Burgundy 2017 – In Review

“there are some quite brilliant whites that, many growers are beginning to opine, equal or even surpass the haloed 2014s…The 2017 reds are very good, often excellent, and from time to time, bloody awesome.Neal Martin, Vinous

“a delicious vintage for white Burgundy…there is no sense of dilution and for the most part the wines show optimum ripeness.” Jasper Morris, Inside Burgundy

”Speaking of overall wine quality, the key takeaway for readers is that when the 2017s are good, they are very good (even sometimes great) and entirely classic in style.” Allen Meadows, Burghound

“…some readers may ultimately prefer the style of 2017 to that of 2016, both are largely cut from the same cloth, which is to say vintages of transparency and elegance. Allen Meadows, Burghound

the 2017s deserve a place in your cellars and there is no reason not to buy what you can afford as the wines should be generally available given the more generous quantities.” Allen Meadows, Burghound

“Consequently, this is not a season where I can really single out one appellation’s superiority. They all have something to offer.” Neal Martin, Vinous

“As nearly every winemaker opined, 2017 is a vintage that distinguishes one vineyard and/or one terroir from another with satisfying clarity.” Neal Martin, Vinous

 

There is broad agreement that the white wines in both the Cote d’Or and Chablis are excellent, close to and in some cases surpassing the quality of the last classic white Burgundy vintage of 2014. Chablis has produced a real classic vintage in 2017 with great ageing potential and stunning mineral verve. It’s difficult to find a bad white wine on the Cote d’Or although it must be stated that very different styles of wine have been made from one producer to another as style and fashion dictates, from the rich opulent oaky whites to more tensile mineral driven saline whites. In 2017 you are free to take your pick. Both styles and in between have that wonderful combination of ripeness and freshness.

It is worth noting that this is still a vintage in which the reds and top white wines are still going through élevage. Many winemakers feel the vintage is improving with every day that passes. The whites and reds continue to take on more weight with many claiming the whites are as good as legendary vintages of 2002 and 1996. The reds whilst initially compared to 2007 and 2014 are showing in later stages of élevage much more weight, richness and energy, more reminiscent of 2010, 2002 and 2014. From tasting this week it is clear this is variable, but certainly true in domains and negociants that have picked at the right time.

The succulent approachability and freshness of the vintage has also put more austere villages up there in terms of top performers. Pommard and Nuits St Georges both producing some wonderful reds in 2017.  There is also no lack of freshness across the 2017s. Fundamentally any vintage that is largely free from disease, rot, hail and has had fair weather throughout the growing season and great picking conditions you would expect to find wines with great balance. This is almost universally the case with the 2017s.

 

Vinous – Neal Martin – “A modern classic… a vintage that is traditional, yet thoroughly modern”

Neal Martin has been very positive in regards to both the whites and reds stating “there are some quite brilliant whites that, many growers are beginning to opine, equal or even surpass the haloed 2014s…The 2017 reds are very good, often excellent, and from time to time, bloody awesome.”

Neal Martin emphasises the point that in a growing season in which very little went wrong, providing yields were adequately managed produced a broad brush of good to excellent wines throughout the Cote d’Or. “The benign growing season predicates one of the most consistent vintages I can remember in 20 years of visiting Burgundy”.

Martin also emphasises the point that 2017 exudes terroir transparency providing great distinctions of character from one vineyard to the next. “2017 is a vintage that distinguishes one vineyard and/or one terroir from another with satisfying clarity. The growing season did not leave such a heavy imprimatur upon the wines as others, including 2015 and 2016. Wines are governed more by the DNA of each vineyard and then sculpted by winemakers’ decisions”.

It is clear that the 2017 reds might not have the intensity of 2015 (from the solar intensity) and the 2016 (due to the tiny yields following the devastating frosts) yet he states in no way does this make the wines “light”. “Not only are they imbued with real fruit intensity, but they also seem to be gaining density during their élevage, especially after their malolactic fermentation, as they enter their final months in barrel…I cannot recall a single cuvée that exhibits greenness. They veer as much towards black as red fruit, depending upon terroir and winemaking. The 2017s are generally well balanced”.

Burghound – Allen Meadows – “Wines of Freshness, Transparency and Refinement”

Allen Meadows, arguably the leading critic in terms of scope and experience in reviewing Burgundy, released his Cote de Nuits report this week and has been very positive in regard to the wines stating: ”Speaking of overall wine quality, the key takeaway for readers is that when the 2017s are good, they are very good (even sometimes great) and entirely classic in style.” Whilst he believes the 2016 was an excellent vintage in terms of “raw power…some readers may ultimately prefer the style of 2017 to that of 2016, both are largely cut from the same cloth, which is to say vintages of transparency and elegance. The same cannot be said though of 2015 which is a vintage of sunshine and opulence.”

As we have been told repeatedly on our travels up and down the Cote d’Or this autumn, where yields were controlled quality excelled. For Fourrier (as with others fortunate enough) this was effectively managed by only using old vines (naturally reducing yields) in their cuvees and selling off younger fruit. At Georges Lignier a natural “green harvest” from a localised hail storm in July reduced his yields by 20% having a great impact on the overall concentration in his top 2017s. Meadows states: “The one central truth to making good to excellent wine in 2017 was to control yields. Do that and the growing season gave you a chance as there was no particular skill needed to control disease and even to sort rigorously as pretty much everyone harvested ripe and clean fruit.”

“The best wines are wonderfully refreshing, transparent and graceful with moderately firm tannic spines where the all-important element of balance is supplemented by good but not high acidities. What they are not however is especially dense. This isn’t to say that they are dilute because they’re not …the better wines have reasonably good densities but this is not their strength. Perhaps their most appealing asset is just how refreshing and energetic they are because even as new and unbottled wines they already make one feel like drinking them.”

In regards to buying advice he states: “the 2017s deserve a place in your cellars and there is no reason not to buy what you can afford as the wines should be generally available given the more generous quantities.”

In terms of drinking windows for the 2017s he believes they will open up quicker than the two previous excellent vintages that preceed them “ 1er, just to choose a level in the hierarchy, will probably arrive at its apogee in the space of 8 to 10 years yet once there, hold successfully for several decades. We will of course see in due course but there is an argument to be made that balance is often perhaps even more important than sheer density of material”.

 

Inside Burgundy – Jasper Morris

Jasper Morris reports positively on both the whites and reds. Like what we have found through tasting the wines over the last 3 months and many of the winemakers have continued to report on is that the wines continue to take on weight through the élevage process, something he notes happened in 2010, a vintage that was largely underrated for reds on release which has since blossomed into a classic vintage. He doubts they will reach 2010 standards but does believe the wines continue to grow in intensity whilst retaining freshness. He compares the reds with 2000 (for their drinkability) and the 2002 (for their crispness).

For the whites there is more consistency from the Cote d’Or and Chablis describing it as a “delicious vintage for white Burgundy…there is no sense of dilution and for the most part the wines show optimum ripeness.”

I think Jasper Morris has the best rating system for the wines using 100 point scores along with a 5 star rating based on appellation status which largely (though not exclusively) relates to value for money. These notes therefore take in what is expected of the appellation and how well that producer has performed within it.

Best performers in Chablis for Jasper Morris are: William Fevre (6x 5 star wines), Samuel Billaud (3x 5 star wines) J-P Benoit Droin (3x 5 star wines) and Patrick Piuze (3x 5 star wines)

Best performers in Whites (Cote d’Or): Henri Boillot (4x 5 star wines), Arnaud Ente (6x 5 star wines), Roulot (4x 5 star wines) and Hubert Lamy (5x 5 star wines)

Best performers in Reds (Cote d’Or): Coquard Loison (3x 5 star wines), Fourrier, Perrot Minot, Felletig, Duroche, Arnoux Lachaux, Mugneret Gibourg, Georges Roumier and Lafarge (all receive 2x 5 star wines each)

 

The Wine Advocate – William Kelley

William Kelley’s first half of his 2017 vintage report for the Wine Advocate describes the reds as “supple, charming and expressive, characterized by melting tannins”. He firmly places the wines as less serious than the 2015 and 2016 vintages in terms of structure and unlikely to rival these years for depth, longevity and complexity however good examples of the wines will be long lived “by virtue of their balance rather than any reserves of tannin or acid”.

Whilst conservative in regard to the reds he is convinced by the quality of the whites describing them as “classically balanced and beautifully defined by site” and in some examples surpass the quality of the 2014s. “There is a succulence and plenitude to the 2017 whites that make them very appealing indeed.”

Whilst this is only half of his report, a clear front runner in terms of performance for the reds for Kelley are the wines from Dugat-Py with 4 of their cuvees scoring some of the highest scores. For the whites (as with many other reviewers) the quality stretches wide – top performers include Domaine Roulot – described as “an extraordinary set of 2017s”, his 2017 1er cru Perrieres Kelley states is a wine that “will likely rank among the greatest hits of his career”, Leflaive, Henri Boillot, Comtes Lafon also fare well, as well as some great reviews for the top wines from larger producer/ negociant Bouchard Pere & Fils. Some more under the radar producers such as Paul Pillot and Vincent Dancer also receiving some of the highest endorsements. All of these are worth seeking out.