Best 2012 Saint-Estephe

18 April 2013
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee


Saint-Estephe is among the least consistent appellations from Bordeaux. Out of the 30 wines I tasted from this region, about one-third were unbalanced, tannic or dilute and showing the worst aspects of this difficult vintage. For most wines I rated low, I tried to taste another sample to get a better picture and to give the wine a fair chance. Even so, there were a handful of wines that left my mouth puckering and my head filled with images of green unripe tannins and fruit.


However, chateaux like Calon-Segur, Montrose and Cos d’Estournel were gentle with their extraction and made elegant, balanced wines with both freshness and generous, fine tannins. In this vintage where maturing the grapes evenly and fully was a constant concern, it was easy to take the wrong winemaking turn. Extended maceration and aggressive extraction methods could result in tannins that were sometimes not ripe leaving behind excessive extract and potentially, undesirable flavours.


At Cos d’Estournel where the wines were gentle and delicate, Aymeric de Gironde says their gravity-operated winery, which is very gentle to the grapes, was very useful for this year’s small, thick-skinned berries. Laurent Savovitch-Vuk, winemaker at Montrose, considered this an ‘excellent year’ for them. The quality of the wines at the top end are high. Those who did well at Saint-Estephe this year will not be a surprise – great terroir and mature vines under the right hands resulted in very good wines with aging potential of at least a decade or more.


1. 2012 Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France Fresh blackberries, juicy blueberries, lead pencil and exotic spice flavours. Vibrant, ripe flavours that are fairly intense with firm tannins and velvety texture. Well-made, polished with fairly long finish. This is a classic rather than modern expressions of Cos which was prevalent over the past decade. Wonderful freshness and a reasonable 13.7% alcohol. (91-93)


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Average Retail for 2011: US$157/HK$1,215


2. 2012 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France Great density and depth in this serious Montrose made from small berries. There is 37% Merlot in this vintage, about 3% more than average. The wine has good structure, plushness and density with lovely tannin profile and long finish. A successful wine for Montrose with potential to age and evolve over the next 20 years. (90-93) Average Retail for 2011: US$108/HK$834


3. 2012 Chateau Calon-Segur, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France A well-made Calon-Segur with good density and depth. Flavours are generous and range from plums and blackberry fruits to violets. Good depth, plush texture and nice length. Excellent potential to age. (90-92) Average Retail for 2011: US$65/HK$500


4. 2012 Chateau de Pez, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France This is one of a handful of Saint-Estephe reds with a light touch and gentle extraction. The tannins are not tough but supple and round with freshness and lifted mixed berry fruits. Beautifully composed and balanced with good length. (88-90) Average Retail for 2010: US$48/HK$369


5. 2012 Chateau Capbern Gasqueton, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France Well-made Saint-Estephe red where extraction was soft and the tannins firm but ripe. Nice vibrancy and depth here with balance and freshness. Good finish. (88-89) Average Retail for 2011: US$17/HK$131


6. 2012 Chaetau Les Ormes-de-Pez, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France Tannic, concentrated red with full body and classic Saint-Estephe profile and tannins. Nice flavours in the background with good intensity and finish. There is certainly potential here for the wine to evolve over the next 6-10 years. (86-89) Average Retail for 2011: US$29/HK$226


7. 2012 Chateau Cos d’Estournel – Goulee, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France Great density and depth in this vibrant Goulee with freshness and good length. Vineyard is located in the northern part of the Medoc, about 25 km from St Estephe/Cos d’Estournel. 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot in this vintage. Vines are now 30-35 years old. A fair amount of density that is well balanced with tannins and 13.3% alcohol. This is the 10th vintage of Goulee. (87-88) Average Retail for 2011: US$23/HK$178


8. 2012 Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France Well-made Lafon-Rochet with velvety, firm tannins, plums and cherries with good balance and elegance in this challenging vintage. Good finish. Ready to enjoy fairly young. (87-88) Average Retail for 2011: US$37/HK$286


9. 2012 Chateau Cos d’Estournel – Les Pagodes de Cos, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France Velvety texture with lovely freshness and light body with hint of plums and cassis. Mostly Cabernet in this blend with 60% while 40% is Merlot. Elegant, light with good balance and freshness. Light, focused wine with good balance – an elegant style. Half Cos’ crop in 2012 went towards making this Les Pagodes. (86-88)Average Retail for 2011: US$45/HK$345


10. 2012 Chateau Phelan Segur, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France Well managed tannins with softness and elegance. Plums, red currant and cherries on the palate. Approachable, drinkable early and the wine follows the vintage which is not a concentrated nor hot year. (86-87) Average Retail for 2011: US$35/HK$274