Some im­pec­ca­ble wines emerged de­spite Bur­gundy’s calami­tous 2013 sea­son.

De­spite the po­ten­tial for dis­as­ter in the calami­tous 2013 sea­son, the skill of Bur­gundy’s wine pro­duc­ers re­sulted in some truly im­pec­ca­ble wines, writes James Suck­ling

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

Some­times bur­gundy wine pro­duc­ers aren’t able to pre­dict what will hap­pen when Mother Na­ture doles out just about ev­ery calamity a wine­maker can imag­ine dur­ing a grape-grow­ing sea­son. That’s ex­actly what hap­pened in 2013.

I had heard about the prob­lems of near­bib­li­cal pro­por­tions dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son and harvest—dis­as­trous hail­storms, a lack of sun, heavy rain and ram­pant dis­ease. But wine­mak­ers in Bur­gundy’s Côte d’or turned out some sur­pris­ingly high-qual­ity wines. “It’s re­ally amaz­ing that a year like 2013 made such ex­cel­lent wines,” ad­mits Dim­itri Bazas, wine­maker and gen­eral man­ager of the small né­go­ciant Champy. “Decades ago, it would have been re­ally dif­fi­cult.”

The year pro­duced some truly ex­cel­lent whites with classy den­sity and acid ten­sion, while many reds showed good fruit, firm tan­nins and bright acid­ity. In the past, these would have be­come thin, green and un­ripe wines, but to­day it’s a dif­fer­ent story thanks to the know-how of the top names in Bur­gundy. Over the course of five days in June, I tasted a few hun­dred wines in Beaune (pri­mar­ily the 2011 to 2014 vin­tages) from top names in­clud­ing Louis Jadot, Louis La­tour, Joseph Drouhin, Bouchard Père et Fils, Do­maine Faive­ley and Olivier Le­flaive.

I wasn’t ex­pect­ing much, but the re­sults clearly showed in the glass. “Some­times you just can’t ex­plain why a vintage is ex­cel­lent— and 2013 is just that,” says Jean- Charles Thomas, the wine­maker of Louis La­tour. “That’s Bur­gundy. The wines have trans­parency and fi­nesse. They are a lit­tle like 2002 or 2010. The whites are re­ally won­der­ful and the reds have no as­trin­gency. To be hon­est, it’s as­ton­ish­ing that they’re not aus­tere and hard. In­stead, they show well al­ready and, in two or three years, they’ll be won­der­ful.”

I de­vel­oped a won­der­ful im­pres­sion of many of the 2013s, es­pe­cially the whites. I even tasted one po­ten­tially per­fect 2013 white—the Lu­cien Le Moine Mon­tra­chet Grand Cru. It’s a com­pelling wine, with in­cred­i­ble den­sity and elec­tri­fy­ing acid­ity that com­bines for ter­rific tex­ture and length. There were many oth­ers of note, in­clud­ing the 2013 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Premier Cru.

Also look for some of the vil­lage wines from Puligny-mon­tra­chet and Chas­sagne-Mon­tra­chet. In some cases, blends of wines from dif­fer­ent vine­yards were bet­ter than sin­gle-vine­yard wines. I was also im­pressed with some of Chas­sagne’s white premier crus, par­tic­u­larly Louis La­tour and Alex Gam­bal.

“We had very low yields—in some in­stances only seven hec­tolitres per hectare com­pared to the usual 20 or 25—with our top whites in 2013. But what we made was ex­cel­lent qual­ity,” says Véronique Drouhin-boss, head wine­maker of Joseph Drouhin. “The best whites re­mind me of the 2010 in style, with good ripeness and very in­tense acid­ity.”

The reds were a lit­tle in­con­sis­tent com­pared to the whites; some were too lean and lack­ing fruit. But I en­joyed many of them for their fresh­ness, clar­ity, and ex­pres­sion of the unique soils and mi­cro­cli­mates.

“Each wine is so dif­fer­ent,” says Rotem Brakin, co-owner of the small né­go­ciant Lu­cien Le Moine. “It’s hard to gen­er­alise in 2013—all you can say is that it’s a very Bur­gun­dian year.”

The 2011s and 2012s I tasted were bet­ter over­all than the 2013s, and the 2014s show prom­ise. Nev­er­the­less, I will al­ways re­mem­ber the 2013s be­cause of their ex­tra­or­di­nary re­sults in the face of un­de­ni­able hard­ships.

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