A Vintage Viewpoint…(2017, 2016, 2015)

Update 28.12.2017(27.12.2017)billn

red and white


Despite some domaines in Chassagne having yet another miserable vintage in terms of yield – frost again! – 2017 was a redemption for large parts of the Côte de Beaune, domaines that haven’t seen a proper harvest since 2011 or 2009 were even citing yields like 1999.

The consensus amongst producers of all sizes is that despite good yields, the grape-contract prices are unlikely to reduce for the 2017 vintage, all the producers citing the lack of stock as the basic reason, though nobody I’ve spoken to expects the prices to go up! Official prices will be released in the Spring. Most seem to feel that another ‘correct yield’ vintage in 2018 will be required to have any effect on bulk pricing. Of-course the pricing of domaine wines is up to those domaines – but only ex cellar – their distributors in other countries might have their own ideas – that’s supply and demand!

Most of my 2017 commentary, to-date, is about yields. Serious domaines did whatever was necessary to have correct yields in 2017, going as far as dropping significant amounts of potential yield with green harvests – some for the first time in 15 years. Green harvesting is less and less practiced because the vines will try to find a way of compensating, but it’s still better to have 40 hl/ha than 70! No serious domaine is going to offer up a dilute wine to you from 2017, but beware the label that you’ve never seen before – there were very many optimistically cropped vines in 2017 – particularly in the Côte de Nuits – that wine has gone somewhere.

Only a short positioning statement on wines has any value this early in elevage – the basic position is that the whites look very promising indeed, the reds have zero consensus, but the general feedback is ‘easy-drinking.’ I think the conjunction for the reds of lots of volume, easy-drinking and the highest contract prices ever will be quite the marketing challenge. The recent vintages’ price inflation has largely been down to new customers with deep pockets – but customers who wanted the best, not easy drinking – why will they buy 2017s? And if they don’t, who will at current pricing?


The wines of 2016 are a balm for memories of frozen vines.

And not just the frost, there followed relentless work in equally relentless rain. It was the end of June before the sun finally came out to stay. In many communes you could see patches of vines over-run with weeds where owners had basically given up on the vintage.

Yet 2016 is one of those very rare vintages where the reds and whites are both excellent, and in both cases the best are complete wines – Grand Vins. Rare? The last time was 2010 and before that, maybe, 2002 but the lovely whites of 2002 largely fell apart into oxidation – this was a terrible time to be buying and storing white Burgundy. And before 2002? I don’t know, perhaps 1996…

Of-course, in both colours, there aren’t many to go round. The reds are more complicated than the whites, and whilst they are more ‘pinot’ i.e. more freshly fruited than in 2015, they are rather sweet and concentrated – just like those 2015s.

The price of ‘entry’ for 2016s is relatively higher than for 2015, as there is so little regional (Bourgognes!) wine as this AOC took the brunt of the frost.

Many writers seem to have a preference for the reds in 2016, I disagree, the best of the whites are not just great, they have a built-in emotion that I haven’t experienced before. It’s a close-run thing, but the best wines of the vintage for me were white.

My harvest report is here and of-course here.

And my tasting reports are here:
Côte d’Or – mainly white
Côte d’Or – mainly red
Côte d’Or Grand Maisons


It happens every year, but this year I have a much higher dislike for the revisionism that comes in the cellars up and down Burgundy. The previous vintage always moving from being a great vintage to one that is not very classic when compared to the new vintage at hand.

But 2015 really is a great red vintage and it’s a much more egalitarian vintage too than the 2016 that follows. Egalitarian? – that’s because to drink or to keep, the 2015 Bourgognes are as good as you could possibly wish for – and lest people forget, there are virtually no bourgognes in 2016 – the flat of the land being so brutalised by the frost. ‘Cheaper’ entries into 2016 will be so much harder to come by.

Yes 2015 is sweet, yes it is ripe and concentrated too – but it has enviable balance and energy too. Now that the wines are bottled they are showing such class – top to bottom – I have a hankering for at least half a dozen Corton Clos du Rois!

The whites are generally good and interesting, concentrated yet balanced too – the are not pure as crystal but they are very tasty wines. Certainly behind 2014 and 2016 but definitely not to be avoided. My recent tasting (linked above) showed wines that seemed defined as much by their producer as the vintage – some producers with fruit, others less-so…

My growing season report is here and of-course the harvesting report is here.

And my tasting reports are here:
Côte d’Or – mainly white
Côte d’Or – mainly red
Côte d’Or Grand Maisons

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

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