2013 Red Burgundy. What is it? & What value has it?

Update 28.12.2014(22.12.2014)billn
2013 Vintage Red Burgundy – The short summary:
2013 red burgundy is, just like the whites of the same vintage – delicious – essentially the wines are Classic, & Proud To Be Classic.
2009 is rounder and riper, 2010 has a little more tension, 2011 is less concentrated, 2012 is more concentrated – but 2013 is delicious.
Again, like the whites, the character of 2013 is also not far removed from that of 2010: balanced, with fine terroir definition, fine acidity, intensity and purity of flavour. The extra-long growing season has bestowed a really top-level texture to the tannins – there is a little grip, but rarely any grain.*
Tasting the wines one month further through elevage than the whites, if I had to buy 2013 reds from only 2 domaines, my choice is almost impossible, but anyway, poles apart: Fourrier and de Courcel…

The growing season.
Over and over again, discussions with producers began in a very similar vein, the word ‘surprise’ was to be echoed up and down the Côtes:

“2013 was hard work, it was for the most part dark and very wet, only some nice sun in the weeks leading up to the harvest. The flowering conditions were poor leading to low yields (even for those without hail) and it was a late vintage – the latter part of the harvest was wet and wintry-cold. In the end we were just happy that the vintage was finally over.

“The grapes gave up lots of colour – and quickly too – but it was only after the fermentations that I thought to myself – hmm, this is starting to look interesting…”

Tasting ‘Issues’
Actually, I would say surprisingly few. I tasted the 13s earlier through elevage (and earlier by the calendar) than the 12s, but I wasn’t assailed by dissolved CO2, nor by as much reduction as I noted for the 2012s. There was of-course some reduction, and you will note that overwhelmingly where I note reduction there is a much darker fruit colour and a deeper aromatic – this has more to do with the reduction, than the fruit itself. I’m sure you will note a redder fruit in reduction-free bottles of the same.

The only other tasting ‘issue’ I noted was that a number of wines that had been racked and assembled into tank had sometimes a modest, and other times a distinctly volatile aromatic. I checked on a couple of these, and analytically (at least) they did not have any elevated volatile components. At this stage I have to assume that they will settle into normality…

Goutte de Grêle?
If I’ve heard this term once I’ve heard it a hundred times from old, ‘in the know’ merchants and critics – but really, does anyone know what it actually is? Feigning (real!) ignorance, I asked some winemakers – there was some variance, but on the whole there was relative agreement. Of-course we were talking about the last years’ hail, arriving some months before harvest – I expect ‘gout’ to be something completely different if hail hits 10 days before the harvest, but hopefully we never need todiscuss that…
David Croix:“Hail is more textural – a sort of dryness. You can get a cardboardy impression too, not unlike cork.”
Dominique Lafon:“Hail is about the smell of mushrooms and dry tannins. But with todays triage and only modest pressing, it should be a thing of the past.”
Bertrand de Villaine:“Goutte de grêle? Is really a bitter taste.”
Pierre Vincent:“Goutte de grêle? That is really the flavour and texture of unripe tannins.”

The character of 2013 Red Burgundy
Again, the character is reminiscent of my notes on the 2013 white wines: ‘Transparent,’ ‘clarity,’ ‘delicious fruit’ are the watch-words, with ‘very fine texture’ and fine delineation of the different vineyards. Yet again, like the whites, a minority of winemakers will tell you their 13s are more concentrated than their 12s, but it is largely the other way around – and that’s despite another low-yielding vintage through either poor flowering or hail, or indeed both. I find more consistency in 2013 than I did in 2012 – at these good addresses – and that’s important because grape cleanliness was more variable at harvest-time than in 2012, so elimination of the rot and sub-standard was obviously assiduous.

The relative value of 2013 Red Burgundy
Once more, like the 2013 whites, these are delicious and will reward early drinking more than 2012, and as tasty as the lighter 2011s are, these are tastier-still with more purity and energy.

Of-course, pricing will have some bearing. Those who I asked, suggested that pricing will remain ‘roughly’ constant from 2012 to 2013, though often noting a little more latitude for grander wines! Almost all suggested (outside the hail-zones) that 2014 might be an opportunity to relax prices a little. The market will have a say in that too, of-course, and if you all decide that €65 is fine for village Vosne-Romanée and €100 fine for 1er Crus, then don’t be surprised if that’s where they will go, even if it is just the merchants taking the extra margin!

And the three outstanding locations in 2013? It was very hard to name just two ‘don’t miss’ producers, but this I find much easier: Chambolle-Musigny and Clos de Vougeot and Pommard. You may be surprised by that latter mention; Pommard, despite it’s problems, often has wines of more dynamism and character than its neighbours in Beaune and Volnay – and in a vintage of fine tannins like 2013, it gets a little extra help!

*Of-course, it (almost!) goes without saying that the fine texture of the tannins in 2013 is largely about ‘phenolic maturity;’ it was a long growing season and the tannins ripened splendidly. I always try to avoid use of the ‘pmt’ phrase (phenolic maturity of tannin) though as I see it bandied about mainly by people who report on, and taste, Bordeaux. Burgundy tannins that are either rough and ready, or exquisitely tailored, are frankly only of passing interest to those people who look drink their wine with some maturity. For me a perfect vintage example is 1998, where tannin is now largely anecdotal – at this stage in those wines’ elevage it was very astringent and sand-paper-like. So, tannin is something to note, rather than get worked-up about, unless you drink everything within 2 years of purchase. Of-course, if you do drink them young, you will need to know whether the tannin is there or not, not whether the wine has pmt…!

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