A small but perfectly formed vintage, shaped as much by the vagaries of the weather as the winemakers. The cellars we visited were much emptier than usual, even compared to recent years which weren’t overly generous themselves. This reduction in yields is what saved the vintage, had the vines had to try and ripen a full crop it may have been a dismal failure. The conditions in 2021 have, however, led to some wonderfully fresh whites with concentration and elegance along with some toothsome, juicy reds.
THE BIG PICTURE
Burgundy remains one of the most sought-after wine regions in the world. Year on year demand has been increasing and, in a major difference to its counterpart Bordeaux, increasing supply is incredibly difficult, not to mention a costly, affair. Positively the last thing the wine world needed was a run of short vintages, the natural consequence of which is upward pressure on the prices. The frosts in April 2021 had a devastating effect on the yields, particularly on the precocious Chardonnay vines. The Côte de Nuits reported losses were between 40 and 60%, while in the white dominated Côte de Beaune they were 60 to 80%. As with all generalised figures these hide some more positive results as well as some complete losses, so sadly our offer will be missing a number of wines you may have seen here for many years. We can only apologise if you don’t find exactly what you are looking for, but perhaps this is the year to discover a new favourite grower or village?
“A true Burgundy vintage” or “Vrai Pinot” were refrains we heard throughout our visit. The whites are crisp and zesty but also showing some surprising weight and depth, a testament to hard work in the vineyards and rigorous sorting in the winery, this further reduced yields but meant the results are worthy of attention. The Pinots are delightfully aromatic, full of vibrant red fruit flavours, strawberry and cranberry but with a little more substance on the palate. The growers are bottling this vintage young in order to keep all the fresh fruit character and most were suggesting drinking these while waiting for the warmer vintages of 2020, 2019 and 2018 to open up and reveal their potential. That is not to say that these wines won’t age equally well but you might as well enjoy their youthful enthusiasm! Vintage comparisons are always tricky, even more so this year, the consensus seems to be 2014 but with more weight (they were certainly more charming to taste); 2010 came up a few times due to the fresh style but we’re not sure they quite had the class of that lauded vintage; and for those with longer memories 2002.
The winter of 2020/21 was mild and wet before cooling in mid-March. This was followed by unseasonably good weather at the end of the month, setting the vines in motion and very quickly they started to bud. The 5thApril saw the weather switch to a polar airmass which brought temperatures as low as -8ºC and snow, which added humidity into the mix. This damaged the emerging buds; the vines took 3 weeks to re-start and the regrowth had fewer bunches of grapes. Meanwhile the weather remained cool and damp. Temperatures returned to normal levels in June, so flowering took place in good conditions. The warmth continued which encouraged rapid growth and started to make up for some of the lost time. However, the end of June saw rain set in with mildew and oidium both a problem in the vineyard. Mid-August saw the return of a long spell of dry weather just as the grapes started to change colour (véraison). After 3 years of early harvests, 2021 marked the return to a more traditional picking date of around 18th September, in many cases with the Pinots being harvested before the Chardonnays. Due to the tiny yields the harvest was over in less than 10 days. Rigorous sorting ensued in the wineries to ensure only the finest fruit was used, a costly but vital exercise this year.