The highly anticipated 2012 Burgundy vintage is finally here, and we have spent the last few months talking to producers and tasting wines. We will be sending out offers over the next few months. This is definitely a winemaker's vintage. Unlike other recent top vintages such as 2009, this was not a long, predictable growing season. On the contrary, nature brought many challenges in 2012, including devastating hail. This was also another year of historic low yields, and the prices will reflect that across the board. Production was down 20% overall, and as much as 80% in areas seriously damaged by hail. As you know, supply far exceeds demand for these wines in typical vintages, and that is even more applicable in this vintage. Despite that, I believe that this is a buyer's vintage for two major reasons. First, the quality in 2012 is far superior to 2011 and (very likely) 2013 (all three vintages saw very low production). Second, because of the price pressure since 2009, the demand for back-vintages has effectively wiped out stocks with producers, wholesalers and retailers. There simply isn't much wine out there for Burgundy lovers, and what does remain has seen price increases consistent with newer vintages. The demand for Burgundy has never outpaced supply as much as it does now, and the trend is on track to continue for the next few years, at least.
Despite the shorter growing season, the wines from 2012 are full-bodied and concentrated (especially the reds) because of the tiny yields and small grapes. I was also impressed at the purity of fruit of many of the reds and whites I tasted. The best wines of this vintage (and there are many!) have great balance, and a freshness that made me recall 2010 on some levels. Fabian Moreau (Domaine Christian Moreau) noted that the wines had higher acidity levels than 2011, and about the same as 2010. However, as Cyrielle Rousseau (Domaine Armand Rousseau) said to me, you can't compare vintages in Burgundy - each is unique and remarkably different from the last.
For the whites, producers that captured both the acidity levels that Fabian Moreau referenced, and the great fruit concentration that was the result of low yielding vines, really captured lightning in a bottle. Those that didn't hit the mark on both fronts produced disappointing wines, and there are some notable names in that camp. There are years like 2009 (and 2010 for whites) where you hear the refrain that it was difficult to make a bad wine. 2012 is not one of those vintages. Simply put, great wine making is on display here, and the best wines of the vintage will be some of the most-sought after white Burgundy produced in the last two decades.
Some Highlights so Far
There have been many, many highlights from my tastings. The whites of Olivier Leflaive, for instance, were stunners across the board. Winemaker Frank Grux, who came to Leflaive after six years at Domaine Roulot in Meursault, is turning out some of the most consistent high -quality whites in Burgundy. The Chassagne-Montachet Clos Saint Marc 1er Cru was especially gorgeous, and may be the best white I've tasted so far. This comes from a domaine-owned single plot of Vergers 1er Cru. Patrick Leflaive, a character as always, echoed the notion that 2012 was similar to 2010 in the balance of ripeness and acidity. I believe his 2012 lineup may be even better than 2010. As usual, the wines of Henri Boillot, Christian Moreau, and Chateau Fuisse were all very high quality.
The biggest surprise of my tastings were the wines of Domaine Parent, especially the Pommard bottlings, which were some of the most beautiful, structured reds I tasted. I will be posting about the reds later. Parent’s Corton Grand Cru Blanc (not Corton-Charlemagne, but a more rare Grand Cru white) was also beautiful and seamless and must be mentioned. According to Anne Parent, they performed very strict sorting in this vintage, and the quality of the wine reflects this hard work. She told me that hail-damaged grapes fell to the ground, and what remained and was sorted produced absolutely beautiful wines.