Bordeaux 2012; the key to making ripe fruity wines this year

If the old adage is correct that the colour makes the wine, then 2012 should be a good vintage. The wines are very deep in colour with abundant black fruit aromas. They have reacted well to the post-fermentation period, being left peacefully on the skins at 30°C with just a gently wetting of the cap every other day. The wines have taken on the deep colour, aromatics and tannins, which remain soft and supple. Not everyone got it right this year though.

Merlot Grapes, St Emilion

The Key to making good wines in 2012

1. To keep the mildew under control during the year.

2. To harvest before the rains in the second half of October taking benefit of the sunny August and September. After that the grapes did not ripen in the rains, just surcombed more and more to botrytis (pretty much absent until then), and harvesting in the rain is not much fun and dilutes the juice even if you do a ‘saignée’. Many producers waited too long this year (on the advice of some oenologues – and once harvested late then advised to acidify!). In 2012 it helps if you grow Merlot grapes! There are many stories this year of producers having to thermovinify botrytised unripe Cabernets. If 2012 is labelled a Merlot right bank year, it means that the vintage is doomed as it is the Medoc that rules.

3. To do the remontage work early on before fermentation, that is before the alcohol extraction. Due to the rains at flowering the ripening was staggered so whichever moment you chose to harvest this year, it was a compromise (unless you are Ausone and harvest vine by vine, going through the vineyards several times to harvest rather like in Sauternes). It was important this not to extract the green elements in the skins.

The other winning activity in the chai this year was to do a delestage early on which enabled canny producers to remove the many pips, many of which were green and unripe.

So where are we now? The wine is made, rich juicy full of fruit. The ÏPT are relatively high and alcohol on average 13° (St Emilion Grand Cru). The wines vat by vat are being run off ‘ecoulage’. It is now we can tell the real yield per hectare. Notoriously down this year by 20 to 30% depending on the treatment in the vineyards and the degree of ‘eclairssisage’ performed.

The acidity increases considerably during the fermentation so the wines are difficult to taste. Now we wait for the malolactic fermentation to turn the malic acid to the three times softer malic acid and to be able to really appreciate the wines of 2012 for the first time – and then its the primeurs!

2 thoughts on “Bordeaux 2012; the key to making ripe fruity wines this year

  1. Hi Nicole: my sense from this is that it is a merlot/right bank vintage with perhaps a dash of Margaux and the southern Haut-Medoc (Cru Bourgeois like Cambon La Pelouse), but more difficult as one heads north into Cabernet-dominant country. Hence Paulliac and St Julien will not be able to hike prices back to 2009/10 levels, and there might be some value, and very high quality, in ‘less prestigious’ wines?

  2. Hi Mark, Good resumé but we will have to wait and see. Some Cabernet producers have used thermovinification but I dont think the top properties have gone this far. Dont forget that the best properties have the best terroir in Pauillac and St Julien, gravelled based and earlier ripening for the Cabernets, crucial this year. Technically this was a very difficult year with many important decisions to be made each day. The success will be down to the individual and you will find examples of very good wines this year, although more of a Merlot year I would say.

    So we will have to wait and see how each property tackled the problems.

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