Burgundy 2010 Vintage Report – Nick Dagley
2010 is the first vintage since 2002 that is equivalently good for both
whites and reds. It has delivered wines with strong personalities, vigour
and refined power, more presence than weight said Etienne de Montille. It
is for me the epitome of Burgundy, which is only found when the climate
allows every part of each terroir to shine. Terroir is as much about the
viticulture and vinification employed as the soil type or exposition of the
vineyard. The key to 2010 (as in many parts of France) was that the balance
between sun and vineyard was absolutely optimal, accentuating both the style
of the domaine and the characteristics of the vineyard.
Nick Dagley, Buyer
It is the sun not the heat which ripens grapes and a sunny, warm (not hot)
and dry summer with cool nights preserved acidity, whilst allowing the
grapes to slowly ripen. This freshness and gentle ripening has produced reds
with a taffeta-like feel in the mouth and wonderfully ripe, fine-grained
tannins. It has also helped reveal the full spectrum of flavours Pinot Noir
can deliver. The whites are as aromatic and inviting as they were in 2008,
with more substance and a serious side, underpinned by the mythical
minerality that is ubiquitous in so many tasting notes, but is genuinely
present this year.
The only problem with 2010 is the yields. Overall they are down around 30%, although there is no set rule or cause. A variety of factors, including a severe December frost and poor weather during flowering, has dramatically reduced the crop and the resulting volume of wine.
It might be cynical to have noted that at one well-known Vosne-Romanée property, the better the vineyard, the greater the fall in yields appeared to be. On that point the Burgundians are less business-like than the Bordelais and I hope will stay as loyal as we have been; they want their wines to be bought by private clients who store them carefully and genuinely appreciate them, but there is undoubtedly more pressure than ever on allocations and it will only increase this year.
The upside to the low yields is the natural concentration in the wines, which - unlike in 2009 - is subtle and, combined with a perky acidity, meaning nothing tastes heavy or sugary. As one grower put it, if the 2009s were tarty then the 2010s for the moment have their corset on.
Burgundy in Ascendance...
Burgundy continues to evolve and it seems almost every domaine we deal with
has a new generation either waiting in the wings or gently taking the reins.
More and more vineyards are being farmed organically or bio-dynamically and
winemakers are increasingly flexible with the techniques they employ during
the wine's élevage, no longer following a strict formula year-in-year-out.
There is also the pleasing trend of vineyards finding their way into the
hands of people who can extract the best from them. Dominique Lafon has
bought vines in Meursault with his friend Jean-Marc Roulot and was happy to
give us an early taste of the 2011 vintage. We might even get enough to be
able to advertise it for sale next year! Dominique said his 2010 whites
(late release) are fuller then 2007 with similar tension and more elegance
than 2008, similar in profile to 1995.
The lack of wine and demand for what will be a critically acclaimed vintage
will push prices, but not everywhere. As I write, they are trickling through
and, whilst it is difficult to generalise, I would describe them as
reasonable. The wines of Burgundy have never tasted so good. Eric Rousseau
told me that 2010 is a vintage which will feature
heavily in his personal cellar, I expect I will also find it difficult to
Our first visit to Burgundy was in July. At that stage I had heard better
things about the whites than reds but returned home thinking I preferred the
reds to the whites. Very generally and unsurprisingly, the Côte de Nuits
reds are denser than those of the Côte de Beaune, but there are some
fragrant and inviting wines in Volnay and Pommard that will keep
exceptionally well. Fredéric Lafarge in Volnay compared 2010 to 1962 and
1989 and Sylvain Cathiard said this was a classic vintage, which he meant
in the French (genuine) way, rather than the one used by the English wine
trade when they are scrabbling around looking for a way to describe a
vintage that is difficult to sell! The village which stood out for me and
one whose star is definitely in the ascendancy is Nuits-St-Georges.
The 2010s have a distinct character with darker almost iron-like fruit and
one would have to say that the wines represent good value, so we have added
to our range this year. Gevrey was as great as it was in 2009 Arnaud
Mortet stated that 2010 is the best vintage he has vinified. The hard
December frost, which sat in pockets in Vosne, has affected yields for many
of the better wines from this village. Which will cause the growers and us a
headache when it comes to allocations, but I cannot see how anyone would
regret buying any of the wines in our offer. There will be exceptional value
at Bourgogne and villages level.
Volumes are down for the whites but less dramatically than for reds. We have
added two new domaines to compensate. The whites are chiselled yet generous
and appear to have all the elements they might ever need; there is real
definition to the flavours and the vineyards from which they
came in 2010. It is difficult to pick a Côte de Beaune village as a star in
2010, but if forced, I would plump for Meursault (excuse the pun), which
seems to have achieved almost perfect balance. Michel Bouzereau is a prime
example. There are also some great wines from the 1er Crus on the Puligny
side of Chassagne; Philippe Colin's Chenevottes is superb. Lots of thought
and work goes into both vineyard and winery when making white Burgundy these
days, generally yields are lower and battonage (lees stirring) and new oak
maturation are used with caution.
White Burgundy has given me some of my most unique and memorable drinking
experiences, and undoubtedly the top names and vineyards are becoming harder
and harder to buy, but there is a level underneath this producing wines that
are getting better and better every year. This is where we and our customers
should concentrate our efforts.