2012 Vincent Girardin Rully Vieilles Vignes
 
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Côtes de Beaune et Côtes Chalonnaise "A Wild Ride"

We'd been looking forward to our July trip to Beaune for some time. With wine critics worldwide singing the praises of what turned out to be the extraordinary 2012 white Burgundies, we hoped to get to the party early, beating American importers to the punch.

Everything we heard from Stephen Tanzer — the critic who visits every top cellar in Burgundy as often as twice per year, and publishes his tasting notes and vintage observations in International Wine Cellar — prior to boarding the flight from JFK to CDG turned out to be spot-on. In a growing season that was full of dramatic twists and turns, the top cellars of Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne, Santenay, and Rully crafted electrifyingly juicy Chardonnays, infused with high-tension minerality, bottles that are sure to eclipse the superb 2010s both out of the gate and in the long haul.

Of our dozen cellar visits, none was more riveting than the one that took place on the day before the flag was lowered to half-mast all over France, after the Germans squeaked out a 1-0 World Cup victory over Les Bleus in Brazil. From 1:30 to 5 pm on July 3rd, Vincent Girardin treated us to a breathtaking 2012 lineup that ranks among the most unforgettable tastings of 2014.

Stephen Tanzer said it best when he called 2012 "a wild ride." After a cold, wet winter, there was a touch of frost in Chassagne-Montrachet and Rully, trimming potential yields before the growing season really got started. March came in like a lamb, only to be followed by fairly miserable months of April, May, and June.

Even Vincent Girardin's old-vine parcels — the 50+-year-old Chassagne-Montrachet "Les Chaumées," 70-year-old Meursault "Les Charmes," and the tiny 50-year-old plot in Rully — were a full two weeks behind on July 1st, we were told. Flowering took place over a 2-3 week period, making for a small fruit set, the clusters strewn with tiny, sweet, seedless berries (what the Burgundians call millerandages). Unbeknownst to the greatest white Burgundy winegrowers on the côte — the likes of Girardin, Ramonet, Sauzet, Lafon, and Niellon — that troublingly uneven set would pay handsome dividends at harvest.

"It was one thing after another," Girardin shrugged as we sniffed, sipped, and swirled. "We had already doubled up on passes through the vines, doing our best to fend off mildew. And then? The hail struck!"

On the last day of June, the black clouds formed over Beaune. The first drops of rain were like small water balloons. The thunder cracked and the sky opened up, with hail pelting the Côte de Beaune. While Meursault, Pommard, and Volnay were severely damaged, Girardin's old-vine holdings further south in Chassagne-Montrachet and Rully were spared. The crop size was very small, but the small-berry clusters were intact. When summer finally arrived in August, accompanied by cleansing winds, the late summer and early fall featured day after day of brilliant sunshine.

In the third week of September, the call to harvest was finally made under turquoise skies. While yields were meager — less than 3 tons per acre on the old-vine parcel in Rully — clusters were pristine. As is so often the case in Burgundy, a "wild ride" growing season would give birth to Chardonnay of great richness (much thanks to the millerandages) and exquisite purity. Vincent Girardin says his 2012s are better than the great 2010s — perhaps more in line with the wonderfully juicy, finely delineated 2002s.

The 2012 Vincent Girardin Rully Vieilles Vignes is a gorgeous Chardonnay that more than held its own against most of the village Meursaults and Chassagne-Montrachets we tasted in July. One word of advice: This is a serious white Burgundy and should be treated as such. After an hour in a decanter, the color is brilliant green-gold. Wonderfully pure aromatically, infused with a luscious mix of apple, pear, and ripe citrus. Rich and richly textured on the attack, slowly peeling away fine layers of lemon-curd minerality, tightly wound and piercingly vibrant. The finish is textbook Girardin, refined acid backbone bracing the superb shot-berry opulence of 2012. Drink now — but only if you're impatient — or lay down one of the great white Burgundy bargains of the vintage until sometime after 2020.



Tasting Notes

2012 Vincent Girardin Rully Vieilles Vignes
"The 2012 Vincent Girardin Rully Vieilles Vignes is a gorgeous Chardonnay that more than held its own against most of the village Meursaults and Chassagne-Montrachets we tasted in July. One word of advice: This is a serious white Burgundy and should be treated as such. After an hour in a decanter, the color is brilliant green-gold. Wonderfully pure aromatically, infused with a luscious mix of apple, pear, and ripe citrus. Rich and richly textured on the attack, slowly peeling away fine layers of lemon-curd minerality, tightly wound and piercingly vibrant. The finish is textbook Girardin, refined acid backbone bracing the superb shot-berry opulence of 2012. Drink now — but only if you're impatient — or lay down one of the great white Burgundy bargains of the vintage until sometime after 2020. "
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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