2018 Burgundy En Primeur
'New wine, in new bottles'. Tasting 2018 Grand Cru Cote de Nuits reds in Beaune last month.
First Impressions Of The 2018 Vintage
We visited Burgundy at the end of September for our first tasting of the 2018 vintage in barrel. 2018 has the potential to be ranked with the all-time great vintages. The hottest year since 2003, it was also very dry, with just 55% of average annual rainfall. 'Warm vintages harvested early' are nothing new in the last two decades in Burgundy, but this one had several distinct features which will make for great wines. The flowering was early, and although the harvest began in August (even for some reds), the growing season was of normal length, allowing plenty of time for both physiological and phenolic (i.e. sugar and flavour) ripeness to develop. This early flowering could also have led to an overly-abundant crop, in turn reducing final concentration levels. Fortunately, rains after the flowering damaged some of the infant bunches, reducing the size of the harvest from potentially excessive to normal levels.
The health of the crop was exceptionally good, with fewer issues with mildew or botrytis than in recent vintages. One of the few issues was uneven ripening, with some berries becoming ripe whilst others were still green. At Domaine Ferret in Pouilly-Fuissé, winemaker Audrey Braccini told us how she had some difficult discussions with her vineyard teams, who were eager to harvest early (to retain freshness). She had to stand firm and persuade them to delay, in the interests of even-ripeness levels across the harvest.
In the winery, some growers have stopped the malolactic fermentation, in order to retain acidity. This might be concerning in any other year but based on our initial tastings, the ripeness levels are such that the absence of the malo is beautifully counter-pointed.
As good as the super-abundant white wine harvest is, it is the red wines which will prove to be the greatest wines of 2018. Ripeness levels were superb, but the wines have plenty of freshness and the tannic structure is amazing. We found even the higher classified reds easy to taste, so ripe were the tannins. Writing in Decanter in October 2018, Tim Atkin MW commented: "...overall, it is concentration, colour and marked levels of alcohol that will almost certainly define the style of the 2018s, especially the reds." We are looking forward to our next visit in November, to taste more extensively.
Domaines we hope to offer (subject to allocations) include:
Maison Louis Jadot
Bouchard Pere et Fils
Proving that 'big' does not always mean 'bad', Jadot, Faiveley and Bouchard are the positive faces of the larger Négociants-Éleveurs producers in Burgundy. We have a great deal of respect for their wines. Jadot, in particular, make wines which reflect their terroirs perfectly and tasting their wines is like a sensory tour of the Cote d'Or, with the character of each vineyard finely delineated. Winemaking, under Frederic Barnier, is extremely judicious and Jadot's style should suit the 2018 vintage very well, moderating any chance of excess. The same is true for Faiveley, where the restrained (of old, almost austere) style of the wines should gain some additional flesh in 2018.
Côte de Nuits
Domaine Drouhin-Laroze, Gevrey-Chambertin
Surely one of the most over-looked domaines, with more than half of their holdings rated Grand Cru. Thanks to reviews from Neal Martin in recent years, they are becoming better known.
Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Gevrey-Chambertin
Earnest pioneers of biodynamics, brothers Nicolas and David make exceptionally elegant, understated wines with deceptive concentration and power.
Domaine Tortochot, Gevrey-Chambertin
A family domaine established in the 19th century and still run by Chantal Tortochot. The wines here are very classical with polished tannins.
Domaine Hudelot-Baillet, Chambolle-Musigny
Dominique Leguen took over the winemaking at this domaine from his father-in-law, Joel Hudelot-Baillet in 2004. The oak regime is generally 50:50 old to new and the wines are full of dark, voluptuous black fruits with the silky, creamy texture associated with Chambolle.
Côte de Beaune
Domaine Bonneau du Martray, Pernand-Vergelesses
Famously producing only Grands Crus from Corton and Corton-Charlemagne, Bonneau du Martray was also a pioneer in biodynamics. Bought in 2017 by the owner of (amongst other things) Arsenal Football Club.
Domaine Voillot, Volnay
A small, bright gem in Volnay, with holdings in neighbouring Pommard too. Jean-Pierre Charlot is a winemaking mentor to many domaine owners in Burgundy, having taught at the Lycée Viticole in Beaune for many years. The wines are elegant and pure, almost - but not quite - to a fault.
Domaine Jean Pascal, Puligny-Montrachet
Described by one Burgundy expert as a 'peasant' domaine...meant politely and as a compliment ('paysanne'). The Pascals make superb, concentrated Puligny wines which are great value.
Domaine Alain Chavy, Puligny-Montrachet
A small 6.5 hectare domaine with excellent holdings in Chevalier-Montrachet and the Folatieres, Champs Gains and Clavoillons climats.
Domaine Guy-Amiot, Chassagne-Montrachet
We will be visiting Guy Amiot for the first time this year, but the wines we have tasted in the UK are excellent.
Domaine Michelot, Meursault
With around 19 hectares spread across Mersault, Nicholas Mestre's family domaine produces wines with great fruit purity and very little oak influence.
Domaine Borgeot, Remigny
The Borgeot brothers have built their small domaine parcel by parcel, and it now includes excellent holdings in Santenay and Chassagne.
Domaine J-A Ferret, Fuissé
Domaine Ferret is an established name in Fuissé but is also at the forefront of efforts to establish a classification system for the varied terroirs in the Pouilly-Fuisse appellation. After meeting winemaker Audrey Braccini, we have a sense that Pouilly-Fuissé is entering a period of renaissance.