Today we will visit Château Petit-Village where I tasted all the lots of Château Petit-Village 2012 with Daniel LLose, and then Château Pichon-Longueville where I will be tasting with Jean-René Matignon. We left the camera running in both cases and have edited it down to a few interesting tasting moments.
The wines at this stage have finished their fermentation, some have finished maceration, and the rest will do so soon. Malolactic fermentation is beginning both at Château Petit-Village and at Château Pichon-Longueville.
My impression of the overall quality is that it is extremely good. I am of course aware that certain opinions have already been formed about this vintage, particularly by people from Northern Europe who had a very disappointing summer and assume that therefore the wines are unlikely to be good in Bordeaux this year. However, that is why we grow the grapes here and not in Northern Europe. Although we did indeed have a fairly cool start to the summer, with a lot of rain in the period May-June-July, August was in fact very sunny and warm here, in fact one of the best Augusts we have had for a while, and September weather was also very good. Overall yields are low, principally because of conditions in the early summer, so we had the combination of fine weather in August and September, low potential yields in the vineyard, and good reserves of water in the soil. All these factors were important in determining the final quality.
The Merlots are spectacularly good this year both at Château Petit-Village and at Château Pichon-Longueville. Our feeling is that there are several parcels at both properties that produced their best Merlots ever this year. August was actually quite hot here, which can occasionally cause problems for Merlot, but because of the good reserves of water in the soil, the grapes did not suffer from any hydric stress, and the result is a wine with lovely balance and freshness, great depth and in some cases a delicious spicy quality. At Château Petit-Village, where of course Merlot makes up the majority of the blend, I think we have some of the best wines we have ever had, and at Château Pichon-Longueville where Merlot plays a supporting, but important role, they are also unusually good.
Cabernets were always likely to be the most challenging this year. Even though we had a very good August and September, the early part of summer was cool, and it is probably fair to say that we might have liked to be able to wait just a few more days to harvest the Cabernets in order to give them their full plenitude of ripeness. If that had been possible we would have had a wine of the calibre of 2010 on our hands. However, threatening weather obliged us to harvest just a little bit earlier. Nevertheless the result is very good indeed. Yields were very low in the old vine grand terroir of Château Pichon-Longueville (between 20 and 30 hectolitres per hectare), and this enabled us to achieve maximum possible ripeness from the sunshine we did get in August and September. I love the style of these Cabernets: although they have strong tannins, there is a lovely delicate fresh and fine quality to them.
I think we will have a lot of fun during blending, and the en-primeurs tastings could be very agreeably surprising for anyone who has a preconceived idea of what this lovely vintage is going to be like.