Unlike most of the other French wine producing regions, Languedoc enjoyed very favorable climatic conditions for the 2012 harvest. Volumes were historically low, like in the rest of the country, but weather conditions were very good especially during the critical period of the maturity of the grapes.
Global production coming from our 1200 ha (own and contracted vineyards) went down by 20% as compared to 2011. Those low yields allowed us to reach nice maturities.
2012 shows all the signs to be another excellent year at Domaines Paul Mas!
2012 weather conditions
Some specific weather conditions highlighted the year 2012, with extreme temperatures both in winter and in summer:
– The beginning of the winter was quite mild in December and January, and it was then followed by a period (Feb. 3-13) of extremely cold temperatures, with 10 days in a row negative. We faced minimal temperatures that we hadn’t seen over the last 10 years. This cold wave is one of the 7th most severe ones of the last 60 years: colder as in 1997, not as cold as in 1971, 1985, 1987, and certainly not as in 1963 and 1956. Minimal temperatures dropped to -9°C in Hérault and -17°C in Limoux! The wind was quite strong at the same time.
– A cool and rainy spring
– A contrasted summer with rather cool minimal temperatures at the beginning of July and a few blistering days in July and August (over 35°C)
– A very mild month of September with nice thermal amplitude between day and night, which is very favorable to the maturity of the berries.
A variable hydric balance
Rainfall was uneven all along the year, and very different from one area to the other. The beginning of the winter was quite dry and we were expecting water shortage but then the months of March, April and June were quite wet. In summertime, rainfall was variable (between 50 and 130 mm) and concentrated around 2 periods: beginning of July (1-5) and the end of the summer (27-29 August). Isolated storms brought efficient rainfall in the Orb valley on August 5, in Minervois on August 15 and in the South of Montpellier on August 24. Hydric stress was very limited in the region, thanks to the efficiency and the good distribution of the rainfall in the majority of the wine producing areas of Languedoc.
Of course, this general situation needs to be slightly modified according to the areas where our grapes come from. The vineyards we work with are spread over different terroirs in Languedoc:
– Pézenas and the Hérault valley
– Grès de Montpellier
– Béziers and the Orb valley
2012 was the year of the extremes in this region which faced a very harsh winter with temperatures dropping to -17°C during the first 10 days of February. Then in summer, we faced some heat peaks (35°C on Aug. 10).
Rainfall was normal, in the average of the last 10 years, but with a distribution quite variable along the year: very dry winter, rainy spring, sporadic storms in summer.
In general, we can say that we had the same situation as in Limoux, with less pronounced extremes but with more rainfall in summer.
Spring: 120 to170 mm of rainfall
Summer: 70 to 120 mm
The storms of August 15, very concentrated on this area, gave an accumulation of 25 to 40 mm of rain, at a good time for the maturity of the grapes.
Temperatures reached very high levels in July, with a peak at 39°C.
Biterrois (Béziers area)
Spring: 60 to 120 mm
Summer: 40 to 80 mm
Rainfall in summertime was very low, but the storms of the last 10 days of August limited the hydric stress, with an accumulation of 25 mm.
Low Hérault valley
Spring: 100 to 150 mm
Summer: 30 to 80 mm
This is the region with the driest summer, very limited rainfall only at the end of August.
Grès de Montpellier
Spring: 100 to 160 mm
Summer: 60 to 130 mm
After a fairly rainy spring, summer rainfall was in the average of the last 10 years but with high discrepancies from one place to the other in this small area. The intensity of the storms was variable.
Bud burst started early, like in 2011, but it was very heterogeneous, even inside the same plot! This is a direct consequence of the winter drought and the frost of February. The cool temperatures at the beginning of the spring emphasized this phenomenon and slowed the development of the vines.
Blossoming started 10 to 12 days later than in 2011, with cold temperatures, which caused flower abortion (coulure) responsible for our lower yield this year.
We can already say that 2013 will also be low in quantity. The reason is that the blooming of the year to come starts at the same time than the current year (in that case, 2013 blooming starts in 2012), this is what we call the “floral induction”. The plant prepares indeed the flower for the year to come. In 2012, it was very cold during blossoming and this cold is not good for the current year, nor for the following year. So, we can fear that the 2013 will not be so big in quantity, but still, other factors can interfere in-between and reverse this tendency.
The warm temperatures at the beginning and at the end of the summer balanced the growing delay and at the end of the day, the harvest 2012 started just a couple of days later than in 2011, which was an early vintage.
Excellent sanitary conditions
The vines suffered a bit of mildew pressure, oidium and grape-worms which required a rigorous monitoring of the vineyard in order to get quality grapes. Our commitment to sustainable viticulture, that started some years ago, forced ourselves to make a very strict follow-up of the plots and treat the vineyards at the right moment, with the right dosis; once more, this commitment proved to be positive. Prevention allowed us to fight against grape-worms. We could harvest the grapes in perfect sanitary conditions, which is the first criteria of a quality vintage.
An exceptionally long harvest
Harvest started on August 16 with the less productive Sauvignon Blancs, which maturity was faster. Then, from August 21, came the grapes for sparkling wines (crémant and blanquette) around Limoux: mauzac, chenin, chardonnay and pinot noir.
Early grape varieties (Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir…) came to maturity at the same time. The berries were concentrated, with a high level of sweetness and high acidities, especially malic acid. The rain at the end of August induced a new rhythm in our harvest. Maturities came nicely and evenly, the colour of the berries was just superb at this stage. The accumulation of sugar slowed down and the acidity was going down regularly and frankly. The grapes were maturing more slowly, but also more harmoniously. The cool nights were beneficial to the colour stabilization, aromatic potential and tannins maturity. Patience was definitely a key-point in turning this long lasting vintage into a successful one.
The last grapes to be harvested were Cabernet Sauvignon, on October 23. That means that our 2012 harvest lasted more than 10 weeks, close to the 2008 record (11 weeks).
Thanks to unique climatic conditions, our 2012 wines have some interesting balances with high levels of acidity for the level of maturity. Low yields gave structure and concentration. We can predict this vintage will have a nice ageing potential.
Grape variety by grape variety, a snapshot of the vintage
Acidity : Total acidity (H2SO4)
This year, we decided to reach more advanced maturities on our sauvignons. The low yields on this variety made our task easier. What we got are wines with more concentration as in previous years, and very pronounced aromas of exotic fruit (mango, litchi), boxwood. The wine shows a nice freshness.
Alcohol: 12 to 13% vol.
Acidity: 3,10 to 3,15 g/l
pH: 3,25 to 3,30
This variety was one of the most affected by the drop in yields, with some areas (such as the warmer climate of Montagnac) going down by 30%. On the other side, in the much cooler Limoux terroir, we had the same yields as last year.
The wines are very concentrated this year, with a lot of volume and fat as well as higher degrees. With a higher level of acidity, we made partial malolactic fermentations on part of our wines, which will then enter in our blends. The nice balance of the vintage, with a high acidity, makes the wine more suitable to oak ageing that we practice on nicer cuvées.
Alcohol : 13,5-14%vol
Acidity : 3,6 g/l
pH: 3,4 à 3,5
That was a fantastic vintage for Viognier.
As for chardonnay, the yields are low and give more concentrated wines with a nice richness and aromas very typical of the grape variety: apricot, white peach, white flowers.
Alcohol: 13,5 to 14,5% vol.
Acidity: 3,4 to 3,5 g/l
pH: 3,5 to 3,55
Vermentino was less affected by the lower production than Chardonnay and Viognier. Yields were correct and the wines are more aromatic than in previous years. Our Vermentino 2012 is a well balanced wine, with a lot of richness, and that will be interesting in blendings.
Alcohol: 13% vol.
Acidity: 3,4 g/l
pH: 3,4 to 3,5
Yields were correct. We paid attention to harvest it with a nice maturity, not too mature in order to preserve freshness and avoid phenolic notes that tend to appear when maturities are very advanced. Results are satisfying.
Alcohol : 13% vol.
Acidity: 3,4 g/l
pH: 3,5 à 3,6
This is a very nice year for Picpoul, so specific to the Thau Basin (étang de Thau). This year, we wanted to have a bit more mature grapes to have more richness and structure. This is strengthened by ageing on lees with batonage ; the result is more aroma complexity and fat. This 2012 Picpoul should demonstrate that Picpoul is not just a wine for oyster and shellfish!
Alcohol: 13% vol.
Acidity: 3,4 g/l
pH: 3,4 to 3,5
An amazing vintage for this great Mediterranean variety, which gives us this year a lovely balance thanks to a great maturity. The aromatic potential is very interesting, with flower notes and white peach aromas. The potential will be magnified by the oak fermentation that we practice on the Mas des Tannes Grenache blanc.
Alcohol : 13,5% vol.
Acidity: 3,4 g/l
pH: 3,45 to 3,5
Blanquette and Crémant
For the grapes used to produce our sparkling wines (blanquette and crémant de Limoux), harvest started on August 21 for the Mauzac, Chenin, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The harvest is done by hand only, and to enjoy cool temperatures and avoid oxidation, it is done in the morning, from 7 to 12. Starting early in August was a good choice to keep high level of acidity that is required to make sparkling wines. The level of alcohol was between 10.5 and 11%. The quality of the balance combined to the excellent sanitary condition of the berries is the promise of nice sparkling wines, refined and elegant.
2012 will be an outstanding year for rosé wines in Languedoc, succulent and fruity. As every year, we make rosé de saignée (bled off rosé) but this year, we put the emphasis on getting a paler colour. The cool temperatures we had when harvesting helped us in this task, limiting the colour extraction. We also shortened the maceration times. Our 2012 rosés are a real treat, with roundness and a lot of fruit.
Alcohol : 13% vol.
Acidity: 3,5 to 3,6 g/l
Pinot Noir is the first red grape to be harvested. We pick it up at a stage when it gets a lot of freshness and acidity, with a nice aromatic potential. This year, the colour is quite strong but the aromatic profile is very typical of the grape variety with nice red fruits and griotte.
Alcohol: 13% to 13,5 % vol.
Acidity: 3,3 to 3,4 g/l
pH: 3,6 to 3,7
Merlot are exceptional this year in Languedoc…for those who were patient, and wait for the grapes to reach full maturity. The maturity was slow and gave superb balance with soft tannins, intense aromas of black fruit, candied fruit and truffles. So, what we get is succulent wines, full and meaty with a surprising aromatic complexity.
Alcohol: 13,5 to 14,5% vol.
Acidity: 3,1 to 3,2 g/l
pH: 3,7 to 3,8
We had to be patient too with Syrah, in order to wait for full maturity. As Chardonnay, this variety was very affected by flower abortion (coulure), and yields are very low. Berry tasting was the tool that allowed us to wait for the phenolic maturity to be reached. 2012 Syrah are very faithful to the typicity of the grape variety, with nice blackcurrant and violet, leather and liquorice coming out.
Alcohol : 13,5 to 14 %vol.
pH : 3,8 to 3,9
This is the only grape variety that gave us a headache this year! This is the latest variety to be harvested and this year, it made us wait until October 23.
Winemaking had to be fine-tuned to adapt the level of extractions to the maturity of the grapes. The nicest cuvées have a very interesting ageing potential, because they have good level of acidity.
Alcohol : 13 to 14% vol
Acidity : 3,2 à 3,30 g/l
pH : 3.7 à 3.8