2019 Burgundy Vintage Report

11th January 2021

Burgundy, En Primeur, Region Report

2019 is potentially an exceptional year for red Burgundies and a very good one for whites.

In each case, despite being another “solaire” vintage, both colours exhibit more freshness and energy than in 2018. The reds in particular, whilst being intensely concentrated, have an attractive fluidity and many whites offer a delicious salinity and no lack of acidity. An explanation offered was that the smaller berries, with a deficit of juice, concentrated both sugars and acids. Volumes are also significantly down on last year.

In summary and generalizing somewhat, the winter of 2018/19 was mild and dry. This caused the vines to push very early and leave them exposed to potential frost damage. This was duly realized at the beginning of April. Many villages to the north were spared altogether and some, like Meursault, Chassagne and Puligny were particularly impacted on their lower slopes. Others, including Saint-Aubin, most of the Côte Chalonnaise and the Maconnais were more severely affected. Several growers reported that spring felt more like autumn; with cold, wind and rain. As a result, flowering was drawn out and irregular and there was widespread coulure and millerandage, which had a negative impact on potential yields. This was further compounded by a hot and mostly dry July, August and first half of September, which dehydrated the grapes and further reduced volumes. Picking in September was completed in ideal conditions throughout. Growers were able to harvest impeccably healthy grapes according to their own individual philosophical and stylistic requirements.

Some points of note:-

– The Chardonnay vines were further advanced at the time of the April frosts, so were more adversely affected than Pinot Noir.

– Irregular flowering and drought caused very inconsistent ripening, even within a single parcel. This had to be carefully managed.

– Physiological ripeness generally arrived at around 13-14% natural, potential alcohol levels.

– Yields were very low due to a combination of frost, poor flowering conditions and drought.

– Once again, older vines, with a more developed root system have better withstood drought. Growers who plough between rows (all of ours) have also benefitted. This has the effect of cutting surface roots and forcing the vines to delve deeper for water and nutrients.

– There was widespread “triage” in the vines to remove all scorched grapes.

– The dry summer and excellent picking conditions meant that the harvested grapes exhibited an almost unprecedented level of health.

– The trend towards whole bunch fermentations with Pinot Noir continues. Climate change means that the vines’ stems are consistently “riper” than previously. Proponents believe that stem inclusion delivers wines with greater freshness and energy than those which are destemmed.

– It was a very easy vintage to vinify, with extremely healthy fruit and an excellent balance between ripeness and acidity.

– Many growers are beginning to practice longer elevages prior to bottling their white wines. Wines which may appear quite clumsy and facile early in their development, can gain enormously in precision during extended maturation.

– Although the summer of 2019 was similarly torrid to 2018, acidities have been better preserved and the resulting wines are fresher in 2019. Millerandage (under-developed, smaller grapes) concentrates both sugar and acidity levels.

MÂCONNAIS

DOMAINE DE LA CROIX SENAILLET, Davayé

Richard and Stéphane Martin are making some of the most delightfully, crystalline-pure wines in the Mâconnais, from their 25 hectares of organic vineyards around Davayé. Richard told us, “2019 is a “solaire”, rich vintage. At the end of a mild winter and early vegetative cycle, there was frost in April, wiping out 40-50% of the potential crop – depending on the site. What was spared enjoyed flowering in good conditions. The summer was hot and dry – sometimes a heatwave, which accelerated the maturation and maintained perfectly healthy vines and grapes. The short, ast harvest was carried out in perfect conditions. The resulting wines are rich, generous, harmonious and balanced.”

DOMAINE ERIC FOREST, Vergisson

Eric now has 7.5 hectares and will not expand beyond that. Eric told us “In 2019, after suffering small amounts of frost in April, the vegetation began to push quickly, with a hot, dry spring. Flowering happened very rapidly and then the heatwave in July and August slowed down the development of the grapes – even blocking maturation in certain vines. A welcome rainstorm in mid-August relaunched the maturation process. I decided to be patient and didn’t start picking until 15th September. The wines will merit long elevages.”

CÔTE CHALONNAISE

DOMAINE FEUILLAT-JUILLOT, Montagny

Françoise Feuillat-Juillot and now daughter Camille continue to make exemplary wines from her 16 hectares of prime vineyards in Montagny. Camille told us “There wasn’t a lot of rain in the winter of 2018/19, but it was mild, which led to an early budding. There was then a cold spring which drew-out the flowering and caused lots of millerandage and very irregular development. From June to August, it was very hot and dry and we began picking exceptionally ripe fruit on 1st September. We were down about 50% in volume – our smallest vintage in 30 years. The wines are now in bottle. Despite their ripeness, there are very high levels of acidity and the wines show great freshness.”. The 2019 vintage will be released later this year.

DOMAINE FRANCOIS LUMPP, Givry

The new generation of Anne-Cécile and Pierre is now firmly implanted in this fine 9.5-hectare domaine, founded by their parents François and Isabelle in 1977, with no inherited vines. Francois said “2019 was a year of small quantities, around 20% less than in 2018 which, in itself, was not an abundant vintage in Givry. The quality and health of the grapes was perfect, but the maturities were a little higher.” The whites are barrel fermented and see 30% new oak, the reds are matured in 70% new oak.

DOMAINE FRANCOIS RAQUILLET, Mercurey

According to Francois, “The quality of this vintage is great, with beautiful maturities, but very low yields; 32hl/ha for the reds and 36 hl/ha for the whites. The main characteristics are great aromatic purity and excellent balance. The wines are very ripe, but with lots of freshness. The vintage could be compared with 2005.”

DOMAINE PAUL ET MARIE JACQUESON, Rully

Pierre Jacqueson told us “It was a very cold spring and there was devastating frost at the beginning of April, occasioning a loss of 70% to our premier cru whites. Flowering was difficult and rainy, which led to a lot of millerandage. The summer broke all records in terms of prolonged heat and drought (until 2020 that is!). In brief, all the circumstances combined for a very small crop of great concentration – both sugars and acidity. The whites were picked at 13-14 degrees natural and are rich, generous and full, with fine acidity. The reds are very fine, with aromas and flavours which recall 2018, but with more acidity. Their balance is remarkable.”

DOMAINE VINCENT DUREUIL-JANTHIAL, Rully

This 20-hectare domaine is one of the best run properties in the entire region and a wonderful visit for many years. We began working together for the 1996 vintage and Vincent is now one of the superstar producers of all Burgundy – hugely revered by other top growers, press and the best sommeliers. The 2019 vintage will be released in September 2021. In the meantime, we have managed to secure additional stocks of the more abundant 2018 vintage – please enquire.

CÔTE DE BEAUNE

DOMAINE FIONA LEROY

This exciting, tiny domaine was established by the young and dynamic Fiona in December 2017. The domaine is situated in the attractive and secluded village of Dezize-Les-Maranges at the most southerly point of the Cote de Beaune. It is one of the region’s most ecologically diverse villages, with woods, pastures, rivers, hills, valleys, livestock farming and wild fauna. Fiona has embraced the sentiment of her environment and carries out all viticultural practices organically and biodynamically – using infusions and decoctions of horn manure, silica, horsetail, nettle and achillea. She only employs manual work in the vines – using a small caterpillar tractor for ploughing and all harvesting is by hand. Winemaking is simple, traditional and free from artifice and no new oak is used, in order to preserve the nuances of her individual terroirs. Sulphur dioxide is used sparingly, if at all. The reds are neither fined nor filtered, whilst her whites receive a light filtration only. Regarding the 2019 vintage, Fiona said “2019 is a great vintage, especially for reds – great fruit, a beautiful line of acidity, freshness and balance. The whites suffered more with frost and heat”.

DOMAINE ALAIN GRAS, Saint-Romain

Alain told us “A very early year. We began picking on 5th September. We had a heatwave and a consequent lack of water. As a result, the concentration of the juice has made for wines of exceptional quality. We were also really surprised, bearing in mind the growing season, that they have such magnificent balance. The limestone soils (Saint-Romain has more limestone than any other commune in the Cote d’Or) have contributed a beautiful line of acidity.”

DOMAINE JOSEPH COLIN, Saint-Aubin

According to Joseph, “In 2019, we were expecting to pick around 12th September, but August was so hot and dry that it pushed us to advance the start to 5th September – for our parcel of Chassagne 1er Cru Les Caillerets. We finished on 16th September with our Aligoté. The quality and health of the grapes were absolutely perfect. The yields, however, are down between 20% and 65%! This tiny quantity of juice has given wines of great density with beautiful aromatic complexity and perfect balancing acidity. Each parcel has revealed its true personality. In their infancy, the wines are gourmand and full of energy. The keeping potential appears to be excellent.” No SO2 until bottling, no fining nor filtration. All processes are carried out on a waning moon (reductive) rather than a waxing moon, (oxidative).

DOMAINE HUBERT LAMY, Saint-Aubin

According to Olivier Lamy, “The winter of 2019 was quite damp and warm, then on 5th April, frost destroyed a good percentage of the buds. Flowering was drawn out, then a hot, dry summer allowed excellent maturity. The health of the grapes was perfect, with no diseases or climatic accidents during the growing season. Harvesting began on 7th September with the young vines and finished on 18th September. The grapes were small, scarce and the weight of the grapes light. The whites achieved beautiful maturity and retained excellent freshness, with a balance of ripeness, freshness and energy. 0% new oak will be employed over 2 years of elevage. Every wine presently transcribes its terroir. The yields are tiny because of the prevailing climatic conditions – between 2016 and 2017 in terms of volumes.”

DOMAINE FERNAND & LAURENT PILLOT, Chassagne-Montrachet

Laurent told us “Apart from a few episodes of spring frost, the weather was clement for the vine, with a hot summer and picking in mid-September. We began to harvest on 10th September and continued, in perfect, sunshine, until 19th September. The grapes were magnificent and in perfect health. The yields were smaller than usual – down around 20-25%. The white wines have beautiful balance between richness and lovely tension on the finish. It is an excellent vintage for the reds also – with great colours, aromas, fruit and fine, elegant tannins. In summary, it was a small harvest, but with a high level of quality.”

DOMAINE MICHEL NIELLON, Chassagne-Montrachet

Michel Coutoux told us, “The 2019 growing season started badly, with spring frosts at the end of April – reducing certain parcels by 40%, compared with a normal vintage. Chassagne Village was particularly impacted. Spring was then hot and the vines pushed rapidly. The dry summer, with periods of great heat, made the work in the vines difficult and tedious. Harvesting began on 7th September and lasted for 5 days. The quality is very good, but the quantities are disappointing – down between 25-30% on a normal vintage.”

VINCENT GIRARDIN, Meursault

Long-standing winemaker Eric Germain told us. “Two words come to mind – quality and rarity. Indeed, thanks to a clement, sunny summer, we were able to pick grapes of great quality, resulting in whites with lots of aromatic purity with good maturity. The characteristics of each terroir have been retained, with minerality from the rocky, stony soils and ripe fruit from the heavier soils. The health of the red grapes was also perfect, but the Pinot Noirs unfortunately suffered from hydric stress. The resulting wines therefore express very ripe characteristics, deep colours and very silky tannins. One can place 2019 in the footsteps of the “9” years, with lots of character and ripe fruit.” 33 hectares (out of their total production from 80 hectares) are now owned or under their complete control – all of which they farm organically or biodynamically. The remainder benefit from extremely close, proactive relationships with the owners from whom they buy fruit. Their aim is to be 50% own vines. Half their production comprises Bourgogne Rouge, Bourgogne Blanc, Pouilly-Fuissé and Macon Fuissé and many of the top cuvees are made in very limited quantities.

DOMAINE BALLOT-MILLOT, Meursault

Charles told us “It is for me an incomparable vintage. All the qualities of the great years are found in 2019. After a dry and mild winter, we had an early spring, with some frost which impacted potential volumes – mainly in Chassagne. I was expecting a hot year, with little acidity, in the style of 2003. 2019 could not be more different. There was no hydric stress – clearly, we are changing our methods of tending the vines, due to the climate becoming hotter and hotter. Nature is strong and the vine is always looking for ways to adapt itself better to its circumstances. We began picking on 14th September. When I first tasted the 2019s a few weeks after the harvest, I was delighted. Obviously, the concentration is enormous, but the surprise was the intensity and freshness. The grapes reached perfect maturity. It is a vintage which will provide great pleasure early but will also age very well.”

DOMAINE LATOUR-GIRAUD, Meursault

Jean-Pierre Latour said “2019 is characterized by precise aromas and power, indicating noticeable concentration. This richness is again found on the palate with an ample texture and noticeable volume, but with excellent balancing acidity. After a mild winter, the temperatures rose rapidly from the end of March, provoking an early budbreak. A few parcels at the bottom of the slope were frosted at the beginning of April. June saw a return to cold conditions, mid-flowering, which resulted in coulure and a potential loss of 50% of the crop. The end of June and July were very warm and without rain. This caused hydric stress, which continued until the beginning of August, when some welcome rains arrived to unblock the vegetation and accelerate the maturity. We began picking on 6th September and gathered very healthy, well ventilated grapes, with beautiful sugar levels and acidities.”

DOMAINE COMTE ARMAND, CLOS DES EPENEAUX, Pommard

Paul Zinetti told us “We began picking on the 11 September with Fremiets and on 13th September for the Clos des Epeneaux. It was a very small harvest, because of the drawn-out flowering which led to widespread coulure and millerandage. The hot summer also resulted in some burnt grapes, which had to be eliminated. Overall, we were about 30% down on a normal vintage. Maturities were great and the skins were thick – we therefore had to be very careful with extractions. Great ripeness, beautiful acidities and remarkable balance. The wines are fresh with lovely energy. The tannins are ripe and enrobing and there is a saline quality on the finish. Wonderful drinkability – despite their young age. It is a great vintage for reds.”

DOMAINE DE COURCEL, Pommard

Gilles de Courcel was very enthusiastic. “2019 is a lovely vintage. We began picking at the end of September. The grapes had beautiful physiological maturity. The resulting wines present superb balance, great finesse of tannins, anthocyanins and fruit. It follows the line of great vintages ending with a “9” – most notably 2009.”

CÔTE DE NUITS

DOMAINE MICHEL GROS, Vosne-Romanée

The domaine is now managed by Michel’s son, Pierre Gros, but Michel remains on hand to lend wisdom and experience. According to Pierre, “After a very fresh first two weeks in April, the start of the vegetative cycle announced a late vintage, compared with those most recently. Flowering around mid-June confirmed this tendency but, unfortunately, sullen weather during flowering signalled a smaller vintage and heterogenous maturation. This tendence reversed during a hot, sunny summer with very little rain. September continued in this vein and we advanced our picking date from the anticipated 25th, to the 17th September. The quantities are around 30% less than in 2017/2018, but the quality is very good. The maturities are elevated, with concentration linked to a small harvest, but the acidities are very satisfactory. This has given rich wines with excellent freshness. The health of the grapes was excellent, which has resulted in expressive fruit and beautiful purity.”

DOMAINE FELETTIG, Chambolle-Musigny

This fabulously run domaine has experienced a meteoric rise in its reputation over the last few vintages and is now one of the most highly reputed in the village. According to Gilbert, “We began the harvest on 13th September in Corton and finished in the Hautes Cotes de Nuits on 26th September. After a very hot growing season and limited yields (36hl/ha on average), we are very pleased with the results. The grapes were ripe and in perfect health – and we have therefore incorporated a high level of whole bunches this year. The tannins are noble and the wines are beautifully balanced.”

DOMAINE ANNE ET HERVE SIGAUT, Chambolle-Musigny

Anne Sigaut was delighted with the vintage. “We harvested extremely healthy grapes. It barely rained in August and not a single drop fell in September. The only concern was preventing the berries from scorching in the multiple heatwaves. We cut off everything which had been burned prior to the harvest – which began on 12th September, with potential alcohols of 13.5 degrees. We only harvested in the mornings. The resulting wines are very harmonious, with silky tannins, elegance and beautiful, floral aromatics.” Everything was destemmed in 2019.

DOMAINE RENE BOUVIER, Gevrey-Chambertin

According to Bernard Bouvier, «We began picking on 10th September. Everything passed serenely and we are very enthusiastic about the results obtained. The beginning of the year was spring-like and then spring itself was autumnal ! Summer was hot and dry. However, the resulting wines are fresh, gourmand and seductive. There is a real elegance and harmony to the wines and the tannins are very supple. » Bernard is increasingly incorporating a more significant percentage of whole bunches – around 50%. Most of his reds see 20% new oak.

Domaine DUGAT-PY, Gevrey Chambertin

Loic Dugat said “2019 will be in a long line of vintages ending with a 9. The balances are remarkable with lots of freshness and beautiful acidity. Five new appellations in the Cote de Beaune have been added to our range because, since February 2019, we have been tending the plots of Domaine Newman. We, of course, tend them organically, in line with our philosophy and policy, so they are the same as the rest of our domaine. All these plots produce grapes from old vines – between 44 and 75 years old.”

DOMAINE PHILIPPE LIVERA Gevrey Chambertin

According to Helene Livera, “It is a superb vintage; fresh and balanced with a silky, even velvety character. Yields were not too bad and the quality is excellent. The wines also have great structure. The weather was favourable. It was hot and we had little rain, but the showers in the middle of August really refreshed the vines and grapes. We began picking on 14th September and ideal conditions prevailed throughout. It was easier than in 2018, where we really had to harvest quickly. The vinifications were really easy and malolactic finished in the middle of September 2020.”

DOMAINE MARC ROY, Gevrey-Chambertin

According to Alexandrine Roy, “We harvested on 13th September. We also had a nice window of great weather for our harvest, which finished on 18th September. We had to use the chiller to bring down the temperature of the grapes at crush time, but then it didn’t rise too high – about 33-34 degrees at the most. There was a very comfortable extraction and colour and aromatics came through very easily. Pressing was disappointing, because of the lack of juice. We always press very gently, which allows us to only extract the most silky tannins. Elevages went very well. The red with the highest natural alcohols was “la Justice” at 14%. The Marsannay Blanc was down 60% in terms of volume and even though it is nearly 15% natural,, it is absolutely fantastic. The reds are aromatic, dense and charming, with very good balance. Everything is very well integrated and there is wonderful complexity.”

CHABLIS

DOMAINE NATHALIE ET GILLES FEVRE, Chablis

Nathalie and Gilles have now been joined by their daughter Julie – a qualified agricultural engineer and oenologist in her own right. According to Julie “In 2019, the winter was mild, which awakened the vines early. We then had a spring which was more like autumn, with episodes of frost and cold, which resulted in coulure and millerandage. Summer was very hot and dry, but maturation was never blocked. The wines offer a beautiful balance between concentration supported by freshness. This year doesn’t depart from the “magic of the 9s – offering beautiful freshness and great aromatic purity”. The domaine is now working towards organic certification in 3 years’ time.

DOMAINE CHRISTIAN MOREAU, Chablis

Fabien told us “2019 was another warm vintage after 2018. January was cold and February mild but both very dry (40% of normal rainfall). The dates of budbreak and flowering were normal. There was a small frost, but without damage and no hail. It is the second year without any damage!! The vines were very healthy, because of the dry summer throughout June, July and August. We had no rain between 12/06 and 15/07. The summer was warm, but not as hot as 2018 – but the vines suffered more in 2019, due to lack of rain. In 2018, there were lots of winter rains, which did not happen in 2019. Ripeness is greater in 2019, but so are acidity levels. Luckily, we had 13mm of rain in early September, which helped with the maturity and volume. We picked from the 12th to 20th September.”

Richard Lashbrook, MW

Burgundy Buyer, Thorman Hunt