Over the last few weeks we been tasting the 2012 Burgundy vintage, a vintage marked for two reasons; production is very low, yet quality is high. It is a remarkable vintage given the early weather conditions, on par or perhaps better than most recent years.
2012 reflects the paradigm that the quality of a vintage is influenced more by the weather from late July onwards, rather than the first half of the year. In fact the weather in the first half of the year was torrid and wet. As a result there was retardation of the vines and a large threat of mildew, while oïdium caused problems. Despite a warm May, a cool June meant that flowering was delayed and protracted. An uneven summer saw a heat wave that burnt some fruit, but hail – the bane of this vintage – caused huge damage on the 30th of July and the 1st of August, particularly in the Côte de Beaune, Pommard, Southern Volnay, and on the hillside of Puligny. Remarkably, with the exception of the southern part of the Nuits Saint-George, the Côte de Nuits avoided hail at large.
Spring and early summer determine the quantity of the vintage rather than quality, with quality decided by the climate from late July onwards. From late July the weather was warm, often hot, generally dry and very sunny. August and September saw similarly congenial weather, remaining dry with the temperature cooling slightly at night helping to retain acidity; providing an almost perfect end to the growing season. Harvest started around the 14th in the Côte de Beaune and around the 17th in the Côte de Nuits, with the harvest rarely interrupted by rain.
This meant that the crop was thinned by the inclement weather early on, reducing the production considerably. However, with a wonderful later harvest the grapes that remained were healthy and concentrated, with good sugar and acidity levels; Mother Nature deciding that in 2012 less would certainly be more!
A Quick Overview
The wines from the Côte de Beaune produced half the normal crop, however what was harvested provided thick skin grapes with a high skin to juice ratio, resulting in wines that have refreshing acidity and wonderful concentration of fruit. The best sites from the Côte de Beaune have lovely aromatics, plenteous backbone, beautiful balance and concentration on the palate, with lovely complexity on the finish.
The leading sites from the Côte de Nuits at times are breathtaking, with Pinot Noir presenting plenty of ripe tannin, good acidity, wonderful precision and richness of fruit. Depending on the sites they combine a quite wonderful aroma and structure, which we have no doubt will develop into the glorious tertiary flavours one expects from red Burgundy. The leading Cote de Nuits Grand Cru plots such as Clos de Beze, Echezeaux, Grands Echezeaux, Richebourg and Clos de la Roche are exceptional, however there is staggering quality to be had amongst the leading Premier Cru plots, for example Gevrey Cambertin’s Les Cazetiers and Petite-Chapelle, Chambolle Musingy’s Charmes and Les Amoureuses are excellent across all producers, with wonderful complexity, freshness and power.
It is always hard to determine at this stage just how good a vintage is but it is safe to say 2012 is very good, perhaps even excellent. Many regard the potential as better than anything in 2007, 2008 and 2011 with some pitting it against 2009 and 2010, however it is too early to tell whether it will be as great as these twin vintages. It is extremely hard to secure allocations of top producers and top plots/vineyards, prices rise quickly and wines can be sold for a healthy profit in only a few years, as the wines become eye wateringly expensive when they enter their drinking windows.
Due to the fast growing global demand and the massive reduction in this year’s production, collectors and investors should look to buy the leading Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, as well as a selection of village wines as this vintage will provide immense pleasure after cellaring for 5-10 years. One thing is certain, very little has been produced and allocations are hard to come by, there is little to go around and with the market for top Burgundy expanding very quickly prices are rising, however, the vintage possess the quality to offset this.
Burgundy en primeur is always difficult to report, given the complexity of the region; however, we will be providing more focus on individual regions as we release wines over the coming months!