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January 16, 2019

Burgundy 2017 Report

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Pretty much across the board, the 2017 vintage was reported as ‘an absolute joy’, growers have described it as ‘one of the easiest vintages in living memory’ even going so far as to denounce it as ‘boring!’. A stupendous relief, the region having been wracked by frost, mildew, hail and generally unpredictable weather for numerous years. This has been the first vintage to provide both quality and quantity since 2009 with white yields up 21% on 2016 and the reds, a whopping 41%.

The growing season kicked off with a late and welcome cold spell in January, followed by a warmer than average early spring, bringing a hasty yet smooth bud burst. Temperatures increased quickly and steadily here on out, producing an abundance of vegetative growth but without the nerve-wracking humidity, nor the devastating frost of 2016. Generally, this lucky streak continued through to veraison, with a last blast of well-timed rain in July leading up to near perfect, albeit early, harvest conditions. One trap a few growers fell into was not green harvesting earlier or enough, understandably terrified of a repeat of 2016 and of losing their much-needed crop to a late frost. However, those bold (or rich) enough to do so were rewarded with excellent, concentrated, fresh fruit with very little in the way of damage and next to no sorting required. It must be mentioned that there were a few exceptions to this lucky run; July did bring minor localised hail storms to Morey-St-Denis and unfortunately Chablis still suffered greatly, though in comparison to recent vintages, there was more than enough to replenish the barrels that had been gathering dust hereunto.

A wonderful benefit of a vintage where so little interference is needed in the winery is that a wines terroir can take centre stage articulating their truest expression. As such, where vineyard management was executed with a liberal pruning hand, the vintage produced some superb wines, giving a classic and terroir driven style Burgundy.

Interestingly, as Burghound reflects, this is a vintage for the top-flight wines, with the ‘lesser’ villages’ wines not faring so well. One supposes this is down to the aforementioned wealth disparity in Burgundy, with the smaller producers simply unable to take big risks and subsequently producing a less concentrated must.

The whites did especially well and won us over this vintage. They display an elegant tension and are fresh, lean, energetic and lively with a delicious, weighty concentration and fine balance, favouring an earlier approach yet more than capable of a lengthy life. Superb offerings particularly from the Côte de Beaune, the Côte D’Or and the Côte Chalonnaise are highlights, though the latter is unfortunately in short supply.

The reds are ripe, bright and plucky; characterised by soft, red fruit and fine tannins. They benefited from the warm summer, and again are honest expressions of their individual terroir. Like the whites they are naturally balanced and structured. Domaine Dujac described the vintage as ‘Pretty & Crunchy’, Domaine Jean Louis Trapet compared 2017 to the 2014, however no one can seem to agree; swinging from 2007, 2012, 2010, 2016, 1985, 1989 and everything in-between. Thus far it seems to stand alone somewhat with no easy comparisons. Although the reds varied more in terms of quality, Volnay Premiers Crus, Vosne Romanée and Nuits-Saint-George showed particularly well.

Where some have dismissed the vintage as one of limited longevity there are increasing, and prominent voices predicting that the transparency, honesty and ‘truth’ of this naturally harmonious and balanced vintage, with so little intervention, will prove far lengthier than at first glance. We, for one, like this mother nature-esque theory and are inclined, with hope, to agree.

As ever, global demand for top Burgundy remains insatiable and further to this, 2018 looks to have been exceptionally tough. So, despite the drastically increased yields, prices are likely to remain high, at least matching 2016.

Gemma Wood