2013 White Burgundy – What is it? & What value has it?

Update 25.11.2014(24.11.2014)billn
2013 White Burgundy – Your Executive Summary:
2013 is a delicious white burgundy vintage; in the last 5 years I would rate only 2010, ‘better.’

The character of 2013 is also not far removed from that of 2010: wines of fine terroir definition, fine acidity, intensity and wonderful clarity and transparency. Despite their intensity they sometimes lack the fat and outright concentration of some other vintages – this is the main variable in the cellars of the Côte de Beaune.

If I could buy 2013 whites from only 2 domaines, my choice is easy: JP Fichet and PY Colin-Morey…

The growing season
You have a number of sources in this website (and out) that summarise the vintage – I don’t propose to repeat the detail here, but you will also find some additional insights particularly in the commentary from my visit report from PYCM.

Tasting ‘Issues’
The 2013 vintage was a relatively late one; the harvesting in October was about 3 weeks later than the recent average – 5 weeks later than some of the more precocious vintages. This has a knock-on effect – the wines are, thus, three weeks less through their elevage when I have been tasting them, than in most other years. This, combined with plenty of malic acidity in the grapes, which in a number of addresses (most significantly in Meursault) had slowed the malolactic fermentations. So tasting at multiple addresses meant taking the rough with the smooth this year: i.e. wines showing perfectly or wines still a little raw with CO2, reduction and/or the dumbing-down effects of fining materials in their holding-tanks.

Actually, completely overt reduction has been, thankfully, rather rare, but a subtle – indeed rather attractive – reduction, usually offers up to the nose of a bowl of fresh grapefruit, or agrumes. It’s very attractive, but it’s still reduction.

The character of 2013 White Burgundy
If I had a dollar for every time I wrote ‘transparent’ or ‘clarity’ or I gushed over, well, gushing sweet acidity, then I’d definitely have a pile of dollars!

Whilst a minority of winemakers will tell you it is ‘different’ in their cellars, overwhelmingly the 2013s are less concentrated than the rather massive, chiseled 2012s – but interestingly, there is very little to choose between those two vintages when it comes to flavour intensity. Indeed, that 2013 flavour is typically much more ‘gourmand’ than the same in 2012. There is plenty of acidity, but I have rarely found a wine that has harsh acidity – more often the wines remind me of the mouth-watering, sweet impression that Chablis can be so good at.

2013 also has a special trick – or at least the best wines do. Flavour intensity usually peaks in the mid-palate, but very often with the 2013s, after you swallow, or after you spit, it’s almost like the wines reboot – there is another, often more intense, peak of flavour before the finish: Remarkable.

So, fresh, mouth-wateringly moreish, terroir-transparent wines with beautiful clarity and sometimes shocking intensity – I have never loved so many wines from Meursault-Charmes – that indicates to me that it is a special vintage, one where it is very hard not to be smitten…

The relative value of 2013 White Burgundy
Ouch! Why is there always a sting in the tail?

Very few vignerons have publicly committed on pricing, the representative of one major négoce did say to a group of tasters (last week) that they would not increase the price of their 13s above the level of the 12s (but have not yet confirmed that to me in writing so I leave out the name for now). Other people have told me there will still have to be some increases.

‘Relative value’ can come in a number of forms, some of my picks could include: Geography: St.Aubin, Hierarchy: Premier Crus!

But – Is it a vintage worth buying?

  • I largely still do not understand the rationale of people who buy the very top cuvées to cellar 10/15/20+ years.
  • I do see plenty hope, mainly piled against the altar of DIAM closures, but I do not see evidence that the p.ox is cured – of-course that’s because it’s too early to know if DIAM is a useful foil.
  • But then there are anyway (expensive) producers who will not use DIAM because it is an ‘industrial product’ – so here I even lack a basic ‘reasoned hope!’
  • What 2013 absolutely has in its favour, is that it is already (largely) drinking beautifully. It should be a resounding success both at home and in restaurants – quite different to many from 2012 which will require patience.

So, yes it is a vintage worth buying to drink* – indeed lots of bottles for near-term (5 years) drinking – it is simply delicious. Outside of this imaginary boundary, life, or at-least ‘white burgundy life’ remains a lottery…
*It goes without saying, I hope, that individual buyers have different concepts of value, to some €50 is ridiculous, for others €150 is only their starting point – at least in 2013, the wines will be delicious ‘from the get-go’ at both ends of the spectrum!

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

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