Champagne producers Dom Perignon, Philipponnat and Champagne Barons de Rothschild have confirmed they will make a 2012 vintage.
Despite what vignerons called one of the worst growing seasons they had seen for decades, with April frosts, hailstorms, and one of the wettest summers on record, they are optimistic for 2012 vintage quality.
‘The quality and the intensity are definitely there to make an outstanding vintage,’ Dom Perignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy told Decanter.
Winegrowers said the warm weather in August was a saving grace. As harvest grew closer it became apparent that the small amounts of grapes on the vines were of excellent quality. In September as grapes were picked and pressed, often at close to 11% alcohol, the growers were amazed at the concentration of flavour, natural sugar and acidity, then a talk of a potential vintage started to spread.
‘The base wines show a lovely richness as well as the acidity needed to make outstanding and long-lived Champagnes,’ Jean-Phillipe Moulin, director of wine making at Champagne Barons de Rothschild and Paul Goerg. ‘We will definitely bottle a vintage for both brands.’
Charles Philipponnat at Champagne Philipponat agreed. ‘2012 is an exceptional vintage and especially promising for Pinot Noir,’ he said, and was echoed by at least three other producers, including Champagne Boizel and Champagne Tarlant.
Benoit Tarlant said the quality of all three grape varieties was ‘excellent – something which is extremely rare’.
He added that he would make less non-vintage this year. ‘It would be a pity not to make a decent amount of vintage wine, even if it means we have a little less of of our non-vintage cuvee.’
The harvest average in 2012 was just under 9,000 kg/hectare – significantly lower than the maximum allowance of 11,000kg/hectare.
It’s been an open secret for several years now — the Rothschild family has embarked on a new venture in Champagne. Last week, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, the chairman of the project, was in New York to launch Champagne Barons de Rothschild. The Champagne unites three different branches of the family: Benjamin, a Geneva banker who also owns Château Clarke; Eric, owner of Château Lafite Rothschild and several other estates; and Philippe, whose mother is Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, owner of Château Mouton Rothschild.
“For years, we had thought, ‘What could we do together? What could be fun?’” says de Rothschild. In 2005, the family toured the Côtes des Blancs and met vignerons they wanted to work with; then they tapped the technical expertise of Coopérative Vinicole de Vertus to make the wine.
The three current releases include a NV Brut, NV Blanc de Blancs and NV Rosé. All are well made, with the Blanc de Blancs a touch richer and creamier thanks to a bit more aging, but even the brut and rosé are aged four years prior to disgorging and then another nine months prior to release. “As soon as we decide to call it Champagne de Rothschild, there’s no discussion—we have to have the quality,” says de Rothschild.
N/V Blanc de Blanc – 100% Chardonnay from Côte des Blancs; green/gold in color; white fruit aromas, with notes of exotic fruits typical of Chardonnay grapes; lively bubbles; persistent in the mouth; a well balanced with nice acidity with a fresh, long finish – 95/100
N/V Rose – Pale rose colour with some hints of salmon; delicate red fruit aromas; fine lively bubbles; Silky and smooth in the mouth surprising through its delicacy and refinement; good length on the finish 93/100
N/V Brut – Rich and classic complex style, showing abundant toasty reserve-wine complexity, grilled nuts, nougat, some red fruits and spice; fine to medium bubbles; Creamy texture and a good finish 92/100