There is plenty of structure here on the palate, balanced by fresh acidity and a wonderful intensity of fruit. This has the volume of fruit to be enjoyable in its youth but also has the intensity and class to mature over a number of years. A solid, structured wine that shows layers of depth and the finesse of Charmots.
A region large geographically, stretching from Auxerre in the north to Mâcon in the south. Despite its size there are few large domaines or châteaux, in contrast to Bordeaux. France's Code Napoléon has forced the fragmentation of vineyard ownership with the passing of each generation so that, as a consequence largely of inter-grower marriage, the typical producer today will maintain small plots but of numerous different vineyards. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay rule, with red and white wines in roughly equal proportion. Whites are typically barrel-fermented and both red and white will be aged in barrel until ready to bottle: oak is therefore an important flavour character. In the past most wine was bottled by merchants with cellars in the principal towns; since the 1970s the region has seen a growing movement towards estate bottling, under the name of the individual grower. As a consequence the most demanded producers have found their wines enjoying a dramatic premium for scarcity.
2003 - Burgundy
2003 was a unique vintage, preventing comparison with any that have gone before. Indeed, the record books show that in over 100 years there has never been such an early harvest (Chandon de Briailles commenced picking in Corton on 15th August). This uniqueness continues into the wines themselves; the reds are rich and bold, containing a pure core of natural fruit, with strong intense grainy tannins and an appealing freshness. The intensely ripe whites are more flattering with a full, luscious and rounded open nature to their fruit, giving them tremendous appeal for early drinking.
As always, it is the climate that has shaped these wines: The winter of 2002 served the vines very well. It was cold, but also very wet, which established good water-table levels capable of providing much needed moisture in the dry months of the following summer. Spring was more of a problem, particularly for the white wine producers. In Puligny-Montrachet there was a noticeable frost on 15th April, which was followed by a hailstorm in June and again in July. In fact, in this vintage it was the combination of frost and hail that led to the low yields: According to Jacques Carillon, his domaine’s production comprised approximately one third of their normal crop.
Throughout the Côtes, July was warm and stable and certainly gave no indication as to what was around the corner. But then came exceptional temperatures in August reaching as high as 40 degrees at times. It was this that was to leave such a huge impact on the style of the vintage. As a result sugar levels rose in the berries which were naturally small and concentrated, thus the analyses were something that no vigneron nor oenologist could predict. Instead winemakers had to rely on their intuition: each had their own view and interpretation on how the wines should be made. As ever, it seems the quiet and patient approach has delivered the best results.
In summary, there have been some delicious wines made in 2003. As regards the whites, our advice is to enjoy them while they are relatively young. As for the reds, although it cannot be said of all, many will offer very good ageing potential (please refer to our recommended drinking dates for detail). The rich, tannic power in many of these wines renders them hugely exciting for the collector, and we are sure they will produce some stunning, mature wines in years to come – providing temptation can be resisted!
The reputation of the red wines of Burgundy rests squarely on the shoulders of Pinot Noir. At all levels above Passtoutgrains, where Gamay is blended with it, Pinot Noir alone is employed. Hardly an easy grape to ripen even in its homeland, the thin-skinned variety offers the potential of delicacy, complexity and refinement, and perhaps better than any other grape anywhere in the world could do, it holds a mirror up to each of the region's varying appellations, subtlely reflecting the characteristics of each. And when grown on the great slopes, despite its apparent fragility, Pinot Noir is capable of producing wines of penetrating presence, a heavenly affinity to oak and with tremendous ability to age. Pale in colour, it offers the scents of red berry fruits when young, a crisp, satisfying acidity and a captivating lithe body-weight. With maturity the flavours evolve into complex notes of game, undergrowth and spice. Around the world, winemakers have sought to emulate Pinot Noir's success in Burgundy. It is found in both Sancerre and Alsace where it makes a fragrant wine, though new wave versions aged in barrel are found. And in neighbouring Germany, as Spätburgunder, it produces a delicate red, almost rose in colour. It can be found today in the cooler regions of almost every wine-producing country of the world, from Italy to South Africa and New Zealand to the USA. In the latter, it is the state of Oregon that claims the greatest success to date. Pinot Noir is a key component of many sparkling wines, most notably in Champagne. Here it is usually blended with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, however many Blancs de Noirs styles depend exclusively on the variety.