2018 red burgundy – opinion & food for thought

Update 26.12.2019(25.12.2019)billn

But doesn’t everybody love 2018 red burgundy?

2018 will undoubtedly be a controversial red vintage, a polarising red vintage; those who like the sweetness and those who do not, those who are less sensitive to the higher alcohols and spiciness of 14+++ degrees of alcohol* and those who are not.

I’ve started writing this summary a few times, and each time I’ve stopped, thinking that I was being a little too negative and that more, possibly great, wines and domaines remained to be tasted. But now that the dust has settled and there are no more tastings, I have to commit…

I can happily drink 2018 red burgundies, and some are brilliant, monuments even.

My biggest issue with wines from this vintage is that they are so shockingly sweet – it is like another step up from the already very sweet 2015s, 2016s and 2017s. Stylistically, 2010,11,12,13 and 14 are all much more attractive to me. I fear that 2019 will bring no respite.

Blind, I would not guess that many of these black wines come from Burgundy – I would guess, probably/hopefully pinot noir, but from elsewhere. Very rarely would I consider a 2018 to be Chambolle or Savigny-esque. Would I care to take a second glass of these Barossa-California hybrids? – today, often not – but maybe a glass of 2018 white.

This is a very important point for me as a buyer “Why pay the significant premium to drink Chambolle-Musigny, when it doesn’t taste like Chambolle-Musigny?” Merchants and some producers will counter that these are wines for the long-term, like 2003 or, for instance, 1959. Now if you are of an age where 30+ years of waiting is no problem, and will certainly eke out the terroir that you are looking for, that’s completely fine. I’m 57. I’m too old for that.

This does raise an interesting point, however, am I just too old, harking back to wines that have had their day, in a new world of ripe, ripe, ripe? I really can’t discount that, but these are certainly not my father’s burgundies, neither are they the burgundies that I’ve been buying en-primeur since the 1996 vintage!

Ripe fruit is not necessarily a fault‘ – I completely agree, though a lack of balance to offset that fruit would be. But even this doesn’t encapsulate the landscape that 2018 reds offer because many of these sweet and alcoholic wines actually do offer balance. Last year, discussing 2017s I stated “Quite frankly, 2017 is the most complex, the most variable, red wine vintage that I’ve ever tasted.” I’m embarrassed to say that from the perspective of this introduction, 2018 is, for my palate, more complex!

Of-course a critic wants you to think that you can’t get by without (paying for) their help. On the other hand the merchants, whose offers will be hitting your mailboxes in the next couple of weeks, proclaim another great vintage – and only they have the best wines from this great vintage. From what I’ve read so far, I do think the former far too positive and the latter full of hyperbolé and BS.

I consider, purely from a purchasing perspective, that I would treat 2018 in a similar fashion to 2003. An occasional 2003 is highly instructive and interesting today. The poor 2003s died quite early, the rest seem to have been on a plateau, as tasty sweet things, open but with very little maturity, for at least 10 years. They are not wines that I want to drink every day though – unlike the aforementioned 2010,11,12,13 and 14s, and of-course older.

Of-course there wasn’t much 2003 to go around, in 2018 there is plenty, but with few bargains.

My more normal analysis will be online in the next few days, but this was something I had to get off my chest.

*Note, I’ve not resorted to the use of the V-word. It’s common to encounter wines with some volatility during elevage, but it’s usually gone once wines are encased in their bottles – a few suzuki-inflected 2014s excepted. There were many, many wines that showed high volatility in 2018, but until the wines are bottled, it’s unfair to call them out for the reason cited.

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

There are 2 responses to “2018 red burgundy – opinion & food for thought”

  1. Marko de Morey de la Vosne25th December 2019 at 1:52 pmPermalinkReply

    I’m going to hold back at the mo, to a degree, on the basis of ‘enough’ Xmas morning fizz & sherry so far, and maybe comment, briefly, further when more compos mentis (!) but I’ve already read enough Bill to know I’m in 100%+ agreement – and that from only a very small personal sample – which has been enough when added to working the sweltering, drought infested, 2018 vendange when I’ve never been so hot & thirsty in my life, losing half a stone in days ! But, you are particularly spot on in terms of merchants comments, in which respect what I’ve been reading lately (UK only) is, strong words but I can’t hold back, just imho absolutely disgraceful & akin to ‘conmen’ commentary. Strong words (again) I know but many of these merchant comedians don’t have my personal multi vintage working experiences. I’m so relieved I can sit out buying this vintage (age & existing cellar size) as it must/will be be a total minefield for the buyer. If you can’t taste then don’t buy has to be the watchword given even domaines will have both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ wines in their own ‘mixes’. I certainly don’t want to buy Burgundy akin to New World Pinot.
    My Xmas lunch is now calling so gotta go – am drinking Beaucastel ’93 C9DP, heresy I know, but as I don’t believe a ‘proper’ Burg is appropriate to the UK Xmas Turkey Dinner fest ! Enjoy your respective Christmas Day’s one & all – drink well whatever is in your glass ! Oh, as always, mega thanks Bill for all your efforts on the most balanced (imho) Burgundy opinion site anywhere 🙂

  2. fjelsea16655th January 2020 at 3:35 amPermalinkReply

    Excellent analysis. Time to update your vintage charts.

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