Burgundy 2018: Smaller AOCs coming into their own

As Burgundy week progresses, it is becoming increasingly clear that the 2018 vintage has produced some attractive and very appealing wines from the often overlooked villages of Mercurey, Marsannay, the Hauts Côtes and elsewhere.

The theme of ‘overlooked’ or ‘forgotten’ Burgundian AOCs that have been left behind a little in the rush for the more famous vineyards is not entirely new of course. Better winemaking and newer producers have been turning these villages round for many years but a vintage such as 2018 with ripe fruit and tannins really helps set the seal on this revival.

Adam Bruntlett, Burgundy buyer for Berry Bros & Rudd, told the drinks business that the “less favoured vineyards have done really well”.

Helping the change along, on top of better winemaking and so forth, has been the changing climate as well.

Part of what held these AOCs back in the past was their position in cooler sites which generally left them with thinner fruit and a harder, occasionally greener tannic profile which wasn’t terribly appealing.

Now, however, and in particular in warm vintages (which 2018 very much was), “getting ripe is no longer the issue – it’s keeping cool,” as Bruntlett continued.

This in turn, if the changing climate is going to continue to offer up warmer and warmer vintages, leads to some interesting questions about what will be the most prized sites in the future.

The 2018 vintage is not one where one can buy with impunity, it is not a perfect or ‘great’ vintage all round but when it is good it is very good and from producers with the right approach and the right touch there are good wines from appellations great and small.

While there has been a groundswell of changing opinion towards wines from the Hauts Côtes, Maranges, Santenay and so on for a while now, perhaps 2018 is a vintage that can really drive that message home, as Bruntlett also expressed.

They have, he said, “come into their own” and in 2018 when they work they really work and it’s increasingly apparent that factors regarding site and soil that might have been held against them in the past are now becoming something of a benefit.

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