Vignerons had to work a lot harder in the northern Rhône in 2012 than in the south, down, mainly to a very damp spring, with outbreaks of mildew and excessive vigour.
Ralph Garcin of Domaine Paul Jaboulet Ainé describes the vintage thus:
The weather conditions for this vintage in the northern Rhone were quite heterogenous and difficult. We had a really long and cold winter with several days of serious frost. Spring was cool and rainy which made the vineyard management quite tough. The vines were very vigourous as was the disease pressure. It was a real challenge this year to cope with such pressure especially for organically-farmed estates. By the beginning of July, the weather became dry and sunny. Not very hot but sunny. Summer was ok with a short period of drought at the end of August but with no real bad consequences. We started to pick the first white grapes on the 9th of September in Crozes Hermitage and then Hermitage. The harvest lasts more than a month. We finished to pick the reds on the 8th of October at our 400m high parcel of Cornas (Domaine St Pierre).
The crop is quite small. We expect 20% less than last year but we think the quality is better. The whites are very aromatic with a good natural acidity. This year marsanne has performed better than roussanne. Viogniers are great ! Concerning the reds, the early appellations such as Crozes Hermitage are very dark-coloured with a lot of fruit character on the nose. The mouth is pretty soft with a medium-bodied structure. Hermitage and Cornas are very dense and powerful. The wines are full bodied and are certainly denser than 2011. We have very strong expectations for these wines. Cote Rotie and St Joseph are good too but not as dense as the red hermitages. They are more gentle and delicate. They will need a lot ageing to express their finesse.
2012 was not easy at all in the vineyard but was quite manageable in the winery. The fermentations have no problem. The alcohol content is on average 0.5-1% less than the last 3 years. The wines are very well balanced with easy drinking fruit driven Crozes Hermitage and good ageing potential Hermitage ! We are waiting for the malolactics to finish and we are filling the barrels with the new vintage wines. 2012 is on track ! I’ll tell you more in a couple of months.