Visit to the Rhône – September 2013 (To Taste The 2012 Vintage)

Rhône Visit – The 2012 VINTAGE

Having recently returned from our annual visit to the Rhône valley, we’re delighted to report that although the vintage is relatively small, the quality is very high with a number of top growers comparing it favourably with 2010.

The Weather

 The Southern Rhône

In the south the growing season started with an extremely mild January with temperatures reaching as high 18°C in the afternoons, so warm in fact that the almond trees started to flower! In contrast, February was extremely cold with record lows of -12°C. These conditions persisted for ten days accompanied by strong Mistral winds of up to 120km/h, the wind chill further accentuating the effects of the cold temperature. This resulted in the loss of some vines as sap that had started to rise in the plants during the warm weather then froze in the cold. Grenache was particularly badly affected by the February frosts, and yields of this variety are 30%-40% down.

Spring was cool and wet and again saw strong Mistral winds (172 km/h on 16th April) with budburst taking place at the beginning of the April. Flowering was late due to the cool spring temperatures that remained into the summer. July was not especially warm but dry and windy, while August became very hot with temperatures reaching 41.9°C on the 21st August.

Beaucastel started harvesting white grapes on August 27th and began picking the reds with Syrah on the 7th September. They finished with the Mourvèdre on 12th October.  Harvesting conditions were good with average seasonal temperatures and no rain until 23rd September. The vintage has produced a very healthy crop with excellent alcoholic and phenolic maturity, and with alcohol levels that are not too high, with plenty of natural balancing acidity.

The overall character of the resulting wines is one of concentration and purity allied to ripe tannins and fresh acidity, providing wines with admirable balance and length.

The Northern Rhône

Conditions in the North at the beginning of the year were similar to the South with a very cold February. What was very unusual was the drought. For the first time since 1947 there was no rainfall in February. In April, May and June the weather was good,  however, from 1st July things changed for the worse and the North received 20 consecutive days of rain totalling 280mm, more than a third of the average annual rainfall. The flowering suffered as a result and this in turn reduced the potential yield. At this point René Rostaing, whose vines are in Côte Rôtie, estimated that the vintage was three weeks behind. From late July the weather improved and it remained hot right through to the late harvest, resulting in top quality fruit that was very ripe and concentrated, with excellent acidity and lots of ripe tannins, all in precise balance. The wines produced across the Northern Rhône are very good indeed, and as Rostaing confirmed: “a late harvest is always high in potential – but the risks are correspondingly high.”

In 2012 the risks taken clearly paid off!

Patrick Barran, October 2013

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