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 2018s 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, 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.
A small 7 hectare domaine, with excellent holdings in Chevalier-Montrachet and the Folatieres, Champs Gains and Clavoillons climats.
Owned by the same family for six generations, this 18 hectare domaine is based in Santenay and produces superb value reds.
In the past, Faiveley's style was 'firm', verging on austere. The reds, in particular, needed long ageing, to soften the tannins. Since Erwan Faiveley took over from his father in 2005 (becoming one of the youngest directors of a Burgundy domaine in the process) the style has softened and become more elegant. It is a style which in our opinion is complimented wonderfully by the 2018 vintage, with its generous, concentrated fruit.
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.
Dominique Leguen took over the winemaking at this domaine from his father-in-law, Joel Hudelot-Baillet, in 2004. Described as a 'rising star' of the village, his wines are full of dark, voluptuous black fruits with the silky, creamy texture associated with Chambolle.
Having offered Burgundy en primeur from Domaine Louis Jadot for many years, we took the opportunity of visiting them last month. The ostensible reason was to taste the excellent 2018 vintage, but this was also an opportunity to become better acquainted with the team there and to learn more about one of the most important producers in Burgundy....(read more)
An up-and-coming 9 hectare estate in Mercurey, comprised principally of premier crus.
With around 19 hectares spread across Mersault, Nicholas Mestre's family domaine produces wines with great fruit purity and very little oak influence.
Brothers Nicolas and David Rossignol make an exceptional range of Gevrey wines at this leading biodynamic domaine.
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. His nephew Etienne Chaix has recently taken over as winemaker. The wines are elegant and pure, almost - but not quite - to a fault.
A family domaine established in the 19th century and still run by Chantal Tortochot. The wines here are very classical with polished tannins.
Other domaines we intend to offer (subject to allocations) include:
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.
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 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 Borgeot, Remigny
The Borgeot brothers have built their small domaine parcel by parcel, and it now includes excellent holdings in Santenay and Chassagne.