Burgundy has been beaten up pretty badly these past few years. Four years in a row (2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013) of very small crops, hail storms that saw some producers lose 80% or more of their crops, rain, rot, mildew – you name it, it’s been flung in Burgundy’s face again and again. And yet they soldier on.
Not only do they soldier on, somehow in the face of all the adversity they manage to continue to produce some astonishing wines. It seems that the magic and the power of Terroir is simply determined to triumph over all. Case in point – the death-defying 2012s.
I’ll let the experts call it as they see it. First, the Burghound himself, Allen Meadows –
“2012 saw just about every possible growing season misfortune possible with the exception of botrytis. There was frost, cool weather at the wrong time, hail (mostly in the Côte de Beaune), constant rain, a poor flowering, severe attacks of both mildew and powdery mildew, an intense heat wave that sunburned exposed fruit and a heavy storm during the harvest. It’s honestly hard to pack in more problems in just one growing season. Not surprisingly, all of these problems contributed greatly to a vintage that would produce the smallest yields since 2003.
Yet despite all of the problems, the quality of the raw materials, and the resulting wines, are not only good but in many cases excellent. The 2012s are concentrated wines with ripe and moderately firm supporting tannins, good freshness and enough acidity to maintain the proper balance. 2012 produced many really lovely wines that should provide for delicious drinking early on yet be capable of amply rewarding mid-term cellaring and in a few cases, they will be as long-lived if perhaps not quite as long-lived as the 2010s. Moreover there is fine transparency to the wines such that the underlying terroir is very much on display. The high levels of dry extract and relatively fine grain of the tannins combine to create seductively suave textures that avoid any sense of heaviness as there is good freshness and sufficient acid verve to maintain the finishing balance.
In sum, 2012 is a very fine vintage built for mid-term aging. The key challenges for us as consumers will be twofold: the first is simply to find them and the second will be paying for them as they will not, indeed cannot, be inexpensive. The average 2012 is very good, and the best of them are excellent.”
The take from International Wine Cellar’s Steve Tanzer is on the same track –
“Great natural concentration and small, thick-skinned grapes due to a poor flowering enabled Burgundy’s better producers to make monumental wines in 2012. The vintage yielded soil-inflected wines with a rare combination of aromatic complexity, density of texture, fresh acidity and lush, velvety tannins, but growers had to overcome a host of climatic challenges, including violent hail storms on the Cote de Beaune, to succeed.
Of course, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger: the tiny crop was also the key to the high quality and richness of the 2012s, imbuing the wines with outstanding natural concentration–i.e., a concentration that did not throw off the balance of the wines. The 2012s show a density of texture, usually without heaviness, that is extremely rare for Burgundy. Had it not been for the poor flowering, the weather conditions of 2012 would probably not have been sufficient to ripen fuller crop loads. Smart, conscientious growers and winemakers were in the position to make some of the richest and most satisfying wines of their careers.”
These thoughts and comments echo my own, which I first wrote about here last November, while in Burgundy tasting some 400 examples of the 2012s. I love the ‘12s for their generosity of fruit, their distinct sense of terroir in most cases, and their immediate approachability. They remind me a lot of the lovely 1985s – which have had a 25+ year run of non-stop deliciousness. To be sure, the ‘12s are not as “serious” or “classic” as the 2005s, but then few other vintages ever are or will be. Tanzer is saying he thinks these may best the 2010s –
“I suspect that over the next decade the 2012s will give more pleasure than the 2010s, and many Burgundy lovers will prefer them.”
At any rate, keep your eyes open for forthcoming offers of the 2012s over the course of the year. The wines will be extremely limited due to the low yields, and there will not be many bargains among them. Keep some powder dry!
On the Oregon side, Kelley Fox and I just finished a comprehensive tasting of our 2013s in barrel and our 2012s in bottle. I’m really happy with the development of the ‘13s so far. Maybe the Burgundian wine gods were smiling on us, as it seems we will make some excellent wines from one of the most difficult vintages nature has thrown at us. All of the lots are not thru malo yet, so I’ll wait to post detailed tasting notes until after malo is finished and we can really judge.
As to the ballyhooed 2012 vintage in Oregon, it’s everything it’s cracked up to be and then some. We won’t be releasing any until late this spring (though our Scott Paul Club will get first crack at ‘em in March) – but these are flat-out gorgeous wines that are candidates for the best we’ve ever put in the bottle. Once again we’ve shared a lot of similarities with our Burgundian brethren in terms of the character of the wines. The Oregon ‘12s have superb concentration (from low yields), ideal balance, and stunning aromatics. I am sitting here with a glass of the ’12 Audrey in front of me, and I am a very, very happy man…
Our way-yummy 2012s - coming soon to a glass near you...