Chadwick Delaney: 2018 is going to be a Bordeaux year

Chadwick Delaney, managing director of Justerini & Brooks, is already calling 2018 a year for Bordeaux as he expects the famous region to steal a march on Burgundy whose up-coming 2016 vintage was “decimated” by terrible weather.

The volumes of 2016 vintage of Burgundy, which will be released in late December and January next year, was described by Delaney as “the worst in a generation”, following hail, mildew and severe frost. The latter alone affected more than 40% of vineyards in Burgundy.

“The 2016 vintage that is coming up in January is decimated, the worst in a generation. That’s definitely going to exacerbate pricing. It’s going to be the smallest in my career by a long way. Pricing has been going up, and that certainly is not going to help it,” said Delaney when interviewed by dbHK on his whirlwind trip to Hong Kong last week.

Continuing, he said that what made the situation worse is that production at top estates in Burgundy was almost wiped out completely. “The top estates were decimated. Villages like Chambolle Musigny and Gevrey Chambertin made almost no wine at all,” he stated, “I think in Montrachet they picked the grapes, but won’t be able to vinify and make one barrel of wine. So what they did is they blended the grapes together, and Domaine Leflaive is making wine for the four of them. You literally have four large egos attempting to work out how they do that together, which is fascinating.”

The villages that did manage to make some wines in 2016 are the wines that had some cloud during frost. “If you look at Burgundy, the villages that made wines are the ones that had a bit of cloud, Clos de Tart made more wine in 2016 than they did in 2015, because it was cloudy that night, but then you go one village away to Chambolle-Musigny – decimated,” he added.

Bordeaux, on the other hand, was affected by the April frost this year, which resulted in an overall 40% drop in volume, but will be releasing its 2015s which was a good sized crop and the top Left Bank estates should have a good-sized and potentially very good quality raft of 2017 wines to offer en primeur next spring.

“For Bordeaux 2017, with the exception of Saint Emilion, I don’t think fine wine will have that much of an issue,” he concluded.

Throw in the ever-escalating cost of fine Burgundy at the moment and Delaney thinks it would be no surprise to see Bordeaux rebound even more in 2018.

“This is quite unfashionable to say, but I genuinely believe as people smart a bit at the pricing of Burgundy they are going to start to look for something else to buy,” he stated.

Listing some options, Delaney suggested that German Pinot Noir was one good-value alternative to Burgundy Pinots. Demand for German Pinots at Justerini & Brooks apparently surged by 300% over last year he noted.

For single estate wineries, he believes Piedmont is another place where wine drinkers can look for good value. However, “all these things are quite small in volume. The main beneficiary is going to be Bordeaux if the Bordelais don’t get pricing wrong,” he stressed.

“It almost diametrically changed the equation with 2009 and 2010, where Bordeaux was very expensive, and Burgundy was good value. Now the reverse is the case and it has been the case for the last year or two. It’s with the Bordelais to get it right, if they can restrain themselves in pricing, they will get people back. They have the volume, they are the biggest fine wine producer in the world. In overall volume, Bordeaux is going to be the biggest beneficiary,” he continued.

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