Graves: wines of character. I like Graves. In the same way that there is something “different” about Haut-Brion, something that is as much about character as quality, Graves is special. It’s probably the Volnay of the left bank of Bordeaux (Pauillac is Vosne, Margaux is Chambolle, St Julien is Gevrey, St Estèphe is Nuits St Georges). In 2012 the wines have character, and are distinctly more “vinous” than many of their peers. They’re also pretty good, largely on account of the Merlot, I suggest.
In trickier vintages, it is the more “modern” wines that stand out in Graves and, tricky vintage or not, Smith-Haut-Lafitte always does well and their 2012 is another excellent wine. A visit to Smith-Haut-Lafitte is a must if you are in Bordeaux, and – an aside – they are one of the few châteaux that have worked out that actually meeting their end clients is a good thing. 2012 Pape-Clement, whilst stylistically not really my bag, is rather good too. Haut-Bailly, a wine that frequently rivals the big boys, didn’t show as well as it could have done, nor did Domaine de Chevalier. Malartic-Lagravière – a property to watch – is the buy here, and scored better for the panel than it did for me. It should come in at £240 or so per dozen in bond.
2012 Clarence de Ch. Haut-Brion (16.5)
There is some substance to this. A clean nose with real Graves character. Sweet, lifted fruit in the mouth, with a hint of depth and good length. Good wine.
2012 Chapelle de la Mission (16.5)
More breadth on the nose here. Chunky sweetness. A little bit tight in the mouth but there is some stuffing here and the wine finishes well. Good.
2012 Ch. Malartic-Lagravière (16.5)
Some punch to the fruit on the nose, and a delicate edge to it. A hint of depth. And again in the mouth. A gentle hint of sherbet. Subtle yet persistent. Long. This is rather good.
2012 Ch. Pape-Clement (17)
Sweet powerful fruit on the nose. Some substance, some weight. Sugary black fruit. This follows in the mouth, which is a little bit over-done. Wine gum character. Stylistically this might be a little decadent for some but I do rather like it.
2012 Ch. Smith-Haut-Lafitte (17)
Rich black fruit on the nose, followed by energetic, punchy rich fruit in the mouth. There is a texture to this. It is rich. There is a bit of wine-making here – it’s a little worked – but it is very well-executed. SHL? Very good wine.