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Burgundy 2011 157

I just returned from Burgundy where I tasted 2010 wines from barrel as well as some 2009s and older wines from bottle. I was accompanied by my friends and contributing editors, Geoffrey Troy and John Brincko. Geoffrey has been with me on the trip since our first visit in 1981 along with my friend and contributing editor, Ed Lazarus. John has joined us several times over the years including most of the last 10 years.

Last year we tasted the 2009 wines from barrel. They were great. (Click here [1] to read article. And, if you are new to Burgundy, be sure to read the section entitled “Understanding Burgundy”.)  In a few weeks I expect to post my article featuring the 2010 Burgundies with additional notes on some 2009s as well as older wines. But, for now here’s a sneak preview of the 2010 Red Burgundies and a comparison with the 2009s.

Sneak Preview of 2010 Red Burgundies

look at the barrels

I expected the 2010 Red Burgundies to be quite good based on some brief comments from a few producers on our visit last year. But, I was not prepared for what I found. Very simply, the 2010 vintage is another great vintage for the best producers. However, it will likely prove to be more variable than the 2009 vintage and the wines are completely different. In fact, I cannot recall two such vintages back to back at such a high level, yet so different, in my 30 or so years of tasting Burgundies from barrel. And, I would also add that I don’t know of any vintage quite like the 2010.

At this point, based on the vintages I have tasted since the beginning, I think the 2009s can be compared to 1990. (Stay tuned for an upcoming Underground Wineletter Retrospective Review of Volume XIII Number 1 and 2 which contains information and notes on the 1990s tasted from barrel.) Going further back, perhaps 2009 is like 1959, although I certainly did not taste the 1959s from barrel! The 2010s, on the other hand, are completely different. Some have said that perhaps it is a combination of 2000 and 2001. Others have said that it is somewhat like 2001 or 2008. These 2010 comparisons may very well prove to be somewhat valid. But, for me, the 2010s, at this stage in their evolution, defy comparison. What I can say is, at the best producers, the wines have a purity and freshness in the fruit that is truly remarkable. The wines are bright and vibrant and brimming with fruit that has a zesty crispness. They have great charm and flavor with silky tannins. It can also be said that the 2010 vintage includes the combination of a warm vintage with ripe grapes and a cool vintage with freshness. It is this combination, along with low yields, which produced wines of remarkable purity, freshness, balance, flavor and vibrant acidity. It is for that reason that I call the 2010 vintage THE VINTAGE OF YIN AND YANG. And, always for me, it is this combination that gives me great pleasure.


Yin Yang

There will be many great 2010s. But, make no mistake, there are also many great 2009s.  However, again I repeat, the wines of 2009 and 2010 are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The 2009s are from a vintage where the growing season was warm and the grapes were harvested at full ripeness, or even in some cases, a bit overripe. In 2010 the growing season was cool, but there was a long growing season and warm weather late in the season. For those who waited to pick in mid to late September and into early October, this resulted in grapes that were perfectly ripe with good acidities. And, because of a condition early in the growing season that inhibited flowering, the crop was reduced and was generally down anywhere from 20-50% as compared with 2009. This resulted in 2010 wines that have concentration, purity, silky tannins, good acidity, and relatively low alcohols in a general range of 11½% to 13%. By comparison, the 2009s are rich and concentrated with lots of depth and structure. The alcohols are higher – probably in a range of 13-14% for most of the wines. Many can be enjoyed young, but it would be a real tragedy to drink the best wines too young. Years like 2009 come along every 10 years or so – think 1990, 1999, and 2009. The 2010s too can be enjoyed young for the gorgeous purity of the fruit. But, again the best wines should be cellared for at least 5-10 years and undoubtedly will keep for a very long time beyond.

trumpetsdrum roll

I can already hear the trumpets and drum roll.  Soon many will proclaim the 2010 Red Burgundies better than the 2009s. Others will take the opposite view. But, for me, this is simply nonsense. I believe that we are blessed with two great Red Burgundy vintages that are as different as young babies might be from the same parents. Both vintages have great promise. And, vintages like 2009 and 2010 are unique to Burgundy and exist no where else in the world. That is the magic, intrigue, and greatness of Burgundy. Deciding which wines or vintage you prefer is strictly a matter of personal taste. As I said, for me, both the 2009 and 2010 vintages are great and have produced many truly fabulous wines. Personally, I am hopeful of enjoying a lot of wines from both vintages in upcoming years. Viva la difference!

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson