Burgundy 2010: Day 2

Burgundy 2010

The story of the yields in Burgundy 2010

There were many explanations for the low yields in 2010 in Burgundy. If I had not seen the empty spaces for myself, the cynic in me may have thought this was a neat marketing trick to create demand.
Quantities in Burgundy are always generally small, but in 2010 the quantity is even smaller. Every wine we poured back in the barrel if any wine was left in the glass. When there is only one barrel to satisfy global demand, each drop is precious.

What had happened in 2010?

Each winemaker had a different story.

Etienne Grivot explained he had 40% less volume on each vine although the capacity was good. “The winter in 2009/10 was also very cold. 2010 wasn’t easy. The wines are not generous like 2009 but they are pure, sophisticated, precise and close to the natural style.”

Grapes don’t like things when they are easy. The more they struggle the better the quality of the fruit. This is why for 2010 wines the word “mineral” kept coming up in my notes.

2008 vs 2010

One of my favourite vineyards in Burgundy is “Les Suchots” in Vosne-Romanée. This is “only” a premier cru sandwiched between the Grand Crus of Richebourg and Romanée-St-Vivant and one step away from Echézeaux. I love it because of its ethereal perfume and it is not ALL about fruit but other flavours in the spectrum of taste. The fruit in a glass of “Les Suchots” builds up like a wave then disappears leaving a trace of perfume that then becomes an incredible wave in itself.

Tasting the 2008 Les Suchots at Grivot against the 2010 was a lesson in style. If you prefer 2008 then you will also like 2010. It has the same mineral signature with lots of energy but 2010 has more fruit concentration.

Marc Colin in St-Aubin also confirmed the story of the low yields but for different reasons. In the Beaune, he told us of the poor flowering in Spring which particularly affected the low-lying areas. Because the 2009 vintage was so large, the vine compensates with less the next year. The grapes showed “millerandange” – this is where the berries become small and tougher-skinned with little juice and lots of sugar. This explains the high concentration of fruit in 2010, but also the taste of minerals.

Marc Colin wines are always in small quantities. In 2010, his Grand Cru Montrachet produces 50 cases. Allocations of this wine are by the bottle rather than the case, but even a mouthful added some glitter to the grey, rainy Burgundy day.

Only kilometres away from Grivot, but another world away in style, we descended into the 250-year-old cellars of Tollot-Beaut in Chorey-les-Beaune. Because I am a fan of Barolo and double espresso, I love the big tannic wines of Aloxe-Corton. In contrast, the Corton-Bressandes is full of wild strawberry perfume, violets and fougere (ferns) and medicinal blueberry on the palate.

Even though Girardin in Meursault is a larger operation they also reported lower yields. Picking at a lower alcohol level, reducing the new oak to 15-20% and practicing organic viticulture, the style has become softer and fleshy.

In case I give the impression Girardin is huge, they produce only 5 barrels of their superb Batard-Montrachet. Considering this must satiate the world’s thirst for Grand Cru white Burgundy, it is eye-wateringly small.

We finished the afternoon with Barthod in Chambolle Musigny. The allocations here are so tiny that it is almost not worth mentioning it just in case you get a taste for it. Although I must mention it because it pierced my memory with a taste: I could actually taste the granite soil in Les Cras Chambolle Musigny. It was one of those incredible Burgundy experiences. Standing in the winery with winemaker and owner Ghislaine, I thought, this is it.  This is what it is all about.

Juel Mahoney
9th November 2010

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