Considerable volumes of wishful thinking and even more hot air have been expended on the 'wonderful' 2012 Burgundy vintage, currently on offer. Sparing you the hyperbole and cutting to the chase, Burgundy 2012 is a good vintage in which a handful of great wines have been made by a few exceptional growers. It is not a rising tide that raises all boats in the mould of 2005 or 2010.
On the plus side, good late harvest weather made the end result ripe and healthy with many delicious reds and excellent whites. Given the extremely challenging weather conditions, it would be surprising indeed if 2012 were uniformly great. After May frosts, the hail that ripped through the Côte de Beaune on as much as three separate occasions stripped the vines bare in places, leaving them without the all-important foliage required to ripen the grapes. The result is sometimes a degree of greenness, dryness and lack of flesh. The vintage is small and growing worldwide demand has put pressure on prices, which are generally higher than last year.
The tasting of samples from the barrel is always fraught with difficulty. Since most of the good wines are for the most part unfinished, critics can only give an impression of what the vintage is like and how individual wines will turn out. At the same time, different interpretations applied to their grapes by growers, even in the same location, produce as varied an expression of style as if you commissioned Mark Hix and my mum to cook a meal from the same ingredients.
Burgundy is still a highly fragmented and complex region and although its growing popularity is shining a brighter light on individual producers and appellations, being able to tell your Voillot from your Varoilles, or which particular Pillot, Mortet, Colin or Boillot is the one to go for, is not a game that most people want, or have time, to play. Yet despite the gloom, doubts and high prices, Burgundy engenders more irrational feelings of affection than any other wine, because when you fall in love with the right wine – and taste in Burgundy is more personal than any other wine – the rewards make it all worthwhile.
I haven't been as enamoured this year as I'd expected, but I have picked up the odd six-pack of red and white. Not least because the 2013 vintage by all accounts looks like being another tiny crop. 2012 won't generally have the staying power of the great 2005 or 2010 vintage, but looks set for perfect short-to medium-term drinking. There are even a few wines approaching good value as long as you avoid 'must-have' names and la-la-land grands crus.