News from the cellar and vineyards
The 2012 vintage is in the cellar.
Or rather in the barrel and in some cases bottled already. That makes it time for an initial verdict.
By Helmuth Zozin, director of the Manincor wine estate
“Good!”, “Very good!”, “Excellent!” Those are the typical responses to the new vintage; they are all positive, and in most cases the new wine is better than its predecessor.
I have never been comfortable with this approach to evaluating a vintage. It cannot possibly do justice to natural wines from outstanding sites; they have a personality all of their own and offer a tasting experience that reflects the individual terroir as it develops in the course of the year. By terroir we mean the interaction of all the factors that influence a vineyard. Mother Nature determines the terrain, geology and microclimate, while the winegrower contributes vine training, vine density and husbandry. The weather imposes its own pattern on the year. The weather and the terroir combine to determine the range of aromas in the grapes and flavors in the wines.
2012 was a year of ups and downs. Spring was in the air in mid-February already, with temperatures above 20°C, and the first green shoots appeared around 25 March, earlier than ever in the last thirty years. An unusually cool and wet April and May, on the other hand, extended the period between the appearance of the new shoots and the flowering of the vines to over sixty days, which is very long and brought the state of vegetation back in line with an average year. June and July were also unsettled, with an alternation of rain and summer temperatures.
A heatwave lasting several weeks in August, with temperatures as high as 35°C, was perfectly timed to bring the growth in the vines to a conclusion and usher in a quieter ripening period. We applied our own biodynamic preparations to additionally stimulate the transition from growth to ripening. In terms of their basic character, the 2012 wines can be described as salty or, in more modern parlance, minerally. Fruit sweetness, acidity and bitter notes – the other three of the four basic taste elements – are also present, but the saltiness dominates. On the nose, the wines are cool and refined, with a clean and crisp profile. They are firm and crystalline on the palate, very dry but also extremely juicy. This taste profile for the vintage applies equally to the reds and whites.
Of course, the wines do not all have the same class. Some of the whites are truly great, and in the case of the reds I consider the Pinot Noir from our best vineyard to have the potential to be great as well. The autumn weather, with so many days of rain starting in mid-September, caused problems with the late-ripening red varieties. The combination of fully developed aromas, perfectly mature tannins and thick and crisp grape skins, which is typical of a really great year, was only possible with highly selective harvesting from our very best sites.
I personally find such years especially exciting; I like it when the wines refuse to reveal their full potential at first impression, when the fruit flavors are unobtrusive and show noble restraint. The depth and density of the wines are only revealed on the palate, with a salty minerality that confers a brilliant aftertaste. At Manincor, such vintages always develop into fine wines with great potential for aging. Unassuming in their youth, they mature after a few years in the bottle to achieve an impressive complexity. I am convinced that the character of the vintages recurs in a four-year cycle. Andrew Lorand, our mentor for biodynamic wine growing, spoke of this rhythm many years ago: 2003, 2007 and 2011 were fire years with a bitter undertone; 2001, 2005 and 2009 were light years with expressive fruit; 2002, 2006 and 2010 were water years with demanding acidity, and 2004, 2008 and 2012 were mineral years with spicy saltiness. None of these groups of vintages is homogeneous. In musical terms, they follow the same beat but the melodies vary, with the terroir and the winemaker playing the lead instruments.
In combination with great sites, a passion for quality lends authentic and harmonious expression to the wines. That is what counts for me; the conventional scoring systems are of less importance.