2012 was not an historic vintage for Bordeaux. Weather conditions were not conducive to the production of a great vintage and some châteaux even doubted at one point that they could produce any wines at all that year. The reason lay in heavy rainfall which encouraged outbreaks of fungal diseases. Wine growers were forced to wage war not just on threats to the vines but also against dilution.
After a mild winter, which favoured early Merlot bud break, came damage from a dreadful spring characterised by rain and damp, with particularly concentrated rain in April, which then persisted across the rest of the season. Serious outbreaks of mildew and oidium meant that wine growers had to be on high alert. Grape berries were not very even, making it difficult to achieve ripeness. Fortunately, the weather stabilised in August, averting the worst case scenario. Healthy grapes were able to reach maturity, but stringent selection was required in the vines. September was more favourable and brought confirmation at last that a decent vintage could be produced.
Overall, wines made predominantly from Merlot grapes fared better than those with a large majority of Cabernet Sauvignon, as this variety was more severely affected by late ripening than early Merlot which could be picked before the rains. The Right Bank (Saint-Emilion and Pomerol) emerged relatively unscathed from this difficult year. The best red wines from the Médoc and Libournais boasted a very easy-drinking balance in terms of subtlety and delicacy. The key to this vintage was not to over-extract or to push ageing too far!
Dry whites from the Graves vineyards were really rather fine and fragrant, with a fresh balance.
Sauternes was probably the heaviest casualty of the year, as botrytis did not make an appearance. Some domaines (including Yquem) even opted not to produce any wine.