Heartbreaking news hit the wire this week that sets a gloomy prediction for those with an affinity for either grower Champagne or Burgundy. Tremendously violent storms ripped through both areas causing the most damage in Aube and Beaune. The extent of the damage is not yet fully known, but reportedly the storms produced large hail and high winds. It seems Pommard, Volnay and Meursault were hit the hardest. Destroying upwards of 50% of the fruit. The timing could not be worse. These storms rip apart canopies and destroy fruit. Many are reporting mildew issues as well. 2012 is shaping up to be a challenging vintage for vineyard managers and wine-makers in these regions.
I love vintages like this. It's the kind of vintage that brings clarity, allowing the truly talented to shine in the face of so much adversity. The toughest challenge will be faced by those farming organically and/or bio-dynamically. Fighting off mildew will be quite a chore for them and they will face some very crucial decisions. Young stars like Ben Leroux, David Duband, Alexandrine Roy, Pierre Yves Colin Morey and Jean-Marie Fourrier will likely produce stunning wines. Their attention to detail in the vineyard will allow them to pick beautiful fruit and craft gorgeous examples of Pinot Noir. The downside, low yields. The upside, wonderfully balanced wines. In a vintage that many might end up describing as a total tragedy, look for these young stars to shine, proving that great wine is made with hard labor in the vineyards.
As news of the storms traveled, twitter feeds exploded with comments on pricing. Many erroroneously believe the wines will not be in high demand and pricing will finally drop. Don't bet on it. Crafting great wines in a challenging vintage is extraordinarily costly. Labor costs alone are enough for many to throw in the trowel. Production levels will likely be 50% below the norm. I've often advocated that prices for great wines from tough vintages should be more expensive than great wines from easy vintages. It's these wines that show the true talent of both vineyard manager and wine-maker. It's like the difference between Eli Manning and Tony Romo. As the challenges get tougher, one of them puts in extra work, the other goes on vacation with Jessica Simpson. Only one of them has two Super Bowl rings.
So for those with an affinity for grower Champagne or Burgundy,the news is bittersweet. We should see some truly remarkable wine-making and vineyard management skills from the 2012 vintage. However,the wines will be in short supply and likely a bit pricey. I'm personally going to stuff my cellar with both now and hope I can secure some terrific 2012 wines when they are released.