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burgundy 2012 – already past the peak of interest?

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2012s tasted in Beaune last week…

Are we seeing a peaking of Burgundy consumer interest – despite the mini industry that has become the London En Primeur tasting ‘circuit’…(?)

I heard that there were to be 34 tastings in London this month – a new record – and certainly last week when I was in Burgundy, producers were busy, preparing their samples. Yet despite more and more producers donning a smart jacket or getting their hair done for a few days in the UK’s capital, it seems to me that the general level of ‘chatter’ surrounding this vintage is lower than at any time in the last 10 years.

Next year’s 2013s will be no better in terms of supply and price, the latter probably higher again, and will certainly, on average, be a lower quality vintage than 2012 – except maybe the whites, but that’s something to discuss in 8-12 months time. Pricing over the last couple of years seems to have had a dramatic effect on the market – Grand Cru tasting notes are fewer and farther to be seen, and I look at my own cellar and the wines 1993-2005 seem to be almost 50% Grand Cru – 06-12 could be as low as 10% but I’m pretty sure that I don’t spend less!

The UK, depending on which measure you use, has, for some time been the number 1, or number 2, export market for Burgundy wine – yet it seems that this ‘metric’ maybe becoming more and more limited in its value. Smaller merchants, and those who claim to be ‘in the know’ suggest that covetable wines delivered to the larger UK merchants are more often than not, being shipped to their Hong-Kong offices, so leaving fewer bottles for actual UK customers. Certainly allocations, from a select list of producers, were way down long-before their vineyard yields started to dwindle. Another answer could simply be that those customers who spent the most cash at their merchants, were rewarded with higher allocations – that’s what the (big) merchants will tell you – whatever the truth, the diffusion of the best wines into the UK market is significantly less egalitarian than 10 years ago.

Stratospheric pricing of the top Bordeaux cuvées has hardly put a dent in the number of words written about that region, yet those words are now more likely to appear in magazines like Paris-Match or Vogue than traditional publications – yet, fewer and fewer of the wines actually seem to be opened. Burgundy appears to be heading in the same direction. One positive that comes from this situation is that merchants (and critics!) are having to work much harder to find interesting new names with bottles to sell; they must showcase the Regional and Communal wines where once they would, lazily, talk only about ‘the location of the vines within the Clos de Vougeot‘. In most respects, this is a good thing for the consumer, except, and unfortunately, that the first Burgundy wine that leaves a Syrah- or Cabernet-drinker forever smitten, is very unlikely to be a Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

So how will Burgundy grow their next generation of connoisseurs?

[Edit:] Perhaps it’s telling that Victoria Moore’s description of the vintage is now clased as ‘Luxury‘…

6 responses to “burgundy 2012 – already past the peak of interest?”

  1. Tom Blach

    Interesting, Bill, I went to my only 2012 ep tasting last night at Bordeaux Index, not so many wines on view but generally good. I note a continuing improvement in the most modest cuvees, this being I suppose now being perceived as an important shop window, but also the most absurd disjunct between price and interest in grand crus. Tardy’s undeniably good and tasty Echezeaux at £110 or so per bottle makes possibly even less sense that the Jadot negoce CDLR 07 on display, beautiful though far from earth-shaking at £160. Even among my genuinely wealthy friends there are very few who will perceive any value whatsoever in such things and I just can’t see this as sustainable. I used to open GCs almost weekly and hardly ever do now. As a resuIt I feel my knowledge to be declining precipitately, to my surprise.

  2. Roelof Ligtmans

    Hi Bill,

    I’m not sure what to make of all this. The 2012 wines are not even bottled yet, at least not all of them. And the en-primeur market represents only a very small fragment of the total offer. Yes, there will be shortages of some wines, but most of them are still available at reasonable prices (anyone had a problem getting hold of Chablis GC wines?). You, and Tom Bleach, do have a point about CdBeaune et CdNuits Grand Cru wines, those have become very much more expensive and a lot less available in the last 10 years.

    But, there is plenty good wine out there waiting to be discovered; it is only a matter of purchase managers becoming a little more inventive, and looking beyond the 40-or-so well known (and well-trodden, and sold out) sources in and around Beaune and Nuits. They might even find the Bourgogne-level wines that will convince Syrah- and cabernet “heretics”. I’ve tasted more than a few of those recently (2012 is a super-rich vintage!), a bit off-the-beaten-track.

    So, the best advice for quality-hungry pinot-lovers with budget limitations: demand that your preferred wine merchant actually goes out to hunt down these wines, rather than say: ‘sorry, there is none, and if there is, it is too expensive’. That’s what you call a lazy wine buyer’s response! All Burgundy lovers should be prepared to see some new names on their labels, be they Irancy or Givry rather than Clos de Vougeot!

  3. Tom Blach

    I don’t completely agree, Roelof. To me full enjoyment of burgundy is predicated on knowledge of the full range, and while I love Santenay, Marsannay, Blagny etc. it would be idle to pretend that that’s all there is to it.

  4. antoine

    Would be interesting to know what proportion of grand cru is sold to investors who have no intention to drink the stuff…

  5. bmcq

    >>>> So how will Burgundy grow their next generation of connoisseurs? <<<<
    If the prices are any reflection, I'm not detecting any concern in that regard.

    It's just the ongoing Pareto-ization of everything that results in steeper and steep financial gradients and bigger Gini indices.

    Face it, we've plunged into a world wide gestalt that idolizes hereditary privilege (oligarchy), state religion (money) and plutocracy. The irony is that our focus is on France.

  6. Roelof Ligtmans

    Hi Tom,

    sure you’re right, the full picture of Burgundy includes the “Grands Vins”, unfortunately less and less obtainable and affordable for common mortals.

    I justed wanted to indicate the largely untapped wealth of other Burgundian wines produced outside the well-known and historic “epicenter”. And it is my conviction that investments in vineyard management and cellar equipment and the will to improve have somehow closed a part of the quality gap between those outlying districts and the historical center. I think many Burgundy lovers would be very pleasantly surprised by their quality. No, they will not replace Musigny, yes they can offer very real enjoyment.

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

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