Overall, the 2012 vintage seems to be completely different then that of 2011: the former has been a long – very long – vintage, with some plots maturing and harvested late in December, or even discarded, especially in the North. The current – 2012 – vintage, has been short and, in some cases – painful to manage
To many, 2012 was similar in character to 2010, differing from those of 2009 and 2011, which required extra care and craftsmanship.
The summer of 2012 has been warmer then average. The vines, that enjoyed a relatively humid winter, reacted to the heat by fast ripening, that was usually uniform and full. In some places across Israel the heat stress caused some stopping in fruit maturation, but this did not last for long, and most of the plots ripened fast – even faster then expected.
At this time (early November), the young wine quality looks good, and even excellent in many cases. This is true for the white varietals – esp. Chardonnay – as well as Shiraz and Cab. Sauv. in particular, in the reds. These wines produced so far look very promising, with remarkable color concentration, as well as aromas and flavors.
Specifically, in some regions:
The Judean hills
Winter was cold, with above then average rains (~700mm). There was a significant rainfall of some 180mm a fortnight before budding, and this resulted in a strong growth period at the beginning of the season.
Spring was without special events. Summer was very hot – July in particular, with average temperature of 32.6C – and August was above average.
Fruit character in general showed high levels of sugars in most of the varietals (14.5% pot. Alcohol), with average acidity and low phenolic maturation; small berries and low cluster weight, on the whole, which explains overall fruit concentration.
The Upper Galilee
Winter was excellent – cold and rainy. Summer was hot, but luckily none of the heat waves were at crucial times to the vines. Low yields and high sugar levels were seen across the region. For some varietals, the short, ‘packed’ season finished before the Jewish New Year, at the end of September. In some other cases – especially for the larger wineries, with a plethora of varietals – the season ended in mid October, two weeks or so before the usual time.
The Golan Heights
The following notes relate mostly to the northern most vineyards of the Golan Heights (850m – 1100m), including one central vineyard at ~700m; Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Viognier and Chardonnay.
Generally speaking, early years – when grapes mature early and faster then average – are considered better then late maturing years, such as 2011 was.
Budding was uniform in the beginning of the season, and the vines became loaded with fruit. In most of the vineyards, green harvest was conducted in two separate rounds, in order to get to an average expected yield of ~10 tons per hectare.
The red varietals were harvested between the 2nd week of September, to the 1st week of October, except for the Northern most plots, which were delayed until the 3rd week of October. Measured brix was 25-26.5, and so the new wines already measured have 13.8-15.2% alcohol.
As usual for the northern Golan Heights, the Merlot was picked at pH lower then 3.5, and did not need acid correction. This year, even the Cabernet from these plots was harvested at a low pH, without need for correction, but the Syrah grapes had a high pH. Most of the wines from this region this year are tinted black, full and fruity, with solid, ripe, tannins and good alcohol-acid-fruit balance. Good wines are certainly expected.
My thanks to Tal Shaked from “The Wine Route”, for comments by Yotam Sharon, Ze’ev Dunie, Itzik Cohen and David Bar Ilan, originally published here.
Thanks also to Eran Pick and Itay Lahat, for their insights and comments.