Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2015

 Vintage 2012 Presented

Every year the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) wine estate proprietors or directors bring a recent vintage of their wines to the USA to present it for tasting to members of the wine trade and journalists.  I am always thrilled to attend the California segment of this event with so many wines presented all produced from the classic Bordeaux grape varieties coming from an area in southwest France rampant with history, and carpeted with the old chateaux wine estates, many with the stunning architecture of their day. Usually the vintage presented at this tasting is nearing three years of age. This year I attended the trade tasting on January 30 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

The UGC is an association founded in 1973 consisting of 133 wine estates of great reputation located in the region surrounding Bordeaux, in southwest France.  These wineries are known as Grands Crus Estates.  Most carry the title Château in front of their name.  The UGC members make, and are expected to make, wine of a very high quality.  This region is divided into several appellations in the department of Gironde.  These appellations, which have a certain amount of variation in climate and terrain, are Médoc, Haut-Médoc, St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien, Margaux, Moulis, Listrac, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, Barsac, Saint-Émilion, and Pomerol.

It is worth mentioning the characteristics and variation I noted among some of the UGC 2012 wines from the various AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Controlee). Bordeaux is a large area and the AOCs showed some expected variation.

Pessac-Léognan and Graves white wines
The very expressive white wines from Pessac-Léognan were among the best I have tasted from this AOC. Many displayed touches of delicacy and fine detailing along with exciting flavor profiles. Some demonstrated good complexity already. I will comment briefly on some of the AOCs.

Pessac-Léognan and Graves red wines
Pessac-Léognan’s red wines showed delicious, ripe fruit, along with depth and extract. Medium bodied with a slightly fruit forward style, sufficient acid levels balanced the fruit. Being slightly warmer than the Medoc benefited here.

Saint-Émilion possesses non-homogeneous terrain, and quality levels of wines there in 2012 would be expected to vary. However, much of the Merlot ripened and was harvested ahead of the October rains. The wines from Saint-Émilion that I tasted were quite approachable. Medium-heavy to medium-light in body, they exhibited ripe fruit and smooth tannin, some more supple and delicious, with others more rich, extracted, and intense. All had sufficient acid levels for freshness.

In a climatic chaotic season Pomerol delivered as well as any other AOC. The wines had their characteristic allure, size, and balance. The warmer location assisted the Merlot biased fruit to ripen before the rains in October.

In the wines that I tasted Pauillac delivered some of the structure, classic form, and intensity it is reputed for for. The high proportion of Cabernet still shown through, even in a year favoring Merlot. I found most quite agreeable.

Sauternes and Barsac
Sauternes and Barsac had their issues with weather, rain, harvest, and botrytis in 2012.  A few châteaux even declassified either their entire 2912 harvest or some of their 2012 wine.   But both soils and weather vary. The wines I tasted showed very well and I was quite pleased with them.  They may not be as full bodied and intense as in great years, but they should still give great pleasure drinking.  I found many of these wines were delicious and stylish.

Review of the 2012 wines

90, Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, 2012, Saint-Émilion
Plenty of racy ripe fruits with suppleness and smooth tannins in this wine. Red and black currants and blackberries greet the palate. Complimenting freshness is provided by the acid level and probably also by limestone in the Château’s soils.

90, Château Canon-La-Gaffelière, 2012, Saint-Émilion
Comte Stephan von Neipperg’s Château Canon La Gaffeliere in the south of Saint-Émilion is enjoying an elevation in the official St. Emilion Classification of 2012 to the class of Premier Grand Cru Classe B.  It is not difficult to understand why, largely due to the efforts von Neipperg has put in over the years after the family purchased the property in 1971. Lovely, ripe fruit is the hallmark of the Château’s 2012. Showing aromas of coffee and blueberries, this supple wine glides gently across the palate with a hint of savories. The light to medium bodied style belies the inherent richness and intensity within. A delicious effort!

89, Château La Tour Figeac, 2012, Saint-Émilion
Sweet fruit with a subtle touch is the centerpiece of this 2012 by La Tour Figeac. The wine is a ruby purple color with aromas of currants and spice box. Its features are quite consistent from the gracious opening, to a fleshy mid-palate, and to the lingering finish.

89, Château Troplong Mondot, 2012, Saint-Émilion
Pretty dark purple in color with violet hues. This medium bodied 2012 displays aromas of blackberries and mocha. Ripe sweet fruit fills the mid-palate on this elegantly styled wine, and time in bottle should make it even more attractive

91, Château Trottevieille, 2012, Saint-Émilion
This is the biggest and most intense of the Saint-Émilion wines I tasted today.  In a beautiful robe of dark purple it is bursting with rich, highly extracted, dark fruit. Cassis, blueberries, and black cherries fill the mouth in this fabulous, concentrated, and very full bodied wine.

88+, Château Villemaurin, 2012, Saint-Émilion
The opaque ruby/purple color is accompanied by aromas of blackberries and very ripe black plums.  The mid-palate is loaded with rich, intense fruit in this medium to full bodied, flavorful wine.  The acid level keeps this wine fresh and focused.

90, Château Gazin, 2012, Pomerol
This deep purple Pomerol displays enticing dark fruit aromas of plum and blackberry with just a hint of spice. The blend consists of a surprising 100% Merlot from Gazins’s vineyards that sit next to Petrus. Plenty of lush fruit in the mouth with black cherry and crème de cassis character notable. This well balanced wine has a pleasing light texture. Notes of complexity are just beginning to emerge from this full bodied wine. There is quite a bit of tannin in the wine, but the majority of it is concealed in the fruit. Several years of cellaring will tame the tannin and reward with increased complexities, especially in a wine so big and full of good things.

90, Château Clinet, 2012, Pomerol
Dark purple in color, in this 2012 the ripe fruit counterpoints the firm tannins and significant structure. Medium in body, the aromas display inviting blueberries, roasted coffee beans, and flowers. Just a bit more time in bottle is needed to soften the not insubstantial tannins and let complexities develop.



                                  Château Carbonnieux, by Château Carbonnieux

94, Château Carbonnieux blanc, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
This 2012 Carbonnieux is a unique and beautiful example of what is possible with a white wine. Very complex in character, this wine exhibits intriguing aromas of dry grass and a suggestion of petrol. A light, somewhat delicate frame carries the melon and citrus notes across the palate in this 30% Semillion sur-lie, spellbinding wine. The amazing complexity in this medium to light bodied blanc is enhanced just before bottling by blending many different vineyard plots with varying soil profiles. Outstanding effort by the Perins!

89, Château de Fieuzal blanc, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
The sur-lie technique employed by Château de Fieuzal helped produce an approachable, round wine. This medium/light bodied flavorful 2012 has a good balance of all components.

90, Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion blanc, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
Great purity of fruit fills the aroma with just a pleasant hint of oak. Very focused in character, the attractive melon fruit is wrapped in a mineral backdrop. A smooth and approachable blanc.

90, Château Olivier blanc, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
Pale gold in color, the makeup of this intriguing and unique white wine is 78% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sémillon, and 2% Muscadelle. This 2012 offers expressive aromas of wild flowers and ripe peach, with ripe yellow apple and a hint of tropical fruits on the palate. The acid level adds precision and freshness to the complexity and character.

90, Château Pape Clememt, blanc, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
Probably the oldest Bordeaux wine estate, Château Pape Clememt was originally planted in the 13th century by Bertrand de Goth, who became Pope in 1305, taking the name of Clément V.  Current proprietor Bernard Magrez can take pride in owing a vineyard where wine has been produced for over 700 years.  This medium-plus bodied, well balanced 2012 appears in medium gold with green hues.  The aroma holds hints of green apple and spice box, while the flavor profile is notably intense and intriguing and somewhat unique with white peach, apricot, and mineral qualities predominating.

88, Pessac-Léognan, Château Carbonnieux, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
Sweet red-black fruit with a supple character make this a very approachable and agreeable red wine. The light bodied style belie the Bordeaux grapes within.

89, Château de Fieuzal, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
Opens with sweet red and black fruit taking center stage. This medium bodied wine exhibits notes of red currants and black cherries with just the right intensity. Ripe tannin and definition are offered by this 2012.

90, Château Haut-Bailly, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
This 2012 is another fine effort by this Château! Quite sweet fruit opens the wine with fine grained, ripe tannins adding feel and structure. A characteristic of Haut-Bailly that continues in 2012 is the powdered snow texture providing an ethereal lift. Good balance with just discernable acid accentuating the sweet fruit contribute to this gorgeous wine.

90, Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
Ruby/purple in color, the wine opens with a bias of ripe red fruit.  The tannins are well managed and add a slight texture in this medium bodied wine.  In the mouth minerals compliment the red currants and spice.

91, Château Olivier, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
The substantial aroma of this pretty red-purple offering from Château Olivier displays sweet, ripe fruit with notes of blackberries and spices. Concentrated, rich, lush dark fruit follows on the palate. The notable structure of this wine derives from its 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, with its roundness coming from the 40% Merlot.  This 2012 displays great purity of fruit, especially in the aroma. The finish is lengthy, showing well managed tannins in this medium bodied wine.

 91, Château Pape Clememt, 2012, Pessac-Léognan
Deep ruby-purple in color, this Pape Clememt shows an aromatic nose with notes of violets, leather, spice, mineral, and light toasty oak. The intense palate exhibits rich, sweet fruit with notes of cassis and blackberries.  This highly focused, medium-bodied 2012 already displays significant complexity with a long, elegant finish.


92, Château d’ Armailhac, 2012, Pauillac
This dark ruby-purple full bodied 2012 opens with intense aromas of blueberries, lightly toasted oak, and espresso, followed by rich, opulent dark fruit showing notes of dark currants and sweet spices on the palate.  Despite its size and intensity, the wine exhibits a smooth texture and ripe, well managed tannins, as well as displaying good balance, and a long flavorful finish.  Impressive!  The composition of Armailhac‘s 2012 is 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.

90, Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, 2012, Pauillac
Dark red–purple in color, dark, sweet fruit with notes of cassis and coffee beans greets the palate.  This very approachable and delicious wine displays a fine texture featuring a mousse-like subtlety.  Ample but soft tannins show on a finish of some length.

91, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, 2012, Pauillac
This deep ruby colored wine has a complex flavor profile with notes of cassis mulberry intertwined within a nice viny character.  The not insignificant tannins are well managed in this sizeable and unique 2012, with the 76% Cabernet Sauvignon being apparent, while the 24% Merlot adds charm and elegance.  Balance and purity add to this wine’s attributes.

91, Château Lynch-Bages, 2012, Pauillac
The massive entry of black fruit is in line with the character of this estate’s past wines. Impenetrable black-purple in color, aromas are black currant, cedar, and lead pencil. Despite its size, it is quite complex and displays a light texture with a mousse-like nuance. The 2012 Lynch-Bages spent 18 months in 75% new oak, with the big contributor being 71 % Cabernet Sauvignon, and the remainder at 26 % Merlot, 2 % Cabernet Franc, and 1 % Petit Verdot.  The result is a balanced wine with substantial but well managed tannins, and a structure built to last.

93, Château Pichon Baron, 2012, Pauillac
Dark fruit and minerality permeate this very sizeable and complex wine. Deep purple in color and intense in character, this wine has extract and structure. Some time will be required to soften the tannins further, but definitely approachable now.

92, Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2012, Pauillac
Purple with ruby hues, this 2012 Pichon Longueville exhibits dark fruit with floral accents. Smooth in texture, this medium bodied Pauillac has precision and focus.  This is a well made wine with balance and an elegant character.


89, Phelan Ségur, 2012, St-Estèphe
This 2012 from Phelan Ségur is a big wine loaded with dark fruit and high extract. This dark purple, full bodied wine has good balance with dark berries and mineral on the palate. The tannins are approachable now but time in bottle will smooth them.

89, Château Ormes De Pez, 2012, St-Estèphe
This deep purple St-Estèphe is a fairly dense and extracted wine. The ripe fruit shows aromas of blackberries and currants, and the tannins are well managed. The blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot making up the remainder results in a well balanced and very pleasantly drinking 2012.


89, Château Clarke, 2012, Listrac-Médoc
Dark crimson in color, this medium to full bodied 2012 from Château Clarke’s clay-limestone soil displays red and black ripe fruit with a slightly restrained sweetness. This fits the overall character of this nicely proportioned, Merlot based wine. There is structure as well as a lingering finish on the entry.



                                     Château Cantemerle
Photo credit Vinexia.fr

90, Château Cantemerle, 2012, Haut-Médoc
Sweet, ripe fruit sets the tone in this deep ruby colored, medium bodied 2012.  This fruit has unmistakable substance, intensity, and structure to it. Black cherry and raspberry notes on the palate, good balance is evident along with an energy and elegance in this fine effort by Château Cantemerle.

89, Château Citran, Haut-Médoc, 2012, Haut-Médoc
This deep red 2012 displays well rounded fruit that is controlled but flavorful. The majority of the blend is notably 48% Merlot, with 44% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc making up the balance.  Aromas are of red and black fruit in this medium bodied wine.  The balance of components is good.

91, Château La Lagune, 2012, Haut-Médoc
Purple in color with ruby hues, the wine open with delicious aromas of blackberries and violets. This medium bodied, inviting and approachable effort from La Lagune possesses intensity, but also has elegance. The wine exhibits plentiful sweet and ripe dark fruit, which carries through to a lasting finish of finely textured tannins. A bit of the tasty Petit Verdot shows through which recently has been at the 10% level. A well made wine that is showing complexity already.


89, Château Labegorce, 2012, Margaux
A well made wine in the fruit forward style.  This purple and ruby-hued, medium bodied wine shows notes of black cherries, black currants, and spice.  Smoothly textured, the wine offers delicious ripe fruit with just enough freshness.

 Château Malescot-St-Exupéry, 2012, Margaux
Ruby with purple shades, this wine exhibits aromas of flowers, berries, currants, and earth.  This medium bodied wine shows a juicy character with good freshness.  There is a touch of elegance and the tannins are well managed.


90, Château Gloria, 2012, Saint-Julien
Bursting with pretty fruit, this ruby/purple St-Julien also has structure. The substantial tannins are apparent, but the focus always shifts back to the fruit. A nicely balanced and well made wine.

90, Léoville-Barton, 2012, Saint-Julien
This very dark purple, medium to full bodied wine shows quantities of highly extracted, dark fruit with a certain amount of richness. The fruit is accessible and flavorful from this producer who often produces quite big wines. Notes of currants, blackberries, and a hint of toasty oak predominate.   Tannins peek out on the finish, but fruit takes center stage. Cellaring a few years will only bring out more good things hidden within.

90, Château Branaire-Ducru, 2012, Saint-Julien
This deep ruby colored medium bodied St-Julien exhibits aromas of flowers and red cherries, and on the palate has notes of black cherry, raspberry, and spice. Showing well managed tannins and a pleasing finish, the blend of this wine is 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.

Sauternes and Barsac

87, Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2012. Light-medium gold in color, this medium bodied wine shows some harmony and good overall balance. Slightly understated at present, some bottle time should let complexity show itself.

90, Château LafauriePeyraguey, Sauternes, 2012
This light to medium gold sweetie is thick with notable viscosity.  The sweet fruits with notes of candied apricot immerse the palate with delicious flavor content.  The wine has good balance with sufficient acidity and a persisting finish.

90, Château de Rayne Vigneau, 2012, Sauternes
Medium-light gold in color, this medium bodied wine opens with aromas of over ripe tropical fruits, lemon, and flower blossoms. The viscosity is quite high in this full bodied, thickly textured sticky, and the acid level is there providing balance to the sweetness.

92, 2012, Château La Tour Blanche, Sauternes
This pale gold wine opens with very refined aromas of kiwi, honey, and white flowers. Shows an exceptionally viscous texture with its touch nearly resembling a thick mousse. Exhibits a complex, intertwined flavor profile with orange marmalade and mango predominating. This is a well balanced sticky with freshness and complexity.

91, Château  Climens, 2012, Sauternes
Exquisite aromas packed with precise fruit and notes of honey, candied lemon rind, and a mineral nuance.  Sweet fruit on the palate, yet nicely disciplined in style.  Acid levels balance well with the ripe fruit in this medium bodied sticky.

92, Château  Coutet, 2012, Barsac
Yet another example of the superb balance that Coutet typically shows. This medium-light gold wine exhibits sweet fruit with just the right acid for fine freshness. Aromas of sliced white peach, clover honey, and orange peel. The mineral nuance adds to the precision and elegant bearing of this lovely sticky. A lingering finish.

90, Château Doisy Daene, 2012, Sauternes, Barsac
This light golden Barsac is rich and viscous almost to the point of syrup.    Very deliciously sweet with honey, mango, candied orange, and a spicy nuance on the palate.  A trace of acidity provides a fresh balance, while the finish is long and full.

 89, Château  Guiraud, 2012, Sauternes
This light gold, medium bodied Sauternes is surprisingly viscous with a characteristic that reminds of a mousse. The aroma is a bit closed in, but nice purity of ripe sweet fruit is apparent. Note that Guiraud’s vineyards contain well above average plantings of Sauvignon Blanc.

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