At the request of one of our best clients, I composed a brief and certainly very general summary of our view of recent vintages in Burgundy (from 1999 to 2010). You might find this commentary of some interest …
1999: a heralded vintage for both red and white wines; whether the wines will live up the exalted reputation is still open to question; experience has shown that the wines still show an elevated acidity and perhaps need more time to develop; surely an intriguing vintage
2000: from the best estates, an ideal vintage for drinking currently in both red and white; not considered one of the “great” vintages at its birth but, in my opinion, a vintage that shows Burgundy as its graceful best with excellent expression of terroir; elegant, silky, seductive.
2001: a difficult vintage to appreciate at the outset due to an excruciatingly high level of malic acid; now considered a very good vintage, most specifically for its clear expression of the multiple nuances of Burgundian terroir; perhaps better in red than in white.
2002: in my estimation an excellent vintage in both colors, pleasant to drink now but with ongoing potential to improve and age further; rather graceful and well-balanced wines more than wines of power.
2003: the infamous year of the “canicule” or “heat wave” when temperatures climbed consistently above 90 degrees during the day for about a 40-day period; this phenomenon scared everyone and the vintage has been studiously avoided from the outset; however, one factor that is rarely discussed, and was perhaps even more important to the vintage, is that the heat wave was accompanied by a drought which prevented the grapes from ripening (water being critical to the ongoing photosynthesis); harvest date was critical … those who panicked and harvested early (last two weeks of August) more often than not produced unbalanced wines … those who waited for the first days of September had better fortune since it rained at the very end of August and improved the conditions for ripening; all in all, a controversial vintage with some very pleasant surprises.
2004: in my opinion the least good vintage in Burgundy over the last decade; under-ripe grapes in general; particularly unpleasant in the hands of those who tried to compensate by seeking high extraction to make the wines more deeply colored and robust … the result: wines with an un pleasant bouquet (specifically the red wines) and moldy flavors; the best of the wines can be charming and have been rendered by those not ashamed to produce lovely, elegant wines in the true Burgundian tradition.
2005: an excellent vintage of power and concentration; still youthful and sometimes quiet but with outstanding potential
2006: an erratic vintage; the whites can be very powerful, almost weighty; the reds are much more diverse but one can generally say that the wines are not fully ripe; however, the best vignerons produced wines that are now developing excellent complexity and are beginning to drink well now.
2007: a vintage that I like more than the media did/does; reds are lovely, aromatic and supported by gentle tannins; the whites can be scintillating with those that retained good acidity being particularly expressive; both colors are starting to find their identity and the wines should be solid performers over the next several years
2008: for me a classic Burgundian vintage; somewhat lean but with exquisite purity; good balance, very expressive aromatically and on the palate; quite young right now; one should wait for the more important appellations to develop while drinking the basic village wines
2009: potentially a great vintage; excellent concentration but balanced as well … in both red and white; a vintage that will age well; perhaps better than 2005 overall; a shame to drink the important wines too early as there is much to gain from applying some patience
2010: another very strong vintage but with very small yields, sometimes 30% to 40% lower than 2009; these wines may prove to be even more appealing than 2009 although less for power than for the impeccable balance and purity they achieve.
These comments are my personal opinions on the vintages and one can never be fully accurate in generalizing about a vintage. There are many fine wines in vintages that are less than stellar and there are off-putting wines in the greatest of vintages. The key for me, as always, is to find growers that tend their vineyards well and harvest healthy grapes year-in/year-out and then don’t do anything in the cellar to distort the character of the vintage. The beauty of Burgundy is the ever-changing face of the wines that reflect the particular conditions of a year’s growing season. It has always been a pleasure for us to surprise our public with wines that are satisfying in vintages that were not treated with kind commentary at the moment of harvest. Sometimes, the less heralded vintages supply the best wines of Burgundy, at least to those of us I would refer to as “classicists”. Anyway, I hope this little commentary proves useful.