Winegrowers say they had never seen anything like it. Extremely challenging weather characterised most of the growing season and pushed growers to the limit. They were therefore more than relieved by a first raft of tastings by Burgundy wine marketing board BIVB which showed that, contrary to initial expectations, the wines are excellent. They will of course be in very short supply however, as current harvest estimates show a 20 percent drop in volumes this year.
Burgundy was the perfect example of unstable and unseasonable weather conditions this year: after a mild winter and good start to the year with spring-like weather in March, spring itself was cold with frost. Although May was summery, June was cold and rainy and the summer months saw alternate spells of heatwave, hail, thunderstorms and other nasties that do not make for easy wine growing conditions. Cold, damp weather caused coulure and shot berries and increased the risk of mildew and powdery mildew. Conversely, hot spells led to sun burn. All of these events led to a significant drop in volumes but with berries now in much smaller number, the ripening process was promoted. Fortunately, the season was rounded off with good weather during the harvest, allowing growers to pick healthy fruit.
In terms of taste profile, the BIVB tastings revealed that the white wines are expressive, show notes of fresh fruits and citrus and already offer up great balance. Whites from the northern reaches of Burgundy show a real sense of place with minerality, silica and chalky notes. 2012 is described by the board as a classic vintage revealing archetypal finesse and concentration, and in some cases good ageability. The reds are described as deeply-coloured and dense with some verging on inky. They exude rich, intense aromas of red fruits with ripe, silky tannins imparting wonderful harmony on the palate. 2012 is shaping up as a safe bet with wines mirroring the diversity of each site and rewarding growers for their patience and hard work. Like other categories, Crémant de Bourgogne experienced a challenging year with volumes down, especially for Gamay-based sparklers; overall volumes may be down as much as 30 percent. However, the fruit achieved impeccable ripeness, says the BIVB, combining optimum sugars with wonderful acidity. Chardonnay and Pinot noir-based Crémants are fruity and display excellent balance.