Red Burgundy

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2021 – a small, frost-affected season, with a rather cool summer. The wines are light to medium-bodied, sapid and dry, with excellent freshness and delineation of flavor. An attractive, classical style of red Burgundy, rather rarely seen today. Sadly, due to tiny quantities, these wines will be hard to find. The lack of power will ensure attractive drinking when young, and they are unlikely to last beyond 20 years.

2020 – a gorgeous set of wines has emerged from the warm Covid summer; concentrated, ripe and with wonderful freshness and fine-boned structure. The sumptuous fruit makes them accessible now, but the best wines may shut down until they are over 10 or 12 years old, when they will re-emerge in full bloom. 2020 is certainly the best vintage since 2015, and possibly since 2010, in a contemporary style that may become typical of the region: lots of ripeness, but with excellent energy and detail.

2019 – 2019 is a kind of cross between the vintages on either side. It has much of the freshness of 2020, along with the very concentrated fruit of 2018. The best wines combine these facets very successfully; while some taste too sweet and alcoholic for pleasurable drinking. In that sense it is very much a winemaker's vintage: for best results, stick with the top domaines.

2018 – a hot summer has yielded very ripe, concentrated and at times rather heavy wines. The juicy fruit, especially lower down the quality pyramid, is pure pleasure, but can obscure terroir differences. At higher levels, the wines can be attractively loose-knit and aromatic already, but can tire the palate after a while through a lack of freshness. Cooler terroirs, such as parts of Gevrey-Chambertin, may have fared best. But overall, I suspect early acclaim of this vintage as a great was misplaced.

2017 – 2017 is a charming vintage of mid-weight, supple wines; fresh, pure and elegant. The moderate summer did not yield great structure or huge concentration in the wines, meaning the Premiers Crus can be broached at the ten year mark, and the Grands Crus not far behind. In this climate, it seems unlikely we will see many more of these almost archetypal Burgundian vintages; 2017 is a lovely example.

2016 – the frost ensured that the quantities available of this vintage were small; the warmth of the summer then concentrated the reduced number of berries to yield very concentrated, sweet tasting wines. In their youth these wines were atypically sweet and candied, but they will become more harmonious with age. Nonetheless, this small vintage is unlikely ever to be considered a Burgundian great.

2015 – hailed at the time as an important, potentially historic year, the wines have generally lived up to their reputation albeit many of them are quite tightly shut down and inexpressive at the time of writing. A warm summer ensured plenty of ripeness and concentration in the wines, but the magic of 2015 is the luminous acidity which delineates the flavors so well, and the terroir expression in spite of the ripeness (ripe fruit can sometimes occlude terroir). The higher levels 2015s will be wonderful, but need time; the Premiers Crus ideally 15 years after the vintage, and the Grands Crus a further five years.

2014 – recent tastings of 2014s have been somewhat underwhelming (as in 2014 red Bordeaux, earlier tastings were more hopeful); comprising mid-weight, red-fruited wines which are attractive and easy drinking, but lack great complexity and concentration. Mugnier and Roumier, however, made excellent wines.

2013 – a cool growing season ensured light to medium bodied wines, with prominent acidity, which can deter neophytes. But for committed Burgundy lovers, the slightly eccentric 2013s can be a joy. The pleasure lies in their intense, high-toned aromas and their purity of terroir expression. Yes, they lack the fruit of warmer years, but for Burgundy diehards, the style of the 2013s is an intellectual delight. The wines are particularly open today, but lack the concentration to improve beyond 20 years.

2012 – a rich, concentrated year, with ample fruit, body and tannin, yet without any suggestion of over-ripeness. All this implies a very good, potentially excellent vintage; the jury remains out, however, because of how closed these wines have been in recent years, making reliable judgements unsafe. Nonetheless, all the substance is present and correct. Wait at least 15 years after the vintage for the Premiers Crus, and longer for anything grander. The analogue here may be with 1999, a similarly concentrated, slow-maturing year.

2011 – a difficult year in the vineyard, which manifests in the finished wines, notorious for their green notes, high acidity and dry tannins. Perhaps time will cure some of those ills, but vintages like 2004 argue against it. One for purists only.

2010 – to my mind probably the best year since 1985 if you value purity, precision, finesse and terroir expression in red Burgundy. The wines have an effortless sophistication, an irresistible marriage of complexity and beauty, and all with more than enough concentration and structure to age for decades to come, although anything below grand cru level is already drinking disarmingly well. With more time, the wines will only improve further.

2009 – in 2023, anything below grand cru level is already delicious; the effects of the warm summer rendering the fruit generous, the acidity and the tannins mellow and the style plush. As in the Bordeaux 2009s, the style is hedonistic and not traditionally profiled red Burgundy, but the effects are pure pleasure. Purists may object that some terroir notes are obscured by the abundant fruit, but on the other hand, the relatively rapid aging of this vintage means the tertiary notes are already satisfyingly present.

2008 – the 2008s were a little hard and angular in their first decade, but they are coming into their own beautifully now, with sufficient fruit, and the acidity granting great precision and purity to the flavors. The result is archetypal fresh, balanced red Burgundy, expressive and pure. The Premiers Crus are only just hitting their stride, suggesting this vintage has many years ahead of it.

2007 – a light, very Burgundian vintage of airy fruit, freshness and perfume, to be drunk (with great pleasure!) today. The wines are very pretty but lack the depth for much longer aging.

2006 – like Bordeaux 2006, rather firm and dry, even today; further aging should improve these wines, since they are well structured with adequate fruit concentration. 2006 is hard to love, however.

2005 – 2005 is a glorious vintage of juicy fruit, powerful but ripe tannins, excellent freshness and terroir expression. Similarly to Bordeaux 2005s, the only question concerns their glacial aging.  Premiers Crus approaching 20 years old are still tight and often inexpressive. Forget about the Grands Crus for another 10 years, at least. There is almost unlimited potential in this vintage, but for the most part, it remains just that: potential.

2004 – 2004 is the infamous ladybird vintage, in which the bugs proliferated and tainted the musts during fermentation. The wines as a result usually have a conspicuous green streak. Best avoided.

2003 – the heatwave vintage was too much for the grapes and the winemakers; stewed, pruny, heavy wines that aged fast were the results. Any remaining 2003s will not improve.

2002 – 2002 is a gorgeous vintage and an outstanding expression of classically-profiled Burgundy. The 2002s are mid-weight, with fine, supple tannins, particularly elegant fruit and perfumed finishes. The vintage has long been admired, not least because the wines have been so drinkable for the past 5-10 years. The best wines will continue improving at least until their 25th birthday, but there is no shame in opening any 2002 today.

2001 – a mid-weight, fresh vintage, 2001 among the best producers is still going strong today, producing beautifully perfumed, elegant, high toned styles: quintessential Burgundy. Less successful wines (or bottles) can be rather earthy, dry and underwhelming. Worth trying at all levels, although the Grands Crus from the best producers will hold for another decade.

2000 – this vintage can be a joyful surprise among the very top producers, where the loose-knit style of the wines results in flashy, perfumed expressions, full of spice and personality. The wines of lesser producers are unlikely to have the concentration to age much longer and should be drunk now.

1999 – a celebrated Burgundy vintage, renowned for its brooding concentration and slow maturation. There is no doubt about the raw material; these are wines of vibrant fruit, powerful structure and terroir expression. Approaching 25 years old, the Grands Crus are finally beginning to open, although they would still benefit from a further five years.

1996 – a notoriously high acid vintage, which held back some wines from greatness for decades. However, as so often in Burgundy, time is the cure; in 2023, the 1996 grands crus are among the most consistently exciting wines to drink today. They remain very fresh, with more than sufficient levels of fruit, glorious perfume and transparency to their origins. At their finest, the 1996s are everything we hope for from the region.

1993 – 1993 is an earthy vintage, with its feet much more squarely in the ground rather than its head in the air (that's 1996). It is no wonder that this style of vintage suited the northern Côte de Nuits, Gevrey in particular.  The wines were rugged and powerful for a long time; in recent years, they have become expressive and accessible, with attractive tertiary notes. The rewards of patience!

Earlier notable vintages: 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1978