Best 2012 Pessac-Leognan

9 April 2013
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee


If I could strongly recommend two appellations to buy in 2012, Pessac-Leognan would be one of the two – the other is Pomerol. After tasting nearly 60 wines from this appellation, I am very impressed with the quality of the wines and the consistency across the board. Perhaps it is due to the gravelly soils that were able to withstand the drought conditions during the summer months, or the mesoclimate that created unique conditions for the grapes to ripen. Many properties, not just First Growth Chateau Haut-Brion, made terrific wine.


Both the whites and reds are made in the classic vein – moderate alcohol levels around 13% (except at Haut-Brion where it was higher) with freshness, focused, vibrant flavours and restraint. There is no hint of over-ripeness anywhere. The gravel soils that often impart the cigar box or earthiness in the reds and lovely minerality in the whites can be found in this vintage. Below are my favourite top 10 red wines from this region:


1. 2012 Chateau Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Haut-Brion 2012 marked one of the highest levels of Merlot content in the past 20 years with 66% in the blend. There is more structure in Haut-Brion than in La Mission this year with plush, firm tannins, good concentration and depth. Very long finish. According to the technical analysis, the numbers for both wines, La Mission and Haut-Brion in 2012 are the same, but Haut-Brion stands out with greater complexity and depth. 14.9% alcohol, higher than most in this challenging vintage.(96)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$532 / HK$4,148
2. 2012 Chateau Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Firm tannins with delicate flavours that are a bit shy at the moment. Hint of violets and plums on the nose. It is on the palate that this wine shines – tightly knit, medium weight red with an amazing density combined with freshness and finesse. The tannins are ripe and generous and there is good concentration in the mid-palate and finish. Always a discrete wine, in this vintage, Haut-Bailly really stands out by combining restraint, intensity and complexity. (94)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$80 / HK$619
3. 2012 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Lovely perfume with cedar, earth, tobacco leaves and black currants. This vintage is structured and tannic with Merlot consisting of 62% of the blend. The firm tannins and freshness will allow this vintage to evolve and age beautifully and this beauty needs time – the flavours are closed and not expressive on the palate despite its attractive nose. Tasted alongside Haut-Brion, La Mission was lacking in flesh, generosity and depth despite being fairly full bodied with 15% alcohol. (92)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$323 / HK$2,515
4. 2012 Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
A polished, supple red with velvety tannins and a wonderful array of flavours – plums, blackberries and sweet spices. There is good depth here with tannins that are round, supple and ripe. Not one of Domaine de Chevalier’s best vintages, but there is plenty of approachable flavours here to enjoy over the next 8-12 years. (91)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$46 / HK$357
5. 2012 Chateau Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
This red wine is elegant with lovely plum and blackberry fruit. It has nice balance and depth with fresh acidity. In this vintage, Latour-Martillac has made an approachable and friendly wine with firm, ripe tannins, good balance and fairly long length. (90)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$29 / HK$226
6. 2012 Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
This property continues to be very consistent, making very good wine even in challenging vintages. There is density as well as ripeness in this wonderful red from Pessac-Leognan. Excellent concentration and depth in this wine with black fruits, hint of cocoa and plenty of freshness and lift. Fairly long length with good potential to age – it will cellar easily for a decade or more. (90-92)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$38 / HK$298
7. 2012 Chateau Carbonnieux, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Balanced, very approachable red with good depth. The wine offers nice mid-palate weight and notes of cedar, cassis and black tea leaves. Well-made and fairly long in the finish with potential to age for at least a decade or more. (89-91)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$28 / HK$214
8. 2012 Chateau Pape Clement, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Juicy red with lush blackberry fruit and elegant profile. Pape Clement seems to be moving away from their former chunky, thick and oaky style. Well-balanced with a touch of restraint compared with previous years. This red offers good balance; the style is obviously turning towards more natural, elegant flavours showing its bones rather than makeup or flesh. Balanced and approachable. (89)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$87 / HK$679
9. 2012 Chateau de Fieuzal, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Balanced, supple red with velvety tannins. This is a full-bodied and generous wine with ripe flavours that are surprising given the vintage conditions. Well managed tannins with flavours that are dense and fairly generous – plums, blackberries and Chinese red dates. (88-90)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$35 / HK$274
10. 2012 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Soft, succulent red with firm tannins and an array of spicy, dark berry fruit flavours. Well composed red that is balanced and charming in this challenging vintage. Good depth and fairly long length. (88-90)
Average Retail Price for 2011: US$67 / HK$524