En Primeur: Burgundy 2008
The release of the latest vintage of Burgundy is eagerly awaited by the wine trade and fine wine buyers alike and this year was no exception. During November 2009, six members of the Lay & Wheeler team visited Burgundy to taste the 2008 vintage, assessing wines both from established favourites and promising new domaines.
The Vintage Conditions
It is not the first time that we have been able to say that a particular vintage was saved by a providential Autumn. Indeed, it appears to be becoming something of a pattern. The 2008 vintage in Burgundy was no exception, with cool and damp conditions during Spring and Summer leading to poor flowering and slow development of the fruit.
However, by mid August, conditions were beginning to improve, crucial for veraison. This is an important stage in the development of colour and flavour components and, for the reds, it marks the beginning of the accumulation of tannins. This developmental period dictates the nature of the must (the freshly pressed juice that contains the skins, seeds and stems) and shapes the winemaking approach likely to be employed. At this stage, the earlier problems with flowering yielded unexpected benefits, as lower than normal yields allowed the vines to bring their entire remaining crop to ripeness.
September provided a perfect end to the vintage: sunny and settled weather, combined with a cool north wind, allowed the vineyards to dry out and the fruit to ripen completely. Most growers harvested in perfect conditions at the end of the month. With a shaky start to the year and selection required at the sorting tables at the end, the yields from many domaines are considerably lower than usual, but the quality of the resultant wines is excellent.
The White Wines
We were greatly impressed with the wines we tasted in the 2008 vintage. The obvious similarity between the whites of 2008 and 2007 is clear to see. There is a more evident richness and substance to the 2008s, but this is offset by the same lively-natured acidity that had us enthusing about the 2007s. The characteristics of the individual vineyards and terroirs are also clear to read in this vintage. A cooler summer has delivered pristine fruit quality in the Chardonnay, but allied to ample richness.
The Red Wines
As for the reds, we needed to be selective in what we proposed for this offer, as there was some variation, largely brought about by harvest date. However, the best have the purity of fruit we associated with 2007 and perhaps 2001, allied to some of the softness and approachability of a vintage such as 2000.They are wines that will prove immensely appealing in their youth and yet will reward mid-term cellarage. They are pure, refined, vibrant styles with good substance, plumper than 2007 with perhaps more backbone than 2000.
This turnaround is quite astonishing and few of the wines reveal any sign of the vintage’s earlier tribulations. It was certainly a year for the vigneron, with work required in the vineyard throughout the year, as well as more strict selection of the fruit at the winery during harvest. However, for those that were able to work through the trials of the vintage, the hard work has been more than worth the effort. We are delighted to be able to list an impressive range of wines, which demonstrate classic Burgundian elegance, appealing ripeness and vibrant, yet balanced, acidity.