Happy vines at Domaine Roland Pignard, Morgon

Beaujolais 2012 - Difficult Vintage, Excellent Wines!

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Weather conditions in French vineyards during the 2012 growing season were far from easy, with cool, wet conditions from mid-Spring to late summer bringing mildew and oidium, not to mention hail in many areas, lowering yields by 50% or more. Better weather in late August and September, however, permitted the harvest of clean, mature fruit with relatively low alcohol levels and firm acidity, producing some oustanding wines, particularly in the Loire Valley and Burgundy. In the Beaujolais, after three relatively successful vintages, the lighter wines of 2012 have been generally ignored by the press and undiscovered by most consumers. Our initial reaction to the wines, however, was extremely positive. With lovely pure fruit aromas, alcohol levels ranging from 11 to 13%, firm acidity and excellent terroir expression, we found the wines delicious and refreshing for current drinking, with many wines capable of aging beautifully for five to seven years or more. The list below includes many of our favorite wines from 2012 (though sadly not including Christian Ducroux). If you're looking for "fruit-bombs" or 14% alcohol and high point scores you won't find them, but if you're looking for wines that epitomize what we love about Beaujolais, you'll find many great examples from this under-appreciated vintage!

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Chamonard 2012 Morgon Le Clos de Lys

Jean-Claude Chanudet has made a lovely Morgon in 2012, showing the purity and balance of this difficult but qualitatively quite good vintage in the Beaujolais. Ripe earthy aromas of blackberry and strawberry that reappear on the light palate framed in bright acidity and saline minerals. Quite pretty in a light, bright style, this promises to be very delicious in three to five years, with longer aging quite possible. Enjoy it this Spring and Summer for its refreshing purity...

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Chamonard 2012 Fleurie La Madone

A rare and delicious Fleurie from Jean-Claude Chanudet at Domaine Chamonard! Bright pale garnet color; beautiful aromas of violet, crushed raspberry, strawberry liqueur, earth and citrus. Nice depth on the palate for a 2012, showing pretty raspberry and red currant fruit with citrus, earth and fine stony acidity in the long finish. Really a lovely wine with great potential — should be superb from 2019 to 2024...

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Chignard 2012 Fleurie Les Moriers

The Chignard's vineyard "les Moriers" is a high wedge-shaped parcel that descends into Moulin-a-Vent, giving a wine that is always well-structured and frequently austere in it's youth. The very low yields in 2012 have given this wine more  immediate expression, with gorgeous raspberry, wild-strawberry and violet aromas and a beautiful light to medium-bodied palate with bracing acidity. Drink this now for the elegant, youthful fruit but this should be superb after 5 to 8 years of cellaring.

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Coquelet 2012 Morgon Côte du Py Vieilles Vignes

The young Damien Coquelet, under the guidance of this step-father Georges Descombes, is making some of the prettiest wines in the Beaujolais. Organic farming, wild yeasts and minimal sulfur. This wine is from old vines formerly part of the Domaine Savoye-Descombes. Very pretty deep cherry and strawberry fruit, fairly forward and with good length. This should drink beautifully over the next 3 or 4 years.

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Desvignes 2012 Morgon Javernières Côte de Py

Claude-Emannuelle and her brother are the seventh generation of winemakers at Desvignes and the domain was one of the first in Morgon to "estate-bottle" beginning in 1955. "The spirit of our vinification is between the Beaujolais carbonic maceration and a Burgundy vinification," she says. The parcel "Javernieres," on the lower southeast corner of the Cote de Py, is considered by the Desvignes as their best terroir. Here the thicker topsoil with more clay and iron oxide gives a more generous wine. The 2012 shows classic Morgon aromas of blackberry and tart black cherry, violets and earth. The palate shows firm acidity with bright red and black fruits and hints of citrus and spice. This well-structured wine will need time - decant well in advance if drinking now, best 2019 to 2025.

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  • Organic

Thillardon, Paul-Henri 2012 Chénas Les Carrières

Paul-Henri Thillardon began with 3 hectares of family vineyards in 2008, then acquired 2 hectares in Chenas, always worked with organic/biodynamic methods and certified organic in 2011. Vinifications here are Burgundian, not carbonic, with a long maceration but gentle extraction and with minimal SO2 at bottling only. The 2012 Chenas "Carrières"  shows pretty aromas of red-currant, strawberry and blood orange with red currant, brown spice and earthy acids on the palate. Although meant to be drunk young, this really shows the terroir and should benefit from a few years of aging. Nice wine! DL

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  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Descombes, Georges 2012 Morgon

We always love the "regular" botting of Descombes' Morgon and the 2012 is a great example — elegant aromas of raspberry, strawberry and violets, quite pure and fine. The palate is light and pretty with wild strawberry and morello cherry, nicely balanced and with perfect acidity and good length. This is a really lovely, understated Beaujolais that will improve with a few hours open or a few years in the cellar.

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Descombes, Georges 2012 Brouilly

Descombes has great parcels in Brouilly with some vines being 100 years old and on very steep hillsides. The 2011 was lush and lovely and the 2012 is quite pretty in a lighter style with elegant aromas of blackberry and strawberry compote with citrus and spice notes. The palate has firm acidity and saline mineral notes underlying juicy black fruits. Decant or open in advance to drink now — this well structured wine will be best in two to five years.

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Coudert (Clos de la Roilette) 2012 Fleurie Griffe du Marquis

Alain Coudert's homage to his father Fernand is a superb Fleurie that will need three to five years in the cellar and should drink beautifully over the next ten to fifteen years or more. This is the same juice as the great 2012 Cuvée Tardive, aged in two to six year-old barriques and bottled a year later. From eighty year-old vines on clay and granite soil.. Deep aromas of meaty blackberry and strawberry confit, violets and mint. Intense palate of berry liqueur, plum, stone and earth with fabulous length and firm, even slightly bitter acids. Earthy fruit coats the palate in the finish — ripe but balanced at 13% alcohol. This will be a great mature wine, perhaps best between 2020 — 2025.

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Desvignes 2012 Morgon Côte de Py

We're very impressed with the Desvignes wines in 2012 - their version of "semi-carbonic" which involves more maceration and extraction than most Beaujolais producers, produced wines that are relatively full-bodied for the vintage, but quite pretty and balanced with good aging capabilities. The 2012 Cote de Py shows deep strawberry/black cherry/plum aromas with hints of violets, earth and smoke. The palate is medium-bodied with ripe red fruits with firm acidity and tannin, finishing with saline minerals. Decant this lovely wine if drinking now (or open the night before), best in five to ten years.

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  • Organic

Guignier, Michel 2012 Beaujolais Villages La Bonne Pioche

A light and lovely Beaujolais-Villages from the Biodynamic estate of Michel Guignier in Vauxrenard, (certified Demeter) produced with zero added SO2, 11% alcohol. 2012 La Bonne Pioche (from foudre) – pure and pretty, fresh raspberry fruit and spicy citrus notes, very open and appealing. Relatively light on the palate but deeply concentrated with vibrant acid and subtle mineral notes through the clean, long finish.

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Guillot, Julien 2012 Chénas Ultimatum Climat

This is a lovely "natural" Chénas, made from purchased organic grapes, and without SO2, by the talented Julien Guillot of the Clos des Vignes du Maynes. Aromas of ripe cherry and red currant with hints of violet, earth and roast meats. Bright, juicy red and black fruits on the medium-bodied palate, with refreshing acidity. Serve with charcuterie, grilled meats and full-flavored cheeses. (Recommended by Eric Asimov in the NYTimes 5/19/14)

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Lapalu 2012 Brouilly La Croix des Rameaux

From a plot of 80 plus year-old vines, aged in used barriques. A bit lighter than the Côte Brouilly, showing lovely high-toned black raspberry, wild strawberry and blood orange — really complex and elegant. The palate has deep black raspberry and cherry fruit with bitter herbs, citrus and mineral flavors and fabulous length. Really a complete wine with lovely fruit, terrific minerality and balance, probably best 2018- 2023, but delicious now as well...

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  • Organic
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  • Low Sulfur

Lapalu 2012 Côte de Brouilly

The Mont Brouilly, a volcanic "bump" in the granite bedrocks of the Beaujolais, is a terroir of mineral-rich bluish rock with little or no soil, giving a quite different character to the wines. The Lapalu 2012 is from a one hectare parcel of old vines with northeast exposure, so late to ripen.  The fruit was 80% destemmed and 20% whole cluster carbonic maceration, with 10 mg/liter of SO2 added only before bottling. This is a quite different style than the 2015s, showing a lovely garnet color and bright, complex aromas of red currant, raspberry, citrus, rose, earth and spice. The palate shows vibrant red fruits, quite dense and complex and lifted by firm acidity. The finish is very long with bright red fruits and mineral flavors coating the palate - this is an exuberant and delicious Beaujolais that is beautiful now and should really sing in three to five years. Drink until 2027. Thank-you Jean-Claude Lapalu!

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  • Organic
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Pignard 2012 Beaujolais-Villages

The Pignards work 4.5 hectares in and around Morgon and Regnié. Biodynamic farming, natural fermentations and minimal SO2. We've walked through their vineyards which are absolutely beautiful — "wine is made in the vineyard" say the Pignards and it shows in the gorgeous fruit and mineral character in their wines. The 2012 Beaujolais-Villages is from 40 year-old vines on decomposed granite soils. It shows the bright pure fruit of the 2012 vintage but with very good ripeness as well. Pretty deep red color, aromas of tart cherry, raspberry, rose and blood orange, really lovely! Silky palate with dark cherry, blackberry and earth — a bit fuller than most 2012s, balanced by bright acidity and saline minerals. Delicious now and will drink beautifully over the next 3 to 5 years. DL

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  • Organic
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Pignard 2012 Morgon Tradition

The Pignard's Morgon Cuvée Tradition is simply superb in 2012. Good friends with Christian Ducroux, the Pignards practise similar methods of biodynamic farming and natural vinifications. Produced from steep hillside vineyards, the wine ferments naturally, with only 10mg of SO2 added and spends a year in vat followed by a year in old barriques. The 2012 vintage was a difficult one for the growers, resulting in very low yields, but producing beautiful wines with pure fruit, light to medium body and firm acidity. The wine shows bright raspberry and strawberry aromas that deepen with darker fruits, earth and roast meats. Very saline and mineral on the palate with complex berry fruits balanced by firm acidity. This is a superb Morgon of terroir that will benefit from decanting or five years in the cellar. Highly recommended! Tasted again after 3 days open, the wine has deepened with aromas  of black cherry, mint and spice appearing, the palate shows blackberry, red-currant, licorice and spice infused with minerals in the long finish. Really superb!

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Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) 2012 Côte de Brouilly

As the 2012 Beaujolais arrive we continue to be encouraged by the low alcohol, light body and purity of fruit shown in many of the wines — this despite a horribly difficult growing season which seemed to include every possible calamity to the growers. We found many very good wines in 2011, yet others showed unfocused fruit and high levels of volatile acidity — we are preferring, so far the best examples from 2012, this superb 2012 Cote de Brouilly certainly among them. This great stony hillside terroir, quite different than the granites in most Beaujolais crus, always gives one of Jean-Paul Brun's best wines. In 2012 the aromas are bright and pretty with morello cherry, raspberry and violets. The palate is light to medium bodied, at 12.5% alc, pretty and balanced with refreshing acidity and lovely persistent pure red fruits. Delicious now, served quite cool, best perhaps at 3 to 7 year of age...

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  • $21.49