Many of the 2012 Bordeaux have arrived and are in the stores now. The vintage was good in most respects and there are some bargains to be found, especially compared with the 2009s and 2010s.
While the season saw slow-ripening Cabernet, Merlot shines in many of these blends. Heavy rains plagued the Médoc, while some other appellations were left with slight rainfall and warmer weather. The setbacks were numerous, but overall, this vintage is well balanced and intense with fine tannins, some wines pulling high scores and stellar reviews.
Explore my picks for this vintage online or in select ABC locations.
Ampélia is the Castillon estate of François Despagne. Castillon is just east of St. Émilion and shares similarities with clay-limestone soil and a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is only 4.75 hectares on a high plateau. The wine is aged in 1/3 new barrels. The wine is deep purple in color with blueberry, blackberry and oak notes on a medium framework.
“The estate has turned out a dense ruby/purple-colored, full-bodied wine exhibiting notes of coffee bean, mocha, black currants, blackberries, charcoal and barbecue smoke. It represents another fine example of the talents of the ambitious, young Philippe Janoueix. Drink it over the next 10-15 years. This underrated 2.5-acre estate has fashioned a blend of nearly 95% Merlot and the balance Cabernet Franc that tips the scales at 13.8% natural alcohol. Yields were a low 30 hectoliters per hectare, and the property is on the Catusseau plateau near Le Pin, and slightly farther away, Vieux Chateau Certan. 91-93” Wine Advocate
“The 2012 exhibits a deep ruby/blue/purple color along with attractive notes of toast, minerals and dark berry fruit. Medium-bodied, soft, round and velvety-textured, it is another example of a wine that performs well above its humble pedigree. Drink it over the next 4-5 years. A consistent winner from the committed, energetic proprietor, Jean-Philippe Janoueix, the 2012 Croix Mouton is his lowest level wine. A blend of 94% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc that achieved 13.7% natural alcohol, it is a very good effort from a vineyard situated near Fronsac. 87-89” Wine Advocate
Owned by Angélus partner, Jean-Bernard Grenié, Château Daugay comprises 5.5 hectares of vines on clay/limestone soil. The blend is 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 6,600 vines per hectare. The vines average 35 years of age. The harvest is manual and vinification is done in temperature-controlled stainless steel for 3 to 4 weeks. Aging is done half in stainless steel and half in barriques. It’s one of the best bargains from this appellation with deep purple color, black fruit and spice notes on a medium structure.
“This wine often tends to be rustic and masculine, but the 2012 is civilized. Sweeter tannin, a softer, more expansive mouthfeel and abundant concentration have resulted in a sleeper of the vintage. The wine’s dark purple color is accompanied by lots of incense, blueberry, black raspberry and crushed rock-like notes. Drink this beauty over the next decade. 88-90” Wine Advocate
“This full-bodied beauty exhibits a dense opaque purple color in addition to copious notes of creme de cassis, kirsch, licorice and incense. It should drink well for 15-20 years. This will be a sleeper of the vintage. 92-95” Wine Advocate
“The dense purple-hued 2012 offers up notes of blueberries, lavender, incense, chocolate and toasty oak. The lovely aromatics are followed by deep, plush, medium to full-bodied, opulent, concentrated fruit flavors. Enjoy this beauty over the next 10-12 years. Under the helm of young, talented proprietor Jean-Philippe Janoueix, La Confession has grown to nearly 24 acres. The final blend for the 2012 La Confession is 76% Merlot and 24% Cabernet Franc that achieved 14.2% natural alcohol. The consultant here is Michel Rolland’s top lieutenant, Jean-Phillipe Fort. 91-93” Wine Advocate
“Features a solid core of anise and plum, with a briary frame and light tobacco shading that should emerge with time. Shows good substance and weight. 90-93” Wine Spectator
“Features a light-bodied, floral feel, with bergamot, red currant and bitter cherry at the core. Offers a subtle, perfumy, mineral-tinged finish. 87-90” Wine Spectator
“One of the better values in classified growth Bordeaux over many recent vintages has been La Tour Carnet, which proprietor Bernard Magrez has resurrected to a very high class performance. However, the 2012 La Tour Carnet did not impress me nearly as much as earlier vintages. This deep ruby/purple-hued effort reveals a certain austerity and astringent tannin despite the high Merlot content (about 66% with the rest mostly Cabernet Sauvignon). It is an earthy, angular, medium-bodied, slightly astringent effort. Certainly elevage in the cellars will soften this cuvee somewhat, but for now, it looks like it needs several years of cellaring. It should keep for 12-15 years. 86-88+” Wine Advocate
“A sleeper of the vintage, the dark ruby/purple-colored 2012 Fonbel offers up sweet aromas of mulberries, raspberries, forest floor and loamy soil. Medium-bodied with abundant fruit, glycerin and length, it should drink well for a decade. 87-89” Wine Advocate
“This is a major sleeper of the vintage. Dense ruby/purple-colored with an attractive aromatic and flavor profile of blueberries, cassis, chocolate, toast and mocha, this medium-bodied, 100% Merlot performs well above its pedigree. Drink it over the next 4-6 years. 88-90” Wine Advocate
“Dark and winey, with steeped currant, macerated plum and warm boysenberry coulis flavors, laced with licorice snap and roasted apple wood notes. The charcoal edge is buried on the finish, with a lingering minerality. Lots going on here. Needs time. Best from 2017 through 2027. 93” Wine Spectator
“Offers a solid, packed feel, with dense plum sauce, licorice and blackberry preserve flavors, pushed by ganache and graphite details. Despite the dense and fleshy feel, there’s serious purity here. A violet note mingles with a lightly chalky echo through the lengthy finish. A terrific effort for the vintage. Best from 2017 through 2027. 94” Wine Spectator
“Pure and racy, delivering a core of violet, cassis and cherry, well-framed by a sleek, iron-coated structure. Features a long, taut, focused finish. Shows the austerity of the vintage, but this remains long and pure, with fine cut. 91-94” Wine Spectator
“Offers plum, mixed berry and singed vanilla notes against a backdrop of anise and tar. Displays a sinewy edge on the finish, but the stuffing is there for development. 90-93” Wine Spectator
“The inky/purple-colored 2012 offers up scents of white chocolate, creme de cassis, acacia flowers, crushed rocks and forest floor. The tannins are surprisingly soft as the pH is about 3.7, which is slightly higher than the 2010’s 3.6. This dense, full-bodied wine is still somewhat monolithic, but it is loaded with concentration and power as well as a long finish. While not totally formed, all the component parts are present. The 2012 will not match the level of the 2009 and 2010, but it should stand out as one of the highlights of 2012. 92-94” Wine Advocate
“The savory tobacco and cassis notes race along, with a charcoal frame. A backdrop of kirsch fill this out, displaying a peppery hint on the lightly dusty finish. 91-94” Wine Spectator
“The 2012 Pape Clement is one of the stars of the vintage, which is not surprising given this estate’s performances over the last 10-15 years. A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc, it exhibits an opaque ruby/purple color along with a beautifully sweet, graphite-scented nose with hints of black currants, Asian plum sauce, soy and forest floor. Impressively built with medium to full-bodied flavors, it has more layers than many wines from this vintage, an appealing density and a velvety texture. 92-95” Wine Advocate
“Delivers black tea and singed vanilla aromas, with supple red currant and iron notes. A pleasant backdrop of cedar comes into focus on the sinewy finish. 90-93” Wine Spectator
“Layered fig, boysenberry and blackberry pâte de fruit notes are buttressed by ample, yet polished and integrated, ganache-coated tannins, while accents of black tea, ganache and tar course underneath. A really gorgeous display of fruit, showing terroir and cut on the finish. Best from 2018 through 2027. 94” Wine Spectator
“Features a supple core of plum and red currant fruit, with floral and rooibois tea notes. The finish delivers perfume, accented by a flicker of minerality. Dusty but persistent. 88-91” Wine Spectator
Brad Lewis, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits director of wine sales