An exceptional vintage, a visceral vintage – but will it be a good vintage for wine?
Such a warm year – 7 months with higher temperatures than the average. Comparisons with 2003 are a natural reaction, but 2003 had only a couple of hot months – though hot, hot – and the yields of wine in 2003 were low. Both of those things do not apply to 2018.
The reds are a little behind the prolific volumes of 2017 – well, prolific everywhere apart from Chassagne in 2017 – but it’s still a healthy volume. The reds were, on average, also the cleanest grapes I ever attempted to triage since my 2004 debut. Colour rushed from the deeply black grapes as tanks still in pre-fermentation maceration mode had more colour than finished 2017s. There was sugar, there will be alcohol – there will be phenolics the likes of which may never have been seen by most people – 1947 is a vintage comparison that is deemed more acceptable than 2003. I am intrigued. Tasting will clearly be exciting in another 9-10 months.
The whites of 2003 were also quite a low volume affair. They were also derided for their lack of acidity – just 10 years later, very few survived, but those that graced my table were very drinkable – for sure they were rich but they had a compelling line and lived on their minerality – I actually never met oxidised 2003s, that said I never met that many 2003s, period, in the wild. This won’t be the case for the 2018s – there will be a lot of wine. Producers who 3 weeks before the harvest expected to have no juice were inundated – tanks were full – where did the extra juice in the grapes come from? It was predominantly a Meursault-Puligny phenomenon – there was more in the other white villages too, but not to the same degree. Meursault reacted by increasing the allowed yields to 64 hl/ha for villages and 62 for 1er Crus – that sounds like a lot – the likes of Lafon and Roulot also produced more than they expected – but hardly exceeded 50 hl/ha.
Eventually some easing of the pain came in both Beaujolais and Chablis in 2018 – Beaujolais from the hail, and Chablis from the frost – both look to have volume and some interesting quality to look forward to.
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.
Of-course some producers also made too much – so made wines that were too dilute. The average wine is certainly more dilute than the very non-standard concentrations of 2015 and 2016 – or 2018 to come. There is more concentration, on average, in 2014 – but at the outset, the wines of 2017 are the more delicious. Ripeness was high, so there is a sweetness, a sucrosity, than can follow in the footsteps of 2015 and 2016.
Côte d’Or Reds: It’s a bipolar vintage: The southern and northern ends of the Côte d’Or made the best wines – except that certain domaines in Volnay may have made some of the very best 2017s! These ‘best’ wines are really great, they are open and will be delicious for at least the next 20 years. But it’s not just a geographically bipolar vintage, it’s also a terroir bipolar vintage: There are great regional wines and there are great grand crus – in the middle-ground, the great are fewer and farther between. On average, it is still fair to describe this as a ‘Restaurant Vintage‘ as the wines will be delicious from the very start.
Côte d’Or Whites: It’s a very good vintage indeed – borderline great – not quite up there with 2014, but since 2007 (a favourite of mine at the higher level whites), I’d put in second place – more consistently good than 2007, but less tension than in 2014. I think that the balanced richness of 1992 is a good comparison. There is more raw emotion in certain 2016s – but 2016 is more variable.
Côte Chalonnaise: Has produced fine reds and whites – particularly Givry, Mercurey and Bouzeron have done well. Rully is always pretty good, but there I have found fewer outstanding wines.
Chablis and Beaujolais visits come for me in the next weeks.
And my tasting reports are here:
The wines of 2016 remain a balm for memories of frozen vines – though there are producers who still cannot enjoy tasting the meagre product of their very hard labour in 2016 – meagre in terms of the number of bottles that they eventually produced.
I remain a writer with a small preference for the best whites over the best reds in 2016 – the best of the whites are not just great, they have a built-in emotion that transcends ‘great.’ But give me a red or a white, together with a corkscrew and a glass (better-still 2 or more glasses) and I will be happy. At this early stage, there’s no semblance of any wines closing – like some from 2015 – anecdotally many 2015s are beginning to tighten – though that’s not yet my-own experience.
In both cases the best are complete wines – Grand Vins. Of-course the price of ‘entry’ for 2016s is relatively high – the average quality of the whites is better in 2017 but the very best come from 2016. For reds the average is clearly better from 2016, and the best also – but given their impressive concentration, it’s likely that these are wines that will close like their brothers and sisters from 2015.