"Surpassing 2011 and producing rich, fruit-loaded and moderately concentrated wines, 2012 was a sunny, dry vintage that should slot in beside, or slightly behind, 2009, in terms of quality. Coming closest, in my mind, to a lighter styled 2010, the wines possess pretty, dark fruit and mineral-styled aromatics, medium to full-bodied richness and good, not great, concentration. The majority of these will be approachable on release, yet have graceful aging curves as well, with the top releases having 15-20 years of evolution. Alcohol levels are down, and the wines have good to moderate acidity with fine, polished tannins and overall approachable profiles . . . this could turn out to be a strong vintage." - The Wine Advocate (Issue #209)
This review sounds pretty noncommittal, which in a way reinforces our impression. Most of you may already know, we are very much about the vintage as a basis for making our decisions. Not every wine in a great vintage is great, and not every wine in a less-than-great vintage is forgettable. It's all about the odds. The hit ratio for great wines is going to be substantially better in a widely successful vintage, but there are always noteworthy efforts regardless.
We won't be cheerleading the 2012 vintage in the southern Rhône, which is why our rollout thus far is singular. Taking performance and prices into account in assessing the 2012s, we have only gotten excited about one of the 2012 Châteauneufs so far. The 2012s from Clos Saint Jean, from top to bottom, have performed at nearly the same level as both their 2011s and 2010s. This bottling from mainly century-old Grenache vines has gotten between 93 and 96 points from The Wine Advocate every year since 2005 (with the exception of the difficult 2008 vintage). The 2012 carries a barrel score of 92-95, which is only one point below the barrel score for their benchmark 2007 and 2010. That's consistency you see in few Châteauneufs, including the elite. How do they do it? Well, there's the usual old vines with low yields, which are constant in most top producers' programs. They also have the not-so-secret weapon of the Grenache-master himself, the esteemed Philippe Cambie.
Lavish, broad, and sappy, this is the hedonistic Cambie style to a tee. It's loaded with kirsch, Provençal spice, and potpourri. The 2012 Clos Saint Jean Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes is a classically sexy effort from a producer that does it routinely. You read the vintage report, but we aren't trying to sell you on the vintage. What we are saying, however, is that based on the price and performance, this is an ample and delicious Châteauneuf.