Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Burgundy en Primeur 2010

What a joy to start 2012 with the tasting of some fabulous Burgundy 2010, most of it straight from the barrel and flown direct to Hong Kong, courtesy of Berry Bros & Rudd. Even better was a chat about the 2010 vintage with renowned Burgundy expert, Jasper Morris MW.

Burgundian producers did not expect 2010 to be a good vintage. The first strike was the plummet in temperature in a short space of time from -3ºC to a record low of -19ºC on 19th December 2009. Since the sap hadn’t gone back down yet, quite a number of vines were killed by the cold air, severely reducing the crop level. The second hit was bad flowering weather in May, which was cool, wet and windy, leading to small and uneven bunches, further reducing the yield. In hindsight, the small crop actually saved the vintage, because summer was not particularly great. A big crop would not have been properly ripe. Furthermore, the smaller berries increased the skin to juice ratio, leading to more concentrated wines as a result. Mother nature struck again on 12th September 2010 in the form of a massive thunder and hail storm, damaging some Chardonnay which was about to be harvested. Luckily a north wind came soon afterwards to dry the grapes, preventing the spread of rot. The harvest in mid September was carried out in sunny weather.

The end result? A classic vintage with elegance and finesse. The Pinot Noir show a perfect balance between acidity, tannin and fruit; while the whites display a density of fruit that is well-integrated with the fresh acidity. According to Jasper (and after tasting the wine I agree), the 2010 vintage is much more 'Burgundian'. 2009 may be more pleasing, but it is more 'international' than true Burgundy.

The negatives? The yield was down between 30% and 50% across the region. Given the latest enthusiasm for Burgundy, there won’t be enough to satisfy demand. Despite this, most producers have kept their prices the same as 2009’s, unlike their counterparts in Bordeaux.

Many wine lovers find it confusing to navigate the myriad labels of Burgundy. Burgundy classifications are by geographic district rather than producer. Yet, two vineyards of the same Cru status next door to each other may produce wines that seem miles apart. The quality of Burgundy wine has always been hit and miss. Jasper says this is because most Burgundian producers have traditionally been farmers who learned by on-the-job training from their fathers. Today’s young generation of producers have formal oenology training, some even have overseas vintage experience. He is seeing big improvements in quality in all categories of Burgundy wine including the regional appellation.

Jasper selected 34 wines for BBR’s 2010 Burgundy en primeur tasting. There are some real bargains. Patrick Javillier Bourgogne Blanc Cuvée Oligocène is full of life and a steal at £150 per 12 bottle case. My other favourites are the complex Domaine Jean Grivot Clos de Voueot Grand Cru (£570 for 6 bottles), the generous Maison Camille Giroud Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru (£270 for 6) and the elegant Domaine du Comte Armand Pommard Clos des Epeneaux (£345 for 6). Visit BBR’s website for more information.

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