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Bordeaux 2012: testing vintage looks better for whites and roses say producers

Bordeaux’s 2012 wines will express finesse rather than power after a year in which the weather tested winemakers' nerves to the limit, producers say.

In a better harvest for dry whites and rosés than for reds or dessert wines, widespread rain – most notably later in September – caused a host of problems including rot, mildew, poor flowering and inconsistent fruit set.

‘You remember some vintages with a sense of calm and tranquillity – they’re like a gentle, contemplative horseback ride through the woods,’ said Jean-Christophe Barron, technical manager at Château de Rouillac in Pessac-Léognan.

‘We’ll remember 2012 as the toughest three-day event or a round of show jumping at the Olympics, requiring concentration, timing, agility and poise.’

According to Christian Hostein, vineyard manager at Château Talbot in St-Julien, things started to go ‘very wrong’ in the second half of September, with significant rainfall meaning that rot ‘literally exploded’ in early October.

Nonetheless, he described the wines as ‘totally classic Bordeaux’.

Meanwhile, Ludovic David, technical manager at Château Marquis de Terme in Margaux, labelled the Merlot ‘beautifully ripe’ and Petit Verdot ‘very good’ – while acknowledging that the same could not be said for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Summing up, Philippe Dambrine, manager at Château Cantemerle, said: ‘The unusual power of recent vintages will probably give way to finesse this year, but the 2012 wines will certainly give pleasure in a few years’ time, just as the 2001s and 2004s are doing now.’

For Sauternes, yields were small and quality highly variable – reflected in the comments of Xavier Planty of Château Guiraud.

‘We harvested botrytised, concentrated grapes on only three days: 29, 30 and 31 October – before and after those dates it was ok, but there was really nothing very good,’ he said.

‘In 30 years of winemaking I have only experienced this three times: in 1992, 1993 and 1994.’

Written by Richard Woodard

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