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Burgundy 2018: An ideal vintage
The 2018 vintage was unanimously greeted with satisfaction from the north of Burgundy to the south. The exceptional weather, especially during the harvest period, made it possible to obtain grapes in perfect health, allowing harvesting for almost an entire month. The first tastings before the Hospices de Beaune wine auction gave a first idea that 2018 will be a truly great year.
The vines had accumulated some reserves over the winter thanks to very rainy weather, and the growth cycle started late. When the sun began to appear in April, the vines came to life, with very rapid buds. The mild weather then allowed the plants to make up for lost time, even ahead of the average. The April frosts shook the entire region, but the damage remained very limited. Flowering and fruit set took place without hindrance.
The summer was marked by constant heat and drought, with the exception of a few hailstorms in early July which had no major consequences. The vines continued to grow at a rapid pace until mid-August. Veraison took a little longer in places, with the heat and lack of water affecting some younger vineyards. Nevertheless, the water reserves having been replenished during the winter, most of the vines reached maturity thanks to the ideal climatic conditions.
The first grapes were picked in the last 10 days of August. Since flowering dates, precipitation and temperature varied greatly from one region to another, the harvest extended until the last 10 days of September.
The fruit was in very good health, and the weather was perfect, allowing each winemaker to harvest at the optimal time. The atmosphere was serene throughout the wine region, with producers appreciating this magnificent vintage combining quality and quantity. Many believe this will be one of the best vintages in many years.
The vinification of the whites took place without problems, the grapes having retained a good level of acidity despite the heat.
The reds required a little more attention during winemaking due to the relatively high potential alcohol level.
The 2018 reds have an attractive intense color. They are already well structured and powerful, with well-integrated tannins and a good concentration of fruit. These exceptional wines are perfectly balanced, and already taste good in their early youth.
This is a delicious vintage with splendid maturity.
Crémant de Bourgogne
It is a benchmark year, with expressive aromas that vary from one grape variety to another, promising balanced and aromatic base wines. Pinot Noirs are generous, with notes of cherry and rose, resulting in balanced wines with pleasant freshness. Chardonnays are powerful, with moderate acidity, which makes them very round. The fruit aromas reveal exotic notes, nuanced by scents of apple and peach. Gamays have delicate aromas of raspberry and strawberry, highlighted by touches of citrus (clementine, lemon). The Aligotés are sharp and lemony, as usual, with a good length in the mouth.
In 2018, the aromatic complexity of white wines is incredible. They are explosive on the nose, with an astonishing diversity that reflects each terroir. The wines have a certain freshness and good minerality. On the palate, they are round and generous, balanced with a nice tension.
Regarding white Burgundy, 2018 was another atypical early harvest. Since 2000, there have been six vintages where some grapes were harvested in August, but 2018 might be the earliest. I don't know of any vintage other than this one where the grapes were harvested before August 24th. Often the determining factor for harvest date is early flowering due to a warm winter, sometimes intense heat (2003 for example), and sometimes it is a combination of both. Just because it’s very hot doesn’t mean it will be an early harvest. Vines will stop photosynthesis due to water stress if there is no rain and water tables are so low that they cannot absorb water from underground (the case for 2019 until here). In 2018 you have the combination of very warm temperatures in January and some periods of warm weather during the growing season but enough rain for the vines to ripen, which led to an exceptionally early harvest.
Depending on production levels, the growers who had large crops and harvested early did not obtain maximum ripeness and ending up chaptalizing. This was ridiculous because all they had to do was wait, but growers hate having to acidify and would rather harvest early and chaptalize. I do have an issue with growers trying to retain acidity and having to chaptalize, which is making their style, not the style of the vintage. This is a mistake. As evidenced by those who waited to harvest, just a few days of waiting caused the grapes to come in 1-2% higher in alcohol with more concentrated acids and sugars. These wines had the highest sugars along with super high yields. I have never tasted wines so rich with such high acid levels.
2018 will have many surprises and quality levels ranging from good to exceptional. During my visit in early June, I was amazed to taste all the wines, which were very forward due to the malolactic fermentations being finished. Many of the malolactic fermentations were finished not long after fermentation because there was very little malic acid. The abundance of tartaric acid will make for very lovely wines with great balance. Since there was only one rainstorm between August 24 and September 6, most of the growers had finished harvest in the Côte de Beaune. There were 23 mm (0.9 in) on September 6 and nothing more until September 23, which led to one of the most successful vintage in the Côte de Nuits since 2005.
Pricing is very stable with some tiny increases. However, most of the prices remained the same. The crop levels were huge, so bulk wine prices should be stable. Without any frost in 2017 and with good crop levels in 2018, prices should stay steady. The days of prices going up then down seem to be over as far as Burgundy is concerned.
Finally, to preview the red wines, with perfect conditions and since the growers waited until the beginning of September
to harvest, there are some incredible red wines in 2018. One way to gauge this quality is that the lower level Bourgogne Rouge wines are rich, full-bodied, super ripe, and powerful. This is going to be a joy to sell. There were some problems with overproduction, so some of the red wines will not have the power of others, and some growers who waited too long
to pick will have some crazy overly ripe and alcoholic wines. I heard that there were many wines that had trouble finishing fermentations once they surpassed 15%. I will be looking forward to tasting the red wines and seeing how they have turned out during my trip in November.