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Burgundy Vintages

Vintages shape Burgundy. There is no question about it.

Vintages not only impact personality and quality of the wines, but will determine how much wine can be made.

Low-yielding years are tough, especially when it’s a good quality vintage with high demand.

Higher yields are always appreciated but can never be planned on, and may happen with low quality or higher quality.

The western wine journalists tend to focus a spotlight on warmer and riper vintages, awarding them higher ratings and more coverage in the press. But travel to Burgundy and talk to the winemakers and you hear a different story: one of embracing the variations of vintages including the so-called ‘bad’ vintages of cooler weather, which often makes stunning wines with higher acidity.

It’s important to take vintage reviews with a grain of salt. I think it’s incredibly important to first find producers you like, then buy the same wines from them every year while at the same time studying the details of that particular vintage. It takes time, but it’s the only way to learn what you really like and don’t like.

Also, keep in mind that most Burgundy vintage reviews are focused on the Côte d’Or, not on the Côte Chalonnaise, Mâcon, or even Chablis. As you learned in our Chablis lesson, frost can be a real problem there. In the Côte d’Or it’s more about hail and rain as the main issue.

At the end of my list are more links to more vintage reviews.

2019: Yields are down from 2018. Hot year with good structure and concentration. Time will tell how they end up showing, but for now things look good especially for the reds from the fuller-bodied traditional zones (Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-St.-Georges).

2018: Above average yields and above average quality. Really an awesome year overall, especially for the reds. Big heat waves in August drove ripeness to high levels, so the more delicate whites may have been impacted. I will be seeking out lots of 2018s in the future!

2017: Way above average yields … a blessing from the wine gods after years of low numbers! Great quality for whites, with firm acids and really fun fresh styles. The reds are above average as well, with a beautiful quality to them. A vintage to seek out for earlier drinking and enjoyment.

2016: Tiny yields across the board, with bad weather hampering the production of many wineries (hail hit hard in the spring). A ‘classic’ vintage in the cool-weather sense, with wines that are straightforward and crisp (both whites and reds), making for some good age-worthiness. Those that waited until later in September to harvest were rewarded with warm weather and more ripeness. Shop carefully, sticking with producers you know.

2015: A standout vintage! Rich and textured, with loads of personality and style (especially for the reds). These are the kind of wines that captivate and enthrall, with stunning wines at the village level and above. Top level wines of 2015 shouldn’t be touched until at least 2026 or later.

2014: Horrible storms and hail during the early growing season, plus a difficult August, made for wines of variable quality. Top producers lowered production and made very decent wines. Buy and drink, for the most part (and of course there are always exceptions).

Earlier standout vintages:

2010: A stunning vintage, especially for whites that show incredibly pure acidity and balance.

2009: A stunning vintage, especially for red which show opulence, roundness, and richness.

2005, 2002, 1999, 1990: All way above average.

OTHER VINTAGE REVIEW SOURCES

Jancis Robinson: Burgundy whites, Burgundy reds

Wine Spectator: Cote de Nuits Reds, Cote de Beaune Reds, Burgundy Whites

Berry Bros. and Rudd: 2019 Burgundy Vintage Report (long format, very well done)

Wine Scholar Guild (good details here): Burgundy Vintages