Maison Joseph Drouhin   Griotte Chambertin

2012 Griotte Chambertin

By Maison Joseph Drouhin

2012 Griotte Chambertin from Maison Joseph Drouhin, Burgundy, France

The esteemed Maison Joseph Drouhin has once again proven its mastery over the terroirs of Burgundy with the 2012 Griotte Chambertin. A premier purveyor of fine Burgundian wines, Drouhin presents a vintage that encapsulates the very essence of the venerable Griotte Chambertin climat.


A Vintage to Remember: The Decisive 2012 Season

It is no secret that the 2012 vintage in Burgundy was a challenge for vignerons; erratic weather led to a reduced harvest. However, adversity often gives birth to greatness, and it is precisely this which we discern in a glass of 2012 Griotte Chambertin from Maison Joseph Drouhin. The low yields of 2012 have inadvertently engineered concentrated berries, contributing to an intensity and complexity that connote both rarity and desirability in investment circles.


Expression and Elegance on the Palate

In tasting, this incarnation embodies resilience juxtaposed with elegance. The bouquet unfurls with dark cherry and ripe raspberry, underscored by delicate wafts of potpourri and an elusive hint of earthy minerality - a symbiotic marriage between fruit and terroir that only old vines can articulate so well. On the palate, one is greeted with a layered mélange of red fruits enlaced with refined tannins and a vibrant acidity that carries through to a lingering finish; it is complex yet harmonious. The deft maturation in oak barrels adds whispers of spice and vanilla that are indicative of the winemaker's judicious hand and profound understanding of balance.

The 2012 Griotte Chambertin from Maison Joseph Drouhin stands undeniably as a collector's gem with its grace under environmental pressure translating into an impressive ageing potential that savvy investors will undoubtedly observe. An investment in this wine promises more than just eventual returns; it offers the privilege to one day uncork a narrative of triumph over a trying vintage, captured timelessly in an exquisite Burgundian creation.

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The 2012 Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru was picked on September 24 and includes 15% whole cluster fruit. Bright in color, it has a lively bouquet (despite a touch of reduction on this sample), laden with bright red cherries, blueberry and wild strawberry, plus a hint of sea spray emerging with time. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, offering a smooth silky texture that is deceptive, since the finish suggests much better backbone and density than the Clos-de-Beze. Excellent. 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. “Everything that you think could happen, did happen,” rued Veronique in her fluent English. “We had frost, hail, storms and even sunburn.” There was some redemption though, a vital one too. “The 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.” However, the unpredictable growing season proved challenging in the vineyard. “We are 100% organic, so we had to go over and over in the vines. We had to use natural responses to natural problems.” The 2012 vintage also demanded prudent approaches in the winery that could enhance the wines. “One 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.” 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. “We used 500-liter barrels, which were very useful and similarly sized stainless tell vessels for the wines,” Veronique explained. “We 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.” 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.

Neal Martin - The Wine Advocate, 29 December 2013

Vintage performance