Vintage year

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 38, Spring 2014

Page 55

Burgundy's 2012 grand crus are commanding high prices, says Jasper Morris. Older vintages on the other hand...

Burgundy lovers have been thrilled with the recent release of the 2012 vintage: a tiny crop, alas, but some beautiful wines, especially the sought-after reds of the Côte de Nuits. The only snag is the price. Not only has supply been impaired by short vintages in six of the last seven years, but demand from every market in the world has never been higher.

The grands crus from 2012, despite their fierce prices, have disappeared from the marketplace already, so it might make sense to see what else is available in the way of more mature vintages, very probably offering better value.

The greatest vintage in recent times is 2005. The sun shone consistently all through the summer without any awkward heat spikes to grill the grapes, which ripened beautifully, thick skins providing both an exceptional intensity of fruit and notable structure for long-term aging. But the market is aware: 2005 + top producer + grand cru will not be cheap. Chambertin 2005 from Armand Rousseau is now quoted around £2,000 per bottle.

Other contenders for inclusion in the top category are 1999, 2009 and 2010. The first two of these were easy vintages, large crops ripening without difficulty. Wines from 1999 have been delightful all the way through, never really closing down, though they are still some way short of full maturity. The 2009 vintage is a little different in style: the sun provided sumptuous fruit on the outside, but there are granitic tannins within. These wines may easily toughen up over the next few years before eventually emerging as long-term winners.

Village wines from Marsannay (Domaines Pataille, Audoin, Fournier) or Santenay (Muzard, Moreau) could be good options in the shorter term. 2010 was much harder work for the vignerons, yet the wines have turned into superb, compact classics. But bargains may be hard to find.

However, there is a lot to be said for looking at unfashionable years. Vintages tend to get their reputations according to the potential of their greatness when they reach maturity, but there is real value to be had in those simpler vintages which are lovely earlier on yet are not expected to deliver multi-layered maturity in old age. One such vintage that we thought should be drunk early in life was 2000, though the grands crus and other finer wines from the Côte de Nuits have held up very well; 2007 is the follow-on vintage in similar vein – often lovely now – and neither will be expensive. 2007 Mazis-Chambertin from Domaine Maume was perfection last month. Next in line in this style, though with a little more structure in evidence, will be 2011.

In fact 2011 should deliver an extra notch of quality, as should 2001, 2006 and 2008. These three are somewhat forgotten vintages, but 2001 in particular is drinking beautifully now – wines of good fruit and texture taking on the complexity of full maturity; 2008 is of a somewhat lean and nervous disposition, so avoid if you prefer a richer, softer style of wine – although it does offer an excellent purity of pinot fruit. Wines from Dujac and de Montille spring to mind as particular successes. Acidity is still present so 2008 will be better in a couple of years. The sleeper is 2006, much better in the Côte de Nuits than the Côte de Beaune, wines of good density and with a little tannin, ignored after the glories of 2005 but potentially very fine. Again, another year or two of aging will deliver the best results.

It is probably best to steer clear of 2003 – the year when most of Europe melted in June and again even more so in August – or 2004, a leaner, greener, less ripe year, unless you are already familiar with the wine in question.

One vintage is missing from this review, and it is a personal favorite: 2002 may never rival 2005 for absolute glory but the wines are beautifully balanced, delivering a classical style of middleweight Burgundy, full of perfumed fruit yet with a crisp finale. They are just getting where they should be. And, happily, excepting the very grandest names, prices of such older wines may very well be more affordable than the most recent vintages.

Jasper Morris MW is author of Inside Burgundy.

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