2012 Rhone

Learn more about 2012 Rhone

Wine Vintage 2012  Northern Rhône
Recurrent comments in the North emphasise the user-friendly nature of the vintage, not least from the point of view of the vigneron. René Rostaing should know, as this was his 42nd vintage; he admits that the season was not without its worrying moments, particularly with a damp flowering season and a patriotic hot spell (canicule) on and after Bastille Day.

Overall, however, nature was generous and any idiosyncrasies, such as a very cold February and a rather aggressive Mistral in September, seemed to inform the personality of the vintage in a manner that has not been conspicuously detrimental. Indeed, Michel Chapoutier, at the end of one of the most detailed vintage reports that I have ever seen, summarises with two words; ‘pure classicism’.

Relatively cool nights, allied to milder conditions earlier in the season have conspired to maintain impressive levels of acidity, whereas the hot and then clement conditions which chased down the harvest from the middle of July have ensured ripeness and tannic structure. The collaboration of these factors will ensure architectural integrity and longevity, allowing Syrah’s crystalline purity to show off its full aromatic potential. The whites, meanwhile, have also excelled in these conditions; Christine Vernay, for example, praises the poise and equilibrium of her fabulous Condrieu wines.

Vintages such as this certainly demonstrate the minutiae of terroir, but we do not need to resort to another platitude, namely that this is a ‘vigneron’s vintage’ because that is usually a euphemism for a year which has been a disappointment. 2012 is a long way from a disappointment, as the following attributions will testify; “silky with fine tannins” (Marc Sorrel) “perfect maturity, perfect potential” ( Maxime Graillot) “a really pleasant revelation at assemblage” (Florent Viale); “ lively, open , harmonious wines” ( Laurent Combier).

One could go on, but these gentleman are not especially famous for the wit of their sound-bites rather for the quality of what is in their glasses… quality indeed in 2012 and that is what we should relish most.
 
Wine Vintage 2012  Southern Rhône
This year has been especially successful in the South, but maybe the success was harder won than in the Septentrional vineyards, and, perhaps, as a result is even more impressive. As usual M. Perrin at Beaucastel has a pithy summary; ‘Unbalanced climate, balanced wine’.

This lack of balance resulted from several factors; extreme cold and Mistral in February which killed some of the older Grenache vines, a damp spring which caused coulure and a late flowering, and a complete lack of rain from mid-May to September which threatened drought, in itself exacerbated by a cold but dry winter. All these factors have conspired to a short harvest but also one of great concentration, colour and structure.

Thierry Usseglio describes his wines as ‘dense, suave and concentrated’, while Didier Negron at Roger Sabon notes both the ‘lively’ structure and the balancing acidity in his wines. Philipe Chaume Arnaud stresses the importance of this freshness and Isabel Ferrando goes as far as to rediscover the harmony and balance of the 1980s. More recent comparisons include 1999 by Isabelle Sabon at Janasse, and 2010 by Vincent Avril at Clos des Papes. Vincent admits that the wines are to be less concentrated than 2010, but feels that thy will be more ‘puissant et fin’. He is seldom wrong.

So despite the thermometer hitting 41 degrees in 21st August and despite (or maybe because of) the heavy rain on 23rd September, this has been a great year, especially good for the Grenache that survived its frosty scare in the late winter, and for Syrah.

The most quoted line award goes this year to Monsieur Daniel Brunier at Vieux Télégraphe who describes 2012 as ‘simply phenomenal’ …what greater endorsement does one need?
Simon Field MW, Wine Buyer

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