2013 – a dagger in the heart of the Côte de Beaune.
A bit of an over-reaction? For most producers – of-course yes – but for some no.
2013 was late flowering due to incessant cool, cloudy and very wet weather. The flowers were not spared the rain either, resulting in coulure and millerande clusters – so low yields right from the start. Also, a strong wind had blown before many vines had been trained; the exposed vines on the hill of Corton lost many new branches, and of-course yield. But the summer arrived with the last few days of June – largely it was a real summer right through July and August. The previously mentioned dagger, was the hail of the 23rd of July that mercilessly raped the vines of leaves and fruit, but selectively, from the northern border of Meursault to part-way across the hill of Corton – the rest of the Côte d’Or was spared. In the ‘strike-zone’, some plots were obliterated for consecutive vintages. Much of Savigny and Volnay and Pommard and Beaune were laid waste – I have never heard vignerons openly talking about giving up their trade before, but in the 48 hours that followed the strike I did. In the ‘strike zone’, yields ranged from 100% to zero – literally, nobody went into the vines at harvest time. It will have been the last straw for some producers, with no prospect of wine to sell but loans to finance, a number of closures have already been documented.
September was cool, however, and those clusters that had remained clean and perfectly presented began to show spots of rot. The most millerande of clusters were spared, as the cleansing breezes had no problem penetrating their centres. The biggest issue facing the producers, was that this cool weather was pushing the potential harvest dates on towards October, maybe deep into October. In the end, for many producers, it became a race between ripeness and rot, and in many Hautes Côtes vineyards, the winner would have been rot – I expect much more Cremant in 2013, maybe Rosé too.
Essentially we have a low to very low yielding vintage. Those that were fastidious with triage can already see apparently fine, deeply coloured reds and whites for which they are genuinely excited. Many will have added at least 0.5% of sugar to augment their fermentations, but time will tell, how fine…
2012, it will certainly be remembered.
Well the four horsemen of the apocalypse may have caused plenty of hand-wringing for the vignerons of the Côte de Beaune, but the growers of the Côte de Nuits were also far from happy with their harvested lot.
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 – many plots were judged as ‘unfit’ for picking at vintage time. Many more treatments needed to be made in the vines than an ‘average’ year, because often-as-not those treatments were washed away within hours by the next weather-front. Many were the organic-certified vignerons that resorted to spray synthetic or systemic treatments to save their grapes. Older vignerons pointed to 1993 as ‘almost as bad’ in terms of rain, but what they were all clear about was that 20 years ago, for most domains there would have been no vintage. The 2012 vintage was clearly saved by the fine weather of late-July and August – though still with occasional hail-storms.
So, if there wouldn’t have been a vintage for many/most producers 20 years ago, how are the wines? In a word – brilliant.
The reds almost approach the depth of concentration that we saw in 2005 (almost!) yet still show genuine vigour. For those who take their grape-sorting seriously, the low yields, whether achieved by millerandage/coulure or destruction of the excess grapes by hail, have delivered wines of uncommon impact. It’s still a little early in the elevage for counting chickens, but right now, there is a ‘deliciousness’ of the sweet, clean fruit that many from 2010 currently show – let’s see!
The whites are also generously concentrated but offer quite enough balance in barrel – so-far it seems. They don’t show the same density as the 05s did – but that’s probably a good thing as many of those 05s remain surly and monolithic. Much more impact than easy-drinking 2011s, if not necessarily tastier it seems…
My harvest ‘summary‘.
Regular readers will be well-aware of my cautions about this vintage, though it seems that very few buyers took notice. Professional critics chose only to mention that there were whispers about coccinelle-taint – but that those whispers were (or may have been!) unfounded – then they sprayed around their typical 90-94 points – other critics just sprayed!
Well, I’m afraid that many, many, many wines – a majority even – have the P taint, and it is presented exactly as in the 2004 vintage, save (for the moment, at least) that 2011 is different, more accomodating. The 2011 reds have a lovely welcoming personality – as charming as the best 2007s but with more transparency and elegance – despite only moderate structure and intensity, these remain beautiful wines of contemplation – the gorgeous, almost triage-free grapes have delivered something lovely – that includes most of the ones showing P. To-date, at least (and I know it’s still early days) the highly pyrazined wines of 2004 are much rarer in 2011 – and let’s not lose sight of that fact that more than 50% of people don’t smell or taste the issue anyway! I’ve said it before, and (here) I will say it again: If you are sensitive to taint, then taste before you buy…
The whites are good, indeed very enjoyable, and whilst they fall some-way short of great they are genuinely very tasty. There is fine detail, and there is usually enough acidity too, but like the reds they are not largely wines of impact or searing incision – and I love searing incision! So-far, like 2004, the P taint is much rarer in the whites – I’ve tasted only two such examples. I think you can buy without concern for short to medium-term drinking – I’m not sure that anyone does long-term anymore…
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…