Login | Subscribe
twitter

2012 SOUTHERN RHÔNE CLOSE-UP

THE MIDDAY BELL TOLLS AT THE CHURCH OF SAINT DIDIER, RASTEAU, A TWELFTH CENTURY BELL TOWER AT THE VERY TOP OF THE VILLAGE

INDEX

1. CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES RED

2. RASTEAU

3. CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE RED

4. GIGONDAS

5. CÔTES DU RHÔNE RED

6. SOUTHERN ROSÉS

7. TAVEL

1. 2012 CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES REDS

2012 is a vintage full of good Villages wines, but the definite star of the show is CAIRANNE, where many domaines have served thoroughly well made, enjoyable and well structured wines. The clarity of the year is a running theme across the southern Rhône, and these are wines that capture plenty of local stamp.

However, the panorama surrounding the Villages is not especially healthy, with too many nondescript Villages cluttering up the category, and too many communes trying to ascend to these more rarified heights from the basic CÔTES DU RHÔNE standard.

SEVERAL VILLAGES DON'T FEATURE ON THE RADAR

With quality across the Villages variable, it is most fair to compare villages where there are a sound basic number of growers, rather than just a handful. SAINT-GERVAIS, PUYMÉRAS, ROCHEGUDE, SAINT-PANTALÉON, ROUSSET-LES-VIGNES and SIGNARGUES are all cases where there are few domaines and not many hectares of vineyards, with a lamentably low profile the result.

Even the recently promoted GADAGNE, east of Avignon on favourable galet stone soils, can only boast 250 hectares of vineyards, made up of eight domaines - one, the DOMAINE DU BOIS DE ST JEAN stands clear of the rest - and just one Co-opérative, the TERRES D’AVIGNON. Lack of momentum – commercial, profile and marketing – will dog GADAGNE for the foreseeable future.

SAINT-GERVAIS exists almost solely in international terms thanks to the DOMAINE SAINTE-ANNE, a pioneer of Viognier and Mourvèdre back in the1970s. ROUSSET has just one domaine of note, LA BOUVADE, while at recently promoted SIGNARGUES I find that domaines are now preferring to sell their wine as straight CÔTES DU RHÔNE: this is better branded than the name Signargues, can be sold a little cheaper, but more volume per hectare is allowed. So, after presumably clamouring for promotion to Signargues, it has only taken about five years for growers to back off that title. Ridiculous, really.

THE VILLAGES WITH CRITICAL MASS

If one takes domaines sufficiently numerous to well represent an appellation, one that can submit around 20 samples for a tasting is PLAN DE DIEU, bolstered by ownership from estates based at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Violès, Travaillan, Camaret, Caiarnne and Rasteau, for instance.

Cairanne would submit nearer 45 wines in a similar event, and of course, it has long been the leading Village, especially following the promotion of Rasteau starting with the 2009 vintage. In 2012, the Plan de Dieus are several notches below Cairanne: there is the sense that these wines do not receive the same level of close-up attention, which was clearly needed in 2012. Another point may have been that the water retention from its clays did not help to concentrate the matter in 2012.

SAINTE-CÉCILE-LES-VIGNES: A WORTHY NEWCOMER

In 2015 we have wannabes on the block in the shape of SAINTE-CÉCILE-LES-VIGNES, where there are 13 domaines, a few with confirmed validity such as DOMAINE MARTIN and LES APHILLANTES, and two CO-OPÉRATIVES, that of SAINTE-CÉCILE very sound; plus SUZE-LA-ROUSSE – occasionally good, but whose depth and breadth of quality is much more shaky.

The dossier for Sainte-Cécile-les Vignes has been accepted by the Ministries after their inspection – in order, these are Agriculture, Interior and lastly Finance. Allez la Belle France!!

Note that the dossier proposes which vineyards geologically speaking are up to scratch for the promotion – ie low grade, over fertile soils near rivers are excluded - and it is probable that 2014 will be the first vintage of this area as a full-blown Village.

THE CAIRANNE DOSSIER FOR PROMOTION TO CRU: WAR AND PEACE IN MANY VOLUMES

The reason CAIRANNE’s promotion has taken so long is because there has been an immense amount of both wrangling and soul searching about domaines likely to lose large amounts of their Cairanne vineyards, due to their standing on lower area soils towards the Ouvèze, south-east of the village itself. DOMAINE DE L’AMEILLAUD of NICK THOMPSON is one example, which is why Nick has made this into a merchant business now, merely called AMEILLAUD, along New World lines. This allows him to make wine both from his own vines and from purchased outside crop.

There has also been opposition from domaines who do machine harvesting – the proposed appellation rules, their vision well set on the future and how wines can stand out from others in decades to come, dictate that only hand harvesting should be permitted. Chapeau to CAIRANNE, I say, in trying to hang tough on the high quality card.

SAINTE-CÉCILE will be a hefty new addition – 1,200 hectares, of which 900 are from the south of the village, taking in SAINTE-CÉCILE itself, SÉRIGNAN-DU-COMTAT and TRAVAILLAN, the last-named lying south of the River Aigues. Added by the decree are also the garrigue soils to the north of SAINTE-CÉCILE, SUZE-LA-ROUSSE (north-west) and 30 hectares from TULETTE, north-east in the Drôme – a total of about 300 hectares.

LAUDUN ALSO PUSHING FOR CRU STATUS

Oh yes, amidst this “everyone’s a winner” scramble we have the VILLAGE of LAUDUN, mainly white, mainly the great LUC PELAQUIÉ as its standard bearer, wanting full cru status as well, to join RASTEAU, VINSOBRES, GIGONDAS and the others. The President of the CAVE LAUDUN CHUSCLAN is PHILIPPE PELLATON, the President of the Syndicat Général of the Vignerons of the Côtes du Rhône, which may or may not have more than something to do with the application. At Laudun, one can dredge up about 15 domaines, few of them well known, and some with just a handful of bottles produced each year, the rest of the wine sold in bulk at low prices to the merchant trade.

2012: WEATHER PROFILE

Back to 2012: the winter was dry, and the February frost hit many of the old GRENACHE vines. However a very rainy spring caused concern, as expressed by VINCENT ROCHETTE of DOMAINE ROCHE-AUDRAN at VISAN, who related: “the six weeks of very, very beau weather through late June, July and into early August saved, yes saved, the crop. Mildew was breaking out after all the spring rain. Temperatures went up to 35°C with a lot of sun, and August was also dry until near the end of the month. The veraison on the GRENACHE (changing of colour) was behind the SYRAH this year, perhaps as a result of the February cold.”

VISAN AND VALRÉAS: TWO IMPROVERS

Despite the dry conditions of the main ripening season, 2012s have better cut and more precise fruit than the 2011s, and are also ahead of the 2013s, which can be a little edgy with dry tannins here and there. The encouraging results this year come from VISAN and VALRÉAS, both more northerly and later ripening than the PLAN DE DIEU-CAIRANNE axis.

VISAN has been on the move thanks to domaines such as LA FOURMENTE (in 2014 this became DOMAINE DIEULEFIT/VIGNOBLES RÉMI POUIZIN after a family disagreement between father and son), ROCHE-AUDRAN, PHILIPPE PLANTEVIN (based at Cairanne), VIGNOBLE ART MAS and Swiss-owned COSTE CHAUDE. It is now one of the leading Villages.

As a reflection of this, more notice is being taken of VISAN, so the merchant arm of the BEAUMES-DE-VENISE CO-OPÉRATIVE BALMA VENITIA, called VIGNOBLES LA COTERIE, has issued two very sound wines, in quantity – 70,000 bottles for one, the VISAN PORTE SAINT MARTIN, and 130,000 bottles of organic wine for the other, called VISAN ANVIS.

A lot of youthful fruit in 2012 suits VISAN well, to permit its fresh nature to shine with an elegant richness and no headiness included. Standards of vinification are much improved in the past five-plus years.

VALRÉAS this year presented a good level of red wines from several domaines, a sign that things are evolving and starting ro improve. Their 2012s can live longer than wines from hotter, lower zones – say seven to eight years of doing well. There are long finishes in the best – they have a ticking over persistence.

SABLET FRUSTRATES

SABLET is one of the frustrating Villages, since the terroir away from the RIVER OUVÈZE is good, the sandy influenced soils capable of giving wines that hold bright red fruit. However, there was an untidy collection of SABLET reds in 2012, which makes it very difficult to portray to the public what this appellation is about.

SÉGURET IS DOING WELL

Its neighbour SÉGURET has moved into being one of the top Villages behind CAIRANNE. The locomotive here is DOMAINE DE MOURCHON, an estate capable of serious quantity in bottle with an international distribution, built up in only around 15+ years – tribute to the hard work of WALTER MCKINLAY, his daughter KATE and her husband HUGO LEVINGSTON: the MOURCHON TRADITION comes in at 30,000 bottles – with the February frost damage, 2012 had a 50% shortfall, down to 20,000 bottles, while the GRANDE RÉSERVE averages 30-35,000 bottles – it too was badly hit in 2012, with just 20,000 bottles.

SÉGURET comes in two speeds this year – modern, competent wines that are clean fruited, hold crisp tannins, project clear finishes. And secondly, Grenache red fruit jam wines with spice and drier tannins that reside in arid, over dusty finishes. As a footnote, a regular good quality source here, the DOMAINE DE CABASSE, now makes more fruit forward and lighter than in the past under the HAENI family. Meanwhile, NICOLAS HAENI is operating on his own, lower scale with around four hectares up near MOURCHON. His 2014 MALMONT SÉGURET red is classy, a successful **** wine.  

INCONSISTENT PLAN DE DIEU

PLAN DE DIEU quality in 2012 is inconsistent, as if merchants are crowding in to produce an extra wine for their range, and therefore are sourcing from modest zones or suppliers. The wines are much less heady than from the hot years such as 2009, 2010 and 2011. Most will live to 2018 - not very long-lived. PLAN DE DIEU is now comprised of 32 domaines, 4 Co-operatives – SABLET, CAIRANNE, SAINTE-CÉCILE-LES-VIGNES and SÉRIGNAN-DU-COMTAT, with a serious vineyard area amounting to about 1,500 hectares.

From the right bank GARD DÉPARTEMENT, which brings in CHUSCLAN, LAUDUN and SAINT-GERVAIS, the reds in 2012 are in good form – there is lots of clear fruit in the best, their tannins ripe. However, some can be rectangular: there is a little stiffness in some, and they can finish rather abruptly after their early flourish.

CAIRANNE STREETS AHEAD OF THE OTHER VILLAGES, BUT THE CAVE IS A CONCERN

Top marks go to CAIRANNE by a long way, as can be seen from the table of LEADING WINES below. The best have heady, extremely satisfying depth; there is no sense of potency, or alcohol, for 98% of the wines. They hold clear fruit, and flow well. I would go so far as to say that they are better than even the crus such as BEAUMES-DE-VENISE, perhaps VINSOBRES, perhaps RASTEAU, thanks to the CAIRANNE lowest common denominator – very few of the wines hold basic faults, as can be so frustrating even at VACQUEYRAS, 25 years after it was promoted to cru.

With CAIRANNE, there are lots of domaines to choose from. 2012’s signature of clear fruit, precision and dance of content make them refreshing to drink - the bouquets are also well cut, the fruit generally good and bright. Standards of vinification are high, also vineyard management is correct to achieve proper ripeness.

However, the shadow looming over CAIRANNE is that of the CAVE CO-OPÉRATIVE CAMILLE CAYRAN, which in March 2014 was placed in Redressement Juidiciaire – this is a situation whereby the cheque book is controlled by an outside appointee, the entity all but bankrupt. The bottling line and some vats have been rented out to the merchant LES GRANDS SERRES, Co-operateurs are leaving, and the outlook is poor.

When walking in the vineyards of the first class slope of SAINT MARTIN in April 2015, I saw a plot owned by a Co-operateur in terrible state. The vines were only three of four years’ old, but they hadn’t even been pruned, and the weeds and grasses were taller than the vine shoots. Hope has been lost by many Co-operateurs who haven’t been paid for all their crop in the past.

Where next for the CO-OPÉRATIVE is a good question, since volume is slipping away, and critical mass is being lost. There is talk of a purchase by LES GRANDS SERRES, or a merger with another CAVE, or a shutting down. At least 2014 delivered an abundant crop, but that is scant consolation at this advanced stage. This is a sorry decline for a Co-operative that was a genuine trendsetter when I first knew it in the 1970s.

STGT FLOURISHES IN 2012

When looking down the list of Leading Wines, it will be immediately apparant that 2012 has allowed terroir to be expressive. There are many STGT wines this year, with the cool texture and clear fruit combining to allow a sense of place to be declared. All these wines are well worth buying, and point to the good quality-price ratio that exists in the VILLAGES category.

CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES CATEGORY IS OFTEN SO-SO

Finally, a short word on the CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES  wines which bear no commune name. I usually find this category unsatisfactory, for it allows slightly lesser terroirs to produce wine that costs more, but isn’t necessarily better than the generic CÔTES DU RHÔNE.  I would always favour a CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES from a known high quality source – estates at  CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE such as JANASSE, MAS DE BOISLAUZON, LES CAILLOUX - as well as DOMAINE DE L’ARNESQUE, LES APHILLANTES, DE LA JÉRÔME and SALADIN, which are all trustworthy, but beware of obscure sources for this grade of wine.

LEADING 2012 CÔTES du RHÔNE VILLAGES REDS

****(*) Cairanne Domaine Alary La Jean de Verde  2024-26  11/13  broad, deep, serious  
****(*) Cairanne Dom Les Hautes Cances Tradition  2019-20  10/13  fruit on roller skates 
****(*) Cairanne Dom Les Hautes Cances V Vignes  2021-22  10/13  v, v long, full gras 
****(*) Cairanne Oratoire St Martin Haut Coustias 2028-30 04/15 packed, fresh, joli
****(*) Cairanne Oratoire St Martin Rés Seigneurs 2026-27 04/15 handsome, detail, STGT
**** Cairanne Dom Alary L’Estévenas  2021-22  11/14  spice, direct, expressive 
**** Cairanne Dom des Amadieu V Vignes  2019-20  10/13  sleek fruit, long 
**** Cairanne Domaine Boisson L’Exigence  2019-20  10/13  sleek; tasty fruit, style 
**** Cairanne Brotte Domaine Grosset  2019-20  10/13  STGT; juiced, tasty 
**** Cairanne Domaine Brusset Les Chabriles  2026-28  04/15  STGT; depth gain, time
**** Cairanne Dom Brusset Hommage A Brusset 2030-32 04/15 intense, stately, sturdy 
**** Cairanne Dom Hautes Cances Col du Débat  2020-21  11/13  deep heart, fresh depth 
**** Cairanne Domaine Jubain Vieilles Vignes  2022-23  04/15  STGT; savoury, serene 
**** Cairanne Oratoire St Martin Les Douyes 2027-28 04/15 intensity, vigour, clarity 
**** Cairanne Famille Perrin Peyre Blanche 2022-23  10/13  complete, polished 
**** Cairanne Dom Richaud L'Ebrescade 2020-21 04/15 flamboyant, local charge
**** Cairanne Dom Richaud Ebrescade no SO2 2020-21 04/15 inner strength, upbeat
**** Cairanne J Vidal-Fleury  2019-20  10/13 plenty; brewed, intense 
**** Chusclan Chât Signac Cuvée Combe Enfer 2018-19  10/13  elegant, cool, pleasure 
**** Plan de Dieu Domaine des Pasquiers  2019-20  10/13  vigour, manly, modern 
**** Roaix Dom Pique-Basse l'as du Pique 2018-19  10/13  STGT; soft fruit, cool 
**** Sablet Domaine de Boissan 2018-19 06/15 well filled, local 
**** St-Maurice Dom de l’Echevin G de Rouville  2020-21  09/13  STGT; interesting 
**** Séguret Dom de l’Amauve Les Merrelies  2019  10/13  STGT; full, harmony 
**** Séguret Dom de Mourchon Tradition  2019-20  10/13  STGT; true, generous, V 
**** Séguret Dom de Mourchon Gde Réserve  2024-25  11/14  appealing; full of beans 
**** Visan Dom La Fourmente Vx Gren Garrigues  2018-19  10/13  character, v gd Gren 
**** Visan Domaine Roche-Audran  2018-19  10/13  intense, long, southern 
**** CdR Vill Dom de Coste Chaude Madrigal  2018-19  06/13  beau, fresh, VALUE 
**** CdR Vill Dom de la Janasse Terre d’Argile  2020-22  10/13  stylish, generous 
**** CdR Vill Mas de Boislauzon Deux Chênes  2021-23  10/13  STGT; good content, V* 
***(*) Cairanne L’Ameillaud  2019-20  10/13  gd, oily fruit, variety 
***(*) Cairanne Cros de Romet  2018-19  10/13  juicy, punchy 
***(*) Cairanne Domaine Alary La Brunote  2023-24  11/13  crisp; mobile fruit 
***(*) Cairanne Dom d Amadieu Cuvée Garrigues  2019  04/15  bright fruit, pep, clarity
***(*) Cairanne Dom Berthet-Rayne André V Vignes 2018-19  10/13  genuine, close to place 
***(*)  Cairanne Domaine Boisson  2019-20  10/13  tasty fruit, southern 
***(*) Domaine Clos Romane 2020-21 04/15 clear; slow gainer
***(*) Domaine Clos Romane Les Galets Jade 2024-25 04/15 good cool fruit, oak
***(*)  Cairanne Dom Escaravailles La Boutine  2017-18  10/13  spiced jam fruit 
***(*)  Cairanne Dom des Escaravailles Ventabren  2018-19  10/13  STGT; bustle, punch 
***(*)  Cairanne Dom Les Grands Bois Maximilien  2017-18  10/13  juicy fruit, precise, V 
***(*)  Cairanne Dom de la Présidente Galifay  2019-20  10/13  mature richness, scale 
***(*)  Cairanne Dom Présidente Patrk Galart VV  2019-20  10/13  rich Grenache; character 
***(*)  Cairanne Domaine Roche  2019-20  10/13  juicy, fat, pleasurable 
***(*)  Cairanne Dom Saint-Andéol L’Excellence  2022-23  04/15  cool texture, clear fruit
***(*)  Cairanne Le Vieux Clocher  2019  10/13  grounded, brewed 
***(*)  Chusclan Chât Signac Cuvée Terra Amata 2018-19  10/13  serene; gracious nose 
***(*) Gadagne Château Grand Dignitaire 2017-18 10/13 supple, full; potential, V
***(*)  Laudun Chât de Bord La Croix de Frégère  2018-19  10/13  compact, upright 
***(*)  Laudun Château Juliette Tosca  2017-18  10/13  enjoyably round, local 
***(*)  Massif d’Uchaux Chât Simian Jocundaz  2018-19  10/13  plush fruits; genuine 
***(*)  Massif d’Uchaux Dom Boisson Brussière  2019-20  10/13  STGT; full pine, spice 
***(*) 

Massif d’Uchaux La Cabotte Garance 

2020-21  10/13  punchy, knit, long 
***(*)  Plan de Dieu Chât Courançonne Gratitude  2018  10/13  stylish fruit, soft tannin 
***(*)  Plan de Dieu Camille Cayran La Réserve  2018-19  10/13  generous, long 
***(*) Plan de Dieu Domaine de l'Espigouette 2019-20 10/13 abundant, STGT
***(*) Plan de Dieu Domaine Moun Pantaï Johan 2018-19 10/13 pedigree fruit; local
***(*)  Plan de Dieu Ughetto-Audoin Fruit défendu 2017-18  10/13  round, compact, long 
***(*)  Plan de Dieu Domaine de Verquière  2018  10/13  fluid, easy to like 
***(*)  Roaix Dom Escaravailles Hautes Granges  2018-19  10/13  savoury, latent power 
***(*)  Roaix Vignerons Roaix-Séguret Saint Roch  2018  10/13  fresh, floral, very 2012 
***(*)  Sablet Château du Trignon  2019-20  10/13  exuberant, charming 
***(*) Sablet Dom de Boissan Cuvée Clémence 2018 06/15 tasty, typical
***(*)  Saint-Maurice Domaine Chaume-Arnaud  2018-19  10/13  juicy fruit; local
***(*)  Saint-Maurice Domaine de l’Echevin  2020-22  09/13  generous, tasty 
***(*)  Séguret Domaine Eyguestre  2018-19  10/13  polished, charged 
***(*)  Signargues Domaine Charité Cayenne 2019-20  10/13  uptempo, free gras 
***(*)  Signargues Vignerons du Castelas V Vignes  2018-19  10/13  beau; generous fruit 
***(*)  Valréas Clos Bellane Les Echalas  2019-20  10/13  vigour, good matter 
***(*)  Valréas Dom La Grande Bellane Tradition  2019-20  06/13  cool, authentic 
***(*)  Valréas Dom du Séminaire Fût de Chêne  2018-19  10/13  local, interesting, calm 
***(*)  Valréas Domaine du Séminaire Prestige  2019-20  10/13  gd content, local feel 
***(*)  Valréas Dom du Val des Rois Signature  2020-21  10/13  large, wild, plenty 
***(*)  Valréas Mas de Sainte Croix Passion Terre  2018-19  10/13  STGT; precise fruit 
***(*)  Visan Clos du Père Clément  2019  06/13  good fruit, w.o.w. 
***(*)  Visan Dom La Florane Terre Pourpre  2020-21  06/13  clear fruit, free acidity
***(*)  Visan Domaine La Fourmente Nature  2019-20  10/13  Visan cool, a lot here 
***(*)  Visan Domaine Montmartel Vin Biologique  2018  10/13  plump fruit, gd style 
***(*)  Visan Domaine de l’Obrieu Les Antonins  2018-19  09/16 spice, gras, STGT
***(*)  Visan Philippe Plantevin L’Aglanié  2018-19  10/13  STGT; stylish, gourmand 
***(*)  Visan Roche-Audran Marius Père Mayeux  2019-20  09/13  harmony; tasty 
***(*) Visan Vignoble Art Mas Classic 2020-21 09/16 depth, balance, character
***(*)  Visan Vignoble Art Mas il était une fois 2018  12/14  tasty, enjoyable 
***(*) Visan Vignobles La Coterie Anvis 2018-18 10/13 pure, precise, subtle
***(*)  Visan Rémi Pouizin Native  2019  02/15  good flourish, w.o.w. 
***(*)  CdR Vill Dom Biscarelle Le Grand Saint Paul  2020-21  12/12  grand; upfront, long 
***(*)  CdR Vill André Brunel Sabrine  2019  10/13  ample, well made 
***(*)  CdR Vill Château Pegaü Setier  2019-20  10/13  tasty, lasting fruit 
***  Cairanne Domaine Alary  2020-21  11/14  fresh, fair length 
*** Cairanne Dom d Amadieu Haut Beauregard 2021-22 04/15 sealed, spiced, oak
*** Cairanne Domaine Armand Soleïador 2018 04/15 smooth fruit, gentle
***  Cairanne Domaine Brusset Les Travers  2017-18  10/13  round fruit; straightfwd 
***  Cairanne Camille Cayran Belvedère  2018-19  10/13  easy weight, suave fruit 
***  Cairanne Camille Cayran Réserve  2018-19  10/13  easy fruit, constructed 
***  Cairanne Dom des Coteaux des Travers  2018-19  10/13  textured gras, bit simple 
***  Cairanne Romain Duvernay  2018-19  10/13  bright fruit, tar intensity 
***  Cairanne Dom Philippe Plantevin Daurelle  2019-20  10/13  modern; extracted   
***  Cairanne Dom Présidente Patrick Galant  2018  10/13  mature fruit, mild gras 
***  Cairanne Domaine Rabasse Charavin  2018-19  10/13  alert fruit, power hum 
***  Cairanne Domaine de la Tête Noire  2017-18  10/13  grounded, traditional 
***  Cairanne Vins de Vienne La Perdendaille  2018-19  10/13  sweet berries, punch 
***  Chusclan Château Signac Tradition  2018-19  10/13  Syr/Carign grip, sound 
***  Chusclan Laudun Chusclan Les Genets  2017-18  10/13  clear, fluid fruit 
***  Chusclan Domaine La Romance  2017  10/13  neat, round, tasty 
***  Chusclan Domaine La Romance No 1  2018-19  10/13  shapely, modern, oak 
*** Gadagne Château de Fontségugne 2019 09/16 rugged; pepper, spice
***  Gadagne Terres d’Avignon Château Quilex  2018  06/15  solid depth, peppery 
***  Laudun Chât Juliette Mme Butterfly  2018  10/13  liqueur fruit, long 
***  Laudun Laudun Chusclan Clos de Taman  2016-17  10/13  appealing fruit, easy 
***  Massif d’Uchaux Domaine de la Renjarde  2019  10/13  clear fruit, upright 
***  Massif d’Uchaux Vignobles Simian Louronne  2018-19  10/13  sleek fruit, upfront 
***  Plan de Dieu Ferraton Père & Fils  2018  10/13  calm, quite complete 
*** Plan de Dieu Maison Plantevin Vx Couillon  2018-19  10/13  thorough palate 
***  Plan de Dieu Rabasse Charavin Cailloux  2018-19  10/13  liberal fruit, cool end 
***  Plan de Dieu Olivier Ravoire 2018  10/13  modern, juiced 
***  Roaix Vignerons Roaix-Séguret  2017  10/13  trad; supple fruits 
*** Rochegude La Suzienne 2018 07/16 round gras, plump, broad
***  Sablet Domaine Les Goubert  2020-21  10/13  Wild Child 
*** Sablet Dom Haute Marone Torrent du Trignon 2020 06/17 vigour, trad, lusty honesty
*** Sablet Domaine de Piaugier Les Briguières 2017 06/15 dark, spiced
***  Sablet Domaine de Verquière  2018-19  10/13  gd central fruit, candid 
*** Saint-Gervais LE Domaine Clavel 2017 06/15 plum fruit, steady wine
***  Séguret Ch La Courançonne Fiole du Chev  2019  10/13 

modern, free

***  Séguret Maison Plantevin  2017-18  10/13  local cut, spice 
***  Signargues Domaine Amido  2017-18  10/13  free delivery; supple 
***  Signargues Cave Estézargues Montagnette 2016-17  04/13  plump; mild tannins 
***  Signargues Pierre-Henri Morel  2018-19 10/13  firm; fresh vigour 
***  Signargues Haut-Musiel  2017-18  10/13  unclad; springy fruit 
***  Valréas Clos Bellane  2018-19  10/13  scented, fresh 
*** Valréas Dom des Lauribert La Carelette 2018 06/15 quiet Grenache gras
***  Valréas Domaine du Séminaire  2019-20  10/13  southern gras; reliable 
***  Visan Clos du Père Clément Cuvée N Dame  2018  06/13  wide fruit 
*** Visan Vignobles La Coterie Porte St Martin 2017-18 10/13 no pretence; calm fruit
*** Visan Domaine de Lucéna Passo Fino 2017 06/15 lithe, local, character
***  CdR Vill Ch du Bois de la Garde  2018  10/13  fluid, no frills 
***  CdR Vill Cie Rhodanienne Les Combelles  2018  10/13  spiced, jam fruit 
***  CdR Vill Domaine des Gravennes  2018  10/13  floral, agreeable, pure 
***  CdR Vill Mas Sainte Croix Tendresse Climat  2018  10/13  spiced, tight fruit 
***  CdR Villages Ortas  2017-18  10/13  pliant fruit, modern 
***  CdR Vill Dom La Réméjeanne Genévriers  2019-20  10/13  savoury, copious
***  CdR Villages Vidal-Fleury  2019-20  10/13  close-knit, muscled 

2. RASTEAU 2012 REDS

2012 is a very good vintage at Rasteau. It beats 2011 and 2013, with 2010, 2009 and 2014 all very good as well. Stylistically, the wines have plenty of life, and in 2015 have started to show well. My tasting of around 35 wines in April 2015 pointed to a wide spread of quality, with a true local expression that resulted in four STGT wines.

The crop was small, hit by coulure (flowers not converting into fruit) on the Grenache and by the dry conditions of the summer, which particularly hit those vineyards on the southern edge of the appellation on the Plan de Dieu. There was also a risk of mildew at first, which was dealt with by copper treatments.

As a result, the vineyard experienced two seasons – the wet of the early spring time, and the drought of the high summer. I consider that the best wines came from the slightly higher, more northerly sector, but a common theme is the welcome one of moderate degree across the range. This freshness works well in wines that can slip into over robust territory if the sun’s rays are too intense and constant.

The growers have taken to the vintage over time, with more enthusiasm expressed than was perhaps the case at first. As JEAN-PAUL BERTRAND of DOMAINE GRAND NICOLET told me: “there is a good balance between alcohol and tannins and freshness in 2012. I would be happy with that each year, with a bit more crop, say 30 hl/ha, not the 24 hl/ha we had this year. There is a lot of freshness this year.”

JEAN-PAUL’s great buddy, ROBERT CHARAVIN of DOMAINE DES COTEAUX DES TRAVERS, also alluded to the agreeable nature of the 2012s. His first bulletin, nine months after the harvest, ran as follows: “2012 is very agreeable to drink, on its fruit; the vintage lacks a bit of foundation, is uneven in quality. On my Mourvèdre I didn’t have more crop but the bunches were double their usual size, so that went into the Côtes du Rhône, since the wine lacked its normal depth.

Certain plots on the Plan de Dieu came in at a tiny 12 hl/ha – some plants failed to nourish, others not. It is a fruit vintage above all. 2012 doesn’t show evident tannin – they are present, well installed. For now, the wines are not evolving or shifting.”

ROBERT’s second, more recent view, came in April 2015, when he informed me, with the benefit of 2013 and 2014 since then, “it is a very, very good, handsome year. The wines are quite facile, but have a lot of charm. They are very well fruited, and you want to drink them. The tannins are well integrated, aren’t very strong, nor are the wines too high in alcohol, unlike some of the 2011s. There’s very good balance in 2012 – the wines are a pleasure to drink.”

When I was tasting 2012, 2013 and 2014 together recently at Rasteau, I was struck by the lack of ease in the 2013s – it is certainly the weakest of the three vintages, a year when achieving tannic ripeness was a struggle. The 2014s seduced thanks to their bustling, open fruit and pliant tannins – they were high on drinkability and immediate charm. The best 2012s, though, achieved an all-round appeal, combining depth with length and good filling. Some of the merchant wines weren’t very good, but the best wines from hand-made sources were striking.

2012 is also regarded as superior to 2011 by growers such as PATRICK BRUNEL of CHÂTEAU DE LA GARDINE and ROBERT CHARAVIN, while PAUL-ÉMILE MASSON, the young man at the helm of DOMAINE BRESSY MASSON told me: “2011 is more powerful than 2012, which is very fruited, fresh vintage.”

I would recommend buying, cellaring and drinking Rasteau in 2012, especially as the wines are reasonably priced. In this sort of form, they present about the best and most reliable option after CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE and GIGONDAS, the best wines selling for a little less than VACQUEYRAS. They are well ahead of neighbours BEAUMES-DE-VENISE and VINSOBRES, and deserve to be better known.

Back the 2012s to do well over ten years or so. Domaines such as GRAND NICOLET really provide access to the full-blooded warmth of these soils, with their CÔTES DU RHÔNE also a really genuine, nicely filled glass of wine. In the modern style, at pretty much the other end of the spectrum, advising, comes DOMAINE LA SOUMADE of ANDRÉ and FRÉDÉRIC ROMÉRO. They are advised by Bordeaux consultant STÉPHANE DERENONCOURT, and the style is smooth and sleek, their tannins particularly supple.

It is encouraging that the CAVE CO-OPERATIVE, ORTAS, also did well this year. Life isn’t easy for Co-operatives these days, and ORTAS have just let go their winemaker - not replacing him - and sold their DOMAINE DE PISAN, a case in my view of selling family silver. These actions indicate just how much financial stress there is in the system nowadays for these large groupings. And ORTAS is one of the very best. I will write about the situation at CAIRANNE in another place.

LEADING 2012 RASTEAU REDS

****(*)  Dom Grand Nicolet Les Esqueyrons    2023-24  04/15  accomplished, stylish  
****(*)  Domaine Les Grands Bois Marc   2021-22  04/15  STGT; bounty, tasty, long  
****(*)  Dom la Soumade Fleur de Confiance   2023-24  11/13  v gd drink, very tasty  
****  Domaine Beau Mistral Florianaëlle   2021-22  04/15  genuine, smooth  
****  Dom de Beaurenard Argiles Bleues  2022-23  04/15  expressive, flair, VALUE  
****  Dom Coteaux des Travers Mondona  2021-22  04/15  supple, stylish, expressive 
****  Dom des Escaravailles Héritage 1924   2023-25  11/13  STGT; v persistent  
****  Dom de l’Espigouette Pas du Meunier  2023-24  04/15  bold, sleek, VALUE   
****  Domaine Grand Nicolet Vieilles Vignes  2022-23  04/15  muscular, genuine 
****  Cave Ortas Les Hauts du Village   2021-22  04/15  modern, upfront, long  
****  Domaine Saint Gayan Ilex   2021-22  04/15  STGT very bonny Gren, long  
***(*)  Château du Trignon   2021-22  04/15  enjoyable drive, life  
***(*)  Domaine Elodie Balme   2018  11/13  fleshy, juicy, primary  
***(*)  Domaine Beau Mistral Saint Martin   2020-21  04/15  honest heart, gd content  
***(*)  Domaine de Beaurenard   2020-21  04/15  STGT, rolling gras  
***(*)  Domaine Bressy Massin Paul Emile   2022-23  04/15  direct fruit, compact  
***(*)  Dom Didier Charavin Parpaïouns   2020-21  04/15  savoury, good heart  
***(*)  Domaine Combe Julière Cuvée Aîmé   2020-22  04/15  STGT; well-filled   
***(*)  Domaine des Escaravailles La Ponce   2021-22  04/15  upbeat, crisp fruit  
***(*) Domaine Grange Blanche L’Archange 2020-21 04/15 spiced, hearty, local power  
***(*)  Cave Ortas Domaine de Pisan   2021-22  04/15  juiced, expressive, oak   
***(*)  Cave Ortas Prestige   2021-22  04/15  gd fruit, stern tannins  
***(*)  Domaine Pique-Basse   2021-22  04/15  stylish fruit, clear  
***(*) Christophe Semaska 2023-24 04/16 plum, spice, serious wine
***(*)  Domaine la Soumade Cuvée Confiance 2020-21  04/15  easy going, flow  
***(*)  Domaine de Verquière   2020-21  04/15  aromatic fruit, natural   
***  Château de la Gardine   2018-19 04/15  low-key, bit distant  
***  Domaine Beau Mistral Vieilles Vignes   2020-21  04/15  solid, charged up  
***  Domaine Mikael Boutin MB  2018  04/15  genuine, local, peppery  
***  Domaine Didier Charavin Prestige   2019-20  04/15  trad, fleshy, spiced gras  
***  Dom des Escaravailles Les Côteaux   2018-19  04/15  subtle Grenache  
***  Domaine Fond Croze   2018-19  04/15  safe depth, sound  
***  Dom Martin Les Sommets de Rasteau   2019-20  04/15  genuine, spiced warmth  
***  Cave Ortas Ico(o)n   2021-22  04/15  some gras, much oak  
***  Famille Perrin L’Andéol   2020-21  10/13  big, punchy, some dryness  
***  Domaine Rabasse Charavin   2019-20  04/15  plump matter, drinks well  
*** Christophe Semaska Sélection Or 2026-27 04/16 prune fruit; chunky, oaked
**(*)  Domaine de La Garance   2019  04/15  lacks freshness, powdery  
**(*)  Lavau   2018-19  04/15  plain wine, some fruit  
**(*)  Domaine du Trapadis Les Adrès   2020  04/15  closely packed, near Port  
**  Ogier Héritages   2017  04/15  uninspiring, bit thin  
         

 

 

CHÂTEAU MONT-REDON AND ITS GALET STONE VINEYARDS: NEW CELLARS, A 2012 THAT CAPTURES THE HIGH FRUIT QUALITY OF THIS VERY GOOD, CHARMING VINTAGE

3. 2012 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE REDS 

2012 is an important vintage for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Meteorologically, the style of the year is one of naturally fresh wines that drink freely. The French word “dentelle” – I translate it probably rather poorly as “toothsome” – applies well. One has the desire to drink another glass, and kick back.

This style runs in direct contrast to the sort of wines that have been made in the past two decades, when power and dollops of sweet richness have been literally the flavour of the day. The cult of Prestige wines from micro plots of old vines, often further coated in lashings of new or young oak, their extreme ripeness at harvesting serving to provide degrees of 16° or more, has ruled supreme. And, from a grower’s point of view, why not? Multiply the price of the regular wine by two to six times, sell it, make money, live well.

However, the essential soul of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape that I first knew in the early 1970s, when, without making great efforts at tracking them down, I was often drinking wines back to 1959, has perished. Supported by subsequent tastings of some of these now very old bottles, the immediate impression in those days was one of finesse, supported by a warm cast of intrigue from the herbs, flint, floral and grainy dabs of the vicinity.

A CHANGED STYLE: FINESSE TO POWER

The most important influence on the style of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the past 20 or more years has been the American wine critic Robert Parker Jr. He it was who encouraged growers to produce micro cuvées of only a few hundred or very few thousand bottles. His palate unashamedly was drawn towards BIG wines, full of evident flavour. His global reach was huge. His influence and praise for oenologues such as Philippe Cambie meant that, as a grower, you had to be cussed, even wilful, to step outside his sphere of influence and go your own way, one away from power and towards delicacy and lightness of touch.

But now Robert Parker Jr has retired. He has been replaced by a young man with about 10 years experience and a well-financed publishing system based inSingapore. Perhaps Bob himself is wondering about whether the wines he extolled so highly – “2007 is the best vintage of my career” – will keep going and prove their qualities in years and decades to come. Perhaps everything is open.

FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A BEE BACK IN VOGUE, PERHAPS

Well, if in the Final Court of Law on Wine, you appreciate balance, harmony, subtlety – the  ringcraft of Muhammad Ali as opposed to the shattering blows of a young, pumped up George Foreman – then this may be Your Moment. I apply this remark both to drinkers and vignerons and vigneronnes. Come on, show us what you can do, make the terroir sing to me again, amuse me, tempt me, murmur to me, yes, seduce me.

2012: VERY GOOD, EXPRESSIVE

2012 is a very good, expressive vintage. It serves perfectly as the platform for the fightback. Will growers consciously take this chance, or are they so fixed in the corridor of sucrosity that they cannot spin their wheels out of this ponderous lane? The Prestige wine category in 2012 is still cluttered up by too many high degree, big intensity wines that lack zip and freshness, and demand drinking by just one glass at a time, often after a good meal rather than all the way through it. Some lesser priced 2012 Tradition wines offer hope. There is still work to be done, mes Camarades. Venceremos, even if it takes time.

FROZEN FEBRUARY TAKES A BIG TOLL

The first hurdle this year was the January warmth that was followed by intense cold in February, and the fallout from that. The extraordinary warmth in January raced up to the high 20°Cs (touching the 80°Fs). The frost and freeze of February then crept up and shocked the growers with its effects that only really emerged in April, as the vines started to bud and vegetate. The main victims were old Grenache – vines above 50 years or so. The theory was that because these vines had a complex branch system, their sap from the January heat didn’t have time to descend before the biting winds and frost took their toll. The wind chill factor meant that temperatures were around minus 20°C for around ten days. Growers had never known such cold and all pruning was suspended as a result.

However, pruned and unpruned vines both suffered as it turned out, while one grower noted thatAlicantefroze, but Carignan didn’t. The Survivors, the relatively younger vines with fewer and straighter branches, saw their sap retreat more quickly, and thus they were spared. Châteauneuf suffered less than some areas in the northern, colder Vaucluse, with plenty of damage at places such as RASTEAU and BEAUMES-DE-VENISE, provoked by trails of winds running close to the line of hills typified by the Dentelles de Montmirail.

Although less blighted than more exposed areas of the Vaucluse further east, growers still lost a significant contribution from their old vine Grenache, the very juice that is needed to from the heart and soul of any proper Châteauneuf.

THE IMPACT ON THE GROWERS

RÉGIS BARROT of the 14.5 hectare DOMAINE LUCIEN BARROT ET FILS gave his version of these events: “our 60 to 70 year vines were hit by the freeze, a lot of mortality, while the 30 to 40 year vines were OK. We have to replace 2,750 vines – nearly one hectare. Our yield was 27 hl/ha – there were several reasons - frost and cold during flowering, first of all. The crop quality was very, very good.”

JEAN-PAUL VERSINO of DOMAINE BOIS DE BOURSAN also lost plants, but looking back was happy about the year overall: “2012 has been a very easy year. We did of course have the problem of cold down to -20°C to 22°C in February, with mortality on the old Grenache, vines above 50 years, so our yields from them were low. The vines under 50 years compensated, and tilted the balance. My yield was 25 hl/ha, similar to 2010, another year of cold and coulure. 2011 was 33 hl/ha, by contrast.”

ANDRÉ BRUNEL of LES CAILLOUX saw damage in the north-west of the appellation near MONT-REDON, but it varied from one site to a neighbouring other site; “as for the frost, I lost 25-30% of my 1920 Grenache planted by my grandfather on CABRIÈRES, where the soils are cool, with no stones. My old Grenache on FARGUEROL [goes back to 1889] – which goes into the CUVÉE CENTENAIRE – survived better, helped by the galet stones there. I have a big pile of dead vine woods in my courtyard to keep me warm at night.”

CHRISTOPHE SABON of DOMAINE DE LA JANASSE at COURTHÉZON in the North-East of the vineyard identified his very old Grenache – 60 years and above – as the main victim of the freeze, whereas under 50 year old vines were spared. “I lost between 5% and 20%, especially on my Vin de Table next to the River Ouvèze and Côtes du Rhône vines on the colder plain areas. With its warmer spots, Châteauneuf was better off.”

THE PROCESS OF REPLACEMENT

XAVIER ROLIN, the very young man running DOMAINE ROGER PERRIN with his mother, gave some insight into the consequences of such vine losses: “we lost 7,500 vines in February 2012; then another 3,000 plants the next year, 2013, as a longer-term result. All this then involves making holes to replant, but also keeping them irrigated and in good shape before the planting. We drill holes to a depth of 60-80 cm (2 ft-2ft 8 in), and can achieve up to 300 holes in a day; as for planting, we can plant up to 300 to 400 plants in a day.” Just doing the mathematics, many, many days of work are implied by these sums.

SOUND WATER LEVELS AT THE START OF THE SEASON

250 mm (10 inches) of rain in October 2011 had acted as a helpful moisturiser for the vineyards over the winter, which was generally dry. First half of April 2012 rain of around 25-30 mm (1+in) was therefore welcome, the vines running at about one week behind 2011 at that springtime stage.

FLOWERING

Flowering on the Grenache presented the next obstacle to sound yields in 2012. CHRISTOPHE SABON again: “I have no complaints for now [July 12] , unlike the other regions of France. Our yields will be low, like 2010 after we suffered coulure (flowers failing to convert into fruit) on the old Grenache, and random flowering elsewhere – some bunches OK, others not, on the same plant. There are spots of mildew here and there, but we haven’t had storms and hail, only light rains when they have come.

It’s been very dry and also hot for two weeks now, with temperatures now around 32°C, our last rainfall being 3 mm last week and 20 mm (0.8 in) on the first weekend of July. Our Syrah are starting to turn colour. It is a year from the old days, when Parisians were forced to come to Provence to seek the sun,” [did I detect a note of relish in his voice?]

VINCENT AVRIL of CLOS DES PAPES added a further point about the irregular start to the year when he told me what happened at flowering: “we had lost 15-20% of our old Grenache, just like that, in the cold. The season started slowly, but vegetation ran ahead and was still pushing on when flowering started – branches grew 80 cm (32 inches) in two weeks if you can believe it, which of course perturbed the flowering. The coulure was at small levels across all the varieties, not just the Grenache, and there was a lot of millerandage – small, sometimes seedless, berries within a bunch. We had to cut out a lot of bunches, and flowering was eventually good.”

DRY SUMMER

The summer was notable for generally dry conditions and fine weather, unlike many areas ofFrancefurther north and west. JEAN-PAUL VERSINO, BOIS DE BOURSAN: “we had optimal, even superb conditions during the summer, a small amount of rain in early July, which allowed the grapes to expand. I didn’t have to treat a lot – I did three mildew treatments from April to the end of July, also oïdium, all at half the usual dose.”

COLD MORNINGS, A BOON

ANDRÉ BRUNEL, the wise veteran at LES CAILLOUX, gave me this account of proceedings in mid-August: “things are looking rather good after our three months of fine weather. South of the village there is some drought, around Les Serres, but it is not yet dramatic. The grapes are well expanded, and have turned colour well [the veraison], with ripening speeding along.” The veraison was certainly encouraged this year by cold mornings and days up to no more than 25-30°C.

“We could start on our Grenache blanc before September, continued ANDRÉ. “We seem to be one of the only French regions to have had this good weather. Yields will be correct, not excessive – we had coulure on the Grenache, while the Syrah is pretty, a bit in advance as would be expected in a hot year. We are looking at 30 hl/ha.”

“Our last rain was in early June,” he continued; “we have had 1-2 mm here and there, but nothing to speak of. It is 34°C today, and it’s certain that our spring rain until into May helped the vineyard a lot.”

“My fear is for the young vines if this hot and dry weather continues, but at least recent nights have been fresh, with 17°C this morning, nor has there been any dew yet. So far, it is a year for clay sectors over gravel and sand zones. One concern is low acidity, but when I look back to my father’s vintages in the 1950s, there were cases of burnt acidity and high pHs then as well. The main difference, of course, is that now we make wines ready to drink soon, and to live a lot less long, unlike the 1960s vintages. I found some small cuvée Prestige 2000s from colleagues here drinking at their best the other day, for instance, only 12 years old.”

JIGGY JIGGY THROUGH THE COOL NIGHTS: VOILÀ BALANCE

Cool nights are absolutely vital in the southern Rhône; their role is underestimated by most outsiders, but the importance of the vines switching off in a 24 hour cycle is crucial. For me, this is a feature that leads almost unerringly towards balance in the subsequent wine. The mighty 2010 vintage was marked by fresh nights as well, by the way. Their role in 2012 is just as important in teeing up the charm of the vintage.

EVENTS AT EARLY BIRD LA NERTHE

One of the very first harvesters at Châteauneuf is CHÂTEAU LA NERTHE; this is claimed by CHRISTIAN VOEUX to be purely due to reasons of correct ripeness, so press the button and go. For some reason, recent vintages of LA NERTHE lack the “sparkle” and wow factor, as if a rather erratic but always amusing City state, perhaps Merano in Northern Italy, home of a good racecourse and mentioned in despatches in the LLOYD WEBBER Musical CHESS, has decided to become part of Switzerland.

CHRISTIAN spoke about their harvesting in 2012: “we started harvesting at LA NERTHE and LA RENJARDE [their MASSIF D’UCHAUX property] on 22 August, for the white crop, on 23 August for TAVEL at PRIEURÉ DE MONTÉZARGUES and on 24 August for my own DOMAINE DE L’AMAUVE at SÉGURET. We started on the red crop at La Nerthe on 31 August.”

“Normally La Nerthe is ripe at the same time as the Côtes du Rhônes, but is a bit later this year. The eight to 10 days before we started harvesting were abnormally hot, registering up to 38-39°C. There has been very good ripening in clay soils, while sand-based vineyards have advanced more quickly. Nights in the ten day spell of hot weather were half fresh – down to 17-18°C, half hot – 25°C. It appears that tannin levels are high this year. The Grenache noir at La Nerthe is around 14.5° now [29 August], the Syrah 13.8°-14°, and the Mourvèdre is lagging as it should usually do, around 12°-12.5°.”

“Our researches show that the small yields lead to more advance in ripening, while La Nerthe is a precocious, even hot, zone at Châteauneuf. We expect yields along the lines of 2010 this year – not high, due to vines dying in the February freeze and to coulure (flowers failing to transform into fruit) at flowering.”

LATE SUMMER RAIN, THANK YOU

After the heat of late August, a few splashes of rain – 10-20 mm (0.4-0.8 in) in the north towards ORANGE, more further south - were useful, and didn’t hit the concentration of the grapes. PATRICK BRUNEL of CHÂTEAU DE LA GARDINE reported as follows on 6 September: “the vegetation looks good, we have had no mildew or oïdium, and there was a helpful rainfall of around 40 mm (1.6 in) at the end of August and the first day of September – that helped acidity levels and put things in place.”

For the later harvesters, there was a potential hiccough in late September. SÉBASTIEN JAUME of DOMAINE GRAND VENEUR in the north of the appellation spoke about it: “the skins were good and resistant despite the rain storm of 40-50 mm (1.8-2 in) on 25 September, which took place in just 30 minutes, a real heavy downpour. It rained in the morning, but we were able to harvest in the afternoon. We finished picking in early October - the grapes remained stable until the end. Our yield was 32 hl/ha.”

YO-YO CROP LEVELS

A yield of 32 hl/ha is very respectable in my book for 2012; the unevenness of the crop delivery is illustrated by the comment from MARC PERRIN of CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL, who informed me: “we are 30% down on yields at Beaucastel against 2011 – the story this year of having a lot of grapes but not a lot of juice in them.”

JÉRÔME GRIECO, who makes lovely drinking wine, free of the burden of sucrosity, at DOMAINE DE LA BISCARELLE at the northern limit of the appellation, gave this summary: “it is a joli vintage with good concentration and good total acidities – above 4, whereas some years they don’t reach 3.5. We have the acidity of Côte-Rôtie this year. The grapes were stunning, in a super state. On 25 August our Syrah was at 15.2°, but the tannins weren’t ready; then there was a 20 mm (0.8 in) rainfall at the end of August – this rediluted the grapes and expanded them again. We eventually started on the Syrah the 12 September – you had to wait for the rain to be absorbed in the grapes. There was a fall of 80 mm (3.2 in) in the 3rd week of September, after we had finished.”

EMMANUEL REYNAUD, sagacious doyen of CHÂTEAU RAYAS observed: “the weather was very beau, but we lacked storms in July and August - they didn’t come until early September, which upset the cycle of the vines. The harvest dates were later than recent years – we started towards 4-5 October, and ended on 22-23 October. All the grapes were very black at the end of the summer, but there was a lack of rain. We had to wait again, and started two weeks after 2011.”

DANIEL BRUNIER of DOMAINE DU VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE reported on a very good quality crop on 20 September, when he had completed about 90% of the VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE harvest: “the quality of colour, the size of the grapes, the colour of the pips and stems is 9/10 – impressive, magnificent. There are no pink patches in the Grenache and the Cinsault: it is rare to have that state of health. There is a lot of taste when you try the grapes. We lost 20%, especially the Syrah, the Grenache down about 15%. We were harvesting in the third week of September with grapes coming in at a lovely cool 8°C in the mornings, helped by strong Mistral and days going up to maybe 24°C.”

LOW YIELDS, LOTS OF FRUIT

LAURENT BRÉCHET of CHÂTEAU DE VAUDIEU, next to RAYAS, is extremely content with his 2012. He told me: “2012 is the best year we have had. Is it better than 2011? Yes. This year all varieties did very, very well. The rains didn’t make an impact. The Grenache was very good, the Syrah wonderful, and the Mourvèdre, picked on 8-10 October, was magnificent. It is a true casserole of good elements. Yields were low, with less power than 2010, and the wines are overrun with fruit. Our yield was 23 hl/ha, against 20 hl/ha in 2011 and 23 hl/ha in 2010.”

2012-1998 CONNECTION

PIERRE FABRE of CHÂTEAU MONT-REDON, its new cellars surrounded by a sea of galet stones in the North-West, was also enthusiastic, making an interesting comparison by selecting a vintage that at its birth was hailed as an All-Star Grenache year. He remarked: “2012 is an improved version of 1998 – a small crop – 27 hl/ha - not a big concentration in the wines, but they are full. The vintage isn’t exuberant like 2007, nor as concentrated and dense as 2010. It is a very good year among recent vintages, and I rate it better than 2005. We co-fermented 90% of the crop this year for the first time – we could do that as a lot of varieties ripened at the same time; normally we co-ferment around 20% only.”

2012: 2005 +2010

VINCENT AVRIL of CLOS DES PAPES is a fan of the Mourvèdre, which usually comprises 20% of the final blend at this top class estate. He, too, was happy: “the 2012 Mourvèdre is super, no doubt. 2012 is perhaps a mix of 2005 (finesse) and 2010 (matter). A lot of vineyard work was needed; it is a Syrah-Mourvèdre year since the Grenache was hit by coulure – that meant that the wine will be 55% Grenache, not 65%. 2012 is perhaps a mix of 2005 (finesse) and 2010 (matter). It is close to 2010 with a bit less matter, but more finesse.”

LOWERED GRENACHE CONTENT

The theme of lowered Grenache content ran across the appellation, some examples being the PÈRES DE L’ ÉGLISE LE CALICE DE SAINT-PIERRE dropping from 90-95% Grenache down to 85%, the Syrah taking the slack. At DOMAINE DE CRISTIA, the TRADITION Grenache share fell from 85% to 70%, the difference made up with Syrah and Mourvèdre. The CHÂTEAU DE VAUDIEU blend also changed: 75% Grenache from the usual 80-85%, the rest Syrah - 25% from 15%.

Meanwhile the DOMAINE DE NALYS regular cuvée contained only 51% Grenache - from 60%, with more Syrah, Cinsault and Counoise, all influences for lower degree and higher levels of cut, while the very traditional CLOS DES BRUSQUIÈRES Grenache content fell to just 60% (from up to 85%), with more Cinsault than usual - 10%. It is ironic to think that DOCTOR PHILIPPE DUFAYS, the owner of DOMAINE DE NALYS in the 1960s, a scientist and experimenter, and supporter of macération carbonique fermentation, always extolled the virtues of the Cinsault “in order to calm the Grenache” – an anti-local stance - and yet he is honoured with his SALLE COMMUNALE DUFAYS, where village events take place. At last he has his wish!

CONSEQUENCES OF LESS GRENACHE NOIR

Darker colours, longer finishes and lower degree are results of these adaptations; they go to underline the traditional southern way, that of blending rather than making single varietal wines, and indeed planting single block vineyards. With the steady ripening sequence of 2012, pockets of rain just at the bon moment, and the supplement of cool nights and fresh mornings at some well-timed moments, the ability to produce balanced wines this year rose.

LESS ALCOHOL

PATRICK BRUNEL at CHÂTEAU DE LA GARDINE likes to make elegant wines, respecting his vineyards that have loose subsoils below the galet stones, ones that drain pretty well. He stated: “there is less alcohol than 2011, a great bonus this year, since I found the 2011 rather unbalanced. The 2012 is supple, elegant, a terroir wine.”

ANDRÉ MATHIEU of DOMAINE MATHIEU, an underrated address also appreciated the lesser level of alcohol when saying: “it’s a good year; at 14.5°, there is less degree than usual, so the balance is better. There is less sucrosity than the high degree years. The tannins are still solid. Vinifications went smoothly.”

AH, FRESHNESS, MAESTRO

From different points of the compass across this sprawling vineyard, growers declared themselves in favour of the vintage, without necessarily overdoing the praise. PHILIPPE BRAVAY of DOMAINE DE FERRAND in the top, North-West zone,Orangeby the map, was happy. His neighbours are domaines such as BISCARELLE, VIEILLE JULIENNE and CHARVIN. He told me: “I have good acidity and freshness, a bit along the lines of 2010 without the same concentration, the crop well-ripened. The fruit is stylish and appealing, the tannin quite fine and silken. The 2012 fruits are dark, sombre, more so than the red fruits of 2011. It is a very beau, croquant [crisp, drinkable] vintage with a lot of fruit and good acidity despite the August heat.”

“Our average pH is 3.60, the colour good. Good balance, belle tension in the wine. It is very fresh and very much on the fruit one year later, almost too flattering. Above all, the Grenache is beau. My yields were 29-30 hl/ha, whereas 2010 was under 20 hl/ha, due to coulure. It was a year of drought, which we felt – I have more marc with less juice than in 2011, so 2012 isn’t a year for a saignée vinification, as the grapes have a good foundation and concentration. 

I would say that 2012 is irregular since some people are very short on crop, others not – this occurred all  across the appellation. We had corridors of wind where sometimes you had to take out dead vines all along it – near my domaine itself one plot was badly hit, and another next door wasn’t touched. We subsequently had work to do over the winter of 2012-2013. I heard of one such corridor at Cairanne where two hectares of vines were lost.”

A RED FRUITS VINTAGE

The freshness angle was commented upon by younger and older growers alike; RÉGIS BARROT of DOMAINE LUCIEN BARROT ET FILS reached 60 IN December 2012, and has many decades of experience: “the degree this year was 14°-14.2° (only). 2012 is on the fruit, and has less alcohol than 2011, hence more fruit and aroma are on show. A handsome acidity holds it up well. The vintage is quite nervous, and will age rather well. It shows more red fruits and has less colour than 2011. 2011 has more charm, is more flattering and southern, and is more structured than 2012, its fruits darker, like blueberries.”

Another BARROT, young JULIEN of DOMAINE LA BARROCHE, who is only loosely related, took a similar line of the zest of the year: “2012 is a fresh vintage with good colour, very appealing fruit – it isn’t a solar year, and pleases me much. Its tannins are well founded. It is like 2006 – a wine for drinking à table, a 2010 with less tannin. Above all, it centres on fresh fruits, unlike 2007, 2009 and 2011.” I am in full agreement here – the 2006 comparison is very apt. Today, eight years on, the 2006s are drinking extremely well, a full flared nostril of fruit leading their charge.

2012 IS NOT A MINI 2010

Some comparisons are being made with 2010, with which I do not really agree. 2012 is a northern vintage in inspiration with pockets of the south travelling through it. 2010 is a southern vintage, a brooding size at its heart, with pockets of the north in it. 2010 is a better, more complete year. ANDRÉ BRUNEL of LES CAILLOUX approached this subject when discussing the year with me: “I am happy – the year is very agreeable. The wines are expressive today, fruited, balanced, with a bit less structure and less density than the 2010s. They have a different profile to 2011, and are a bit better than that. The tannins are well installed – 2012 has more immediate fruit than 2011, which is more traditional and spiced.”

HIGH QUALITY FRUIT AND PURITY

The quality of the fruit in 2012, and its transparent nature has not been lost on growers such as LAURENT CHARVIN of DOMAINE CHARVIN. Laurent has eschewed multi cuvée options, has made just the one wine, raised in concrete – so no cosmetics, no sucrosity from this STGT domaine up in the North-West of the appellation. He isn’t given to long monologues, but told me: “in 2012 there’s a lot of purity, and balance is possible. It is more heterogeneous than 2010.”

Laurent’s neighbour CLAUDE CHASTAN of DOMAINE SAINT SIFFREIN also has a decent holding on the galet stone site of Cabrières. Claude’s view on 2012 runs thus: “it is very profound but also elegant, so the wines can be drunk more rapidly, before five years’ old. They hold black fruits above all, which bring its depth.”

YANNICK FÉRAUD of DOMAINE EDDIE FÉRAUD made his debut this year; the family sites are split between the sandy North-East and the stony, clay-limestone spots of south of the village, so different sources from Charvin and Saint Siffrein. He commented: “2012 is a year en finesse, has a lot of elegance, isn’t monstrous. It works on length and freshness, is gourmand. It is my first vintage; I think it expresses terroir, has a flavour of kirsch, cherries.”

KEEPING ABILITY, FINESSE

The wines are backed by some to evolve pretty well over time, beyond their early flourish, thanks to their acidity and their balance. I agree with this, what I would term an old-fashioned take on matters. BRUNO LEROY of CHÂTEAU FORTIA pointed this out: “the wines have the potential to keep well thanks to their good acidity; they are pretty round.”

THIÉRRY USSEGLIO of DOMAINE PIERRE USSEGLIO & FILS also considers the vintage likely to keep well. He said: “the wines have a lot of finesse, an attractive structure, a lot of fruit; the vintage is like a small 2010, is quite straight along as a wine, frank, with good freshness. The wines will keep well, will be good, and I expect surprises in time. There is less concentration than 2010, but they may increase in density as they go. By contrast, 2011 has a lot of fruit, opulence and is flattering.”

FRANÇOISE ROUMIEUX of VIGNOBLES MAYARD highlighted the toothsome style of the year when remarking: “2012 is a very joli year with a lot of freshness, a good tension in the wines. Vinifications were not complicated, nor the harvest, which was very healthy, with no rot. Our yield was 28 hl/ha.”

SPICES AND SUNSHINE

EMMANUEL REYNAUD of CHÂTEAU RAYAS also noted the fresh profile of the vintage when telling me: “the vintage has some of the freshness ofBurgundy, a bit of its acidity, which is rare down here. There are both spices and sunshine in the wine [a great line from Emmanuel] – more than we used to get in the 1980s and 1990s. If trying to find a vintage that is similar, perhaps it is 2004 or 2006, which had their slight acid fruiting. The year is quite light in alcohol – Rayas is just 14.5°, Fonsalette 15° and Pignan 15.5°.” 

2012 WELL AHEAD OF 2011

FRANÇOIS PERRIN of CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL was another grower to praise the balance of the year: “I find the 2011 Beaucastel red ripe, juicy, on a jam-like trail. In the 2012 I find vibrancy – you have shape, not a blockbuster, and a handsome balance.”

ANNE-CHARLOTTE MÉLIA of CHÂTEAU DE LA FONT DE LOUP also pointed out her preference for the essential structure of 2012 over that of 2011 when stating: “2011 is a glamorous year, with lots of fruit; 2012 has more matter, more austerity, more tension.”

2012: JOLI, JOLLY

So, here we have a joli vintage, and a jolly one. It is enjoyable, doesn’t demand extensive “pre-match” physical training, and slips along the palate well. The best badge of honour for the year is declared in the leading Tradition wines with their faithful garrigue notes and interesting variety of aromas welling up. They are often tasty, and terroir speaks in them thanks to their clarity; tannins are also integrated.

ARRIBA TRADITION, FROM HAND MADE TO LARGER SOURCES

Prime examples of the Tradition reds come in the form of some regular near STGT, hand made wine providers: DOMAINE DE LA BISCARELLE ****(*) – 4.8 hectares, tasty, generous, very engaging fruit, BIG VALUE; DOMAINE DE REVEIROLLES ****(*) – 4 hectares, charges of fruit, smoky cut, character, chunky, STGT wine; DOMAINE DE L’ARNESQUE CUVÉE CAPELANE **** - 1.8 hectares, clear fruit, agreeable rigour, sound balance, STGT wine; DOMAINE BOIS DE BOURSAN **** - 10 hectares, classic, traditional, likeable and fresh charge, STGT wine; DOMAINE LA BOUTINIÈRE **** - 10 hectares, harmonious, genuine and full, and also good VALUE; DOMAINE ROGER PERRIN **** - 14 hectares, attractive, generous fruit, smooth stroke tannin, nice kick; EDDIE FÉRAUD TRADITION ***(*) – 5.2 hectares, genuine, naked, lovely true Châteauneuf; PATRICE MAGNI SENSATION ***(*) – a 7 hectare domaine, friendly fruit, tasty throughout.  

Larger estates that have also hit the mark with their Tradition level wines in 2012 include CHÂTEAU MONT-REDON ****(*) – 95 hectares, proper, deep, serious Châteauneuf, a succulent heart; CHÂTEAU FORTIA **** - 30 hectares, Grenache-centirc, 2012 freedom, enjoyable and interesting; DOMAINE DE NALYS **** - 53 hectares, enjoyable, pure and stylish fruit, subdued power.

YUM YUM

There is also a group of wines that extol the virtues of smooth fruit, soft tannins and earlier than usual pleasure. Two wines come forward with a w.o.w., very passé par tour and drinkable quality about them – ideal in restaurants, for instance. One is the Bordeaux Cazes family-owned 25 hectare DOMAINE DES SÉNÉCHAUX, where stylish fruit and balance are the order of the day from one year to the next. Their 2012 ****(*) offers an impressive smooth and clear run along the palate, with charm and sing-song virtues in the mix, a markedly w.o.w. wine in its youth. Alongside that is the 2.5 hectare DOMAINE PORTE ROUGE, where the thoroughly enthusiastic BERNARD FRIEDMANN has produced a Châteauneuf ****(*) of proper drinkability, also high on charm, with the exact tastiness expected from 2012.

STGT: SAND DONE GOOD

In terms of STGT wines, of which there are as many as 11, the sand, which in its compacted, aged form is known as safre locally, has done well, its wines showing the truth of their soils. Two examples: OGIER SAFRES, a ****(*) an expressive merchant wine which has its own sun-inspired strength, as if the second half of the summer really got it going. And CLOS DU CAILLOU LES SAFRES  ****, bearing a fine attack, showing fragrance, elegance and understated power.

PRESTIGE WINES: STILL SCALE AND POWER AS THE FIRST INSTINCT

As for the expensive, small production Prestige Cuvée wines, 2012 shows that still the main target here is most often to provide BIG WINE. Scale and power come with the territory of these bottles, with few offering an enchanting experience, even though they start life endowed with sumptuous old vine Grenache fruit. I recall tasting the first five Prestige wines – blind tasting as usual – of 2012, and writing this: a step change from the red fruits and flow of the Tradition wines into notably spice, North African date and prune areas. The Prestige wines seem “older”.

SUCCESSFUL PRESTIGE

For a good example of this genre, however, I would point you towards a wine such as the DOMAINE DE LA CHARBONNIÈRE MOURRE DES PERDRIX *****. For a start, it breaks the rules by having 20,000 bottles made each year. It is also a three varietal blend, based on 70% Grenache from the 1950s and 1960s on the sand of Le Mourre des Perdrix in the North-East, south of the village of Courthézon. Its vat, large barrel and oak cask raising involves only 5% new oak, so from the start there can be access to precision rather than cosmetics. In 2012, there are hidden corners in the wine, unlike so many that are so upfront and flashy. It is long and continuous, its Grenache juice especially agreeable. It comes in at 15.5°, but is – wait for the magic word – BALANCED.

Another, small production Prestige 2012 comes in the form of the DOMAINE ROGER SABON LE SECRET DES SABON *****, a 3,000 bottle wine. It also comes from Courthézon, a commune that has done very well in 2012, and comprises 60% Grenache that is over 100 years old. Aged in large barrels for 18 months, it bears real Châteauneuf-du-Pape upholstery, the true stamp of the appellation, serves a stately run of fruit, tasty tannins and is both graceful and southern, not always adjectives that walk together.

MORE PRESTIGE WINNERS

The 2012 wines in the 5 star and 4.5 star echelons are liberally sprinkled with Prestige wines, which is perhaps the biggest declaration in favour of the vintage’s harmony and charm. These include the purity and dainty little droplets of fruit offered by the BOSQUET DES PAPES CHANTE LE MERLE, an 80% Grenache wine, the vines dating from 1915-1930, lovely stuff. Or LES HALOS DE JUPITER ADRASTÉE ****(*), an STGT wine made by oenologue PHILIPPE CAMBIE; it is centred on 90% Grenache dating from the 1910s to 1920s on the celebrated site of LA CRAU, east of the village on the road to BÉDARRIDES. Grenache richness lies at its heart, it is harmonious, its finish a tip-toe moment. Or the DOMAINE MATHIEU MARQUIS ANSÈLME MATHIEU VIGNES CENTENAIRES ****(*): made from 85% Grenache of over 100 years old, with a full cast of the other permitted red and white varieties, its fruit is wholesome and garrigue-infused, its tannins scented, another enjoyable wine. 

LESS WINE TO SELL

Production levels are down this year, and will be even more radically down in 2013; price rises are therefore certainly on the table. For example, there are only 108,000 bottles of the LA NERTHE 2012 RED; even in the much sorted and discarded 2008 vintage there were 120,000 bottles of LA NERTHE. The CHÂTEAU DE VAUDIEU RED is down from 60,000 bottles to 40,000 bottles, while the CHÂTEAU BEAUCHÊNE GRANDE RÉSERVE was reduced to only 13,000 bottles from 16-19,000 bottles.

THE JL-L ARCHIVES: 2012 LIKE 1964, 1979

Scratching both my head and my memory bank, I find it challenging to fit a vintage of the past right alongside 2012. I go back to 1964, where charm featured in wines that had good body. The 1964 DOMAINE DE LA SOLITUDE was made by an amended macération carbonique method whereby PIERRE LANÇON started by leaving the uncrushed grapes to ferment slowly for a week in vats filled with carbonic gas, allowing the grapes to start to ferment within their skins; the juice was then fermented in the the usual way for another two weeks. Modernist in approach, this was a wonderful wine, a wine of depth and elegance, a really good heart to it. It also lived well past 25 years.

1979 is another contender for the quality of the fruit, the charm and ease in the young wines, but also a slow gain in depth and heart over time. Those in favour in this vintage included further modernist estates, notably DOMAINE DE NALYS (only 55% Grenache, and uncrushed crop, macération carbonique) and DOMAINE DE BEAURENARD (half uncrushed crop, early bottling), although CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL with its heat, flash vinification, made very good wine in the vintage after the death of its inspiration JACQUES PERRIN. The magnum of LES CAILLOUX 1979 that I offered at a 2010 lunch at BERRY BROTHERS in London for those members of the wine trade born in 1950 was in majestic form, a real humming eulogy of southern climes and scents. 

To emerge from the cobwebs of the past into the light of our current century, I might reach for the quick n'easy recent comparison of the early fruit vibrancy of 2006 - but that is a vintage with a more grainy, less pure constitution. 2006s drink very well now - Report to follow - be they from Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas, but the parallel is somewhat fallacious. 2006 is great with bold roasted meats and game, while I see 2012 as deserving of finer, less downhome country cooking.

WE LIKE LOOSE-LIMBED CHARM

2012 is a vintage to rediscover the loose-limbed charm of Châteauneuf, a blessed relief after years of having to wade through power, derived from thinking that decreed that the absolute most possible should be extracted from excessively ripe grapes which were then subject to large dollops of extraction through cap punching and high temperatures in the cellars. I note maximum temperatures during fermentation have often fallen back below 30°C, whereas in the bad days around 1998-2007, vats would be encouraged towards 35-36°C.

Hence 2012 is genuinely a Line in the Sand year: Châteauneuf rediscovers its charm is an apt motto for it. Buy, drink it freely, enjoy its lissom pleasures over 15 to 20 years.   

LEADING 2012 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE REDS

***** Bosquet des Papes Chante le Merle 2031-33 11/13 über elegant, pure, dainty fruit
***** Château de Beaucastel 2032-25 10/13 rock n’roll, sensuous fruit, long
***** Ch de Beaucastel Hommage J Perrin  2036-38 10/13 tasty; v good ensemble
***** Château de la Gardine Tradition 2028-29 11/13 pedigree fruit, harmony
***** Château Rayas 2039-42 11/13 full, intriguing, spinal
***** Château de Vaudieu Val de Dieu 2027-29 11/13 wholesome; balance, harmony
***** Clos du Mont-Olivet Cuvée du Papet 2029-31 12/13 gd from A-Z; much joli gras
***** Clos des Papes 2036-38 11/13 great style, length
***** Dom Charbonnière Mourre des Perdrix 2028-30 11/13 long, continuous, interesting
***** Domaine Giraud Tradition 2028-30 11/13 ripe fruit, good sphere
***** Domaine Grand Veneur Vieilles Vignes 2031-33 11/13 serene depth; unison 
***** Domaine L’Or de Line Paule Courtil 2027-29 11/13 sustained, big, coherent
***** Dom Roger Sabon Secret des Sabon 2030-32 11/13 graceful, true, southern
***** Domaine des 3 Cellier Marceau 2028-30 11/13 local generosity, Beau Vin
****(*) Bosquet des Papes Gloire Grand-Père 2029-31 11/13 running fruit; genuine
****(*) La Celestière Tradition 2027-29 11/13 full, abundant, genuine
****(*) Château Jas de Bressy 2025-26 11/13 bonny fruit, gd ground force
****(*) Chât Mourre Tendre Très Vieilles Vignes 2031-33 12/15 full, cool, savoury, authentic
****(*) Château de Ruth Cuvée Emile 2025-27 11/13 vibrant, complete, nuanced
****(*) Château Sixtine 2027-29 11/13 thorough, modern
****(*) Château Sixtine Manus Dei 2025-28 11/13 live, persistent, local
****(*) Clos du Caillou Les Quartz 2029-31 11/13 fluid fruit, gd fullness
****(*) Clos Saint Jean La Combe des Fous 2027-29 11/13 harmony, genuine, tasty
****(*)

Cuvée des Sommeliers

2027-29 10/15 full, free, lusty, long
****(*) Dom Berthet-Rayne Fût de Chêne 2029-30 11/13 real local charge, tasty
****(*) Domaine d la Biscarelle Les Anglaises 2029-30 04/15 flair, purity, depth, very long
****(*) Dom La Boutinière Grande Réserve 2028-29 11/13 weighty, gd potential
****(*) Domaine du Banneret 2033-35 10/16 rich, silken very deep for 2012
****(*) Domaine Charvin 2030-33 10/15 STGT; spiced, lusty, genuine
****(*) Eddie Féraud Les Raisins Bleus 2028-30 10/13 manly, clear, interesting 
****(*) Les Halos de Jupiter Adrastée 2027-28 11/13 STGT; style, Grenache gras
****(*) Domaine de la Janasse 2028-30 03/15 max STGT; tasty, clear 
****(*) Domaine de la Janasse Chaupin 2030-32 03/15 stylish, long, vineyard virtues
****(*) Domaine de Marcoux Vieilles Vignes 2029-31 11/13 precise fruit, mineral
****(*) Domaine Mathieu Marquis Anselme 2027-29 11/13 garrigue; scope, enjoyable
****(*) Domaine Mathieu Vin di Felibre 2029-31 11/13 rich, thorough, full
****(*) Dom de la Mordorée Reine des Bois 2026-28 12/13 fresh, good heart; tasty
****(*) Maison Ogier Héritages 2026-28 11/13 generous; local charm
****(*) Maison Ogier Éclats Calcaires 2027-28 11/13 nuanced, classy, crisp
****(*) Maison Ogier Safres 2026-27 11/13 STGT; wide, copious
****(*) Domaine Porte Rouge 2022-24 11/13 charm, tasty; w.o.w.
****(*) Domaine de Reveirolles 2024-26 11/13 STGT; chunky, character
****(*) Domaine Roger Sabon Prestige 2028-30 11/13 grounded depth; promise
****(*) Domaine Roger Sabon Réserve 2028-30 11/13 STGT; copious, coated
****(*) Domaine Saint-Paul 2026-28 11/13 engaging; gt fruit; modern
****(*) Domaine des Sénéchaux 2024-25 11/13 purity, balance; w.o.w.
****(*) Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 2027-29 11/13 full, stylish, calm
****(*) Dom Pierre Usseglio Cuvée mon Aïeul 2026-28 12/13 silken juice, plump, broad
****(*) Dom d Vieille Julienne Hauts-lieux 2033-35 11/15 coated fruit, terroir, complete
****(*) Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau 2033-35 11/13 STGT; scope, healthy charge
**** Domaine Pierre André 2037-40  02/19  soft, textured, long, gd Gren 
**** Domaine La Barroche Signature 2029-30 10/15 soul, life, spark, STGT
**** Bastide St Dominique Secrets Pignan  2027-28 11/13  big fruit; scale  
**** Domaine de la Biscarelle 2024-25 04/15 expressive, tasty, STGT, V*
****  Brotte Domaine Barville   2027-28  11/13  serene; harmony to come  
**** Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire  2030-32  11/13  scented intensity, abundant 
****  Cellier des Princes Hauts des Coteaux  2025-27  11/13  sturdy heart, warm charge 
****  M.Chapoutier Barbe Rac   2027-29  11/13  big, quite fresh; potential 
****  Château Fortia   2026-28  11/13  interesting; gd fruit, tannin  
****  Château Fortia Cuvée du Baron   2027-29  11/13  whizzy, Grenache-hearted  
****  Château de la Gardine L’Immortelle  2028-29  11/13  sleek fruit, modern, oak  
****  Château Gigognan Clos du Roi   2024-26  11/13  interesting; cool, local  
****  Château Husson Les Saintes Vierges  2027-29  11/13  fleshy, bit exerted 
****  Château Maucoil Tradition  2026-28  11/13  concentrated juice; big  
****  Château Maucoil Privilège   2028-29  11/13  stylish, precise, coherent  
****  Château La Nerthe   2026-28  11/13  fat heart, also fresh  
****  Château Rayas Pignan   2036-38  11/13  crisp, live fruit, be patient 
****  Clos du Caillou La Réserve   2027-29  11/13  muscular; ripe jam  
****  Clos du Caillou Les Safres   2028-29  11/13  STGT; elegant power 
****  Clos du Mont-Olivet   2026-28  11/13  plump Grenache; tasty, full   
****  Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes   2026-28  11/13  unctuous, local  
****  Clos Saint Jean   2025-26  11/13  wholesome, sympa  
****  Cuvée du Vatican   2027-28  11/13  chunky, buzzy, true strength 
****  Domaine de l’Arnesque Capelane   2027-28  11/13  STGT; clear fruit, bright  
****  Domaine Paul Autard   2027-28  11/13  sturdy, traditional, full  
****  Domaine Paul Autard Juline   2027-29  11/13  full, quality fruit  
****  Domaine de Beaurenard   2026-28  11/13  thorough, fat, persistent   
****  Dom Berthet Capeau Elixir des Papes  2023-24  11/13  supple, persistent, V 
****  Domaine Bois de Boursan   2031-33  11/13  STGT; classic; fresh charge 
****  Dom Bois de Boursan Cuvée des Félix 2030-33  11/13  good coated density  
****  Domaine La Boutinière   2024-26  11/13  full, genuine, harmony, V  
****  Dom la Charbonnière Htes Brusquières  2027-29  11/13  muscular; lucid fruit 
**** Domaine Chante Cigale 2030-31 10/17 stylish, serene, precise, STGT
****  Dom Chante Cigale Vieilles Vignes   2027-29  11/13  sunny nose; supple fruit 
****  Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange   2025-27  11/13  racy, modern  
****  Domaine Durieu Lucile Avril   2028-29  11/13  high visibility, upfront, sympa 
****  Dom Font de Michelle Etienne Gonnet  2028-29  11/13  potential; clearly styled  
****  Dom Giraud Les Grenaches de Pierre  2027-29  11/13  abundant; sucrosity here 
****  Domaine du Grand Tinel   2023-24  11/13  smooth, charming, fine juice 
****  Domaine Grand Veneur Les Origines   2028-29  11/13  attacking style, strong 
****  Halos de Jupiter par Philippe Cambie  2023-25  11/13  natural, slow gainer  
****  Domaine Olivier Hillaire   2027-29  11/13  sweet fruit; tuneful  
****  Dom O Hillaire Petits Pieds d'Armand  2027-29  11/13  old vine density, depth  
****  Dom de la Janassse Vieilles Vignes   2028-30  11/13  stylish Grenache, local  
****  Domaine Lou Fréjau Cuvée XII  2026-28  11/13  character, life force, wild  
****  Vignobles Mayard Crau de Ma Mère  2027-29  11/13  joli density, quiet power 
****  Domaine La Mereuille Tradition   2026-28  11/13  ensemble, tuneful, savoury  
****  Domaine La Millière Vieilles Vignes   2025-27  11/13  trad, meaty, very full  
****  Domaine de Nalys   2025-27  11/13  pure fruit; classic Trad CdP 
****  Maison Ogier Galets Roulés   2025-26  11/13  pleasurable; fluid, wide  
****  Domaine L’Or de Line   2024-26  11/13 

plenty pleasure; full 

****  Domaine de Panisse Noble Révélation  2027-28  11/13  stylish, personality  
****  Dom Pères de l’Eglise Calice Héritage   2028-29  11/13  gd ensemble, stylish fruit  
****  Domaine Roger Perrin   2025-26  11/13  juicy pleasure, generous  
****  Domaine Saint-Préfert Classique   2025-27  11/13  STGT; genuine depth 
****  Domaine Santa Duc Habemus Papam  2027-29  11/13  tasty, drinkable, pure  
****  Domaine Serguier Révélation  2028-29  11/13  Gren heart, good terroir  
**** Domaine de la Solitude Barberini 2030-32 10/15 charged, full on, juicy
****  Domaine des Trois Cellier Alchimie   2022-23  11/13  emphatic fruit; stylish  
**** Dom d Vieille Julienne Trois Sources 2029-31 11/15 polished fruit, bit spirity
**** Domaine de Villeneuve Vieilles Vignes  2034-36 02/19 tasty, expressive, charming
****  Famille Perrin Les Sinards   2023-25  10/13  drinkable, early style  
**** Le Vieux Donjon 2036-38 05/19 lucid, floral, gradual palate gain
****  Mas de Boislauzon   2026-27  11/13  tar density, vigour  
****  Mas de Boislauzon Cuvée du Quet   2027-29  11/13  fruit verve, vigour, fresh  
**** Pierre Vidal Parisii 2030-32 02/16 sweet, fine, Burgundy smooth
***(*)  La Bastide St Dominique Hésperides 2025-27  11/13  liqueur fruit, bit droopy  
***(*) Le Bois Pointu 2026-28 11/15 squeezy fruit, pretty full
***(*)  Bosquet des Papes Tradition   2026-28  11/13  hearty, trad, bit wild  
***(*) Les Cailloux 2030-32 09/15 fresh, assertive, time
***(*)  Caves Saint-Pierre   2023-24  11/13  juicy, spiced, pine 
***(*)  La Celestière Confidentielle  2025-26  11/13  punch, oak, flashy  
***(*)  Cellier des Princes Domne Le Mourre  2023-24  11/13  sympa; juicy centre  
***(*)  M.Chapoutier La Bernardine  2025-26  11/13  cool fruit, quiet strength  
***(*)  Château Beauchêne Grande Réserve  2023-25  11/13  joli juice, simplicity 
***(*) Château Cabrières Prestige 2026-28 10/15 spiced, well juiced, some oak
***(*)  Château des Fines Roches   2023-24  11/13  sweet, round, joli  
***(*) Château de la Font du Loup 2026-28 10/13 close-knit, spiced, tasty
***(*)  Château Gigognan Cardinalice   2028-30  11/13  sturdy; Big Production  
***(*)  Château Maucoil L'Esprit de Maucoil   2026-27  11/13  punchy nose, solid  
***(*) Château Mont-Redon 2030-32 11/16 spare, fresh, "bit light", time
***(*)  Château Mont Thabor   2023-25  11/13  drinkable, bit flash  
***(*)  Chât La Nerthe Cuvée des Cadettes   2028-30  11/13  cellar on top; time  
***(*)  Château Saint Roch   2025-27  11/13  modern, plenty oak 
***(*)  Château de Vaudieu   2026-28  11/13  spiced, vigorous, genuine  
***(*)  Château de Vaudieu Amiral G   2028-29  11/13  attacking style, oak  
***(*) Domaine La Barroche Pure 2027-29 10/15 supple, spice, fragrance
***(*)  Brotte Château de Bord   2026-28  10/13  gd ensemble, promising  
***(*)  Brotte Secret de Léonce   2023-25  10/13  spherical, fat, gourmand  
***(*)  Clos des Brusquières   2026-28  11/13  manly, strong centre  
***(*)  Clos du Caillou Tradition  2025-27  11/13  curvy nose, firm palate  
***(*)  Clos Saint Michel Tradition   2022-24  11/13  tender, comfortable  
***(*)  Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils   2026-28  10/13  clear-cut; spiced 
***(*)  Domaine de Beaurenard Boisrenard  2028-30  11/13  upright; direct, subdued fruit  
***(*) La Celestière La Croze 2025-26 03/18 inner depth, rolling richness
***(*) La Celestière Les Domaines  2025-26 03/18 spiced; neat richness, an orb
***(*) Domaine Chante-Perdrix 2028-30 10/15 big, concentrated, power
***(*)  Dom de la Charbonnière Vlles Vignes  2027-29  11/13  tight, vigorous  
***(*)  Dom Côte de l’Ange Vieilles Vignes   2027-28  11/13  asserted fullness  
***(*)  Domaine de Cristia Tradition   2024-26  11/13  sweet theme, broad  
***(*)  Domaine de Cristia Vieilles Vignes  2027-28  11/13  savoury, oaked, carefree gras 
***(*)  Eddie Féraud   2025-27  10/13  lovely, naked, STGT  
***(*)  Domaine de Ferrand   2024-26  11/13  tasty berries; dusted  
***(*)  Domaine Isabel Ferrando Colombis   2027-28  11/13  profound; oak  
***(*)  Domaine Font de Michelle   2026-27  11/13  lusty; trad strength  
***(*)  Domaine Giuliani   2025-26  11/13  liqueur fruit; floral glow 
***(*)  Domaine Grand Veneur   2026-28  11/13  bustling fruit; active wine 
***(*)  Les Grandes Serres La Cour des Papes  2021-22  11/13  sound sweet filling 
***(*)  Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine   2026-27  11/13  bountiful; juiced fruit  
***(*)  Maison Lavau    2025-27  11/13  mature fruit, spiced, robust 
***(*) Domaine Lou Dévet François Louis 2027-28 11/13 charged, full-on; game foods
***(*)  Domaine Lou Fréjau   2025-26  11/13  smoky, direct; resin notes 
***(*)  Domaine Patrice Magni Sensation  2022-24  11/13  tasty, expressive  
***(*)  Domaine de Marcoux   2027-29  11/13  full, broad, coated 
***(*)  Domaine Mathieu   2025-26  11/13  copious, soaked  
***(*)  Vignobles Mayard Clos du Calvaire  2026-28  11/13  discreet, fine tuned  
***(*)  Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2026-27  11/13  concentrated juice, tight 
***(*)  Gabriel Meffre Saint Théodoric   2026-27  11/13  broad, filled, stately  
***(*)  Domaine de Nalys Réserve   2026-28  11/13  smoky fruit, bit taut  
***(*)  Dom de Panisse Confidence Vignrnne   2025-27  11/13  gras, acidity, heat  
***(*)  Domaine du Pegaü Cuvée Réservée  2026-28  11/13  big, powerful, scaled up wine
***(*)  Dom Roger Perrin Réserve V Vignes  2025-27  11/13  opulent, fig, date flavours  
***(*)  Domaine des Prés  2024-26  11/13  manly, spiced, genuine  
***(*)  Dom de la Présidente Grds Classiques 2025-26  11/13  stylish fruit, some oak 
***(*)  Domaine Roger Sabon Les Olivets  2023-25  11/13  tasty, smooth, runs well 
***(*)  Domaine Saint-Paul Jumille   2026-27  11/13  Safe Operator; elegant 
***(*)  Dom St-Préfert Résrve Auguste Favier  2029-30  11/13  coated, concentrated  
***(*)  Domaine de Saint-Siffrein   2024-26  11/13  savoury; solid quality  
***(*) Domaine Les Semelles de Vent 2027-28 12/15 smooth, compact, prolonged
***(*) Domaine de la Solitude 2029-31 11/15 instant fruit, escapist
***(*)  Dom La Tour St Michel Féminessence 2025-26  11/13  sweet, savoury, weighty  
***(*)  Domaine des Saumades   2025-27  11/13  character, vigour, elemental  
***(*)  Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils   2024-26  11/13  butty, trad, game dishes 
***(*)  J. Vidal-Fleury   2023-25  11/13  aromatic; liqueur fruit 
***(*) Dom du Vieux Télégraphe Pied Long 2028-30 09/17 moveable, strict, can amplify
***(*) Dom du Vieux Télégraphe Télégrame 2028-30 11/15 plump, tight, slow build
***(*) Mas Saint-Louis 2025-26 10/16 close-knit, sturdy; freshness
***  La Bastide Saint-Dominique   2025-26  11/13  spice, power, kick  
***  Maison Bouachon La Tiare du Pape  2023-25  11/13  round attack, spice; dry end 
***  Le Cellier des Princes   2021-22  11/13  modern; round, upfront  
***  M.Chapoutier La Croix de Bois   2025-27  11/13  tight, mature fruiting  
***  Château Beauchêne Vignbles Serrière   2025-27  11/13  peppery, punchy, raw 
***  Château Cabrières   2023-25  11/13  grainy content, not linked  
***  Château Capucine   2025-26  11/13  international, oak, sleek fruit  
***  Dom Paul Autard La Côte Ronde   2025-27  11/13  manufactured; eau de vie  
***  Domaine Berthet-Rayne   2023-24  11/13  spiced plum; mid road vin  
***  Domaine de la Charbonnière   2024-25  11/13  plump heart, cooked up  
*** Les Clefs d'Or, Jean Deydier & Fils 2024-25 09/16 charming, spiced, ends bit dry
***  Domaine Durieu   2024-26  11/13  Grenche centric, uneven run  
***  Dom Font de Michelle Elegance Jeanne  2028-30  11/13  clipped, raw, ways to go 
***  Dom du Grand Tinel Alexis Establet   2027-28  11/13 

spicy, grippy, time 

***  Domaine Julien Masquin Mémora  2025-27  11/13  unresolved; power 
***  Domaine Julien Masquin Montplaisir  2019-20  11/13  free fruit, spice, early wine  
***  Vignobles Mayard Dom du Père Pape  2026-27  11/13  brisk fruit, workmanlike  
***  Domaine La Mereuille Les Baptaurels  2023-25  11/13  pumped up, oily weight  
***  Domaine Moulin-Tacussel   2025-27  11/13  chunky; dark rum, plum  
***  Dom Père Caboche Elis Chambellan  2024-25  11/13  unpolished, improve 
***  Dom Pères de l’Eglise Calice St Pierre   2022-24  11/13  modern, bit stretched  
***  Domaine Pontifical   2025-27  11/13  modern, brewed  
***  Olivier Ravoire   2025-26  11/13  clean fruit; some oak, cellar  
***  Domaine Jean Royer Prestige   2025-26  11/13  concentrated; cohesion? 
***  Domaine Jean Royer Tradition   2025-26  11/13  dour now; Grenache centric  
***  Dom La Tour Saint Michel Deux Soeurs  2024-26  11/13  liqueur fruit, sip this 
***  Dom La Tour Saint Michel Cuvée Lion  2024-25  11/13  facile, weighty  
***  Domaine des 3 Cellier Privilège   2025-26  11/13  generous but extracted  
***  Domaine des 3 Cellier Eternelle   2026-27  11/13  plump but muddled 
**(*)  Cellier des Princes Domne La Pierre  2021-22  11/13  fat then thin  
**(*)  Clos Saint Jean Deus ex Machina   2026-28  11/13  direct; pushy raising  
**(*)  Domaine L’Abbé Dine   2021-22  11/13  supple; local strength  
**(*)  Domaine La Consonnière   2020-22  11/13  clean, simple  
**(*)  Dom Croze-Granier Anciens Pontifes   2021-22  11/13  steel, bit anxious  
**(*)  Domaine du Père Caboche Tradition  2020-22  11/13  facile, tame; squeezy fruit 
**(*)  Domaine Tourbillon Vieilles Vignes   2022-23  11/13  thick juice; wild, raw   

 

4. 2012 GIGONDAS REDS

THE PETIT CHEMIN, GOUR DU CHAULÉ, BLÂCHES ZONE WEST AND JUST NORTH OF THE VILLAGE (LEFT-OF CENTRE ABOVE) DID ESPECIALLY WELL IN 2012 FOR STGT, AUTHENTIC WINES THAT ARE WELL WORTH SNAPPING UP

2012 is a cool vintage at Gigondas, pretty classic, with a personal inclination towards the wines made from sites close to the village and west of it, down towards the River Ouvèze – those slightly more precocious areas rather than the high zones of the Dentelles and the high north-eastern plateau area of Romane, pushing on towards Séguret. I very much enjoy the genuine local feel played out by wines such as CLOS DU JONCUAS, the DOMAINE DU GOUR DE CHAULÉ TRADITION, the MOULIN DE LA GARDETTE VENTABREN and the newly liberated style of YVES GRAS' DOMAINE SANTA DUC AUX LIEUX-DITS – all of them STGT wines.

Just as Vacqueyras, the precocious neighbouring vineyard, performed with distinction in 2012, so did Gigondas from its warmer zones do well in 2012 after a summer that teetered on drought in August until two rainfalls late in the month and in early September served to free the ripening.

SEPTEMBER RAIN IMPORTANT

The key weather moment later on was the 50-60 mm (2-2.2 inches) of heavy rain on Monday 24 September, with a further 10-15 mm in two later falls that week. This has been dressed up by some growers as a good event, and that I can understand - if their vineyards stood in the warmer, lower areas. Wait a few days, then off you go with the harvest. However, I am less impressed by the currently taut high zone wines, although their relative tension may emerge into greater roundness and appeal if they are allowed good bottle ageing. Their profile, as found frequently with Gigondas once it has aged at least ten years, can often “move north”, producing a finesse and clarity that resembles the “steely intent” and clear-cut fruiting of Burgundy. In such cases, the Grenache takes on Pinot Noir style associations – for this process, the Grenache, not the other varieties, is the form horse.

FEBRUARY FROST LESS THAN ELSEWHERE

The hit from the February frosts was felt at Gigondas, as it was in other appellations, but perhaps not quite as badly. JEAN-PIERRE MEFFRE, of the excellent DOMAINE SAINT GAYAN told me: ““I lost 60% of my Vin de Pays from Camaret (in the central-west side of the vast, and notably windy Plan de Dieu) this year, and also old Grenache at Sablet – I had 3 kg of grapes from them, against 300 kg in 2011. The freeze hit the unpruned vines, whereas the pruned vines were OK. We had vines split in two by the cold.”

Frost losses were inexplicable at times. BERTRAND STEHELIN, the young vigneron of DOMAINE PAILLÈRE ET PIED GÜ (north of the village) related the following tale: “the frost didn’t hit us, but was very strange. Near La Daïsse (between Sablet and Gigondas) on the road up to the village, we lost 1%, while our neighbour lost 30%.”

THE POOR YOUNG FLOWERS

The other big hit to the Grenache was its old enemy, coulure at flowering time – flowers failing to convert into fruit, with cold weather the problem, meaning that the process ran for a long time, under difficulties. DOMAINE RASPAIL-AY reported a 15% loss of crop from coulure alone, for example, while JEAN-PIERRE MEFFRE of DOMAINE SAINT GAYAN gave his report on that phase of the cycle: “this year flowering lasted over three to four weeks, against one week in 2011. There was a lot of rain, but not rot. However, those vignerons who didn’t treat the vines suffered from mildew. We had a lot of rain through stormy weather in April – 150 mm (6 inches) around then. We had flashes of heat in June - 34°C on 17 June, then right back down to 24-25°C on 20 June.”

July and most of August were dry, so a repeat of 2011, when there was a blockage in the ripening, appeared possible. In these circumstances, the sugars continue to evolve and concentrate, especially if there is Mistral, or north wind, meaning that implicit alcohol levels rise, while the skins and stems – the polyphenolic substances – remain more static. The result: high degree, low tannic ripeness.

YVES GRAS of DOMAINE SANTA DUC spoke about this danger: “we had the phenomenon of rapid concentration in the vineyard in 2011, which took on alcohol – we didn’t have that in 2012. The blockage this year 2012 was due to the dry conditions in August – there was no photosynthesis, and hence a blockage before the rains came.”

RAIN AS THE LONE OR EVEN RHÔNE RANGER TO SAVE THE DAY

However, in 2012, as DOMINIQUE AY recounted in mid-September 2012, spots of rain came to the rescue: “we had 30-35 mm (1.4 in) of rain on the 3 September after about 10 mm (0.4 in) on 25 August, the first rain serving to chase the dust away and to unblock the ripening of some vines. My Grenache is now around 14°, 13.5° on the young vines now. The crop is concentrating now after expanding following the rain.”

Hence the early zones, such as those at RASPAIL-AY, started to release and thrive. Twelve days later, on 27 September, DOMINIQUE took up the story once more. On that day, he informed me: “we will finish harvesting on 1 October, but have been set back by the heavy rain on Monday 24 September and then again another 40 mm (1.6 in) on 26 September. We don’t use weedkiller so there are grasses in the vineyard, and it is too wet for the tractor to get in, so harvesting is on hold while it dries out. The weather is magnificent now, so that’s OK. Our Grenache from old vines has been around 14.5°. Two of my four vats have started to ferment, and are going well, with the Syrah nearly finished. I started on 20 September, with my Syrah at 13.5°.”

WAIT . . . OR ELSE, FOR SOME GROWERS

LOUIS BARRUOL of CHÂTEAU DE SAINT COSME took a view that waiting for ripeness was essential in 2012, one shared by his friend THIÉRRY FARAVEL of DOMAINE LA BOUÏSSIÈRE, which has high and later ripening vineyards; LOUIS’ take on the vintage in the vineyards ran thus: “I differ from other growers since I did my harvest differently, starting it very late. The end of August heatwave raised the degree, then the rain came, and that was super and necessary. Nowadays September rain is better and better – it breaks the alcohol and puts the grapes back into balance. October was very fine, and we started on 5 October, with the degree at 14°, and the grapes really ripe. We harvested the Mourvèdre on 25 October, only at 13.5°, and ripe as well.” YVES GRAS however, had less success with his Mourvèdre, relating: “unlike the remarkable 2011, the 2012 Mourvèdre didn’t ripen this year, so it was tricky.”

Vinifications went well, easily, unlike 2011 when high degrees made life tricky. As YVES GRAS observed: “the 2011 problem was a lot of alcohol in not very massive wines, so you had to be careful to seek fruit and freshness, and not go for extraction.” Dominique Ay was pleased with his 2012s, telling me: “this year the vinifications did themselves all alone, unlike the sluggish, high degree 2011s.”

2012 ALONGSIDE 2011

Therein lies much of the difference between 2011 and 2012 – the liberty, the freedom of the 2012s, their relatively lower degree and good sense of balance opening them up to descriptions such as “pleasure”, “openness” and “ease of drinking”. Most growers refer to the freshness of the wines, perhaps in a relative sense after such big years such as 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 – the 2010 managing balance in its big body, the others falling short of that in various small ways. But outright freshness there is, the result of gradual ripening, no sustained heatwaves, and well-timed rainfalls.

TOP TWO 2012s

My two 5 star wines from this very likeable vintage are both centred on restraint, and a precise assembly of their virtues: the comment on the DOMAINE LA FOURMONE LE FAUQUET 2012 made by the charming and experienced MARIE-THÉRÈSE COMBE runs thus:

***** sound, full red; I like the depth in the nose, which is broad as well – it gives a ripe fruit, southern fullness, all in a stylish register, hums its tune. The palate presents supple black cherry fruit with a winning flow, the tannins shapely: this is a good, round ensemble. Fine acidity keeps it fresh and true. Very engaging, a beauty here, good balance. It is very attractive, lucid and fresh. It may gain a little extra depth on the second half. Is right in the top tier. 14.5°. From 2016. 2026-28  Dec 2013.

The other 5 star 2012 comes from DOMAINE LES PALLIÈRES, the estate co-owned by the BRUNIER brothers of DOMAINE DU VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE and my old chum KERMIT LYNCH, the Doyen of Berkeley, CA (the Doyenne of Berkeley is ALICE WATERS, creatrice of CHEZ PANISSE). The Doyen and the Doyenne are good amigos. The PALLIÈRES LES RACINES 2012 is described as follows:

***** steady red robe; subtle floral intonations lie within the nose that has a graceful, confident plum fruit centre, and also bundles herbs into its basket. The palate is careful, precise, has a great assembly of detail to render it whole – fine fruit, scent, licorice, fine tannins are all working quietly. The constant here on nose and palate is the Grenache – it is the sun around which its satellite ambassadors declare their wares. A fine tread wine for people ready to study it, consider it - les branchés, the informed drinkers. It makes very good, steady progress along the palate, and its tannins are smoky and interesting. Hits the button for me. 14.5°. From 2017-18. 2033-35 Nov 2013

A CLASSIC GIGONDAS YEAR

The prospect, therefore, is for a classic Gigondas vintage which lives extremely well. The bet can be safely struck that there will be bottles of 2012 opened in 2037 that delight their drinkers, who will refer to the purity of their fruit, and their still present freshness. Such attributes are the code for this appellation, as opposed to the more spherical, packed abundance of the wines of CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE or the more punchy, heated wines of VACQUEYRAS, for instance.

GROWERS KEEN, CONTENT

LOUIS BARRUOL of CHÂTEAU DE SAINT COSME is keen on 2012, stating: “I prefer 2012 to 2011, which I never loved. 2012 is like an old-time Gigondas vintage, very balanced, with a lot of freshness. There isn’t a lot of alcohol, it holds good matter, and the wines will age well. It would have been considered a very good year in the 1970s. Whereas 2011 is a year that was too hot and too much alcohol, 2012 for me is a very good year, its balance like 1995, the degree not high, the crop ripe – a classic Gigondas vintage.”

THIÉRRY FARAVEL of DOMAINE LA BOUÏSSIÈRE spoke warmly of the vintage in March 2014: “as a general rule, 2012 is very good for me, one of the best years with 2010, although 2010 is more large, deep, has more compact tannins. 2010 has become more dense and closed in the past year, and I am not selling it for the moment.

2012 is more flattering, its balance good from a very good, small crop. It is an accessible and open vintage. You had to harvest later than usual. The quality level is joli across the appellation, the base matter well-balanced. 2012 is more profound than 2013. It is possibly like 2001 as well, with appealing depth and a good approach as you get into the wines, which are nicely free. 2001s are tasting very well now, by the way.”

JEAN-PIERRE MEFFRE of DOMAINE SAINT-GAYAN feels that 2012 is a slow developer: “it is really a vintage of raising – élevage. I am not sure about its depth, so it really needs time being raised; I find it lacks a little opulence, depth, but I do think it will gain in stature over time,” he recounted in September 2013.

PHILIPPE CARTOUX of DOMAINE DES ESPIERS likes to make open, early and easy to drink, fun wines. Hence 2012 fits his bill well. “2012 is a year of very attractive fruit and freshness – in fact it is even fresher than 2010,” he says. FRANÇOIS MEFFRE of CHÂTEAU RASPAIL concurs: “2012 has a natural freshness that I love,” he states, “and the fruit is very clear, crunchy and drinkable. The natural acidity levels are very good, and there is a lot of freshness and balance which I had in 2010, but with more structure in that vintage. 2012 is above 2011 and 2013. I would give the wines about eight years of life.”

1° LESS THAN 2011

Before this becomes an unconditional 2012 love-in, a few growers rightly signal some areas of hesitation about the quality of the year. President of the Growers Union, FRANCK ALEXANDRE of DOMAINE LES TEYSSONNIÈRES told me: “2012 is better, but a bit more diluted than 2011. We are on 1° less degree in 2012 versus 2011 in general.”

PIERRE AMADIEU was also sensible and somewhat restrained when in December 2013 he told me: “I like the balance of 2012 – alcohol doesn’t come out. There is a bit less fruit than 2011, but the wine is more ample and has more matter than 2011; the vintage is more gourmand in the good sense of that word. The wines evolved a lot post malolactic fermentation, which surprised me, and became more complete. We ended our harvesting the 11 October on the Pas de l’Aigle.”

From the garrigue, central areas, BERNARD CHAUVET of DOMAINE DU GRAPILLON D’OR is happy with the vintage. He reported: “the wines are supple, the tannins agreeable, though the colours were very deep. The degree still came in at 14.5° to 15° since we had to wait for the phenolic ripeness (the tannins). Our yield was 33 hl/ha. Vinifications were easy.”

A large majority of growers favour 2012 over 2011, although ANNE-MARIE GAUDIN of DOMAINE DU TERME informed me: “I prefer 2011 to 2012.” Certainly, 2011 is a more robust year, but I feel that its structure will unravel over time, the balance of 2012 being some way better.

MERCHANT TRADE SIGNALS ON 2012

In a Champion Year such as 2010, the quality of the merchant trade wines is high; in lesser years, one finds their quality more variable, and so it is with 2012. 2012 is a year for the heartland domaines near the village of Gigondas, with a quality gap between them and the merchant or more fringe trade. The wines also show that the standard and attention to detail of the vinification and the raising played an important role, since the crop was generally pretty ripe – unless people picked too early, which would often imply those growers selling to merchants.

MORE WINES BOTTLED EARLY

One or two other observations come to mind after tasting here and there well over 110 wines of the 2012 vintage. First, an increasing amount of wines are being bottled within a year; growers are seeking more facile, earlier drinking with these wines. Certainly 2012 gives the platform for this. The best offer an enjoyable drink – in 2012, take the example of CHÂTEAU DE MONTMIRAL CUVÉE DE BEAUCHAMP (4 stars, to 2023), DOMAINE DES ESPIERS (3.5 stars, to 2022), MAS DES RESTANQUES (3.5 stars to 2021). Among the later bottled, the CLOS DES CAZAUX TOUR SARRASINE also captures the vintage well, as does CHÂTEAU REDORTIER via its clear precision.

Some wines finish drily, with over grainy textures, and requite two years to fuse: DOMAINE DE LA MAVETTE TRADITIONELLE and the DOMAINE DU TERME BLACK LABEL (ÉTIQUETTE NOIRE), for instance.

LOWER GRENACHE SHARE IN 2012

Across the appellation, there is often a reduction in the Grenache share of the wines in 2012; although the best are still centred on the prime local variety. At GABRIEL MEFFRE’S DOMAINE DE LONGUE TOQUE, for instance, the Grenache share fell from 70/75% to 50%.

OAK APPROACH AND QUALITY NEEDS IMPROVING

Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of Grenache in oak, especially young oak, but if the oak is mature, then ça va. The quality of the oak used remains an issue, though. It is still a relatively under-mastered commodity in the southern Rhône, I feel, and at times in 2012 there were cases of rough and ready oak that lacked finesse.

THE CONVERSION OF YVES GRAS TO BE FOUND IN HIS 2012

I end by taking one wine as a paradigm for this year. It is YVES GRAS’ SANTA DUC classic cuvée wine, which he used to call his TRADITION; now its name is AUX LIEUX-DITS. Yves has renounced his old Parkerisms, even having healthy debate with the Great Man about that, and now seeks to express more purity and freedom in his wines. 2012 has hit the mark. It is a very good example of New Rhône wine from the South. Here is the tasting note:

2012 DOMAINE SANTA DUC AUX LIEUX-DITS

****(*) mid-depth red. This has a very true, pure Gigondas air of red berry Grenache fruit, along with flint, near lavender, cool appeal, licorice. There is shapely sinew here; precise components make up an interesting whole, and not obviously. It ends on garrigue hernbs, a clear tang, greater precision there. Toothsome wine with a clear aftertaste. New Rhône here = clear when young, less foot on the pedal, no fear of cut, and fine bone tannin, freshness. Good length, STGT wine. It looks north for its inspiration, not south. The finish is particularly good: it bears winning, discreet red fruit, shows a tasty elegance. From mid-2015. £145 12 b in bond H2Vin GB www.h2vin.co.uk  2026-28  Nov 2013

LEADING 2012 GIGONDAS REDS

***** Domaine La Fourmone Le Fauquet 2026-28 12/13 shapely, engaging, top tier
***** Domaine Les Pallières Les Racines 2033-35 11/13 precise, lovely detail
****(*) Château de Saint Cosme Le Claux 2029-30 12/13 scented fruit; style
****(*) Château de Saint Cosme Le Poste 2030-32 12/13 interesting, heart, vigour
****(*) Clos du Joncuas 2026-30 10/17 STGT; vibrant, tasty, spicy
****(*) Domaine La Bouïssière Tradition 2028-30 12/13 modern, also local; long, true
****(*) Domaine La Bouïssière Font de Tonin 2027-29 12/13 complex, interest, finesse
****(*) Dom Brusset Les Hauts de Montmirail 2029-30 04/15 classy, depth, dash, scope
****(*) Dom Brusset Secrets de Montmirail 2032-34 04/15 sleek, full, very long
****(*) Domaine du Gour de Chaulé Tradition 2026-28 12/13 STGT, VALUE; stylish
****(*) Moulin de la Gardette Ventabren 2029-31 12/13 STGT; character, v drinkable
****(*) Alain Jaume & Fils Terr de Montmirail 2027-29 11/13 smart, tasty, solid end  
****(*) Famille Perrin L'Argnée Vieilles Vignes 2033-36 10/15 high octane depth, long
****(*) Famille Perrin Dom Clos des Tourelles 2029-31 10/13 ripe, grippy; needs time
****(*) Domaine Santa Duc Aux Lieux-Dits 2026-28 12/13 STGT; shapely, clear VALUE 
****(*) Dom Santa Duc Prestige Htes Garrigues 2027-29 12/13 stylish, fruit sweet herbs
**** La Bastide Saint Vincent 2022-24 12/13  generous, authentic Gren, V 
****

Ch de Montimirail Cuvée Beauchamp

2022-23 12/13  tasty fruit; enjoyable
****  Château Redortier   2023-25  12/13  precise, clear, fine, very 2012 
**** Château de Saint Cosme Tradition  2028-30  12/13  acidity, oak; poise to come 
****  Château Saint Cosme Hominis Fides 2030-32  12/13  oak, modrn; subdued finesse 
****  Domaine La Bouscatière   2025-26  12/13  stealthily stylish  
****  Domaine du Cayron   2027-29  12/13  gras, quite wild; pesto  
****  Le Clos des Cazaux Tour Sarrasine  2027-29  11/15  plump, appealing, spiced
****  Domaine du Grapillon d’Or 1806  2027-29  12/13  punchy; genuine gusto  
****  Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Excellence  2027-29  12/13  expressive, good spice 
****  Montirius Confidentiel   2024-26  12/13  slow gainer, genuine  
****  Montirius Terre des Aînés  2025-27  12/13  exuberant potential, deep 
****  Moulin de la Gardette Tradition  2027-29  12/13  STGT; fresh; weight gainer 
**** Michel Mourier Les Fétoules 2023-24 10/15 clean, authentic, potential 
****  Ogier Héritages   2025-26  10/13  concentrated, fine, drinkable 
****  Domaine Raspail-Ay   2028-30  12/13  big, unbridled  
****  Olivier Ravoire  2025-27  12/13  toothsome; harmony, style 
****  Domaine St Gayan In Nomine Patris  2028-31  12/13  spinal; pure fruit, time 
**** Domaine Saint Gayan Fontmaria 2035-38 10/18 intense, stylish gras, fresh
****  Domaine Saint Gayan Origine   2030-32  12/13  assertive, fresh, promising  
**** Domaine Les Semelles de Vent 2025-26 12/15 relaxed gras, fresh
**** Dom Les Teyssonnières Alexandre 2036-38 10/18 strength, purity, feathery caress
****  Domaine Tourbillon Prestige   2027-28  12/13  modern, oaked; rich, ripe 
***(*)  Pierre Amadieu Dom Grande Romane  2029-31  12/13  modern; sleek fruit; oak 
***(*)  Pierre Amadieu Le Pas de l’Aigle   2026-28  12/13  direct fruit; fresh 
***(*)  Pierre Amadieu Romane Machotte   2027-29  12/13  fine fruit; compact  
***(*)  Ch Croix d Pins dessous des Dentelles  2022-23 12/13  trad, gd body  
***(*)  Château Raspail   2024-25  12/13  plump; freshly fruited  
***(*)  Château de Saint Cosme Valbelle   2029-31  12/13  solid, full-on; big oak  
***(*)  Château du Trignon   2026-27  12/13  discreet muscle, solid quality  
***(*)  Domaine des Bosquets Le Lieu-Dit . . .  2024-25  12/13  lively fruit; charm 
***(*)  Domaine Brusset Le Grand Montmirail  2022-24  12/13  beefy, crisp, deep  
***(*)  Domaine des Espiers Tradition   2021-22  12/13  spherical, enjoyable  
***(*)  Domaine des Florets Les Florets  2023-24  12/13  stylish; obvious gras  
***(*) Dom des Florets Saveur des Dentelles 2020-21 12/13 ripe, suave, then spartan
***(*)  Domaine Font Sarade Les Pigières  2019-20  12/13  neat, smooth drinking  
***(*)  Domaine Les Goubert Cuvée Florence  2025-27  12/13  mixed flavour, needs time  
***(*)  Domaine du Grand Bourjassot   2021-22  12/13  wild wine; pine-basil  
***(*)  Dom du Grand Montmirail V Vignes  2023-25  12/13  gourmand, sweet toned  
***(*)  Grandes Serres Combe des Marchands   2024-26  12/13  gd style, flow; oaked 
***(*)  Domaine de Longue Toque   2026-28 12/13  modern; potent centre  
***(*)  Mas des Restanques   2020-21  12/13  enjoyable, fresh, authentic 
***(*)  Domaine de la Mavette Traditionelle  2023-25  12/13  suave centre, grainy end  
***(*)  Pierre-Henri Morel   2024-26  12/13  good bustle; punchy  
***(*)  Notre Dame d Pallières Bois d Mourres  2025-26  12/13  easy pleasey fruit  
***(*)  Domaine d’Ouréa   2022-24  12/13  wide, savoury, modern  
***(*)  Dom Les Pallières Terrasse du Diable  2029-31  12/13  full Gren heart, chiselled 
***(*)  Domaine des Pasquiers   2021-22  12/13  jam intensity, long  
***(*)  Domaine Le Péage   2024-26  12/13  spiced clarity, warm lands 
***(*)  Famille Perrin La Gille   2024-26  10/13  swift, modern Gig 
***(*)  Domaine du Pesquier   2025-27  12/13  genuine; fat, local, VALUE 
***(*)  Domaine La Roubine   2028-29  12/13  sturdy, rich, oaked 
***(*)  Domaine Saint Damien Vieilles Vignes   2025-26  12/13  soaked style, understated 
***(*)  Skalli Caves Saint Perre 2023-25  12/13  keeps going, sparky fruit  
***(*)  Skalli Clos Grand Boissière   2021-22  12/13  smooth; steady length 
***(*)  Domaine La Soumade   2026-27  12/13 

big, pushy, rich, oaked 

***(*) Domaine Les Teyssonnières 2033-36 10/18 pure fruit, Grenache thrust
***(*)  Domaine du Terme Etiquette Blanche   2026-27  12/13  typical central zone; peppery 
***(*)  Domaine du Terme Etiquette Noire   2024-25  12/13  lithe fruit, drier end  
***(*) Vidal-Fleury 2023-24 05/15 accessible, modern
*** Florent & Damien Burle Pallieroudas  2020-21 10/14 spice, jam, Wild Ride
***  Cave de Gigondas Les Primaires 2018-19  12/13  tasty, round  
***  Ch de Montmirail La Combe Sauvage  2021-22  12/13  country wine, spiced 
***  Domaine des Bosquets   2024-26  12/13  fat, “impressive”, scaled 
*** Florent & Damien Burle Les Fouilles 2021 06/16 supple, savoury
***  Dom Le Clos des Cazaux Prestige   2024-26  12/13  workmanlike, much oak, time 
***  M.Chapoutier   2022-24  12/13  firm fruit; dry finish 
***  Dom des Espiers Cuvée des Blâches  2023-24  12/13  clean fruit, oak 
***  Domaine La Fourmone Le Secret   2026-27  12/13  punchy, cool, needs time 
***  Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2024-25  12/13  tight, oaked; time   
***  N Dame des Pallières Font Notre Dame 2024-25  12/13  brewed up; oak vs Grenache 
***  Notre Dame des Pallières Les Mourres   2021-23  12/13  modern, arm’s length  
***  Domaine Palon   2019-20  12/13  smoky fruit, some drift  
***  Domaine de Piaugier   2025-27  12/13  firm; hard to read  
***  Domaine du Pourra La Réserve   2024-26  12/13  home-bred, punchy  
***  Dom Saint Damien La Louisiane   2026-27  12/13  raw goods, disorderly now 
***  Dom Saint Damien Les Souteyrades   2024-25  12/13  oak, OK fruit, but seared  
***  Dom de La Tourade Font des Aïeux   2020-21  12/13  trad, solid; end dries   
***  Vieux Clocher Seigneur de Lauris   2024-25  12/13  concentrated; oaked  
***  Vieux Clocher The GIG   2022-23  12/13  sweet, soaked, obvious
***  Vignerons Caractère Dom de Carobelle  2019-20  12/13  correct, safe, bit dull  
***  Vignerons Caractère Dom Maurelle   2020-21  12/13  smooth fruit 
**(*)  Bonpas Sieur Alphonse   2019-20  12/13  workmanlike, fair - not more 
**(*)  Maison Bouachon Duc de Monfort   2019-20  12/13  plain; static  
**(*)  Domaine de Fontavin Combe Sauvage  2018-19  12/13  simple, bit cooked up 
**(*)  Lavau  2022-23  12/13  easy juice, sweet, simple  
**(*)  Gabriel Meffre Sainte Catherine   2024-26  12/13  good nose; tough palate  
**(*)  Domaine de La Tête Noire   2018-19  12/13  facile, very safe  
**(*)  Domaine Tourbillon Vieille Vigne   2021-23  12/13  oak, smoke, bit sticky  
**(*)  Vieux Clocher Le Vieux Clocher   2021-22  12/13  resin, dry, trad  
**(*)  Vignerons Caractère Pierres du Vallat   2018  12/13  stewed fruit; simple 
**  Dom du Bois des Mèges Pierre Céleste  2022-23  12/13  sturdy, brewed, tight  
**  Domaine des Florets Suprème   2021-22  12/13  clipped, cutting  
**  Domaine Les Goubert   2020-22  12/13  tight, grainy, chiselled  
**  Domaine du Grand Bourjassot Cécile   2021-22  12/13  excess oak, low harmony  
**  Domaine de la Mavette Cuvée Boisée  2021-22  12/13  more gras, less oak needed  
         

SOME 2012 GIGONDAS ROSÉS

 

***(*) Pierre Amadieu Romane Machotte 2015-16 12/13 interesting fruit, smooth
***(*) Domaine Raspail-Ay 2016 08/13 gd body, long, local
*** Domaine de la Mavette 2016 12/13 Grenache gras; smooth
*** Domaine Les Teyssonnières 2015-16 08/13 elegant, aromatic
**(*) Domaine des Bosquets mid 2015 12/13 suave fruit, firm end
**(*) Domaine Notre Dame des Pallières 2016 12/13 fat, sweet, trad  
**(*) Domaine du Terme Etiquette Noire 2016 12/13 fat, big, typical
         

 

 

PATRICE CHEVALIER IN HIS VINEYARD AT MAS POUPÉRAS ABOVE VAISON-LA-ROMAINE: THE 2012 CÔTES DU RHÔNES ARE VERY DIGESTIBLE, AND JUICY, WELL-FRUITED, HAVE GOOD GRAIN”

5. 2012 CÔTES DU RHÔNE REDS

I continue to bang the drum for CÔTES DU RHÔNE REDS. These represent about the best value of all across the whole RHÔNE VALLEY. I have tasted hundreds of 2012s, 90% of them  blind (unlike most other journalists). For export prices of between €3 and €7 as a fairly true range, the value is simply great. There are wines for every occasion – the simply fruited, drink sooners, the more edgy, dentelle-crisp slow evolvers, the gutsy, feet under the table grunters that demand serious flavours with them. STGT wines are well present in 2012, which is a cool climate vintage, allowing precision in the wines, and therefore drinkability.

The ripening year was variable, not straightforward, and my firm conclusion is that if growers took their eye off the ball, they were punished. Detailed supervision in the vineyards was essential. Hence the results are up and down, with some startling, stimulating wines at the top end, but also those that fail to pass muster due to lack of integration – underripe fruit, edgy tannins being flaws with them.

Above all, this is clear, good to drink vintage, more on its toes and superior to 2011, which came at drinkability by offering waves of soft fruit. In 2102 there is greater breeze in the fruit, and words such as “cut”, “grip” appear more than they did the year before.

A helpful insight is always provided by négociants, the merchants, the people who have to scour the Valley for the good, and not over-priced. In 2012, they had to earn their living. From CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, LAURENT BROTTE told me: “2012 is very irregular across the southern Rhône; there are some meagre wines, without much proper depth. The best had the ID of the Grenache, a good volume with good acidity and balance. I like the Mourvèdre, but I didn’t find a lot of good Mourvèdre in 2012. The best wines were easier to find in 2012 than 2011, though. I am more at ease with 2012 than 2011, when the higher yields led to more diluted wines. The two vintages have similarities. 2010 is well ahead of them.”

From CÔTE-RÔTIE in the north, PHILIPPE GUIGAL gave me this appraisal: ““we adore this vintage for our CÔTES DU RHÔNE, since it ranges from very bad to exceptional. It has variable qualities. Some Syrahs are vegetal, green and lacking in maturity. 2011 held a high average level of quality, by contrast.”

2012 was the year of rain, then drought in the southern Rhône. RÉMY KLEIN of DOMAINE LA RÉMÉJEANNEin the west bank GARD département reported: “this year has given us more vineyard work than previous vintages. It was very dry from late June for weeks, so the risk became one of tannins being too prominent and too dry.”

There was some blockage on ripening due to the dry conditions, so tannic ripeness did indeed become an issue. From the handsome CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON overlooking the Rhône in the Gard, RODOLPHE DE PINS told me: “there has been some blockage of ripening, with young vines, overcharged vines, in some draining soils, but I also find that some of my vines in sand are fresh. For the reds, the acidity is rather low after the heat wave – there is not a lot of juice, so the rain in early September certainly helped the grapes to expand. I am very happy with my Cinsault this year – it is always extraordinary in dry years, in dry soils – with thick skins and fine tannins, a good quality. The Counoise and the Carignan will also help to raise the acidity, as usual.”

EMMANUEL REYNAUD, the owner of the majestic CHÂTEAU DE FONSALETTE at LA GARDE PARÉOL in the VAUCLUSE, spoke of the ice-up and loss from the 2012 frosts in February: “our yield was down on 2011 on our Grenache. The February 2012 frost killed more the buds than the vines themselves – we had a few dead vines – small spots of ten dead vines here and there - but the main damage was to the buds. At harvest time there were 70 cases of crop, against 200 cases in 2011. The quality is at least as interesting as 2011.”

Meanwhile, around him there were other, sometimes more human reasons for loss of crop. SAINTE-CÉCILE-LES-VIGNES, ROCHEGUDE and VIOLÈS were reported as losing 30% crop through several blights – the frost in February, the drought, and because vineyards were being tended less than usual due to the economic crisis – especially for those who do not bottle their own wines or who have very big estates and therefore a lot of wine to sell.

Near VAISON-LA-ROMAINE, PATRICE CHEVALIER, who makes upfront, well-fruited wines at MAS POUPÉRAS gave this vintage summary: “we waited until after the rains, so harvested in a window of late September to early October of one week of good weather. That helped the size and richness of the grapes. The wines are very digestible, and juicy, well-fruited, have good grain. Our crop was at 32 hl/ha.”

In handling the crop, MÉLINA MONTEILLET of DOMAINE DE MONTINE in the DRÔME, near GRIGNAN-LES ADHÉMAR, pointed to an approach that was justified, even required, this year: “we vinified as simply as possible this year in order to respect the fruit and freshness of the vintage.”

2012 is not a Show Biz vintage. But there is a wider than usual gap between the best hand made wines and the mass produced wines where the meticulous attention to detail in the vineyard through the year was less likely. The wines hold often good quality primary fruit, though some are gamey, and less well handled vis à vis oxygen, for instance.

Some have punchy, raw tannins that need to resolve, so their level of harmony is questionable. However, if we take an example like the excellent LE CLOS DU CAILLOU LES QUARTZ RED, it finishes filled with juicy, oily fruit still well present, and has ripe, curved tannins in discreet support.

The Leading 2012 CÔTES DU RHÔNE REDS listed below tend to come in several shapes and sizes, so I suggest you read the brief side note to check on the style of the wine, and whether it suits your taste, before clicking on to the full note under the domaine itself.

BONNE EXPLORATION! BONNE DÉGUSTATION!

LEADING 2012 CÔTES DU RHÔNE REDS

****(*) Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2019-20 10/13 striking, delightful
**** Ch de Beaucastel Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2024-25 10/13 elegant, drinkable
**** Domaine Charvin 2023-25 10/15 precise, clear, charm
**** Le Clos du Caillou Les Quartz 2019-20 10/13 full heart, persistent
**** Mathieu Dumarcher Réserve 2019-20 10/13 serious; attacking style
**** Mathieu Dumarcher Vieilles Vignes 2019-20 10/13 verve, structure, vigour
**** Domaine Les Goubert 2020-21 10/13 stimulating, unbridled
**** Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse 2020 10/13 delicious, promising
**** Domaine de la Mordorée La Dame Rousse 2016-17 05/13 mini Lirac, VALUE
***(*) Château de Manissy 2018 05/13 chunky; spiced fruit, V 
***(*) Château Mont-Redon Réserve 2017 10/13 soft, w.o.w.
***(*) Château de Montmirail Jeune Vigne 2017 05/13 bright fruit; terroir
***(*) Château Le Plaisir 2017 10/13 gloved punch, aromatic
***(*) Le Clos du Caillou 2018 10/13 local, deep, charming
***(*) Domaine Alary La Gerbaude 2020-21 11/13 character, depth, VALUE
***(*) Domaine des Amouriers 2018-19 10/13 STGT; manly, robust
***(*) Dom de l'Arnesque Fleur de Garrigue 2018 06/15 stimulating, expressive 
***(*) Domaine Les Aphillanthes Classique 2019-20 01/15 full boded, inner strength 
***(*) M.Chapoutier Belleruche 2017-18 10/13 modern, w.o.w.
***(*) Domaine du Bois des Mèges Partage 2017-18 10/13 STGT; wild, complete
***(*) Domaine des Carabiniers Lunar Apogé 2019-20 10/13 nuanced, quiet resolve
***(*) Domaine du Chapitre No7 2018 10/13 abundance, pleasure
***(*) Domaine Coulange Rochelette 2018-19 10/13 St Joseph style, v gd
***(*) Dom des Escaravailles Les Antimagnes 2018 04/15 supple, character, fresh
***(*) Domaine de l’Espigouette 2018 10/13 plump; sweet fruiting
***(*) Domaine de l’Espigouette Bel Air 2017-18 10/13 STGT; trim fruit, VALUE 
***(*) Domaine Fond Croze Confidence 2018-19 10/13 good body, persists
***(*) Domaine Gramenon Poignée des Raisins 2020-21 10/13 scented, full ball
***(*) Domaine Grand Nicolet  2020-21 10/13 big horizon, ample
***(*) Les Grandes Serres Les Portes du Castelas 2017-18 05/13 proper table wine
***(*) Dom Les Grands Bois Les Trois Soeurs 2018 10/13 STGT; manly
***(*) E Guigal 2023-24 12/15 frank, lively, vigorous 
***(*) Maxime-François Laurent il fait soif 2018 10/13 character; intricate
***(*) Domaine Maby Variations 2019-20 10/13 scale, sleek fruit
***(*) Domaine La Manarine 2018 02/15 racy, clear fruit, gd body 
***(*) Le Mas de Libian Khayyâm 2018 10/13 lot here, free fruit
***(*) Domaine de Montine Caprices 2018 10/13 STGT; shapely, chiselled
***(*) Montirius La Muse Papilles 2019-20 10/13 grounded; latent strength
***(*) Maison Olivier et Lafont 2018 10/13 thorough, superior
***(*) Domaine de l’Oratoire Saint-Martin 2018-19 10/13 texture, perfume 
***(*) Famille Perrin Nature 2019 11/15 enjoyable, clear, STGT
***(*) Famille Perrin Réserve 2019-20 10/13 breezy, racy fruit, w.o.w.
***(*) Dom La Réméjeanne Les Arbousiers 2019-20 10/13 vigorous minerality
***(*) Dom La Réméjeanne un air de Réméjeane 2018 10/13 naked, stylish
***(*) Domaine Roche-Audran 2018-19 06/13 quality; table vin
***(*) Domaine Saint Michel 2017-18 10/13  STGT; interest, expressive
***(*) Domaine Saladin Paul  2017 10/13 genuine, local, spiced
***(*) Domaine La Soumade Les Violettes 2018-19 10/13 ripe fruit; v persistent
***(*) Domaine Tourbillon Cuvée du Grand-Père 2019-20 10/13 Wild Ride, potential
***(*) Domaine de la Valériane Vieilles Vignes 2019-20 06/15 STGT; character, spicing
*** Château Terre Forte Origine 2022-23 02/18 naked, spiced, cool fruit
*** Domaine L'Ancienne Ecole 2017 06/15 genuine, traditional  
*** Vignobles Assémat Domaine des Garrigues 2016  05/13  grounded, suited to grills 
***  La Bastide Saint Vincent  2017-18 05/13  weight, power, spice 
***  Domaine des Bernardins Les Balmes  2018-19 10/13  STGT; character 
***  Beauchêne Premier Terroir   2018-19 10/13  terroir; depth, interest 
***  Brotte Esprit Barville   2018-19 10/13  drinkable, end bit severe 
***  Brotte La fiole   2016-17 10/13  juicy, forward, chill it 
***  Camille Cayran L’Impatiente   2016  10/13  compact, local  
***  Cellier d Dauphins Les Dauphins Réserve  2017  05/13  powerful; country foods 
***  Château du Bois de la Garde   2017  10/13  spherical, neat  
***  Château La Borie   2017-18 10/13  red fruit, v reliable 
***  Château Boucarut   2016  05/13  grounded, well made  
***  Château Gigognan Vignes du Prieuré  2018-19 10/13  plum fruit, tar  
***  Château de Ruth   2018  10/13  coated, Crowd Pleaser 
***  Château Saint-Roch   2017  10/13  free drinking  
***  Château du Trignon   2017  10/13  drinkable; plenty fruit  
***  Le Clos de Caveau Les Bateliers  2016  05/13  soft, modern, mild 
***  Domaine de la Bastide   2017-18 06/13  style over power; good  
***  Domaine Boisson   2017-18 10/13  grounded, punchy 
***  Domaine Bressy Masson Rencontres   2017  10/13  genuine, unforced  
***  Domaine Les Cailloux Sommelongue   2018-19 10/13  round; southern power 
***  Domaine des Carabiniers   2017  05/13  grainy, chiselled, long  
***  Domaine du Chapitre Le Chapitre   2017-18 10/13  smooth Gren; character 
***  Domaine de Coste Chaude Florilège   2017  06/13  bright fruit, authentic 
***  Delas Saint-Esprit   2017-18 10/13  sparky fruit 
***  La Ferme du Mont Première Côte   2017-18 10/13  powerful; red meats 
***  Dom de Fontavin Vignes de mon Père  2017-18  10/13  upright, filled 
***  Domaine des Gravennes Marie Louise  2018  10/13  scented, calm, style  
***  Haut-Musiel   2018  10/13  direct; spiced fruit  
***  Domaine de la Janasse   2018 10/13  here + now, ease  
*** Domaine du Joncier L'O du Joncier 2017-18 10/13 aromatic, deft, clear
***  Domaine Lafond-Roc Epine   2016  05/13  sleek fruit; wild notes  
***  Domaine La Ligière   2017  04/13  savoury; live fruit  
***  Mas Poupéras Tu me fais tourner la tête  2015  05/13  free drinking 
***  Gabriel Meffre Saint Vincent   2017  10/13  quiet fat, Grenache fruit 
***  Montirius Jardin Secret  

2019-20

10/13  upright; suave fruit also 
***  Montirius Sérine   2019-20  10/13  brisk, chiselled Syrah 
***  Domaine Montmartel Vin Biologique   2017  10/13  gourmand, joli gras  
*** Dom du Parc St-Charles L'entre'acte 2019-20 06/15 gd old Carignan, but oak
***  Domaine du Pegaü Maclura   2018  10/13  bold fruit; exerted  
***  Domaine Le Plan Le Plan Classique   2016-17  04/13  squeezy gras; herbs 
***  Domaine de la Prévosse St-Antoine  2018  10/13  mineral, cool fruit  
***  Ogier Héritages   2018  10/13  sound, some charge  
***  M&S Ogier d’Ampuis Le Temps est Venu  2018-19  11/13  confident; solid quality 
***  Olivier Ravoire   2017  05/13  succulent, sound  
***  Dom La Réméjeanne Les Chevrefeuilles  2018-19  10/13  authentic, de la terre  
***  Domaine des Romarins  2017-18  10/13  Wild Beast, big dishes  
***  Domaine des Romarins C   2017-18  10/13  STGT; character, long  
*** Domaine Saint-Andéol  2018  04/15  STGT; gras, spice  
***  Domaine du Séminaire   2018  10/13  breezy, typical  
***  Dom du Val des Rois Les Allards au Naturel  2018  10/13  good but challenging  
***  Vidal-Fleury   2019-20  10/13  orderly, reliable  
***  Le Vieux Clocher   2017  10/13  clear-cut, fresh, solo OK 
***  Les Vignerons de Tavel Sol’Acantalys  2016-17  05/13  wholesome, chunky, V 
***  Les Vins de Vienne Les Cranilles   2017  10/13  unpretentious, juicy  
         

6. 2012 SOUTHERN ROSÉS

TAVEL GROWERS IN FESTIVAL FORM: L-R CYRIL AMIDO, DOMAINE AMIDO; NATHALIE DUCLAUX, LE MAS DUCLAUX; GAËL PETIT, DOMAINE MOULIN-LA-VIGUERIE; RICHARD MABY, DOMAINE MABY; JL-L; BENOÎT DUCLAUX, LE MAS DUCLAUX. PICTURED IN BLANC PUR, NEAR VILLENEUVE-LES-AVIGNON, A DECENT NEW WINE BAR

SOME GOOD 2012 SOUTHERN ROSÉS

Here and there I have come across a mixed bunch of agreeable rosés, many of which are well up to classic Provençal dishes. Some are very good value indeed.

**** Visan CdR Vill Clos du Père Clément 2015 06/13 classic; VALUEw.o.w.
**** CdRhône Maxime-F Laurent il fait très soif 2016 10/13 STGT; w.o.w. - a rare duo
***(*) Lirac Château de Bouchassy Eglantine 2015-16 05/13 spice, power; good grip
***(*) Lirac Le Clos des Sources 2015 06/13 cf Tavel; character; VALUE
***(*) Lirac Domaine Pelaquié 2015 05/13 joli depth, garrigue, VALUE
***(*) Vacqueyras Domaine La Garrigue 2016 05/13 charm, persistence
***(*) Vacqueyras Dom La Monardière Le rOsé 2015 05/13 great: STGT, w.o.w.
***(*) CdRhône Château du Bois de la Garde 2015 10/13 full, plump fruit; tasty 
***(*) CdRhône Domaine Maby Variations 2015 05/13 STGT; good body 
***(*) CdRhône Dom Saint-Amant Trois Roses 2015 10/13 light tread, very joli, pure 
***(*)

CdRhône Vignerons Chantecôtes Rosélia

2015 10/13 authentic, clean; local food 
***(*) CdRhône Domaine Rouge-Bleu Dentelle 2016 10/13 STGT; classy, sure-footed 
*** Lirac Assémat Domaine des Garrigues 2014-15 05/13 Lirac character, joli fruit
*** Lirac Domaine du Joncier Le Rosé 2016 05/13 full; red wine tilt
*** Lirac Domaine Maby La Fermade 2015 05/13 genuine, modern, VALUE
*** Vacqueyras Arnoux Vieux Clocher 2015 05/13 pushy, clear fruit
*** CdRh Cave Rasteau Ortas Les Viguiers 2015 10/13 stylish gras; apero + food
*** CdRhône Ch Beauchêne Le Pavillon 2015 10/13 fragrant, round, attractive
*** CdRhône Dom des Bernardins Rosé Balmes 2015 10/13 local; unforced style
*** CdRhône Domaine du Chapitre Le Chapitre 2015 10/13 texture wine, not obvious
*** Delas Saint-Esprit 2015 10/13 sweet notes, grip
*** CdRhône Dom de Fontavin Vignes mon Père 2015 10/13 interesting; full-bodied
*** CdRhône E.Guigal 2015 05/13 round, low-key sweetness
*** CdRh Mas Poupéras Pour toi je décrocherai 2015 05/13 body, crisp, clear
*** CdRhône Mordorée La Dame Rousse 2015 05/13 gourmand, rounded
*** CdRh Dom Philippe Plantevin Le Pérussier late 2014 06/13 pretty; apero or salads
*** CdRhône Vidal-Fleury 2015 10/13 plump gras; table wine
*** CdRh Vignrons Laudun Chusclan Esprit Rhn 2015 10/13 quiet strength, clear
*** CdRh Vignobles La Coterie Légende Toques 2015 10/13 comfortable weight, direct
*** Lubéron La Vieille Ferme 2015 06/13 pretty, clean fruit
*** Ventoux Chêne Bleu 2015 05/13 structure, red vin style
*** Ventoux La Ferme Saint Pierre Juliette 2015 05/13 crisp, proper rosé
**(*) Vacqueyras Le Clos de Caveau Rose du Clos 2015-16 05/13 mild gras; very dumb
**(*) Visan CdRVil La Florane Fleur de Pampre 2015 06/13 steely; some local touch
**(*) CdRhône Pierre Amadieu Roulepierre 2015 10/13 fair gras, fair length
**(*) CdRhône Brotte Esprit Barville 2015 10/13 smooth richness; easy
**(*) CdRhône Château Saint-Roch Brunel 2014 05/13 mild fruit; compact 
**(*) CdRhône M.Chapoutier Belleruche 2015 10/13 pal beats nose; obvious
**(*) CdRh Domaine Charité Rosé d’Une Nuit 09/2014 10/13 quince fruit; grilled fish
**(*) CdRhône Domaine Chaume-Arnaud mid 2014 10/12 soft, easy
**(*) CdRhône Romaine Duvernay 2015 10/13 clear, close-knit, bit tame
**(*) CdRh Dom Escaravailles Les Antimagnes 2015 10/13 gd body, beats the nose
**(*) CdRhône Domaine Pelaquié 2014 05/13 a skimmer; solo OK
**(*) CdRhône Dom Le Plan Classic CDR/RS 2015 10/13 sleek fruit; firm; tapers
**(*) Vdpays du Gard Ch Montfaucon Gardettes 2015 05/13 joli nose, forceful palate
**(*) Vdpays Vaucluse IGP Domaine de Tara end 2013 05/13 light, quite local   

 

2012 TAVEL ROSÉ

Tavel rosé: a wine with a split personality in recent years. As an area allowed to produce only rosé, it can suffer from whims of fashion, especially once rosé quality has started to improve in other regions. And that is the shadow cast over Tavel for now – one in the form of fashionable, über cool Provence rosé, whose marketing is unashamedly metropolitan. Walk into the Provence stand at a Wine Fair, and you could be in the perfume department of Bloomingdales or Galeries Lafayette. Beside them, Tavel is decidedly rustic.

Provence rosé is aimed at bar drinking and the aperitif, and celebrity endorsements are now stacking up for it: witness the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt wine made by the Perrins of Beaucastel, sold out within three hours on-line earlier this year – sight and taste unseen, at a high price of €18 or so. Further distance from the Olde Worlde of Tavel, thus.

So underlying the surface here is unease, and some self-doubt about identity. It is worth remembering that Tavel at base was a light red wine, as defined by historian André Jullien – he classed Tavel as a light, clear red wine, placed with the Burgundies of the Côte de Beaune, and at the same price. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the whole area of Tavel was covered in vineyards, and was known by the name of La Côte de Tavel.

The Provence rosé encroachment is accelerating with what I consider some very light wines, that perhaps haven’t been made in the fully recognised Tavel method – those with a swift maceration and a colour like a Provence rosé – very clear pink, almost tinted by grey. DOMAINE DE TOURTOUIL straddles the food-aperitif style, for instance, having been made with just a 12 hour maceration, while the PRIEURÉ DE MONTÉZARGUES’s 2012 is disappointingly light and clinical, with a shift in approach seeming apparent here.

The CHÂTEAU DE SEGRIÈS is also an example of an “instant” style of Tavel, while the good old, leading name of DOMAINE DE LA MORDORÉE, excellent also at LIRAC, have gone the Provence route with their 2012 REINE DES BOIS, whereas the DAME ROUSSE from them is a good, traditional Tavel that requires foods.

Harvest dates used to be September to October, but these past years they have often been late August or early September. High degree wines are a fear, with sudden gains – GAËL PETIT of DOMAINE MOULIN-LA-VIGUERIE observed that in the hot year of 2009 his Cinsault went from 14° to 16° in just three days, those three days marked by strong Mistral wind that dried the grapes very fast. The usual rule is a gain of 0.1° to 0.2° of alcohol per day, he added.

Genuine Tavel is still made, though - a red-tinted wine suitable for drinking all through a dinner or lunch, and not a wine particularly aimed at post-work aperitifs. However, recent vintages present the whole appellation in a confused light – quality and style swings this way and that, and it is becoming hard to know what to expect when opening a bottle, unless you restrict yourself to just a colour segregation – very pale = Provence style; red-tinted = orthodox Tavel style. The former is light, not especially memorable, the latter is bold, with crunchy red fruit and herbs of the garrigue present.

From the 2012 line-up, we have domaines such as PALAI MIGNON, MORDORÉE LA DAME ROUSSE, MOULIN-LA-VIGUERIE (STGT), LES VIGNERONS DE TAVEL LES LAUZERAIES and the subtle depth of CHÂTEAU DE TRINQUEVEDEL to keep us happy à table. The DOMAINE MABY PRIMA DONNA and LE MAS DUCLAUX are also fat, well-furnished wines that run along food association lines.

RICHARD MABY of DOMAINE MABY pointed out another variable in this debate: “the harvest date at Tavel is very important, counts a lot,” he explained. “Some growers want primary fruit, so pick early and do a rapid 6-12 hour maceration to avoid any astringency. Others wait longer, seek more phenolic (tannin) ripeness, then perform a longer maceration towards 48 hours before bleeding off the pressed juice, their wines having more structure.”  These are the classic Tavels.

2012 is a superior vintage to 2011, but behind the very well-balanced and complete 2010. 2012 has good high points, but not enough wines present at least a three star quality. Vinification with cultured yeasts plays a role in making the wines ordinary, I feel, while the dramatic emphasis on low temperature ferments can mean amylique aromas such as candy and banana, rather than fresh redcurrant fruit. A few wild cards hover, such as domaines using close to zero sulphur dioxide, which on a wine destined to be shipped young and given little ceremony in its handling, is a risky policy.

The leading wines this year are freshly fruited and enjoyable. They have some of what I regard as a 2012 pesky nature – they are not immediately open and well-knit, unlike the facile, higher alcohol 2011s. Their body is up to accompanying Mediterranean dishes with garlic and herbs, as well as old favourites such asSzechuancooking and Japanese teriyaki  or noodle dishes.

The structure of Tavel these days is built around about 35 domaines, some of whom now make two or three different cuvées. The Co-operative de Tavel makes four cuvées. Merchants involved in Tavel include PIERRE AMADIEU, CHAPOUTIER, VIGNOBLES DAVID, DELAS, LES GRANDES SERRES, GUIGAL, LAVAU, OGIER and VIDAL-FLEURY. GUIGAL is a cast-iron bet for Tavel, along with his excellent, more jaunty Côtes du Rhône rosé, while PIERRE AMADIEU is doing well, and VIDAL-FLEURY produce a genuine Tavel for dining occasions. PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ no longer bother with Tavel.

There are a few growers outside Tavel who have Tavel vineyards – PELAQUIÉ at LAUDUN, CHÂTEAU DE CORRENSON and CHÂTEAU DE SEGRIÈS, DOMAINES BEAUMONT and CARABINIERS at LIRAC, for instance. CORRENSON can be the best of these, with PELAQUIÉ, a long-time excellent WHITE LAUDUN supplier, sometimes bang on target, sometimes not. The CO-OPERATIVE at ROQUEMAURE, ROCCA MAURA, part of the appellation LIRAC, has one Co-operateuse who owns vineyards at Tavel, so there is a little made there.

After tasting around 50 wines, I came up with 17 at 3.5 stars or greater, and another 10 wines at 3 stars – total 27, a shade over half. That figure of 3 star wines is low, I consider, and should be nearer 15. There are also several variables not yet mentioned in play at Tavel as well: does the domaine machine or hand harvest? What time of day is the harvesting performed? Is there significant sorting or discarding? Does the domaine have a modern cooling system? What is the quality of the yeast, and is it laboratory, cultured yeast or wild? Does the maceration last only a few hours or a few days? Is bottling done under strictly controlled conditions, oxygen free and neutral, at the domaine, or is it bottled by an outside supplier, perhaps performed outside? Are bottles stored at good, cool temperatures to avoid any acetate connections in the wines?

Tavel export destinations are led by a large margin by Belgium, with its old reputation in the USA, connected to imports after the Second World War, meaning that country is second in line. The figures of interest in order are Belgium 38%, USA 17%, Scandinavia (ex Denmark) 11%, Canada 9%, NL 8%, Germany 7%, Denmark 2% and GB a mere 1%.

As to the development of the vintage in the vineyard, there wasn’t too much frost spread across winter 2012, the worst moment being the blast of cold in February – less severe than in the Vaucluse across the River, with the loss of a few old Grenache vines. The total loss on the year was about 20% of the crop overall, with some coulure contributing to that.

Various growers gave me their views on the vintage. A recent start-up - mid-2000s - is BENOÎT DUCLAUX of LE MAS DUCLAUX. An ex-Chef married to a Roudil, a longtime vigneronne family at Tavel, he saw the year thus: "it is an attractive year even if it was tricky in the vineyard, with acidity and balance in question; the wines came along gradually after their vinification. Aromas are good and expressive, while the palate is less sure, but generally good. My old Grenache vines suffered in the winter, and I lost crop.”

One of the sure-fire bets and also one of the keenest, widest horizon growers is GUILLAUM DEMOULIN of CHÂTEAU DE TRINQUEVEDEL, whose vineyards combine limestone and silt around the Château and sandy soils elsewhere: “the 2012 harvest was in better condition and easier to work with than that of 2011. 2012 is more attractive, joli, than 2011 – there were better quality grapes, whereas in 2011 you had to sort the crop, and discard. It is the best vintage since 2006 for me.”

RICHARD MABY of DOMAINE MABY, another sure-fire bet at Tavel, is extremely enthusiastic about 2012: “2012 is better, much better than 2011. 2012 is my best vintage since 2005. We could pick when we wanted, and vinifications were very smooth,” he explained.

GAËL PETIT of MOULIN-LA-VIGUERIE is a studious man, measured in his approach and lover of terroir (also a cousin of Roudil family and Richard Maby). He gave this frank appraisal: “2012 isn’t a Grand Year, but is better than 2011, although lacking the same maturity as 2007. The quality of the crop didn’t make my heart beat. The wines have minerality, but the palates can be a bit feeble in some cases, so quality is uneven - though they are agreeable to drink.”

PASCAL LAFOND, the amusing patron of DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-EPINE (ROC-EPINE wasFrance’s national hero, a Trotting horse, in the 1960s) gave this view on 2012: “it seems to be a bit in the line of 2011, with good general balance, good structure and freshness. It isn’t as high class as 2010, and is taking the same path as 2011 for now – evolution will decide the difference between the two vintages. The degree this year is about 0.5° to 1° less than that of 2011, which is very good, and their colours are similar. “

The drinking time for the most food-friendly wines is 2016 or so. I always find that good Tavel can show pretty well at 5 years of age as well, so even if some bottles of 2012 are forgotten in a corner of the cellar or basement, there may still be some action around 2017-18.

LEADING 2012 TAVEL ROSÉ

****(*) Le Mas Duclaux 2015  05/13  beauty, length; w.o.w. 
**** Domaine Maby La Forcadière  2015  05/13  STGT; spicy complexity 
**** Domaine Maby Prima Donna  2016  05/13  bonny gras; spiced 
**** Domaine de la Mordorée La Dame Rousse  2016  05/13  good, trad, full Tavel 
**** Domaine Moulin-la-Viguerie Les Falaises de B  2016  05/13  STGT; genuine, foods 
**** Domaine La Rocalière   2016  05/13  STGT; supple fruit; smoky 
***(*) Pierre Amadieu La Gravinière  2016  05/13  gutsy, generous  
***(*) Brotte Les Eglantiers 2016 10/13 nice gras; true Tavel
***(*) Château de Trinquevedel   2016  05/13  STGT, genuine, fresh  
***(*) Château de Trinquevedel AutremenTavel  2015  05/13  fresh, modern, fun  
***(*) Domaine Amido Les Amandines  2016  05/13  sturdy, plenty weight  
***(*) Domaine de la Barotte 2015 05/13 good body, length
***(*) Domaine Corne-Loup   2015  05/13 modern, joli 
***(*) Ogier Héritages 2016 05/13 juice, strength, v sound
***(*) Palai Mignon   2016  05/13  chunky, solid, decant  
***(*) Les Vignerons de Tavel Différent  2016  05/13  interesting, dark fruited  
***(*) Les Vignerons de Tavel Les Lauzeraies  2016  05/13  tight fruit, solid finish   
***(*) Les Vignerons de Tavel Cuvée Tableau   2015  05/13  modern, elegant; w.o.w. 
***  Château d’Aquéria  2016  05/13  modern, supple, obvious 
***  Domaine des Carabiniers  2015  05/13  robust; full dishes suit 
***  M.Chapoutier Beaurevoir  2015  05/13  firm, agreeable; foods 
***  Domaine de la Genestière   2015  05/13  red-fruited; effective  
***  Les Grandes Serres Domaine Cigalounes  2015  05/13  genuine, smooth, tight 
***  Eric Grassone Li Bestiari  2015  05/13  big notes, naturel style  
*** Domaine de Lanzac Cuvée Prestige 2016 05/13 firm, closed-in, solid
***  Domaine de la Mordorée La Reine des Bois  2015  05/13  Provence in Tavel  
***  Domaine Saint-Ferréol   2016  05/13  safe wine, fine acidity 
***  Les Vignerons de Tavel Cuvée Royale  2015  05/13  efficient, low soul, OK 
**(*)  Château de Manissy Terra Benita  2015  05/13  fine fruit; upright  
**(*)  Domaine Roc de l’Olivet   2015  05/13  functional Tavel  
**(*)  Domaine Le Vieux Moulin   2015  05/13  fair content, but stern