Jason Haynes' 2014 Burgundy Report

Published: 25-11-2015

“Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring” – Indian Summer arrives just in time and delivers a corker of a vintage.

One of this year’s greatest achievements has been to spend several weeks in Burgundy over the autumn and not gain any kilos.  Despite making serious inroads to some of Beaune’s best wine lists (Ma Cuisine, Boulevard 21, Maison Colombier) and not always adhering to my masterplan of looking the other way when the cheese trolley came round, the belt has not needed loosening since my return!

Maybe it was some kind of unique osmotic process whereby the fantastic dynamism of all the 2014s I tasted energised my metabolism and offset the platefuls of veal and beef placed before me. Certainly this was a vintage that did not exhaust and even after some days that featured 7 or 8 tastings the final few wines were still a pleasure to taste. At no point, did tastings become relentless and tiring such was the vitality and precision of the majority of the wines, both red and white. These were Kylie Minogue’s pleasurable 2014s to Radiohead’s challenging 2008s.  Accessible, easy to like, sparky, full of energy and quite delicious.                                                                                        

 

Splitting the vintage into colours and beginning with the whites, 2014 is clearly a vintage right up there with the best. Some commentators are claiming it’s the best white vintage for 25 years. It may well be. Certainly it ranks at least as good as 2000/2002/2007 and 2010. Should it surpass those then it will be the best for 2 to 3 decades. And it could well do. The wines have great vitality, intensity, definition and matter. Imagine mixing up the mineral 2007s and the powerful 2010s and you probably have something close to what we have here.

The red perhaps posed greater challenges to the winemakers, but the top guys have made fantastic wines that will appeal to both fruit lovers and purists alike. Those wines that finished their malos in late spring or early summer are already looking delightful, bursting with bright, cool but succulent fruit flavours all wrapped up in fresh, svelte tannins. Those where the malo has been more hesitant in its evolution are more angular but will no doubt follow the same path as their stablemates and become just as juicy and delicious over the next couple of months. 

 

A key element to the success of the vintage was the arrival in Europe of the tail-end of Hurricane Cristobal, which had ravaged Puerto Rico and various other islands and the East Coast of the States a few weeks earlier. The season had started well, as it so often seems to these days, with a warm, pleasant spring which initially suggested a potentially early harvest at the end of August. The weather in June was good but then on the 28th a severe hail storm once again killed off the vintage for much of the Côte de Beaune. Pommard and Beaune were very badly affected (de Courcel lost 90% of its Pommard) as were parts of Meursault (Tessier lost 70% of some of its Crus). The Côte de Nuits was much less badly affected and the vines were able to compensate for much of what they lost as the summer progressed.

As July arrived so the weather became more mixed, with warm days intermingled with cold wet days. August was worse with more cold days than warm ones, with temperatures rarely above 20 degrees. Growers were beginning to feel a little concerned. But then along came Cristobal across the Atlantic heading north and sucking with it all the warm air from the south, dumping an idyllic Indian Summer upon Burgundy. One could not have asked for a more perfect period of weather in the lead up to harvest. It was warm, dry, with good light and temperatures often between 20 and 25. Grapes ripened yet retained freshness. The only worry was the Suzuki flies that arrived in certain vineyards but vigilant vignerons dropped any affected fruit and the potential problem never became an issue.

Sun and light in September ripens grapes more gradually than it does in August and although the delayed summer may have tested the nerves of a few vignerons, the gentler maturation had a very positive effect on the wines. It contributed to the brightness and transparency of the reds and the depth and vitality of the whites.  

Those of you who will taste the primeur wines in London in January will undoubtedly be seduced by these 2014s. The sheer pleasure the reds provide is a treat. More austere appellations such as Gevrey, Nuits and Savigny have flourished, the elegant tannins and fine fruit flavours adding real finesse and purity to their sense of place. The wines should age well, such is their balance and vibrancy. The whites are almost perfect. They have the same transparency and succulence of the reds but with a drive and purpose that lifts them to potential legendary status.

Early signs are that pricing will be fair with few increases, despite the obvious quality of the vintage. Quantities will be varied from appellation to appellation and from domaine to domaine, but overall there is a little more wine than there was in 2013 but we are still such a long way from the volumes we enjoyed in a vintage like 2009. There will be real pressure on many wines and allocations will be even more difficult than usual to dish out.  This is a very exciting vintage that has won over tasters and critics alike through its very real quality. The hype over the 2015s seems, at this stage, much more virtual, being more about the weather than the wines, as no-one has even tasted them! Don’t get distracted by what is to come in 2016. These 2014s merit your closest attention.


Come and taste these 2014s at One Whitehall on 12th January 2016

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