Why Big Red Diary?

A Vintage Update

Lets start with 2001
And let’s also start with the whites: Certainly I’ve tasted fewer whites than reds, so I’ve also listened to the winemakers. Personally I love the aromatics, but I think they are variable once you start to swallow. There’s not the consistent balance of the 1999 & 2000 vintages. Consistent is the operative word, there are some fabulous wines, but ‘some’ not lots. Probably this is a vintage to follow the “better” names as the grapes needed much more sorting to remove unripe or botrytis affected material – hardly necessary in 1999 & 2000. I understand that Chablis had a tough time in 2001 but some of the best wines I’ve tasted for purity coupled with a lemony ‘zing’ were Chablis. So, it’s best if you can taste before you buy, or stick to the top names.

Moving on to the reds, based on over 100 wines tasted in December and January at Drouhin, Jadot and Domaine de la Vougeraie (in their cellars), plus a range of around 40 wines in the UK:
For me 2001 has similarly beautiful fruit to 2000, but turned up a notch for intensity. There’s also a subtle move from predomoninantly red fruits in 2000, to a little more black fruit creeping into the mix in the 2001s. The acidity is good, but the really obvious difference vs 2000 is the much more robust tannin. The colours are less deep than 99 or 98 – but so what? It’s the concentration and the pleasure they bring, not the extraction of colour and I think there are definitely hot spots for Pommard, Corton and Vougeot in 2001. Despite this, most of my purchases seem to be wines coming from Gevrey-Chambertin – but I’m sure I’ll get round to the other appelations! I think it’s difficult to come to ‘hard’ conclusions on many of the Côte de Beaune reds because the structure on the bottled cask samples seems to be overpowering the fruit, but from barrel this seems not to be the case – remember bottle shock etc., these are still not finished wines in most cases. It is well reported that hail in Volnay decimated some vineyards and left others untouched. Less well reported, this storm almost wiped out Bouzeron as well as affecting vineyards in Monthélie and Auxey-Duresses. Hail can not only ruin one vintage but also the year that follows if the wooden parts which will supply next years growth of buds are also damaged. Luckily it seems that this type of damage was limited.

So for me 2001 is a good to very good vintage for the medium/+ term. Nature seems to have been very helpful in recent years, we get some high quality vintages for long aging e.g. 90, 93, 95, 96 some 98 & 99 and for sumptuous earlier drinking we can take many of the the 97′s some 98 & 99, 2000′s and some 2001 while the others mature.

Onto the 2002s
It seems that the hype is already starting to build – for both red and white wines. The Burgundy region was indeed blessed at harvest time. Given that I live only 140 miles from Beaune, and ‘enjoyed’ a miserable wet September, it must be with more than a little magic that there was blue sky and warm sun for the whole of the harvest. Millerandage is a word to be heard in many places i.e. small, concentrated grapes with thick skins. I’ve already tasted around 30 2002′s and despite their short time in barrel, most of them seem remarkably concentrated and very drinkable. And even at this early stage – yes – the general view is that they could be exceptional. I’ll defer until the elevage is closer to completion.

Now to the crux; do we really want 1990 or 1996 or 1999 every year ? The 1990s, where well cellared, are primary and still nowhere near ready to drink, the 1996s (well stored) drink like many of the 2001s, so, still a long wait for these then. I spent a bundle on 1999 but dont expect to start ‘harvesting’ them much before 2012. So personally between now and then I’ll be drinking 97, 00 ,98, 93, 95, 01 – probably in that rough order. Of course if your cellar is already full of 82-89′s, then you will have few worries !

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?