Burgundy 2017 Early Vintage Insight

Burgundy 2017 – At A Glance:

  • First ‘normal’ sized harvest since 2009 – the cellars are full for the first time in nearly a decade
  • Dry, early harvest with no hail or frost damage
  • Enthusiasm is building for the reds: Roumier compares these to the 2007 and 2014 vintages; Drouhin compares them to 2002
  • In the Cote d’Or, whites have a very nice acidity that gives them a delicious freshness, delicacy and elegance
  • Chablis could be the best vintage since 2014 and volume is up 52% on previous year

 

Burgundy 2017 – In Depth:

After a tumultuous few years in Burgundy, winemakers throughout the region breathed a sigh of relief when the 2017 harvest was brought in. Ironically, in a year which on a macro level was disastrous for wine production throughout the whole of France (and Spain and Italy) with overall production down 23% across the country, Burgundy for once managed to avoid the extreme weather conditions.

Whilst much of Bordeaux was decimated by devastating late spring frosts – conditions the Burgundians know only too well following the disastrous 2016 vintage – Burgundy was spared in 2017. Terrified of a repeat performance, it was all hands on deck in April with what seemed like entire villages out in the early hours lighting candles, bales of hay, tyres – anything that burned to create enough smoke to reduce frost damage. Fortunately it worked, with production levels dramatically up from 2016: Chablis production is up 52%, Pinot Noir up 41% and white wine production up 21%.

A bumper crop following on from such small consecutive vintages requires some caution however. As Frederic Magnien explains, many producers have had to struggle to survive over the last few years and are desperate to recoup their losses. This has led to some potential over-cropping. Frederic was super happy with his fruit in 2017 and has compared this vintage of his red wines to 1999, with healthy fruit and great levels of even ripeness.

Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier is also very happy with his 2017 vintage, defined by a warm summer and benefitting from a persistent wind. This helped keep out any disease in the vineyard, despite the warm temperatures, resulting in very healthy grapes. As he describes: “a perfect ripe fruit, though with no excess. We had good sugars, with mild acidity levels. The grape skins were tasty but hard to chew which was an indication that they would contain good quality tannins with difficult extraction. The wines of this vintage offer elegant texture due to their ripe tannins, with low acidity. However they taste fresh and vibrant, with no flabbiness nor cooked flavours. They are of a classic style with good precise aromas.”

Christophe went on to state more specifically of his wines: “My feeling of these wines is that they will be very enjoyable quite young, yet with a normal aging potential. The 2017 could be of an intermediate style between 2014s and 2007s – which should excite Burgundy lovers worldwide as these were fantastic vintages for the property.”

Veronique Drouhin from Domaine Drouhin describes 2017 as: “A dry season with plenty of sunshine. No hail and a very efficient battle against frost. An Indian summer in the fall led to a smooth harvest. Plenty of grapes, a nice change from previous years! The wines as of now: the whites have a very nice acidity that give them a delicious freshness, they are delicate and elegant. The reds: overall well-balanced wines with refined textures, on the charming side. Could be compare to the 2002 vintage.” (An exceptional vintage for reds).

In Chablis, it is the third “solar” vintage in a row, but thankfully with a lot more volume and definitely more tension and acidity than the 2015 and 2016 – at least that’s what we felt at F+R based on the few we have tasted so far. Olivier Bailly from Domaine Billaud-Simon believes the vintage is somewhere in between 2016 and 2014; with the ripeness of 2016 but closer to 2014.

In the Maconnais, we caught up with the mayor of Saint-Veran, Kevin Tessieux. He stated that, like on the Cote d’Or, it was an early vintage avoiding rains later in September and whilst being warm, it was not as hot as 2015. Unlike further north in Chablis, he claims the vintage further south was somewhere between 2016 and 2015. “The vintage is naturally very concentrated. We had a high level of maturity but we didn’t lose too much acidity, we can feel the tension in the wine. The yield was correct for the year and we didn’t have any difficulties with vinification. Most of the producers who use barrels for aging didn’t do the batonnage. The wines will be ready to drink early and the potential of ageing in bottle is there; but not as much as 2016.” 

More updates to follow…