We can look at the vintage from two main perspectives: Of course, there is the weather which defines the yields, but clearly, in the end, it will be the wines who speak.
The weather – ‘A far from typical year‘
Multiple factors contributed to a very low volume harvest in 2019. It wasn’t a hard winter, indeed there were people pruning in T-shirts and sun-glasses in February – but there was to be a sting in the tail. In the whole of Burgundy, April and May turned cold – very cold – with frost in places at the start of April. Some of the vines were already showing signs of growth when the frost came.
In the south of the Mâconnais it was largely the lower slopes that suffered the effects of frost – the mid and higher slopes of St.Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé largely escaping but lower down that wasn’t the case – 15hl/ha was the average. Overall, there seemed to be a more widespread frost in the Mâcon-Hyphen areas to the north. It’s largely the generics at the bottom of the hills that have been affected here too. The end result is that many domaines produced half, or even less, than a normal harvest in those areas – but the link between the frost and the harvest yields was not the only one.
The flowering was definitely not the best, said Guillaume Sarazinière. Fabio Gazeau-Montrasi suggesting up to 30% of his losses were down to the poor weather during flowering. Alternately, too hot, too cold, too wet was the flowering time – “The best flowering were those late flowers in Milly” offered Caroline Gon of the Lafon domaine.
Summer heat and wind:
If you were lucky to avoid the frost by having vines in the mid or higher slopes, then there was a different price to pay: Already with smaller grapes due to poor flowering conditions, the heat, the lack of rain and a desiccating wind took a further toll. The amount of juice wasn’t high like in the previous vintages, indeed Audrey Braccini of Domaine Ferret in Fuissé noted that “One vineyard ended up with clusters of only 45-50 grams in weight.” Of course, the heat and the wind didn’t have only negative consequences, the amount of treatments in the vines could be reduced due to an absence of the usual maladies – there was no rot. There had been some blocking of maturities due to combination of dryness and heat – the domains had to wait, indeed often delay their harvesting – but when that maturity came, it came quickly; many vineyards adding one degree of potential alcohol in the weekend of 16-17 September…
Quite rare, and fortunately quite early in the growing season, but the domaine of Jean-Marie Chaland and also Château Rontets suffered some loses due to this.
So to the yields:
Figures in hectolitres per hectare, courtesy BIVB.
But what about the wines?
I find wines of concentration but also wines with the incredible ability to hide considerable degrees of ripeness – 14° is about average – some domaines a little lower, others unabashedly higher. Yet there is clarity, structure and balance. By comparison, the 2018s are today easier drinking but then they don’t have the same depth and concentration of flavour to offer. I instinctively feel that there are many greater wines in 2019 but their ‘extra’ attributes also will require a little more patience than has been the case for the 2018s which, in the main, are already drinking very well. Whilst the wines have a certain richness, from this coterie of producers, I have absolutely no worries about balance or freshness of the wines – many of which I highly recommend – you will find those wines highlighted (blue) in the texts, as is usual.
Sebastien Giroux confirms that there’s plenty of richness in the wines. Laurent Tripoz suggests that because of this concentration, for now, the wines have lost some of their usual minerality. Jean-Marie Chaland thinks them serious, dense and rich but with good pH’s and not too much alcohol – “They could be wines for the ages” he suggests. Likewise, Audrey Braccini, Peter Gierszewski, Denis Jeandeau and Guillaume Trebignaud, describe wines of ‘richness but also lovely acidity,’ Olivier Giroux of Clos des Rocs thinks that he has more dynamic wines in 2018 versus his ‘sunnier’ 2019s. Caroline Bouvier from Soufrandière adding “For us a very warm vintage but still with some freshness and a little tension,” Caroline Gon agrees, We definitely “more acidity than 2018, of course, a little more sugar too!”