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Burgundy 2010: A “Burgundian” year

Producers in Burgundy are thrilled with their new vintage and although quantities are small, prices will largely stay down.

For both whites and reds, producers such as Alain Chavy from Domaine Alain Chavy in Puligny-Montrachet described themselves as “very happy indeed” with 2010 and expressed more enthusiasm for it than 2009.

Echoing the views of Albert Bichot’s winemaker Alain Serveau, again and again producers described 2010 as having the concentration of 2009 but with a leaner, tauter character that showed the terroir better and provided fresher, more mineral wines that were better suited for ageing.

“2009 pleases people,” said Thierry Brouin of Domaine des Lambrays, “but 2010 is more Burgundian.”

Domaine Faiveley’s Vincent Avenel agreed saying that “2009 was good for entry level wines as you got more for your money. Where it was less good was for terroir expression and ageing potential. This year, 2010, is more classic, more serious.”

Although 2010 should age well due to its good acidity and tannin levels, many examples will offer pleasant drinking in a very short time before going on to age further.

That’s the magic of this vintage,” said Vincent Delcher of Domaine Jean Chauvenet. “It has the tannins and power of 2009 and is as approachable but capable of ageing longer.”

It also, in the opinion of Delcher and Brouin, highlights the disparity between the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, with the former coming out ahead in terms of quality.

There were other warning voices too. Given the haphazard way 2010 progressed, questions regarding heterogeneity have been raised.

Christophe Thomas, export director at Joseph Drouhin, said: “The reds are up and down a bit depending on where you are – some of the reds were harvested too late. For us, the whites in 2010 are much more interesting.”

Despite the general quality of the year, quantities are down on 2009. Some producers reported drops of 30% to 45% and some even said that certain plots were 50% down on 2009.

Delcher explained that a severe frost in December 2009, when the sap was still falling, plunged the temperature from +5 degrees centigrade to -15 degrees, killing off many vines.

In the spring, wet and windy weather affected the flowering and led to a poor fruit set. However, although this lowered yields, in the end the small amount of fruit led to increased concentration.

Brouin for one was glad of the smaller quantities explaining that the year “wasn’t good enough to sustain large amounts”.

Small yields means small allocations and rising prices in some quarters. However, there will be no Bordelais-style hike, with Brouin saying that although he is 30% down on 2009’s volumes, prices will go up by only 8%.

Jim Eustace, buying director at Haynes Hanson & Clark, told the drinks business: “Some producers have put their prices up but others haven’t. We’ve tried to keep prices the same as last year and the favourable exchange rate with the euro at the moment has helped.

“We’re very keen to show that Burgundy is not Bordeaux. We told our customers last year that 2009 Burgundy was good and many of them bought into it. We can’t therefore say that 2010 is even better and up the prices.”

Camilla Bowler, fine wine buyer at Bibendum, also stated that price rises were inevitable if not universal from the producers but “given the vintage we’re pretty pleased”.

Demand has been strong already and Bowler added that some wines were sold out before Christmas and interest is expected to be high across the board.

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