F+R Early Insight into the 2018 Burgundy Vintage

F+R were in Burgundy this week for the first tastings of the 2018 vintage and we were thrilled by what we tasted. There is plenty of excitement from the producers we visited with praise for the vintage being universal, 2018 is without doubt an exceptional vintage. Many of the producers we visited are already comparing it to previous stellar vintages such as 1999.

We visited both the larger negociants and the smaller independent growers throughout the Cote d’Or, as well as getting our first tastings of 2018 Chablis, giving us a broad overview of the vintage at this early stage.

Even during our EP tastings of the 2017s, winemakers couldn’t refrain from talking about the 2018 vintage as something special. A practically perfect growing season, as is often the case in a warm year picking dates were perhaps the most vital factor in making the most out of the vintage. Pick too late and alcohol could become an issue. Fortunately, the producers we visited didn’t suffer this problem and the entire range of wines were some of the best we have ever tasted from barrel.

Louis Jadot

We started the week with an extensive barrel tasting at Louis Jadot with Sigfried Pic, where we identified our favourite cuvees, many of which we will release as exclusive bottlings later this year. The Jadot 2018s offer a perfect snapshot of the vintage: extremely concentrated while remaining fleshy and juicy, they are undoubtedly big wines but as they themselves noted, there is more freshness and vibrancy than in other top warm vintages such as 2005, 2009 and 2015. Sigfried, who has such an encyclopedic knowledge of Burgundy he can name the owner (and previous owner) of every parcel of vines in every vineyard, described 2018 as “one of those vintages with an extra dimension”.

What was unexpected was the exceptional quality of the whites. Despite the warm vintage, tasting the freshness of the whites in 2018 made them equally exciting as the reds. With fine acidity and tension on the palate, and a penetrating mineral streak, they reminded us of 2014 but with an extra layer of fruit and complexity. The key for any Chardonnay producer in a warm vintage is to retain freshness, which Jadot achieved perfectly.

De Montille

Tasting wines from barrel with winemaker Brian Sieve at De Montille the reds were pure and elegant, even in communes such as Pommard and Volnay, and again we were very pleasantly surprised by the whites, which Brian noted were “similar in style to the 2017s, crunchy fruit, bright and textural”. It is also interesting to note that due to legislation enforcement, the wines of Chateau du Puligny (owned by De Montille) will now be bottled under the De Montille label. From the quality of what we tasted, this will soon be a Domaine known for their exceptional whites as well as reds.

David Duband

2018 is a vintage perfectly suited to David Duband’s preferred style of winemaking. The warm season and high levels of ripeness are ideal for the whole bunch fermentation method Duband is renowned for. As had been noted by many other winemakers, David also commented that harvest dates were key in 2018, noting that he picked everything between 12.5 – 13.5% potential abv. He is also one of the last in Burgundy to practice pigeage by foot, which is more gentle than other techniques and creates a wonderful delicacy and balance in the wine.

The wines are text-book Duband – refined, expressive and exuberant perfumes with delicate fruit. Multilayered and building structure on the palate. The wines were very precise and showed great individual terroir expression, while the quality of the vintage gave them an extra level of concentration compared with anything we have tasted here before.

Domain Joseph Colin

A new discovery on our visit this year were the wines of Joseph Colin. Joseph is a very humble character but is producing some amazing wines in 2018. As a vigneron he works hard to keep SO2 use as low as possible whilst keeping the wines protected from oxidation.He is developing a technique where he harvests relatively early thus preventing the need for extensive use of Sulphur. His goal is to protect terroir expression by not to marking/polluting the wines with “winemaker’s hands”.  He produces 15-20 cuvées mostly from St Aubin and Chassagne Montrachet appellations. The style is very sharp, fresh, mineral driven wines, with proper terroir definition, his St Aubin Chatenière really stands out for its rocky/ stony/ mineral aromas, while his old vine Chassagne “Vide Bourse” showcases pure Chassagne style with the richness of the neighboring Batard yet keeping great precision and tension. Joseph Colin is definitely one to watch.

Remoissenet

It’s always a treat to taste with Bernard Repolt, Remoissenet’s exuberant managing director and one of Burgundy’s living legends. Bernie remarks cheekily that 2018 is the “best vintage… since last year” but admitted that the ‘18s are “super-sexy” with amazing freshness, balance and concentration.

An exciting new addition to the roster is the iconic Les Suchots of Vosne-Romanee in 2018. The typical sweet-spice of Vosne, allayed with masses of power hiding just behind, and that textbook 2018 freshness, makes this one to look out for during the campaign.

A close personal friendship with one of Chablis most famous producers has allowed Remoissenet access to some amazing fruit in Chablis, and with the 2018 vintage already touted as one of the greatest in living memory for the region (perhaps even surpassing the mighty 2014), we were extremely excited to taste a small range of Premier & Grand Crus. Le Clos 2018 is masterful, with off-the-charts intensity and concentration of fruit. A legend in the making. The Fourchaume Premier Cru was another highlight, with masses of creaminess, power and that mineral streak that underlines all great Chablis.

Domaine Long-Depaquit (Albert Bichot)

Tasting the 2018 top growths of Chablis from Long-Depaquit with Alberic Bichot and Delphine. This is the inaugural vintage for Cecilia Trimaille, the first woman to be in charge of one of Bichot sites (Long Depaquit), she arrived from Chateau Margaux and started at Bichot at the end of 2017. Each of the wines wines displayed a superb level of concentration, and classic Chablis tension, compact at first but then expanding building on the palate. These are a really impressive sets of wines for Cecilia’s first vintage in charge. Referring to the vintage for Burgundy in general, Alberic said “when it comes to 2018, I can not call the year perfect but it is as close as it gets.”

Paul Pernot

The 2018s are textbook Pernot with great concentration, rich and opulent yet retaining a high level of purity and terroir-definition. Alvina Pernot (Paul’s granddaughter) mentioned that “one thing that struck me with 2018s is that across all parcels we had some of the nicest, healthiest, most perfect grapes I have ever seen”. 

2018 is the inaugural vintage of Domaine Alvina Pernot’s Puligny-Montrachet ‘La Rue au Vache’. On top of this, in 2018 Alvina and her husband Philippe Abadie also launched their micro-négoce business. The idea was to be able to offer a wider range of wines and appellations that they particularly like, with a focus on making the wines approachable in their youth by retaining freshness and keeping a high level of concentration. From what we’ve tasted it is very promising! This is naturally a range with an extensive Puligny-Montrachet selection yet also offering some very sexy and approachable appellations such as a gorgeous St Aubin 1er Cru Murgers des Dents de Chien and a Santenay Rouge Bievaux that Philippe described as very “glou-glou” and was indeed hard to resist. Each of the cuvées is produced in tiny volumes and we are looking forward to telling you more about them in the future!