Fine wine in focus: 2001

There have been many great vintages since 2000 and some are unsurprisingly overlooked but has the 2001 been overlooked more than the rest?

collection of wine corks, isolated on white backgroundFurthermore, it’s a vintage not just overlooked in Bordeaux but globally, with Napa, Italy, Germany, Spain, Burgundy, Rhône, Australia and South Africa all having produced good to excellent wines.

It is of course not at all rare for several regions around the world to share good vintages but it is perhaps less common for such a consistently good vintage in so many global regions to feature so rarely in conversations about fine wines.

Certainly in the context of red Bordeaux it does not rank alongside the 2000 or 2005 vintages (although for white Bordeaux it is exceptional), nor the 2009s and 2010s across France or the 2002 in Burgundy.

From a French perspective it ranks as a ‘solid’, ‘good’ or ‘classic’ vintage, although it is terrible for both Champagne and Alsace it should be noted.

Across the rest of Europe and the world however it ranks very much in the upper echelons – as good as the 2004s in Italy (especially in Piedmont) or Spain (Ribera), as good or better than the 2012-2014 stretch in Napa or (in fact) the 2005s and 2009s from Australia.

“The only thing that rivals it in terms of an all-round vintage for Europe is 2010,” thinks Corney & Barrow’s Will Hargrove.

“The only thing that lets it down is Champagne. In all other respects it’s good or very, very good. Spain is exciting; in both Tuscany and Piedmont it’s exciting.”

Looking again purely at the 2001s in a red Bordeaux context, back in 2012 when the talk surrounding fine wine was the success of first growth ‘off-Saint-Emilion, Gironde, Bordeaux, Aquitaine, Frankreichvintages’, it was and to an extent remains the 2003, 2004 and 2007 or 2006 wines that got the lion’s share of the attention.

Lingering doubts over the initial quality assessment of the 2001s has probably not helped much.

As Jancis Robinson MW noted back in 2011 after a tasting of 2001s at Bordeaux Index: “This was a vintage that had long been overshadowed by the more famous 2000, and to begin with was lumped together with the 2002 as one of the weaker vintages of the beginning of the new century.”

She went on to add that as their first decade had approached it became increasingly clear that not only did the vintage surpass the ‘02s but could also – on the Right Bank in particular – “show better than the equivalent 2000”.

“I think is absolutely wonderful vintage, classic, proper Bordeaux terroir,” says Goedhuis’ Georgina Crawley. “They have elegant fruit and still retain poise and class. Montrose is stunning, and Cos d’Estournel’s is probably better than the 2000.”

As one might imagine though, a supposedly ‘lesser’ vintage in the shadow of a greater one enjoys a significant discount and this is indeed the case.

Let’s take a few key examples: according to Liv-ex the 94-point rated (by Robert Parker) 2001 Lafite had a market price of £4,650 in November 2015, while the 98+-point 2000 was £10,700; the 93-point 2001 Palmer cost £1,450 to the 95-point 2000’s £2,200; 91-point 2001 Montrose £690 against £1,100 for the 95+ 2000 and the 94-point 2001 from L’Eglise Clinet was £1,493 to the 97-point 2000’s £2,600.

“2000 and 2001, like 2005/06, are probably a lot closer in quality than the market and scores might suggest,” said Hargrove.

6.BurgundyAnother vintage where initial scores and reaction were less than enthusiastic, “cool to say the least,” remarks Renaissance Vintners Joss Fowler, but where time has revealed a true pearl.

“Burgundy’s 2001s are slap bang in the middle of 2000 and 2002 but I think the ‘01s are showing much better,” says Crawley. “They’re almost weightier wines than the ‘00s, but fresher and with beautiful integration.”

“The best Burgundies are lovely, ‘proper’ wines,” agrees Fowler. Interestingly, the price disparity between 2001 and 2000 Burgundies is not so great, in fact the ‘01s are sometimes more expensive than their ’00 cousins.

For example: as of November 2015 the market price for Anne Gros’ 2001 Richebourg was £3,000 while that of the 2000 was £3,702. Likewise, Bonneau Martray’s 2001 Corton Charlemagne was £840 a case while the 2000 was £1,186. The margin narrows for the Comte de Vogüé’s Bonnes Mares where the 2001 costs £2,040 to the 2000’s £2,340 but Armand Rousseau’s 2001 Chambertin was close to £1,000 more expensive than the 2000 at £7,309 a case to the latter’s £6,648.

Probably marginally better in Piedmont than Tuscany – “tread carefully with the Super Tuscans” advises Crawley who points out that Sassicaia isn’t quite so good compared to Ornellaia for example – but at 15 years old there’s still “absolutely no rush” to crack into bottles of either region according to Hargrove.

“[The] Barolos and Barbarescos, are excellent,” continues Crawley. “They’re intensely aromatic, with gorgeous complexity. They offer value too, you piedmont460_1474724ccan still pick up 2001s at really, really good prices. I think they have a hell of a lot more to give than 2000 which was a much hotter year.”

Although in this instance the 2001-2000 contrast is probably not as strong (2004 or 2006 might be better), the claim they still offer good value is certainly true.

By way of example, 2001 Ornellaia was available for £1,658 a case in November last year; Luciano Sandrone’s Barolo Cannubi Boschis was £1,450; Roberto Voerzio’s Barolo Rocche Annunziata Torriglione £1,563 and Azelia’s Barolo San Rocco £500.

“In all formats and from everywhere, it’s a great vintage to buy because it is unsung,” says Hargrove. “It’s not a glamour vintage but people who love wine, know it’s pretty damn good. In most places it’ll come round before the more serious vintages around it but that doesn’t mean it won’t age.”

As Fowler concludes: “The trouble is this: scores stick. The 2001 Burgundies were very tricky in their youth, and ‘01 Bordeaux was and will always be in the shadow of ‘00. Drink a bottle though, and they can be exceptional.”

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