Sumptuous reds and thrilling whites was the summary of our visit to Burgundy last November. Both the reds and the whites display a charm and balance that is rare in such young wines, even in Burgundy. The fruit character is riper than one might have expected, particularly in the red wines where our tasting notes are littered with reference to black cherries and violets, usually indicators of a hot year. The wines also displayed purity and balance as well as a moreish, mouth-watering freshness. The whites are more classical with plenty of orchard and stone fruit character with the same balance of juiciness as displayed in the reds. The usual game of asking producers to compare the vintage with another was especially tricky this year with perhaps the best coming from Benoit Riffault of Domaine Sauzet who described the wines as like 2009 for the yellow fruit aromas, 2010 for the density and concentration, and 2014 for vivacity. Generally the wines are so attractive that they will be drinking before 2015 and 2016 and should keep well for the short to mid-term. Whilst not without frost (see The Weather section below), the production was much better than the very short 2016 harvest so the growers are more relaxed this year, bucking the trend across the rest of France where 2017 has proved a small year in terms of production. All in all a year that has something for everyone’s budget and there is plenty of it to go round too!
The weather in the early part of the season followed a very similar pattern to the previous year. A comparatively mild winter and early spring saw the vines a good two weeks in advance of the average, then one day later than in 2016, on the 28th April a frost was forecast. This time the growers were more organised and had learnt a thing or two in the preceding twelve months. They set about burning giant candles and hay bales in and around the vineyards creating a blanket of smoke to prevent the morning sun hitting the new buds before they had defrosted. Those with deep pockets even hired helicopters to fly across some of the grand cru vineyards; moving the air raised the temperature just enough to stop the buds freezing. Whatever they did seemed to work and the losses of 2016 were averted. Chablis and Bouzeron suffered some losses earlier in the month when a frost hit on the 19th April. The rest of the year progressed much more simply. May saw nothing of note, June was hot and sunny but with cool nights. July was fine with no hail in the Côte d’Or. August was warm and dry which saw an early harvest starting for some at the end of the month. September was cool with some rain but the grapes were in good condition and only those who had been greedy with their cropping levels suffered any adverse effects. For most the harvest was all done and dusted by mid-September.