What a surprise 2012 has been, what an utterly topsy turvy year this is! It’s very challenging for me to explain to you succinctly how this vintage is so good despite how difficult the conditions were for the vignerons. Let me assure you of one thing, this is a lovely Burgundy vintage and certainly the most enjoyable and easiest wines to taste at this stage than any other of the visits I have made to the region. Some are suggesting it is superior to 2010, 2009 and 2005, in general and in my view it’s certainly more appealing than 2009, but the longevity of the reds in 2010s and 2005s make them marginally finer. The 2012s will keep well, but will be more enjoyable in their youth than the 2010s and 2005s.
The Vintage Conditions
Quite a story this year, a vintage of two halves! While 2012 started in reasonably mild shape, April, May and June were grim, cold, wet and simply not conducive to a good yielding vintage from the off. The result of this weather was that flowering was exceedingly late and uneven and given the damp conditions the risk of rot and Oidium was very high. It’s worth noting though that this tough start is primarily a concern in terms of volume of grapes produced by the vine rather than meaning low quality fruit. Come the end of June and later into the summer though, although the weather improved the vineyards were hit with a double blow with not one but two extensive and devastating hail storms and a few other minor ones besides. The majority of the damage was focussed on the Côte de Beaune, especially so in Puligny, Meursault and Volnay. In the most part, the Côte de Nuits escaped the worst of the hail. In fact while yields were reduced by up to 80% in some parts of the Côte de Beaune (typically 30-40% down), some parts of the Côte de Nuits were reporting yields up close to 2009 levels which were very high indeed, so not a horror show for everyone.
While the first half of the year was not too far short of a disaster, the second half of the year which generally governs the quality rather than the volume of the vintage was not far short of perfect, bar the yield-reducing hail. The temperatures were consistently hot during July and August which allowed the grapes to catch up following the late start to flowering. Over the course of a vintage the grapes tend to need around 1300 sunshine hours to ripen ideally, so given the cold and wet start to the year they needed maximum sunshine hours to achieve full ripeness in later summer and autumn…. thankfully they got it! The evenings prior to harvest turned rather colder which meant that the acidity levels in the grapes were maintained and matched with ripe fruit the resultant wines were full of ripe red fruit and wonderful freshness. The tannins were very refined and ripe, but not overbearing.