I first went to Burgundy to taste from barrel in the 1980s. This year marked over 30 years of tasting wines from barrel in Burgundy. During this period I have missed only a few years. I founded The Underground Wineletter in 1979 and soon after we were tasting wine from barrel in California, Bordeaux, and Burgundy. In the early days there was a group of us who were involved with The Underground Wineletter that traveled to Burgundy. Geoffrey Troy was one of those people and he has been with me on every Burgundy trip. And, in recent years, John Brincko has sometimes joined us. This year it was Geoffrey and me.
This year our purpose was to taste the 2017 vintage out of barrel. What we had heard was that for the red wines it was a “light vintage” with a large crop. But after our first few tastings this clearly was not the case. And, after 5 days of tasting at 17 top domaines, I can say that 2017 is not a “light” vintage. It is, in fact, a vintage with beautiful harmonious very pure fruit. Some producers compare it with 2007 and perhaps a bit like 2014. But in terms of how the wine tastes I think it is more like 2000 with more lush and supple fruit. I have always liked the 2000s. The wines were harmonious and easy to drink from the very beginning and they have aged beautifully and are delicious to drink now at nearly 20 years of age. I think 2017 is even better. And, no, it is not a vintage like 2015, 2009, or 2005 which are three of my favorite recent vintages tasted from barrel. These vintages have more richness. But, 2017 is a vintage with very forward and very pure fruit unlike any recent vintage that I have tasted. I believe that will make it a vintage that will be loved by those, like me, who value elegance and finesse, as well as flavor, in Burgundy.
As for 2017 whites, I think it is a beautiful vintage as well. Not as concentrated as the 2016s, but with lots of flavor and great balance. I am really looking forward to the 2017 White Burgundies when they start to arrive next year.
Over the next several weeks I will be preparing my report on the 2017s. But, let me say at the outset, that all the attention and buzz is already focused on the 2018s. 2018 is reported to be a more intense vintage with wines that are full flavored and concentrated. In fact, Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée Conti describes 2018 as having “the fruit of 2015 and the extreme ripeness of 2003”. He goes on to say “This might offer us a new 1947…” Like 1947, 2018 was a very hot vintage. I remember very well the 1947s. Beginning in the 1970s my friends and I bought a lot of old Burgundy from Christies in London. The great vintages of the 20s and 30s were scarce by that time, although we were able to find quite a few. But, we were able to buy, drink, and cellar many 45s, 47s, and 49s. The vintages were, of course different, but the very hot vintage of 1947 produced some wonderful wines that can still be great today. So having said that, I know there will be those that will say 2018 was too hot to have produced great wines that will age. But, I think otherwise. And, next year, I will be in Burgundy to taste the 2018s. For now concentrate on the 2017s as they start to arrive next year. I believe that they will give great immediate pleasure and age for many years into the future as well.
In Vino Veritas,