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BORDEAUX 2012 Vintage Report by Château Palmer :

The principal characteristic of the 2012 vintage is that of a remarkable contrast between spring, summer and early autumn.

In the spring, the abundant rainfall from April to June is well above average.
This cool and damp weather brought about a late yet heterogeneous bud break. Flowering also presents the same characteristics. It begins much later and lasts longer compared to the previous vintage. Taking place in unfavorable conditions it results in a high percentage of coulure in our oldest Merlots, as in the 2002 vintage.
The risk of developing diseases (downy and powdery mildew) is high and requires our continuous attention: as it happens, a particularly healthy vineyard remains the best prevention.

The summer weather changes completely.
At the end of June, the sun begins to shine and temperatures finally rise. The first berries begin to change colors on July 23rd- confirming that the vintage would be late, as in 2002 or 2008. It hardly rains in August or during the first three weeks of September, with only 9mm of rain during this period. These particularly favorable conditions, due to the lack of water and nitrogen, allow the vine to focus its energy on developing phenolic compounds (tannins and anthocyanins), and thus produce good quality grapes.

The weather takes a change for the worse again during the last week of September. The harvest is intense; it takes place at Château Palmer between October 1st and the 15th without interruption and in wet conditions. The possibility of developing Botrytis is constant. However, the low yields of 28 hl/ha, helped maintain healthy conditions around the grape clusters.

The Merlots, rich and exuberant, remind us of the best vintages of the end of the first decade of the 2000s. The Cabernet Sauvignons are linear and precise and in line with a 2008. This unusual marriage harmoniously highlights the smoothness, elegance and refinement of Château Palmer wines.

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Vintage Report

The 2012 Bordeaux vintage report.

The 2012 Bordeaux vintage is a year for vineyard management and workers. Call it a wine makers vintage, or change your tune and name it vineyard managers vintage. Either descriptor works perfectly. The estates with the financial ability to take the necessary actions in the vineyards during the season, coupled with the willingness to severely declassify unripe grapes will produce the best wines.  Even then, it’s going to be a difficult vintage with small quantities of wine.  From start to finish, the growing season and 2012 Bordeaux harvest have been stressful for the vintners, the vines and  with the grapes now in the process of being vinified, the winemakers.

The 2012 Bordeaux vintage did not get off to a good start.  Following a cold winter and wet spring, the April rains drenched the Bordeaux wine region.  Following the April rains, there were outbreaks of mildew, which required spraying.  May was warmer than April. Things cooled down a bit again in June.  All this brought on flowering that was late and uneven. That resulted in small bunches with berries that ripened at different times, which brought down the quantities and necessitated in serious work in the vineyards and intensive sorting at harvest.

While a growing season is never over until it’s over, uneven flowering is never a good omen.  The lateness in the flowering pushed the entire vintage back 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the chateaux.  Generally speaking, late harvests are not usually harbingers of good things to come.

 

If everything that took place until the end of June didn't offer what happened next offered additional challenges with 2012 Bordeaux vintage. After an average July, Bordeaux experienced a torrid heat spell and drought in August and September that stressed the vines, especially the young vines.  At one point, temperatures soared to 42 degrees Celsius, which is 107 degrees! Other days crossed 100 degrees. It was extremely hot and dry. The vines shut down and the vintage was on track to be even later than originally anticipated. Close to the end of September, things improved due to the much hoped for combination of warm days, cool nights and some desperately needed rain, which helped nourish the vines. The initial days of October offered reasonably warm temperatures during the day, coupled with cooler weather at night for vintners with Merlot ready to pick.

In the Medoc, it was hurry up and wait. Tom Petty could have been blasting with “Waiting is The Hardest Part,” because growers needed to wait as the Cabernet Sauvignon was having difficulties ripening.  This was already October. The conventional wisdom says, at some point, there was little to be gained by waiting and more to lose, so the 2012 Bordeaux harvest started taking place.  Some estates began picking young Merlot in late September, but most held back until about October 1, with a few growers waiting another week or longer.  Most producers brought all their fruit in by the middle of October.

Pomerol is usually the first appellation to harvest, due to their Merlot dominated vines. Interestingly, picking was taking place simultaneously in the Left Bank on October 1.  Numerous Pessac Leognan properties began their harvest before Pomerol. Chateau Haut Brion began working on their young Merlot vines September 17 and Chateau Haut Bailly was not far behind, with a September 27 start date.  Most chateaux were in the thick of things by October 4, although Domaine de Chevalier held off until October 8.

 

While pleasant, cooler weather was initially forecast to continue, by October 8, things changed quickly when massive amounts of rain dropped over the entire Bordeaux region. With accompanying temperatures in the mid to upper 60’s and higher in some areas, vintners were concerned about the potential of Botrytis, due to the humid, tropical conditions. At that point, the fruit needed to be picked, regardless of the state of maturity.  Similar to what took place last year with the 2011 Bordeaux vintage, ripening was uneven.  It was not just bunches that were not ripening, individual grapes in bunches achieved varying degrees of ripeness which made sorting more important than ever.  Optical sorting was more widely used than ever with the 2012 Bordeaux harvest.

2012 Bordeaux could be a year where the dry, white Bordeaux wines shine. The berries were picked in September, under optimum conditions.  Most producers were done harvesting the white wine grapes by September 25. The same cannot be said for the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.  This has been a difficult year for the development of Botrytis, due in part to the cold nights.  With November closing in, most of the top estates were still nervously waiting to harvest.

All this adds up to low yields for most producers.  In fact, the French minister of agriculture reported that 2012 would produce the lowest yields since 1991.  It’s interesting to remember previous years like 1991, a vintage that forced some properties to declassify their entire harvest.  With today’s modern technology and vineyard management techniques, vintages like 1991 which produced atrocious wine are a thing of the past.  Bordeaux is not the only European wine region to suffer in 2012.  Across the board, numerous European vineyards experienced difficult conditions.  It was announced that across the board, production of European wines were at their lowest levels since 1975.

 

Generally speaking, low yields are usually a good thing. Low yields produce more concentrated wines. But when low yields are coupled with grapes that did not achieve full, phenolic ripeness, at the end of the day, the only thing vintners are primarily left with is less wine. If the small quantities of wine available to sell are used as an excuse by owners as a reason to raise prices, grapes are not the only thing that will be in short supply.  Customers for their wines will be in an even shorter supply than the wines.

2011 Bordeaux has not sold well to consumers. Prices for 2012 Bordeaux wine need to be lower in price than the previous year.  This is healthy for the marketplace in the long run.  Ample stocks of good wines from top years are still available for sale. Consumers can easily find strong Bordeaux wine from 2010, 2009 and even 2005.  There are different vintages for different markets. Some wine buyers prefer more classic or lighter years.  Other wine collectors seek riper, bolder years.  The marketplace welcomes both types of wines and consumers. But each vintage and style needs to be appropriately priced.  Bordeaux should reduce prices on vintages like 2012 and 2011. In turn, there are wine buyers willing to pay more for the best years.

Reports from producers on the 2012 Bordeaux harvest have ranged. For the red wines, some were quoted as saying the pulp is ripe, the seeds varied in ripeness, but the skins did not ripen.  In the Left Bank, there are estates that feel their Merlot turned out better than their Cabernet. In the Right Bank, producers in Pomerol and St. Emilion are optimistic about the quality of their 2012 Bordeaux wines.

The early reports show lower alcohol levels for the wines than more recent, highly rated, expensive vintages. 2012 Bordeaux wine has the potential to be classic in style, which should please thirsty fans of traditional Bordeaux wine.  While quantities are small, in many cases, it’s not much different than what the chateaux were able to produce in 2011. Many vintners are comparing the 2012 Bordeaux vintage a blend of 2002 and 2008.

 

Vintage 2012 by Lafite

2012 was characterized by difficult weather conditions in the Bordeaux region.
After a relatively mild winter, the spring was mostly wet and rainy, especially April, with a hail storm on the 24th. Such conditions hampered fertilization, leading to fears of reduced yields. Work in the vineyard was as vital as ever.
June and July alternated heat and humidity. The weather became more stable from the beginning of August, enabling the healthy grapes to finish ripening in good conditions.Nevertheless, there was considerable variation in their degrees of ripeness and a great deal of sorting work was carried out by our teams from the end September.

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Vintage Report

Napa Vintage Report by Colgin: The 2012 begins a series of three exceptional vintages for the Napa Valley. Each season possesses immense purity and balance whose distinct characters will make it fascinating to follow in the decades to come. The 2012 season was classic in nature as it was quite temperate and long. The season began with moderate rainfall, much of which fell during early March. The bud break of the vines began the first week of April. A few small rain events occurred over the following weeks and helped to nurture the soil, and by mid-May we began a steady cycle of gorgeous weather. Great weather at bloom is a noted bellwether for many great vintages.

 

The climatic conditions were so ideal, that the vines set quite a healthy crop. As summer evolved, we got a feel for the quantities of clusters and began meticulously removing excess fruit to ensure a higher level of quality. A textbook August and September followed, with few heat waves. Our harvest commenced in mid-September and continued steadily for the next month. The wines were crafted with a keen sense of preserving freshness and capturing the distinct fruit flavors and textures of this sensational vintage. The resulting wines are incredibly appealing as they contain exceptional intensity and a lovely seductive opulence!

 

A Classic Vintage for Napa Valley from Start to Finish

"Classic" and "perfect" are just two accolades being bestowed upon the 2012 Napa Valley growing season and harvest. Textbook conditions saw near-ideal spring bud break, steady flowering, even fruit set, and a lengthy stretch of warm days and cool and often foggy nights during the long summer months. Late and light rains held off until Napa Valley's treasured wine grapes found optimal ripeness, bringing exceptional quality to the crush pad and into the cellar.

The abundance of perfectly ripe grapes--with a smooth balance of acids and sugars--provided a broad sweep of opportunities for winemakers to cull only the most select fruit. The vineyards of Napa Valley are intentionally farmed at lower yields bringing only the very best grape to harvest. Growers here, year-in and year-out, bring an average of 4 tons per acre to crush overall, which is consistently half the California state-wide average. This is one of the many reasons that Napa Valley wines are so consistent vintage-to-vintage and acclaimed for their high quality in the bottle. This vintage, while as much as 30% higher than the past two years' smaller crops, is on par with near-normal quantity.

Stay tuned as the fruit, now juice on its careful and intricate way toward wine, develops in the cellar. We can't wait to see how the flavors of the 2012 Napa Valley harvest reveal themselves.

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Vintage Report

The 2012 port vintage was always going to be in the shadow of the outstanding 2011 vintage. An early drought led to a very small crop but some excellent ports were produced.  
Quinta do Naval and Quinta do Vesivio declared the vintage, whilst the bigger players (Fladgate, Symmington) opted to make single quintas.  
Head Winemaker, David Guimaraens noted, “A dry winter followed by a cool Spring led to low yields but plenty of aromatic intensity. The cool ripening season was balanced by healthy growth giving the resulting Ports crisp acidity and a remarkable purity of fruit.”

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Champagne and Italy Vintage Report: Widespread frosts in April touched 131 villages (of 319). Very cold, sunless weather for flowering. Long rainless period from mid-July to September. Total yield: 9,208 kg/ha, lowest volume since 2003, ~40% below 10-year average. Highest average sugars across all varieties. Overall maturity equals 2009. A vintage year is anticipated.

 

Italy by Sassicaia: The climate for the 2012 vintage was rather special. Autumn and Winter were long and cold, to the point that at the end of January the Bolgheri hills were covered with snow. Bolgheri experienced a cold, yet rainless fall and winter, which was not the case for other parts of Tuscany. Cold temperatures were favorable for the halting of the vegetative growth and the natural elimination of some pests of the vine. The spring started with a slight delay, causing the vines to bud 10-15 days later than the seasonal average. From the beginning of May, however, the temperatures rose and accelerated the arrival of summer.

June rainfall partially reconstituted the water reserves of the soil. The summer was very hot, with sunny days and temperatures above the seasonal average. Although some have likened the summer of 2012 to that of 2003, the difference lies in the considerable fluctuations in temperature between night and day which prevented water stress in plants in 2012. During the fruit set period, strong sea winds were partially responsible for a production loss of about 10% . The summer was long, with very high daytime temperatures requiring an early harvest of the Merlot as well as part of the Cabernet.

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Vintage Reports from Rhône and Burgundy: 

NORTHERN RHÔNE: Very wet spring compromised flowering, reduced crop. Warm and sunny summer. Good harvest conditions. Sound, mature grapes. Red wines are supple, possess ripe fruit, soft tannin & complementary acidities. Not a vintage for the long term.  Very attractive white.

 

SOUTHERN RHÔNE: Erratic spring, irregular flowering, late harvest. Extremely dry April to July, similar to 2010. Rain at end of August controlled water stress. Variable levels of maturity often required several tries to pick ripe fruit. Mourvèdre struggled to ripen. Sorting also key to outcomes. Moderately concentrated reds with forward fruit & freshness, likely to develop in near term. Whites reveal ample fruit, definition & show well early.

 

BURGUNDY: Highly irregular, challenging season. Extremely cold February injured old vines. Oidium & mildew. Rainy April & June, difficult flowering. Hail in Pommard and Volnay. Crop cut in half vs. 5-year norm. Hot, sunny, dry from mid-July through September. Low yields. Best reds are dense, perfumed, rich & sensual with fine-grained tannins. Irregular in hail-affected communes.

 

Burgundy by Domaine Moillard: 2012 was beset by unusual weather that didn’t spare the vines! A mild winter, spring-like March, cool spring with frosts, summer-like May, cooler, wetter June, a variable summer with heatwaves, hail and storms… Because of the cold damp spring, some of the vine flowers didn’t set and form fruit, there was millerandage (where the flowers aren’t fully fertilised and give small berries) and high pressure from mildew and odium. Temperatures went right up during the short periods, over-heating and scorching the berries. This weather caused a significant fall in yields, without, however, impacting on the quality of the grapes, as well spread out bunches with small berries guarantee concentration and intensity.
All in all, the grapes achieved good ripeness in aromas and good sugar to acidity balance. The white wines are characterised by their finesse and concentration. The reds set themselves apart with their lovely colours, ripe and silky tannins and their harmonious mouthfeel

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The best wines of the 2012 vintage

Name Tb Producer Location
1 Hill of Grace 97.6 Henschke Eden Valley, Australia
2 Grange Hermitage 97.3 Penfolds South Australia, Australia
3 Harlan Estate 97.1 Harlan Estate Napa Valley, United States
4 Le Désir 97.0 Verite Wines California, United States
5 Hundred Acre Ark Vineyard 97.0 Hundred Acre Napa Valley, United States
6 St. Eden 97.0 Bond Estate Napa Valley, United States
7 La Romanée 96.9 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Burgundy, France
8 Vecina 96.8 Bond Estate Napa Valley, United States
9 Realm Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Dr Crane 96.8 Realm Cellars Napa Valley, United States
10 Screaming Eagle 96.7 Screaming Eagle Napa Valley, United States
11 IX Estate 96.7 Colgin Cellars Napa Valley, United States
12 Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder 96.7 Lokoya Napa Valley, United States
13 Proprietary Red Sugarloaf Mountain 96.6 Bevan Cellars California, United States
14 Dana Lotus Vineyard 96.5 Dana Estates Napa Valley, United States
15 Château Haut-Brion Blanc 96.4 Château Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
16 Quella 96.3 Bond Estate Napa Valley, United States
17 Kevin John Chardonnay 96.0 Cullen Wines Margaret River, Australia
18 Riesling G-Max 96.0 Weingut Keller Rheinhessen, Germany
19 Barolo Cascina Francia 96.0 Giacomo Conterno Piedmont, Italy
20 Barolo Margheria 96.0 Massolino Piedmont, Italy
21 Scarecrow 96.0 Scarecrow Estate Napa Valley, United States
22 Polish Hill Riesling 96.0 Grosset Wines South Australia, Australia
23 PureCos 96.0 PureCru California, United States
24 Gewurztraminer Furstentum SGN 96.0 Domaine Weinbach Alsace, France
25 “Secret 7” Cabernet Sauvignon 96.0 PureCru California, United States
26 Hommage à Jacques Perrin 96.0 Château de Beaucastel Rhône, France
27 Cabernet Sauvignon McGah 96.0 Bevan Cellars California, United States
28 Ermitage le Pavillon 95.8 M. Chapoutier Rhône, France
29 Belle Côte Chardonnay 95.6 Peter Michael Winery Sonoma Valley, United States
30 Pluribus 95.6 Bond Estate Napa Valley, United States
31 Montrachet 95.6 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
32 Barolo Cannubi Boschis 95.5 Luciano Sandrone Piedmont, Italy
33 Le Merle Aux Alouettes 95.5 Domaine Alain Chabanon Languedoc, France
34 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 95.5 Bryant Family Vineyard Napa Valley, United States
35 Corton Les Renardes 95.5 Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair Burgundy, France
36 Richebourg 95.5 Anne Gros Burgundy, France
37 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 95.5 Shafer Vineyards Napa Valley, United States
38 Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru 95.5 Bouchard Père & Fils Burgundy, France
39 Grüner Veltliner Terassen Smaragd 95.5 Freie Weingärtner Wachau Wachau, Austria
40 Barolo Brunate-Le Coste 95.5 Giuseppe Rinaldi Piedmont, Italy
41 Musigny 95.5 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
42 Corton-Charlemagne 95.5 Coche Dury Burgundy, France
43 Pandora 95.5 Alban Vineyards California, United States
44 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Loibner Berg 95.5 F.X. Pichler Wachau, Austria
45 Ermitage L´Ermite 95.5 M. Chapoutier Rhône, France
46 Romanée Conti 95.5 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
47 Tychson Hill 95.5 Colgin Cellars Napa Valley, United States
48 Dominus 95.5 Dominus Estate Napa Valley, United States
49 La Tâche 95.3 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
50 Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 95.2 E.Guigal Rhône, France
51 Melbury 95.0 Bond Estate Napa Valley, United States
52 Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese Grosse Lage 95.0 Weingut J. J. Prüm Mosel, Germany
53 Magill Estate Shiraz 95.0 Penfolds South Australia, Australia
54 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 95.0 Xanadu Western Australia, Australia
55 Mount Edelstone 95.0 Henschke Eden Valley, Australia
56 Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 95.0 Leeuwin Estate Margaret River, Australia
57 St Henri Shiraz 95.0 Penfolds South Australia, Australia
58 La Mission Haut Brion Blanc 95.0 Château La Mission Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
59 The Caley 95.0 Yalumba Winery South Australia, Australia
60 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 95.0 Lewis Cellars Napa Valley, United States
61 Second Flight 95.0 Screaming Eagle Napa Valley, United States
62 Barolo Ginestra Casa Maté 95.0 Azienda Agricola Elio Grasso Piedmont, Italy
63 Conterno Fantino Barolo Sori Ginestra 95.0 Conterno Fantino Piedmont, Italy
64 La Joie Sonoma County 95.0 Verite Wines California, United States
65 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 95.0 Domaine du Pavillon Burgundy, France
66 Beckstoffer To Kalon - The Grand Daddy 95.0 Carter Cellars Napa Valley, United States
67 Adrianna Vineyards Chardonnay White Bones Single Vineyard 95.0 Catena Zapata Mendoza, Argentina
68 Puligney-Montrachet Les Referts 95.0 Domaine Étienne Sauzet Burgundy, France
69 Proprietary Blend Napa Valley 95.0 Brand Napa Valley, United States
70 Château Climens 95.0 Château Climens Bordeaux, France
71 Bâtard-Montrachet 95.0 Domaine Leflaive Burgundy, France
72 Gargiulo OVX G Major 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 95.0 Gargiulo Vineyards Napa Valley, United States
73 Reserve Grüner Veltliner 95.0 Weingut Leo Alzinger Wachau, Austria
74 Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Petit Monts 95.0 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Burgundy, France
75 Richebourg 95.0 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
76 Pinot Noir "Jessie" Vineyard 95.0 Cristom Vineyards Oregon, United States
77 Chambertin 95.0 Dugat-Py Burgundy, France
78 EL 95.0 Cuvelier Los Andes Mendoza, Argentina
79 Montes Alpha M 95.0 Montes Colchagua, Chile
80 Röttgen Riesling GG 95.0 Weingut Heymann-Löwenstein Mosel, Germany
81 Insignia 95.0 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley, United States
82 "Onda" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 95.0 Dana Estates Napa Valley, United States
83 Echézeaux 95.0 Anne Gros Burgundy, France
84 Point Rouge Chardonnay 95.0 Peter Michael Winery Sonoma Valley, United States
85 Echézeaux Grand Cru 95.0 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Burgundy, France
86 Bettina 95.0 Bryant Family Vineyard Napa Valley, United States
87 Château Coutet 94.9 Château Coutet Sauternes, France
88 Corton Grand Cru Rognet 94.9 Domaine Chevalier Père & Fils Burgundy, France
89 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 94.9 Dakota Shy Napa Valley, United States
90 Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 94.8 E.Guigal Rhône, France
91 Adaptation Cabernet Sauvignon 94.7 Odette Estate Napa Valley, United States
92 Château Palmer 94.6 Château Palmer Bordeaux, France
93 Concordance 94.5 Marie-Courtin Champagne, France
94 Chambertin Clos de Bèze Grand Cru 94.5 Bouchard Père & Fils Burgundy, France
95 Stevens Road Cabernet Sauvignon 94.5 Xanadu Western Australia, Australia
96 Manso de Velasco Cabernet Sauvignon 94.5 Miguel Torres Central Valley, Chile
97 La Motte Pierneef Syrah Viognier 94.5 La Motte Wine Estate Franschhoek Valley , South Africa
98 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 94.5 Heitz Cellar Napa Valley, United States
99 Vosne-Romanée 1er cru Aux Reignots 94.5 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Burgundy, France
100 Meursault-Perrières 94.3 Coche Dury Burgundy, France

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