Posted by: jmbwineblog | January 19, 2012

2010 Burgundy: An Overview!

The last week has seen myself frequenting numerous different tastings of the new vintage of wines from Burgundy. Like last year I have tasted a huge number of samples. This vintage however, I have also been able to taste a wide number direct from barrel at the wineries. In fact, I visited four wineries where I have tasted wines from 2010. Two of which I have already mentioned in previous posts, namely Maison Ilan and Mark Haisma. This past week in London has seen the bulk of my sampling conducted, again with up to 1000 different samples passing my lips. One thing I will say right here and now, is that I really LOVE this vintage at present and think it to be up there with some of the best…

Only time will tell whether this remains to be the case, but I look forward to seeing whether my predictions come true or not.

First however, let me take you through some details with regards to why the vintage has turned out in the way it did. After that, I will explain why I like the wines and finally I will list some of my favourites from the vintage. I will due to the nature of my liking of 2010 be conducting some more in depth reviews of specific producers that I feel are important or need more attention, whether they be new or old in terms of people’s knowledge.

2010’s Weather in a Nutshell.

Post-Harvest Ploughing in Vosne-Romanee

To put the terms gently, this was in no way a good vintage weather-wise, and in fact when the wines were in Cuve (Tank) in late 2010 after the harvest, there wasn’t a lot of love being bandied around by the vignerons. Of course it is never doom and gloom, but after the near perfect weather for 2009, it must have seemed like it. The wines however, have trounced their weather conditions and the gods have transpired to give us some wonderful specimens. The question is, WHY?

The pre-vintage winter was no all intents and purposes a disaster. After a warm autumn post harvest in 2009, the weather became colder and wetter as one wishes to allow the vines to create sap to protect the wood, and go to sleep until the spring. However, on the night of the 22nd of December, temperatures suddenly dropped to -21degrees celcius and large scale frosts damaged buds and even killed vines that had not created enough sap to protect themselves. The worst hit areas were Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanee, but not quite as severely Nuits-Saint-Georges. Those vines that did survive were less plentiful and they won’t have recovered until now. They are considered to have been the worst frosts since 1985 or 1962. 5% of vines have had to be replanted and roughly 650,000 cases worth of wine were lost to this weather. The weather was cool right up until the end of June, with May being wet as well, flowering was late and due to frost damage uneven. This led to coulure (green shot-berries amongst the good berries) and millerandage (uneven bunch sizes, and smaller average berry sizes).

Due to the cool wet weather, there was a lot of disease pressure throughout the growing season, and with the typical hailstorms which continued to destroy fruit locally adding to the challenges, there was a fair amount of rot on the vines. Those with excellent vineyard management, had a lot of hard-work on their hands. In September the cool North winds reappeared, and brought cool but bright sunny days. Other than a hailstorm that damaged Santenay and Chassagne-Montrachet further destroying bunches on the 12th September, harvest began under clear skies on the 21st September.

In conclusion, the grapes being small, and affected by coulure and millerandage, and with so few bunches in comparison to normal plentiful vintages, it seems that those who were able to prevent or cut out rot in their vineyards, didn’t require a large amount of sunlight for the grapes to ripen. When you add the coulure berries and the cool weather that preserves acidity, this leads to nicely balanced, fresh wines that maintain riper fruit charactars. Where as 2009 was warm, 2010 was cool. The wines are thus completely different in terms of style. 2009 was characterised by more black fruit and less acidity, the 2010s whilst with ripe flavours, are more red fruited and with more acidity. In other words, the low yields and difficulties have led to some superb wines being made. Some may argue that the vintage was saved; I would argue that the vintage is a product of itself, difficulties leading to hard-work, leading to success from those who are conscientious.

Why do I like them?

Enjoying at Maison Lou Dumont (tenchijin)

As you will probably have noticed if you read this blog, I like crisp, fresh, mineral or terroir driven wines from any region. I have an aversion to ripeness unless it is married with searing acidity, and whilst I can understand why some people are attracted to the flavours that oak provides a wine, these are not the wines that I enjoy, although I can get to grips with them in an academic sense of the word.

These 2010 Burgundies have these features in spades… they are fresh, elegant and minerally, whether they be white or red. In fact they are so mineral that one could describe them as transparent and terroir driven. What do I mean by this? Well, to put it bluntly, think of what you have come to expect of Meursault in comparison to Puligny-Montrachet! If you have a deeper knowledge of the climats, you could even think what do I expect of a Montrachet as oppose to a Puligny-Montrachet “Les Folatieres”. These wines do exactly what you expect them to do… in fact they are so transparent that if you were one of those rare people who can pick out the climats or vineyards blind, you would probably not find an easier vintage than 2010 in which to do it. Now I’m not saying that I fully understand terroir, or can tell you what the taste differences are between La Tache and Romanee-Conti because you can only see this by tasting them side by side, and other than perhaps mouth-feel, tasting notes would probably look identical. What I am saying is that if you want to get slightly closer to understanding whilst gaining pleasure, you can find that in 2010, and without drinking the wines blind, you could get a pretty good idea of the similarities and differences of different wines and producers and their climats in this vintage by tasting a number side by side. That is the essence of why I like these wines. They are not crowd-pleasers like the 2009s, but exciting, mineral, terroir-driven wines of the sort that I really love.

Who stood out from the crowd.

Looking into La Grande Rue (Francois Lamarche Monopole).

To be completely fair, it is hard at this stage to really garner much more than the terroir, producer style and the general qualities of the vintage as the wines will undoubtedly change between the time of writing and further evaluation of these wines in bottle at the end of the year and beyond. However, at this early stage, I can point out some producers and specific wines that have seemingly performed well so far and consistently across all the tastings to which I attended.

Francois Berthau has made some lovely classy Chambolle-Musigny at all levels, with the blended 1er Cru and the lieu-dits being particularly impressive. Henri Jouan has done similar wonders with his wines, with Morey-Saint-Denis arguably producing his finest in 1er Cru “Clos Sorbe” and Grand Cru, “Clos Saint Denis”. Across the board at cousins Confuron-Gindre and Confuron-Cotetidot have shown very well, pure, bright and deep. The 1er Cru Vosne-Romanees from top plots have been wonderful. Jean-Marie Fourrier has again excelled with a wonderful selection of wines, and in a similar vein it is hard to go further than Clos des Lambrays from Domaine des Lambrays. Domaine Rossignol-Trapet are again on fire across their range with the Clos Prieur being a particular value for money sweet spot. New name Domaine des Clos have produced exciting and enthralling wines that are superb value for money. Domaine de Montille have again excelled in all of their respective guises (Domaine de Puligny-Montrachet & deEX Montille included). Domaine de Courcel are elegant and pure, and Simon Bize is back on form after what was for me a variable 2009. Frederic Esmonin continues to provide superb value for money across the board as does the Clos de Vougeot from Domaine de la Vougerie. In a funky style, Bruno Clavelier has done well, and in a lighter style the wines of Hudelot-Noellat are enthralling with Les Suchots being a particular high point. Patrick JAvillier continues to excel across the board, and Domaine Roulot has made some sexy wines. Fontaine-Gagnard has done well again, and the Pillot (Paul & Jean-MArc) family have made exciting Chassagne. For Chablis, Billaud-Simon, much like Bize, have produced compelling wines after a lack-lustre 2009, with the Montee de Tonnerre being a particular high.

There are plenty of other wines that have excited and enthralled, and there are many that I was unable to taste that most certainly will as well. I have tasted a few Rousseau’s and they are super, but given their price it is hard to advocate buying them. However, over the next few posts, I will go into much greater depth with regards to specific producers and their wines (including a few older vintages to show how they may or may not progress). Starting with a brief look at the wines of Anne Gros that I tasted from barrel in her cellars in Vosne-Romanee in October 2011.

Until then…

Happy Drinking.

Les Hospices de Beaune...


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