2012 Chateau Haut Brion Pessac-Leognan (Pre-Arrival)

2012 Chateau Haut Brion Pessac-Leognan (Pre-Arrival)

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Bordeaux 2012

2012 Bordeaux — Another Variable Year

After the difficult conditions of 2011, the Bordelaise were looking forward to a much easier year — but alas, it wasn’t in the cards. 2012 started with a cold winter, with the coldest February since 1956 followed by a wet, cool spring. April rains raised the risk of mildew and caused an uneven, late flowering and fruit set that would have consequences on yield and push harvest dates back. The wet, cool spring was followed by a July that was average, and hopes were raised a bit that the small crop might see a decent second act. But it was not to be — torrid heat in August (with several days over 100℉, and even one report of 107°) caused stress on the vines, but dry conditions through mid-September favored the dry whites. In 2011, most reds were in by the end of September, but in 2012, the red harvest was just getting started.

October began with warm days and cool nights, good for the early-ripening Merlot, which is the star of the vintage. But once again hopes were dashed when rains came in the second week of October, creating humid conditions and the risk of rot. In these conditions, many were forced to pick regardless of maturity, with later-ripening Cabernet and the Left Bank wines of the Médoc suffering as a result.

Overall, a vintage of good quality, with some very good wines made where hard work was done in the vineyard. It’s a vintage that favored early-ripening Merlot, and the Right Bank regions of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion. Graves and Pessac-Léognan, typically a little warmer than the Médoc, also fared relatively well, as the Cabernet got riper before the October rains. Generally, this is not a vintage for the long term. It was possible to make some very good wines, but making crucial decisions and hard work in the vineyards was key to successful ripening.

Dry whites are fresh and clean and very good to excellent, but sweet wines suffered because of the late October rains, and some declassified their entire harvest.

Key Dates

February
Coldest since 1956

April
Cool, wet, well above average rainfall

April
Bud break began late, during the first 10 days in April

May
Drier than average May

June
Rain in June caused a prolonged, uneven flowering. Mid fleuraison on June 12th was 10 days later than 1999-2009

July
Dry, sunny

August
Heat waves with temperatures well over 100℉

September
Harvest Starts for whites

September
Harvest starts for Reds (in 2011, most reds were harvested by end of September)

September
Merlot harvest begins, picks up steam in early October to get in before rains arrive

September
Autumn conditions set in, and weather turned wetter

October
Cooler wetter weather continued, Cabernet harvest starts on the 8th, with a rush to pick before the rains, most completing by the 18th. Another week of sunny dry weather would have made all the difference in the ripeness of the Cabernet grapes

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