Recent press reports have spoken of the superb 2009 vintage and substantial price increases. This may be the case for Bordeaux, however it is not the case in Burgundy, where growers have maintained a steady pricing structure across several recent vintages. In relative terms Burgundies currently offer excellent value and we have the advantage of two very elegant vintages which are now coming on stream. 2008 and 2009 are both well rounded and good years to follow on from the superb duo of 2005 and 2006. Of the earlier pairing, 2005 is universally regarded as the better year and one of the great vintages of the last generation, while of the two most recent vintages, it is 2009 that takes top spot. The jury is out on whether 2009 is a “great” vintage and in the end it may not be an absolute showstopper, however when a vintage is applauded to the highest levels this, in itself, gives us all a problem. When do you dare drink it? Where is the purpose in stocking up heavily on a wine to then sit and agonise about when to pull the cork?.
Unfortunately for the UK consumer, Burgundy is now attracting serious international interest, especially from the Far East. As a consequence stocks are running down more rapidly than hitherto and this makes it ever more important to secure stocks of favourite wines while they are available. Bordeaux has a strong secondary market at auction, but for Burgundy this scarcely exists. The other matter for us Brits to contend with is the miserable rate of exchange, however this is entirely beyond our control. Overall there is so much good wine to enjoy and domestic prices from the Domaines have remained stable for some years.
| At JustBurgundy we have always priced our wines competitively and a quick comparison between us and most other suppliers should show what superb range and value we offer.
Just a quick thought on a small handful of earlier vintages.
2003: This was widely described as “atypical” from the outset. Rich, heavy, fruity and almost explosive, the highly unusual weather gave rise to a wine that was remarkable in its youth. Now? With a few exceptions, I feel that it is already past its best. It will however remain a unique benchmark for comparisons into the future.
1999: Remains a strong and elegant vintage. No hurry.
1995: Ditto 1996 however has not quite matched up to early expectations.
1993: This vintage was widely described in flattering terms however I never fell in with this view. I found it slightly coarse and earthy, an aroma and flavour that it has never really shaken off. Perhaps one should say that like oysters, it is an acquired taste.
1990: Continues to be an absolute blockbuster.
1976: I could not resist throwing in a few comments on this, my favourite dinosaur. Inevitably a number of the few remaining bottles of this vintage have failed to live on into the twilight of their years. Those that have are beyond compare. They are surprisingly sweet, still have remarkable colour and a subdued but formidable nose. When I have pulled a bottle out of the cellar for guests the usual comment is “I have never tasted anything like this?” I put the question mark in here because the point is often made as a question, but nobody leaves even the smallest drop behind! Even the bottles that are past it are an intellectual experience.
In making these few sweeping comments I feel obliged to recall three important observations about the enjoyment of wine that have been made to us by several vignerons over the years.
1) Which is my BEST wine? Why am I asked this question so often? I think all my wines are good; it depends what you are eating with them.
2) If you take a bottle from your cellar somewhat earlier than you might have intended and you enjoy it, then feel no shame in drinking all the others. Next year they might have lost their wow factor. It happens.
3) The time to properly judge the greatness of a vintage is right at the end of its life, when you can look back on years of enjoyable drinking and truly reflect “Now THAT was a great year”. By then however, you usually have none left in your cellar!
And that is perhaps the most important point. Wines are, first and foremost, made to be enjoyed and the best way to enjoy them is to drink them. Well I suppose that one might be happy just sitting and looking at them but I find it bit quirky to think of myself sitting in my cellar watching the massed ranks of ageing bottles, instead of seeking out a corkscrew, a few glasses and some friends.
Even modest wines from lesser appellations are constantly evolving and with a little careful selection, lesser years are fully capable of delivering great pleasure. This is no science, it is an art and art is, as ever, a matter of personal taste.
Michel Prunier's Tasting Room