in this instance by the frenzied pressing of the ‘refresh’ button by chateau owners, wine makers, wine merchants and wine enthusiasts to see what score the wine has achieved on erobertparker.com. Much has been written on whether one critic should have so much influence but the fact remains that he does. His scores are useful as a rule of thumb if your palate matches his and are mandatory if you invest in wine.
In looking at the new Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classés there are a few that have benefitted from good Parker scores and a few that have missed out – simply because he apparently didn’t taste them. I must admit I find it frustrating that some have been passed by as 2012 was unusual because unlike previous years in which some chateaux rise and fall within the ranks of the Saint Emilion Classification, 2012 saw several chateaux jump straight into the brand new Classification from nowhere. The Saint Emilion Classification differs from the 1855 Classification as it is reviewed every 10 years and being promoted to the rank of Grand Cru Classé (or above) is a mjaor milestone for the chateaux (think of it as similar to winning the World Cup or getting an Oscar).
The 2012 Saint Emilion Classification saw Chateaux Valandraud and La Mondotte gain First Growth (Premier Grand Cru Classé B) status and Chateaux Barde Haut, Clos de Sarpe, Faugères, de Ferrand, Fombrauge, La Commanderie, La Fleur Morange, Péby Faugères, de Pressac Quinault l’Enclos and Rochebelle gain the rank of Grand Cru Classé. None of these chateaux have been included in the Classification before so this is their very first time. We should start to see these first timers begin to acquire more ‘air time’ within the wine trade as their new status starts to attract global attention – they certainly deserve it.
I was delighted to see that Chateau La Fleur Morange was scored La Fleur Morange 92 – 94+ points by Parker as this wine (as regular readers will know) is a favourite of mine. Parker’s tasting note is as follows:
This sensational effort exhibits an inky/blue/purple color as well as a sumptuous bouquet of blueberry jam, creme de cassis, incense and camphor as well as a touch of background oak (the wine is aged in 100% new French barrels). Full-bodied and long with ripe tannin, this impressive 2012 should drink well for 15+ years.
Incidentally if you are interested in acquiring this estate’s wines please contact me as Interest In Wine has allocations.
Chateau Clos de Sarpe also faired very well indeed with 92 – 94+ points:
It possesses supple tannins (unusual for this property) as well as a super opaque purple color, and an unctuousness and thickness that are normal for Clos de Sarpe (I have often accused this estate of making wines for those with 19th century tastes). It is undeniably rich and massively extracted, but not the least bit bitter or astringent. The tannins are surprisingly civilized and supple by the standards of Monsieur Beyney. This is a unique, original style of St.-Emilion that may not be for everybody, but it is of very high quality as well as exceptionally long-lived. It should last for 20-25 years.
Chateau Barde Haut attained 90 – 93 points:
The 2012 offers up a beautifully fragrant nose of mocha, coffee beans, black cherries, black currants, spring flowers and forest floor. The complex aromatics are followed by a medium to full-bodied St.-Emilion with beautiful density and purity as well as a touch of toasty oak. Barde-Haut has been an over-achiever since the Garcin-Leveque family acquired it. Bravo! Drink the 2012 over the next 12-15 years.
Chateau de Ferrand gained a score of 90 – 92:
A sleeper of the vintage, this deep ruby/purple-hued 2012 possesses lots of sweet black cherry/kirsch liqueur, lead pencil shavings, spring flowers and crushed rock-like characteristics. Dense and medium to full-bodied with soft tannins, it can be drunk over the next 10-12 years.
After years of unimpressive performances, this property has come under the consulting umbrella of Hubert de Bouard and – voila – we have a 2012 that takes us back to Ferrand’s glory years of the early to mid-eighties. It is owned by members of the Chandon family (who also owns the “little” champagne house of Moet-Chandon) as well as the family of Baron Biche, of the famous Bic ballpoint pen empire.
Chateau Fombrauge 87 – 89 points. Owned by Bernard Magrez (a wine magnate who owns around 40 chateaux, including Pape Clement) who has worked hard to achieve Grand Cru Classé status for this estate:
A note of spicy, smoky oak intermixed with kirsch liqueur, vanillin and earth emerges from this medium-bodied effort. It exhibits a gritty tannin, but there is a nice fleshiness and hedonistic appeal to this 2012. Drink it over the next decade.
Chateau de Pressac 87 – 89 points:
Jean-Francois Quenin is working feverishly to bring this spectacularly beautiful chateau high on a hill overlooking St.-Emilion back to life. The final blend of 69% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Malbec and Carmenere has resulted in a deep ruby/purple-colored 2012 with notes of damp earth and blue fruits as well as a certain austerity found in many 2012s. The lack of a convincing follow through in the finish seems to confirm that. Nevertheless, this is a very good, possibly excellent wine.
Chateau Quinault l’Enclos 87 – 89 points. Purchased by Bernard Arnault, head of LVMH, and his associate Albert Frère who also own Saint Emilion First Growth (Classé A) Cheval Blanc and Sauternes First Growth d’Yquem :
The wine reveals a bright, flowery, berry fruitiness with hints of roasted herbs, damp earth, raspberries and cherries. Surprisingly, the alcohol hit 14% in this medium-bodied blend of 80% Merlot and the rest mostly Cabernet Franc. Yields were extremely tiny, only 23 hectoliters per hectare because of the poor flowering in spring. This offering may put on a little weight as its mid-palate needs to fill out, but it is an elegant, attractive example of Quinault. It will require consumption during its first 10-12 years of life.
There are no Parker scores or tasting notes for the 2012 Chateaux Faugeres, Peby Faugeres, La Commanderie and Rochebelle which is a shame. I don’t know whether the scores are yet to be published or whether Parker simply missed out on tasting the wines in barrel – he has tasted previous vintages of each chateaux before.
Chateaux Faugeres and Peby Faugeres are owned by Silvio Denz – a perfume designer, lover of fine wines, owner of the Lalique crystal company and of two wine merchants in Zurich, as well as Switzerland’s largest wine auctioneers. Denz also owns Chateau Cap de Faugeres in the Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux and Chateau de Chambrun in Pomerol. The Faugeres estates have been hailed as up and coming stars by Parker in the past and are well worth seeking out.
Chateau La Commanderie traces its origins back to the 13th century when its vineyards were owned by the monastic Knights of St.John of Jerusalem (Hospitalliers). Owned by the Decoster family in 2004 (who also own Clos des Jacobins, a Grand Cru Classé since 1955 also in Saint Emilion). Hubert de Bouard of newly promoted First Growth (Classé A) Chateau Angelus is wine making consultant at both properties. As Parker has pointed out previously with de Bouard at the helm and with the investment and renovations the Decosters have implemented in the vineyard and chai this estate is making better and better wine.
Chateau Rochebelle has been owned by the Faniest family since 1847 and is adjacent to the First Growths (Classés B) La Mondotte (newly promoted) and Troplong Mondot. Rochebelle’s name refers to the 18th century limestone quarries and monolithic caves dug out by the current oenologists (Philippe Faniest and his daughter Emily) great grandfather. Rochebelle has been steadily ramping up the quality of their wines for some time now, despite remaining under the radar. Rochebelle won the coveted La Coupe des Grands Crus in 2001 and their wines are an insider’s choice, being definitely ones to look out for.