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Le Cercle Rive Droite 2012 NYC


Le Cercle Rive Droite
2012 Vintage Bordeaux Barrel Tasting
New York, NY

“From Barrel to Bottle”

     Tasting newly vinified wine from barrel as it is maturing is better understood when tasting multiple samples of similar cepage from the same vintage.  Experience however, is the most valuable asset to understanding a young barrel sample of wine.  I know this may sound obvious, but the second part, as well as good note taking and a good memory, are crucial to understanding how a young wine will be as it matures into wine in bottle.  Experience or not, if you have ever tasted wine from barrel, you may understand that for the majority of us it is a very difficult task to ascertain the quality of the wine at that point.  For a barrel sample if the wine is very fruity, easy to drink and overall evolved at 6-8 months it is easy to say you like it, but that is not necessarily a great sign for a young wine.  At the other spectrum, if a wine is too tannic, too tight, too acidic it is a lot harder to evaluate the other parts of the wine that hint at what greatness may lie ahead in that wines future. 

     Recently I was lucky enough to experience my second Bordeaux vintage from barrel recently at a tasting event in Manhattan hosted by Le Cercle Rive Droite.  Approximately 30 Chateau from the Right Bank of Bordeaux offered up the most recent vintage of their wines as well as their 2009 or 2010 vintage wines from bottle.  Not surprisingly the wines were great in most cases from the heralded 2009 and 2010 vintages, while the barrel samples varied in aromas, textures and flavors quite drastically.  From my novice standing, I sensed the barrel tastings were on point from what I had already read from the professionals that attended en Primeur in Bordeaux two weeks prior, quality is varied across the board.  Granted this tasting had no Medoc or Pessac-Leognan/Graves wines, these right bank wines seemed to fall in line with their typical hierarchy with noticeable variations in quality within each village/region.  Overall there were some standouts from all of the different regions: Fleur Cardinale from Saint-Emilion, Dalem and la Dauphine from Fronsac, Clocher and Vray Croix de Gay from Pomerol, Magrez Fombrauge, Fombrauge, and Le Prieure from Saint-Emilion, Siaurac from Lalande de Pomerol, and La Rose Perriere from Lussac Saint-Emilion.

     Red Bordeaux wine is almost always a blend of the allowed 6 red grapes, with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot being the anchor varietal of virtually all red wines made in Bordeaux.  In the end, the consensus is 2012 is an average vintage with a few above average villages where Merlot was the main component of the red wines.  The reason that Merlot was the most successful red grape varietal harvested is that Merlot ripens earlier that its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon.    This allowed Merlot to be picked at better ripeness before a very large tropical storm hit in early to mid October.   Many Cabernet Sauvignon were still on vine in the storm and thus had to stay on vine to dry out and finish ripening.  In many vineyards neither of those two things happened to the extent desired if at all.  It was harder to notice this about the Cabernet Sauvignon at this tasting as the Chateau that are members of Le Cercle Rive Droite are all from the right bank where Merlot is the dominant grape varietal and for the most part were picked before the storm.

Standout wines from 2012, 2009, and 2010:

Fleur Cardinale, Saint-Emilion
70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
2012: The nose is rather pure in that it is balanced with fruit, minerality and a touch of oak.  Ripe red fruits, but not over the top, pure medium to full body palate, with silky tannins, decent acids and a long fruit filled finish.  I would expect this to be very much on par with the last few vintages, if barely a step behind if this evolves as it should in bottle
2009:  Awesome, outstanding, balanced through and through.  The nose wafts cherry and currants with a touch of tar and flowers.  The attack starts with ripe black cherries, currants, and builds depth and complexity as it fans out over the palate into a long, silky finish.  Not nearly ready to go, but quite enjoyable now.

Dominique Decoster of Grand Cru Classe Chateau Fleur Cardinale 


Magrez Fombrauge,  Saint-Emilion
80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc
Magrez Fombrauge is made exclusively from an old parcel of vines at Chateau Fombrauge that average 70 years old and is only 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres).  Alix Combes, the Vineyard Manager at Chateau Fombrauge and I spoke a lot and we talked about the vineyards terroir and how this little patch of vines has the right combination of soil and age to produce a special and limited bottling.  The character was similar in the regular Fombrauge bottling but it lacked the same intensity, nerve and complexity of the Magrez bottling.  I learned a lot about this vineyard and of the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages from Alix.  Beyond the obvious with those vintages, 2011 is being compared to 2012 a lot and is too much of a generalization.   In 2011 Alix think the wines are more like 2004 2012 is more like 2006, which to me puts 2012 in front of 2011 for this property..
2012:  I liked this one, it was easy to taste as it was quite an evolved barrel sample, which is very much different than 2010 from talking to Alix.  Is that a good thing, I am not sure (see above in paragraph 1 about experience).  The palate is full bodied, ripe, with black cherry, creme d’cassis, licorice and well integrated oak.
2010: The limestone terroir really comes through in this wine as the structure really shows in this wine as it is very muscular in ripe tannins and full bodied in texture.  This is a nicely balanced wine, big, but fresh with black cherry and licorice abound.  A long, structured finish closes things out.

Alix Combes, vineyard manager at Fombrauge

The deliciously and structured 2010 Magrez Fombrauge 


Dalem, Fronsac
90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
Owner and winemaker Bigitte Rullier poured the wines herself at this event and it was a pleasure to speak with her about these wines and the terroir they come from.  The vines average 45 years of age and lie in a soil mix of limestone and clay, with a larger more prominent limestone plateau beneath this mixture.  The wines are initially vinified in cement tank for 3-4 weeks to allow good extraction of tannins and color.  Then the wine is aged 18 months in 40% new oak where malolactic fermentation takes place right after it is moved to barrel.  An autonomous water treatment plant was installed on site recently to help reduce waste and recycle water used on the property.
2012:  Wonderful nose compared to other samples, clean and pure, balance, I’d even say developed for the age as it was one of the earlier samples of the evening that I was able to draw distinct flavors from: cherry, sweet tobacco, currants,  14% abv.
2010:Elegant but deep, good grip and texture as the tannins are medium to full, but ripe.  In what seems a coiled personality of ripe and sappy red fruits, the tight but supple tannins frame an elegant but persistent finish.

Chateau Dalem proprietor Bigitte Rullier

The 2010 Chateau Dalem is a great value wine  rare these days from Bordeaux

Fombrauge,  Saint-Emilion
90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
2012:  Also felt well developed like its sibling the Magrez Fombrauge.  Purple and black fruits; fine and silky tannins, limestone and clay sub soils combine as the makeup of one of the largest vineyards in all of Saint-Emilion at 60 hectares or 148 acres!

Le Prieure,  Saint-Emilion
80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc
2012: A nicely balanced 2012 that seemed slightly advanced as the sample was showing classic aroma and flavor notes with good  complexity and structure.  Mineral, plum, and kirsch mix with good spice and fresh tannins.
2010: A solid 2010 with excellent terroir showcasing minerality and classic structure.  Cassis, plum, mocha, and licorice.  Good tannic cut and excellent length in the finish.

Rol Valentin, Saint-Emilion
90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
2012: Bright red fruits, coffee bean notes, and sweet oak, medium finish.  This one seemed a little less generous, but showed fruit and tannin in ample amounts.
2009: Huge presence, licorice, blackberry, tar, and leather are tightly wound .  A long and persistent finish, classic as it has elegance with balanced and purity.

du Pressac, Saint-Emilion
72% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest 1% Malbec and 2% Carmenere
A new wine for me as I have never tasted this Chateau.  A very distinct style not like many of the other wines tasted this evening.  I was curious what that was and then looked at the grapes used in the tasting guide and knew right away then it was the Malbec and the Carmenere adding lift and floral notes.
2012:Violets, herbs, pepper, black and blueberries with a medium finish and good structure that finishes with medium grain tannins.
2010: More classic in style with a medium body, great acidity, earth and minerality that combine with brighter red fruits in a nice, clean finish. 

Clocher, Pomerol
70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc
2012: The best Pomerol sample from 2012 at this event.  The ripest, most evident of tannins yet still silky and a touch elegant because of the pure and bright red fruits. 
2010:Lovely, elegant, sensual, round and well made.  The Cabernet Franc really shows in this vintage as it obviously stands out from the Merlot adding extra structure and complexity down to the core of this wine.

Solid Pomerol – the classic 2010 Clos du Clocher from Pomerol


Montviel, Pomerol
80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc
Another favorite of the night for me, the 2009 Montviel was poured by the charming Emilie Dombey.  A great representative of a strong and successful Pomerol based wine company.  Headed by the venerable Catherine Pere-Verge who recently passed away, the estates holdings including Montviel, Le Gay and La Violette are still in family hands to continue her legendary legacy.  The Pere-Verge family also has a successful line of wines from Argentina under the Monteviejo label.
2009:  Sensual red raspberry, cherry, tobacco leaf, spice and cedar with wonderful ripe tannins, a long and persistently silk like finish.  This was one of my favorite wines of the night.  It showed the best of 2009 and what this property does in a great vintage.

Emelie Dombey, the charming representative from Vignobles Pere Verge and Bodega Monteviejo 

The great Montviel 2009, showing the wonderful aspects of the 2009 vintage.


Dauphine, Fronsac
90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
2012:Raspberry notes, with mocha, creme d’cassis, black cherry and licorice; medium to full tannins; another sample that seems to be  developing already.
2010: Medium to full bodied, blueberry, jazzy blackberry, a touch of toasty oak and smokiness, lively, but elegant tannins, a baby Margaux wine meets a baby Troplong Mondot.

Fontenil, Fronsac
90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
Michel Rolland’s home winery.
2012:  A ripe nose, friendly and opulent with a fleshy palate; the aromas are smoky with oak and berry notes.
2009: Green pepper, black currants, tea notes with dill herbs; a long full bodied presence, medium finish.  I expected a larger, riper wine with less green notes, especially from Rolland and in 2009.

Siaurac, Lalande de Pomerol
74% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec
2012:  Violet, purple notes, black berry, earth and savory.  I really liked this one a lot because of the different aroma and palate presence.  The violet was really easy to pick out and the Malbec component is a dead giveaway for where it comes from. 
2010:  Juicy blackberry and cherry, medium grain tannins though a touch of heat.

La Rose Perriere, Lussac Saint-Emilion
90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
The lone Lussac Saint-Emilion that I had like enough to write about. 14 hectares, 20k bottles (about 1,700 cases).
2012: Fresh, with good acidity, a well made wine, floral, mineral, with cherry, fine oak, a persistent, but elegant finish.
2009: Elegant for 2009 but by no means light, licorice, blackberry, and cherry; medium to full bodied tannins.



A bientot!

-Tom

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