Robert Parker – 89
The 2012 Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches (red) was picked between September 20 and 28 and underwent a 20- to 25-day skin maceration. Refulgent garnet in color, it has a dense, raspberry and blackcurrant bouquet with touches of undergrowth and what feels like â€œstemminessâ€ coming through (even though it was completely de-stemmed!) The palate is medium-bodied with a tannic, quite masculine entry. It feels a little brutish at the moment, although I am sure it will mellow by the time of bottling. The matriarch of Maison Joseph Drouhin, Veronique Drouhin, escorted a group of writers and scribes through her 2012s in London, except for the Grands Echezeaux that happened to not be showing well. Hers were the only 2012s tasted outside Burgundy for this report, in respect of the miniscule quantities. Less for us critics: more for punters, even if it is a drop. The omnipresent story of depleted crops was the same here. In fact, 2012 is their smallest vintage for 50 years. â€œEverything that you think could happen, did happen,â€ rued Veronique in her fluent English. â€œWe had frost, hail, storms and even sunburn.â€ There was some redemption though, a vital one too. â€œThe only thing we did not get was botrytis and so the fruit was healthy. There had been a poor fruit set and a lot of coulure and millerandage. This meant the berries were small and not clustered close together, allowing good air flow between the berries and therefore inhibiting grey rot.â€ However, the unpredictable growing season proved challenging in the vineyard. â€œWe are 100% organic, so we had to go over and over in the vines. We had to use natural responses to natural problems.â€ The 2012 vintage also demanded prudent approaches in the winery that could enhance the wines. â€œOne of the most surprising things we found was that it took five to seven days for the fermentation to start. During this period you could extract some interesting things (color, polyphenols etc). Also, we found that the fruit had a long post-fermentation period of up to two weeks, which also benefited the complexity of the fruit. We also had a different approach to the vin de press. When we pressed the white grapes, we separated the end pressings. Using whole clusters means that the stems tend to increase the pH and the acidity goes much lower, which can dilute the cuvee. We had to separate the vin de presse and work each one differently. But in 2012 we did not include much of the vin de presse.â€ The vinification of such a small quantities springs its own set of problems; after all, you cannot fill all your barrels with marbles to keep them topped up. Fortunately, there was plenty of time to prepare because the February frost had burnt the buds. Poor flowering and fruit set early in the growing season meant that there was plenty of time to place orders for appropriately-sized barrels. â€œWe used 500-liter barrels, which were very useful and similarly sized stainless tell vessels for the wines,â€ Veronique explained. â€œWe hired a person who specializes in bottling small quantities. Jerome likes them (500-liter barrels) very much. They do not extract much, but they can make very elegant wines.â€ Perhaps one silver lining is that it has given producers such as Drouhin experience of using alternatively sized vessels that may be used in the future when vintages are more bountiful. At the end of the day, Drouhin have overseen another impressive set of Burgundy wines. While they do not possess the structure of the 2010s, the acidity levels are not dissimilar, although they seem to have more sweetness on the finishes. I concur with Veronique that two appellations that prospered in this vintage are Chassagne in the Cotes de Beaune and Chambolle in the Cotes de Nuits. In particular, the latter is very strong chez Drouhin in 2012, right down to the village cru. She also opined that Rully exceeded expectations, perhaps because the vines were so affected by hail in 2011 and strove to compensate in the following year. Here both the white and red come highly recommended and will probably represent good value. Prices are expected to rise, possibly 10-15% for the village and premier crus, 20% for the grand crus, although nothing had been set at time of writing. Importer: Dreyfus Ashby & Co., New York, NY; tel. (212) 818-0770 and through several importers in the UK via Pol Roger UK Ltd.
Vinous – 90
(production here was just eight hectoliters per hectare, mostly due to hail, according to Frédéric Drouhin): Good medium red. Aromas of cherry, leather and musky underbrush. Very ripe, fat and full, showing a pronounced truffley underbrush character but little in the way of a hail taste. Strong dry extract and saline minerality nicely support the wine’s alcohol. Dusty tannins call for some aging. Not a high-pitched, fruity style but very concentrated.
Anticipated maturity: 2020-2028