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A Vintage Viewpoint…(2014, 2013, 2012)

red and white

2014

Hail again in the Côte de Beaune – for the third vintage in a row – almost unprecedented.

The last time the vines of Volnay (and its neighbours) were hailed in 3 consecutive vintages was 1901, 1902 and 1903.

The unimaginable ‘3’ happened to coincide with the ‘Elegance de Volnay’ dinner in that town. 300 sodden people in a large tent outside the Pousse d’Or domaine. The heavy rain probably helped hide a tear or two from the producers. But how (now) to absorb a third consecutive vintage of hail destruction? Well, it’s not easy, and at least three domaines in Volnay are reported to be selling 1er Cru vines in that village to survive as businesses. I haven’t heard of anyone in the same position in Pommard – yet.

My harvest report is here and of-course here.

But as we end 2014, how are those latent 2014s looking?

The malos for both colours are rather a lot quicker than was the case for the 2013 – indeed many are already finished. Clearly the pHs are a little higher than was the case for the 2013s (i.e. a little less acidity) but nothing untoward.

The whites are still in line with all the producers hopes and expectations for a ‘great vintage’ – everyone noted the seemingly brilliant raw materials and to-date the young wines are showing great focus – from Chablis to Mâcon! – so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

The reds often finished their malos quicker than the whites – which is unusual. And for those that normally claim to prefer longer malos, I wonder what they will say when tasting this vintage 😉 There are certainly some rather high volatility cuvées to be found up and down the Côte d’Or – whether a function of the drosophila problem or just a passing phase – that at least is something to keep an eye on.

Otherwise – it is still very early days…

2013

2013 – a dagger in the heart of the Côte de Beaune.

Well, that was my over-reaction 12 months ago.

But what of the wines? It was again a low yielding vintage due to poor flowering, but it was a good summer. September was cool, however, and rot began to appear. The most millerande of clusters were spared, as the cleansing breezes had no problem penetrating their centres – the one positive for those with hailed vines – vibrating tables took away the dried berries and what was left showed an excellent phenolic ripeness if relatively low sugars. But this continued cool weather pushing the harvest to the end of September and into October. The end of the harvest became wetter and colder – everybody was relieved to hang up their secateurs!

It is a low yielding vintage, the amount of sugar added to fermentations will have been higher than for many a year – those that add 0.5% of sugar by rote will have been pushing towards the 1.5% limit in 2013.

But! The whites are fresh, transparent and dynamic – it is a very fine vintage, sometimes even great and it is rarely boring – though Chablis is a little richer than usual it remains tasty chardonnay. The reds are darkly coloured, fresh and fragrant – show really super terroir differentiation – and despite analytically showing high acidity, they are balanced and virtually never present as a 2008 did at this age. The tannins are very silky in this vintage, importantly there is much more intensity and concentration than 2011. Very great wines were produced in Vougeot (including the clos de Vougeot), Chambolle and even hail-stricken Pommard. The villages Gevreys are less consistent than in 2012 but I’ve never tasted better Charmes-Chambertin than in 2013 – and at so many addresses too!

My harvest report here and of-course here.
My 2013 red burgundy summary is here.
My 2013 white burgundy summary is here.

2012

2012; I described it as ‘the four horsemen of the apocalypse’ vintage, such were the trials and tribulations suffered by the vigneron(nes) – even those that didn’t get hailed! Of-course, as is usually the case, the growers of the Côte de Nuits had life a little easier than their cousins in the Côte de Beaune, yet, as good as the Côte de Nuits wines undoubtedly were, I found the standout wines to be in the Côte de Beaune.

So, once-more re-capping: Spring frosts, heavy rain during flowering and more rain mixed with hail-storms that on one-hand encouraged disease, and on the other, battered fruit and (even!) branch mercilessly – some of those hailed plots were judged as ‘unfit’ for picking at vintage time. Many more treatments were needed in the vines than an ‘average’ year, because often-as-not those treatments were washed away within hours by the next storm-front. The 2012 vintage was clearly saved by the fine weather of late-July and August – though still with occasional hail-storms.

Some of the red wines are becoming a little tighter after 6-12 months in their bottles but that’s still a relative rarity. As recent tastings show the wines remain concentrated, intense and structures but with super energy – they are very much ‘keepers’ that will offer only modest enjoyment in the medium-term.

The whites are also generously concentrated, some with a little too much richness – way too much for many in the Mâconnais and still for quite a few in the Côte de Beaune. Corton-Charlemagne excelled, as did Chablis – the real epicentre for brilliant white burgundy in 2012. When it comes to white burgundy in 2012, ‘go north young man…’

My harvest ‘summary‘.

A QUICK WORD ABOUT GENERALISATIONS!
I try to remain consistent, so the generalisations above are in-line with the same ones each year. It’s about looking at how the good, better, best producers fared in the vintage – nothing more…

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

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