A LEGEND IN THE MAKING
I have been going to Burgundy to taste the new vintage from barrel before bottling since 1981. During this period I have missed only one year and my friend Geoffrey Troy has accompanied me on each trip. Others have also joined us from time to time most notably John Brincko who was also with us for part of the trip this year. In all these years I can unequivocally say that 2018 is without question the greatest vintage for Red Burgundy that I have ever tasted from barrel. The wines have dark colors, great perfume, concentration, flavor and balance. Early on Aubert de Villaine, in his 2018 Harvest Report from October 18, 2018, compared the 2018 vintage to 1947. I remember the 1947 vintage very well and still have a few bottles in my cellar. When I first started drinking old Burgundies in the 1970s my favorite vintages were 1945, 1947, and 1949 along with an occasional 1929. The 1947s were rich, full, and rounded. It was a very hot vintage and some wines had a bit of over ripeness but there were a lot of wines that had very pure rich fruit. And, it is the latter that is also present in nearly all the 2018s we tasted. For the growers the timing of the harvest was something that caused a great deal of concern. It was, after all, an unusually hot year and to retain the freshness in the grapes at harvest was something that was foremost in the grower’s minds. Based on the great majority of the wines we tasted, albeit from some of the very best producers, they nailed it. But, despite this fact, and the resulting quality of the wines, there were still some who lamented the warmer weather in Burgundy and the change in the style of the wines. My thought is that this is a high class problem. Considering the historic weather conditions in Burgundy that sometimes resulted in under ripe grapes and grapes that had rot and/or mold which produced flawed wines, the grapes harvested at the right time in 2018 offered the opportunity to make very pure, concentrated, and delicious wines. And, as for the vines themselves, Aubert de Villaine told us that the vines are adapting very well to the warmer climate and the replantings will be made with those clones that are adapting the best. So, for me, it looks like the future of Burgundy is very bright.
Interestingly, when we tasted at Bouchard Père et Fils (established in 1731 with a vast cellar of old wines and extensive vineyard holdings throughout Burgundy) winemaker Frédérick Weber I mentioned the 1947 vintage and asked for his thoughts on the comparison of 1947 and 2018. His reply says it all. He started by saying that periodically Bouchard examines the extensive collection of bottled wines in their cellar (150,00 bottles plus 2,000 bottles from the last century). They re-cork the bottles that need it and at the same time take the opportunity to make and record a chemical analysis of each wine they re-cork. Frédérick continued by saying that recently they had re-corked some bottles of 1947 Beaune Grèves l’Enfant Jèsus (this is a centuries old premier cru vineyard that consistently produces a very long lived wine that is one of the very best wines from the Côte de Beaune) and that the chemical analysis of the wine was identical to that of the 2018!
The 2018 vintage was characterized by a very hot growing season especially in the summer and early fall. Also Burgundy received 55% less rain in 2018 than the average rainfall. This resulted in wines with high sugar levels and higher alcohol with wines in the 14 -16% range of alcohol. In fact, 2018 was the hottest year since 2003, but the wines have much purer fruit and better balance than the 2003s with a bright underlying crispness. Again, it was an unusual set of circumstances that produced the great 2018 Red Burgundies. They truly stand in a class of their own being stylistically different from the 1978 and 1990 vintages which, for me, are the best of the more recent Burgundy vintages.
This year we visited 15 different Red Burgundy producers most of whom we have visited every year since our first visit in 1981. Most are located in the Côtes de Nuits but we also tasted many wines from the Côte de Beaune at Bouchard, Remoissinet Père et Fils, and Laurent Ponsot. Of the 15 different visits to Red Burgundy producers only one producer was located in the Côte de Beaune and the wines there were sub-par for the vintage and not included in this article.
Listed below is a list of the producers we visited who made an incredible number of truly EXTRAORDINARY 2018 Red Burgundies:
- Domaine Armand Rousseau
- Bouchard Père et Fils
- Domaine Compte Georges de Vogue
- Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
- Domaine Ponsot
- Domaine Dujac
- Domaine Jacques-Frèdèrick Mugnier
- Domaine Georges Roumier
- Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat
- Domaine Jean–Marie Fourrier
- Laurent Ponsot
- Domaine Méo-Camuzet
- Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg
- Remoissenet Père et Fils
Notes on these wines as well as notes on 2018 White Burgundies tasted at Domaine Leflaive, Pierre Yves Colin, Paul Pillot, Laurent Ponsot, Bouchard Père et Fils, Dujac, Frederick Mugnier, and Remoissenet will appear in part 2 of this article which will be posted soon. Briefly what I can say about the 2018 White Burgundies is that I think they resemble a cross between 2015 and 2005. They are lovely wines but are in the shadow of the 2018 Red Burgundies. As an aside, I think the opposite is true in 2017 where the 2017 Red Burgundies are lovely wines but are in the shadow of the 2017 White Burgundies. For me, the 2017 White Burgundy vintage is one of the greatest White Burgundy vintages of recent years and may very well turn out to be the very best. And, while the 2017 White Burgundies are delicious now, they will evolve and keep over a very long time into the future.