Are the 2012 Zins Rock Stars?
My expectations for the 2012 California Zinfandels were high from the beginning. Winemakers were giddy, even beyond the typical "best vintage ever" BS you hear after harvest every year. The question is how have those early reactions played out? Therein lies my story.
The growing season in 2012 was a dream. It was long, sunny and reasonably warm, plus the crop was unexpectedly large. The flavors in the tanks burst with big, fresh fruit. It was a glaring contrast to 2010 and 2011, which produced some excellent Zins but under great duress for growers and winemakers.
As the 2012s developed in the cellar, some winemakers I trusted dialed back their enthusiasm for the wines. In some cases they were slightly riper than expected and, because of the big crop, depth and intensity wasn't what it might have been.
That was reflected in many of the early-release 2012s that I tasted blind. There was plenty of fresh and jammy fruit, but many wines were shy on backbone. My opinion gradually evolved as I've reviewed more Zins during the past nine months, or perhaps the wines are blossoming, but as I look back on my notes on the 2012s, I'm a believer again.
Of the more than 300 Zins from 2012 I've tasted, about a third scored 90 points or higher on our 100-point scale. What's more revealing about the quality of the vintage is that about 40 different producers rated 90-plus, so it wasn't just a handful of top winemakers with a dozen limited-release Zins each. What's more, about two-thirds of all the 2012s rated 88 points or higher.
I still have a few Zinfandels yet to taste for my annual report in the June 30 issue, but I doubt the stats will change radically. Only about two-thirds of my 2012 reviews are now available in our online database, but WineSpectactor.com subscribers can view the full notes.
Also, value lovers will find many good buys in 2012 Zins, mainly because of the large crop and the easygoing flavors.
All that said, as much as I enjoy the 2012s, a little more backbone would have made these wines rock stars. A guy can dream, right?