by Wine Owners
Posted on 2021-11-22
For a couple of days at least the world felt normal again as the English wine trade returned en masse to Burgundy for the first time in two years. How wonderful it was to be back was the most prevalent sentiment and ‘ooh, aren’t the wines good’ the most repeated phrase. The Burgundians are a little more patient than their counterparts from Bordeaux and wait for a little over a year, as opposed to a few months, after harvest to show their wines to the world, making en primeur tastings that much more informative, and pleasant, so here’s a quick review of Burgundy 2020.
2020 was another very warm and dry year but the range in temperatures between night and day and the ongoing improvement and knowledge of how to handle the heat meant the vintage is a good one, a very good one. The whole winemaking process is more scientific and exacting than ever before and the attention to detail demonstrated by some winemakers is incredible. Whether it is more work in the vineyard, including the lighting of candles in the vineyards at four o’clock in the morning to stave off potential frost (or not as it turned out for Cyprien Arlaud of the eponymous domain in spring this year), harvesting earlier, new technology and/or machinery including a million-euro bottle washer machine (at Domaine Lorenzon in Mercurey), or organic or even bio dynamic farming these guys are giving themselves every chance of making great wine whatever mother nature throws their way. It was noticeable that bio dynamic farmers reported less loss of crop due to frost than others as their plants are healthier – at least that is what they say! Another technique favoured by some to avoid frost damage is to prune closer to springtime whereas traditionally pruning of the vines took place in November. This means they can control budding more closely and not leave the new buds exposed for longer. This has helped some growers enormously.
The devastating frosts of earlier this year (2021), particularly for Chardonnay, will be discussed repeatedly during the impending 2020 campaign in January, as growers will be factoring their lack of supply for next year into prices for this. Apart from the odd pause for breath Burgundy prices have been on the rise significantly for well over a decade now and there is no reason to suggest this will cease anytime soon.
There is just something very special about Burgundy; it appears there are just more aficionados plugged into this region than any other. Perhaps it is because it offers so many world class wines in both red and white, from two of the world’s favourite grape varieties, that no other region can compete with it in quite the same way. Release prices are going up and wines in the secondary market will continue to rise. Demand for all top end Burgundy is insane but the supply shortages of white coming up are going to impact prices heavily.
In brief, the whites from 2020 were picked early and characterised by mineral driven intensity and focus, not quite as fleshy as ‘17s, but fresh and zippy and generous too. Red berries were smaller than usual, with thick skins producing wines of good concentration and structure, bursting with fruit flavour and with early picking acidity was maintained.
Producers visited: Domaine Sauzet, Domaine Lorenzon, Domaine Chavy-Chouet, Domaine Ballot-Millot, Domaine Launay-Horiot, Domaine Duroché, Domaine Henri Magnien, Domaine Georges Noellat, Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair, Domaine Arlaud Pere et Fils, Domaine Marchand Tawse
For me the standouts were Sauzet, Duroché and Arlaud.
Bottle of the trip: Chambolle Musigny, Domaine G. Roumier 2017
Take aways from the trip: The quality of Thibault Ligier-Belair’s Morgon and how few people in the wine trade have ever been to Beaujolais!
The epic combination of Epoisses and red Burgundy (apparently, it’s ‘a thing’ but we didn’t know).
Many thanks to Flint Wines for organising the itinerary and to Cuchet and Co. for driving. Nice to see Albany Vintners, Brunswick, Decorum Vintners, FMV, IG Wines and Uncorked.