Burgundy 2013 En Primeur Thoughts, Scores Recommended Merchants & QPs

2013 Burgundy En Primeur Report

a discreet, connoisseurs’ vintage

Volnay Les Taillepieds de Montille 2013 (480x640)

Overview

You must read this report very carefully if you are thinking of buying any wine during the 2013 Burgundy En Primeur campaign.  Because I am not pushing this vintage hard and because this is far from a comprehensive list of scores I have decided not to charge for this report.  This doesn’t mean to say that I haven’t analysed the wines and the conditions in 2013 with any less vigour than I do every year.  I am disappointed to report that there are many underwhelming wines in 2013.  As you would expect, the merchants are trotting out the same old, tired phrases that they do every year trying to convince gullible collectors that this is a vintage worthy of note.  It is not.  Honest merchants admit, albeit quietly for fear of being overheard, that this is not a vintage that they will be buying much of themselves.  Only bumptious Hew Blair at J&B says that he will be filling up his cellar with ‘13s because he feels that they will make old bones – let’s hope he does, too, in order that he can endeavour to enjoy these wines.  When questioned the rest of the merchants put on a fixed grin and shuffled off to talk to someone else with less combative questions.  The reds are certainly tannic and acidic and this might lead one to surmise that they are built for the long run, but I am not wholly convinced.  There is no flamboyance, flair or charm in this vintage.  The whites are often raw and sour, too.  There are severe, sinewy, taut wines made up and down the Côte d’Or.  Caveat emptor.  There are only a few wines that I consider to be balanced and therefore worthy of buying in 2013 – they are all featured in this report.  I personally have only ordered three cases to date.

Yields v Allocations

You may have heard that the weather was atrocious in 2013 – it certainly was.  It was also a very small harvest.  This has put pressure on Burgundians’ finances again and they will need three normal vintages in a row to get back to parity.  Caroline l’Estimé (Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard) told me that her yields in 2013 were much higher than in 2012 – 40hl/ha (in 2013) rather than 25hl/ha (in 2012) and that 2014 was back to normal at 45hl/ha.  Long may this continue.  This dearth of stock has meant that there is no softening of the price hikes we saw last year, in fact some wines have gone up again.  This will, of course, not encourage customers into buying inferior wines.  The main message that the merchants have been shouting is that stocks are on average 30% down.  I heard, on numerous occasions, salesmen saying that wines had already allocated many of the wines and that people should get in quick for fear of missing out on remaining parcels.  One even implied that it wasn’t worth putting half of the wines on tasting because they had already sold the lot.  This is poppycock.  You would be a mug to buy anything that you haven’t tasted and there is no way that this sales technique works with us wine-savvy Burgundy fans – we have heard it all before.  In my opinion many of the wines would struggle to sell given the flavours on display at the various tastings.  Granted there were many correct wines and some showed a degree of flair and élan but the vast majority failed to excite.  When I read in one of the reports that winemakers felt that their wines were ‘infinitely better than expected given the difficult season’, I was mortified.  You would be a fool not to be able to read between these lines.

The Season

A cold Winter hung around through a depressing Spring and the inclement weather delayed budburst.  When flowering eventually occurred, in late June, the weather was still overcast and unsuitable.  These conditions reduced the fruit set which signalled, early in the season, that this was going to be a short harvest.  The summer never really got going and violent storms in late July decimated large swathes (1300ha) of the Côte de Beaune, with Savigny-lès-Beaune, Pommard, Volnay and Meursault being the worst hit.  One négociant I spoke to said he made only 3 barrels of one of his Savignys instead of the 40 barrels he was used to in a normal vintage.  It forced him to buy in fruit from Gevrey and Chambolle – not his normal stomping ground.  When the Summer finally came it remained warm, but not hot.  The grapes were picked very late in order to try to achieve ripeness however rot was an ever-present menace.  For many growers sugar ripeness seemed to have just about been achieved but true taste/physiological ripeness, it appears, was still some way off.  This is the reason why the wines lack a juicy ‘middle palate’ and are so mean and hard on the finish.  It is obvious really – they are basically unripe.

A Silver Lining?

I found a handful of wines that I liked and when I tasted them I immediately asked the winemakers what they had done differently in order to capture the fruit density and ameliorate the raw acid flavours.  Their answers impressed me and to my mind they these sensitive Domaines really sort the successful estates from the rest.  To my mind this is a discreet, connoisseurs’ vintage rather than a ‘beautiful’ one, according to Gregory Gouges.  It is certainly not ‘among the very best ever’, as reported by Gerard Boudot of Etienne Sauzet.  Etienne Grivot said that it was ‘difficult but incredible’ – with his prices going into the stratosphere he is obliged to talk them up!

A Smattering of Clever Red Winemaking

There was some talk about the increased use of (ripe) stems in order to soften the acidity in the reds wines.  Brian Sieve, at Domaine de Montille, (whose wines looked uniformly exquisite) explained that judicious use of stems certainly changes the perceived acid flavours on the palate.  It was clear to me that the less successful wines were just simply unripe and that the winemakers responsible were pushing them hard in the winery to try to extract some richness. When you do this you run the risk of increased astringency unbalancing the wines and this was exactly what I saw left, right and centre.  One of the most perceptive winemakers in the region is Pierre Vincent from Domaine de la Vougeraie.  His wines are slimmer than usual, as one would expect, but they are silky, buoyant, perfectly fresh and lively on the finish and there is no trace of rawness or bitterness.  How did he do it?  Pierre reported that his practice of biodynamism results in naturally low yields and these, combined with genuinely ripe stems, gave him the perfect raw materials to make sensitive, velvety wines.  Instead of punching down he calls his management of the cap an ‘infusion’.  This delicate handling and restraint is evident in his wines which are confident, ethereal and moreish and they will certainly appeal in the short term but will also age exceptionally well.  Balance is born in wine, not gained through time.  Most of the red wines that I tasted were stressed and out of balance and while I don’t doubt that tannin and acidity will fade over time, whatever fruit there is will fall through the floor, too, leaving a dried-out husk of a wine.  Classic Burgundy this is not.  The term classic doesn’t mean old, brown, lean and smelly – many of the ‘13s will inevitably end up like this in their dotage.  However, some wines will look superb after fifteen or twenty years.  Another advocate of very gentle handling was Thibault Liger-Belair.  His wines showed more structure and power than the Vougeraie reds but they didn’t load the palate with unnecessary tannin or hard acid.  Thibault was at pains to point out that he managed the cap very gently indeed.  He compared the turning and aerating of the skins with tilling or gently ploughing a vineyard to aerate but not pulverise the soil.  He doesn’t practise pigeage for extraction just for aeration and he did this more times than normal in 2013 (5/6 for his Clos de Vougeot).  He also said that while his wines were only a touch over 12.5% alc. he only used a slight chaptalisation in order to lengthen the fermentation by coaxing out the yeasts as opposed to bulking up the wine.  These explanations all made sense to me when I tasted the wines.  In other cases, where winemakers dropped the ball, they couldn’t explain their wines other than to say that they were very proud of them and that against all odds they had made long-lived, classic Pinots – I did not agree with a word of it.

Whites

I have spent most of this piece talking about reds.  Interestingly, the whites are very similarly shaped.  They are less fruit-driven than the 2012s and have some of the racy, mineral-derived acid that I liked so much in the 2007s, but sadly, many are hollow on the mid-palate (like the reds).  Some wines are, however, long, lithe, keenly acidic and thrilling.  Many are just dull and attenuated.  Chablis is (again) successful, unless the wines were picked after the rains came down at the beginning of October in which case they are botrytised, fat and sickly.  The Mâconnais, once again, fared well with the more skilful wineries managing the fruit and acid balance successfully.  With fairer pricing this region is more important than ever in 2013 and restaurateurs are already seeking solace here.

My recommendations

Here is a rundown of the wines which I thought captured the true essence of their site, the vintage and the skill of their maker.  Unfortunately, my annual QP (qualité prix) annotation, pointing out particularly good value wines, is in short supply this year!

I have listed the wines by merchant because I feel this will be most useful to you.  I have also put them in price order from cheapest to most expensive.  As several merchants sell the same wine I have noted the wine under the merchant who shows the cheapest price (sometimes MUCH cheaper so get in quick).  I have also attached my score out of 20. In addition no ‘+’ indicates a wine which is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm.  One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance to the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.  All cases are listed per dozen in bond UK (i.e. you will need to add Duty and VAT plus possibly a delivery charge to this price)

Haynes, Hanson & Clark

white

2013 Bourgogne Blanc, Les Grandes Coutures, Domaine Franck Grux 16.5/20 £118.00 QP

2013 Chablis, 1er Cru Côtes de Léchet, Domaine Daniel Dampt 17/20 £128.00, 6 magnums £132.00 QP

2013 Chablis, 1er Cru Fourchaume, Domaine Daniel Dampt 17.5+/20 £132.00 QP

2013 Auxey-Duresses Blanc, Domaine Agnès Paquet 17/20 £144.00 QP

2013 Chablis, 1er Cru Vaillons Cuvée Guy Moreau, Domaine Christian Moreau 17.5+/20 £165.00 QP

2013 Bourgogne Blanc, Domaine Roulot £17.5+/20 £185.00 QP

2013 Chablis, Grand Cru Clos, Domaine Christian Moreau 17.5+/20 £285.00, 6 magnums £290.00

2013 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru En Remilly, Domaine Françoise & Denis Clair 17.5/20 £208.00 QP

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, Etienne Sauzet 18+/20 £330.00

red

2013 Mercurey Rouge, La Framboisière, Domaine Faiveley 17/20 £156.00 QP

2013 Pommard, 1er Cru Les Charmots, Domaine Claudie Jobard 17+/20 £270.00 QP

2013 Vougeot, Alex Gambal 17.5+/20 £395.00

Jeroboams

white

2013 Bourgogne Blanc, La Tufera, Etienne Sauzet 17/20 £140.00 QP

2013 Bourgogne Blanc, Cuvée Oligocène, Domaine Patrick Javillier 17+/20 £165.00 QP

2013 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru Charmois, Domaine Marc Morey 17.5+/20 £200.00 QP

2013 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru Les Pitangerets, Domaine Paul Pillot 17.5+/20 £220.00 QP

2013 Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Caillerets, Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot 17.5+/20 £430.00

red

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin, 1er Cru Clos Prieur, Domaine Drouhin-Laroze 17.5+/20 £400.00

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin, Mes Cinq Terroris, Domaine Mortet 18+/20 £420.00

2013 Chambolle-Musigny, Domaine Robert Arnoux-Lachaux 17.5+/20 £430.00

Justerini & Brooks

white

2013 Mâcon-Chardonnay, Clos de la Crochette, Les Héritiers de Comte Lafon 17/20 £140.00 QP

2013 Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine, Clos du Four, Les Héritiers de Comte Lafon 17.5+/20 £160.00 QP

2013 Viré-Clessé, Les Héritiers de Comte Lafon 17.5+/20 £165.00 QP

2013 Pernand-Vergelesses, 1er Cru Sous Frétille, Domaine Remi Rollin 17.5+/20 £300.00

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, Domaine Bachelet Monnot 18+/20 £305.00 QP

2013 Chablis, Grand Cru Les Clos, Joseph Drouhin 18+/20 £390.00

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Referts, Domaine Bachelet Monnot 18++/20 £470.00

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Folatières, Domaine Bachelet Monnot 18+/20 £525.00

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Champs-Canet, Etienne Sauzet 18.5+/20 £600.00

red

2013 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Paul Pillot 17/20 £140.00 QP

2013 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine de Montille 17+/20 £170.00 QP

2013 Maranges, 1er Cru La Fussière, Domaine Bachelet Monnot 17.5+/20 £175.00 QP

2013 Pernand-Vergelesses, 1er Cru Ile de Vergelesses, Domaine Remi Rollin 17.5+/20 £275.00

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Robert Chevillon 17.5+/20 £300.00 QP

2013 Aloxe-Corton, 1er Cru Clos du Chapitre, Domaine Follin-Arbelet 17.5+/20 £325.00

2013 Beaune-Grèves, 1er Cru, Domaine Tollot-Beaut 17.5+/20 £340.00 QP

2013 Chambolle-Musigny, Les Véroilles, Domaine Bruno Clair 17.5+/20 £400.00

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru Les Pruliers, Domaine Robert Chevillon 18+/20 £410.00 QP

2013 Beaune-Grèves, 1er Cru, Domaine de Montille 17.5+/20 £450.00

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru Les Pruliers, Domaine Henri Gouges 18++/20 £465.00

2013 Morey-Saint-Denis, Clos des Rosiers Monopole, Domaine Chantal Remy 17.5+/20 £500.00

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru Les Cailles, Domaine Robert Chevillon 18++/20 £595.00

2013 Volnay, 1er Cru Les Mitans, Domaine de Montille 19++/20 £645.00 QP

2013 Latricères-Chambertin, Grand Cru, Domaine Drouhin-Laroze 18++/20 £700.00 QP

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru Les Saint Georges, Domaine Henri Gouges 18.5++/20 £770.00

2013 Chambolle-Musigny, 1er Cru Les Véroilles, Domaine Ghislaine Barthod 18.5++/20 £790.00

2013 Chambolle-Musigny, 1er Cru Les Fuées, Domaine Ghislaine Barthod 18.5++/20 £850.00

2013 Clos de la Roche, Grand Cru, Domaine Chantal Remy 18++/20 £950.00

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru Aux Boudots, Domaine Méo-Camuzet 18.5+/20 £900.00

2013 Vosne-Romanée, 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts, Domaine Jean Grivot 18.5+/20 £1180.00

Goedhuis & Co.

white

2013 Chablis, 1er Cru Montmains, Domaine Droin 17.5/20 £175.00

2013 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru En Remilly, Domaine Marc Colin 17.5/20 £240.00 QP

2013 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru Derrière Chez Edouard, Domaine Hubert Lamy 17.5+/20 £240.00 QP

2013 Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Encégnières, Domaine Marc Colin 18/20 £298.00 QP

2013 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru Clos de la Chatenière, Domaine Hubert Lamy 18+/20 £298.00

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot 18+/20 £350.00 QP

2013 Meursault, Le Clousots, Domaine Patrick Javillier 18+/20 £365.00 QP

2013 Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Champs Gain, Domaine Marc Colin 18+/20 £440.00

2013 Meursault, Le Tesson, Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet 18+/20 £450.00

2013 Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru En Remilly, Domaine Colin-Deléger 18+/20 £490.00

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Referts, Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot 18.5++/20 £596.00

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Referts, Etienne Sauzet 18.5++/20 £675.00

red – it’s worth noting that the Domaine Fourrier wines and the Domaine Sylvain Cathiard wines all looked superb but no prices were shown

2013 Santenay, Vieilles Vignes Les Champs Claude, Domaine Marc Colin 17+/20 £175.00 QP

2013 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Ghislaine Barthod 17+/20 £185.00 QP

2013 Auxey-Duresses, 1er Cru, Domaine Comte Armand 17.5+/20 £270.00 QP

2013 Chambolle-Musigny, Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat 17.5/20 £310.00 QP

2013 Volnay, Domaine Comte Armand 17.5+/20 £310.00

2013 Pernand-Vergelesses, 1er Cru Ile des Vergelesses, Domaine Chandon de Briailles 17.5+/20 £340.00

2013 Beaune-Clos du Roi, 1er Cru, Domaine Tollot-Beaut 17.5+/20 £390.00

2013 Chambolle-Musigny, Domaine Ghislaine Barthod 18+/20 £396.00

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Lavières, Domaine Jean Grivot 18+/20 £430.00

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Géantet-Pansiot 17.5+/20 £450.00

2013 Vougeot, 1er Cru Les Petits Vougeots, Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat 17.5+/20 £525.00

2013 Chambolle-Musigny, 1er Cru Beaux Bruns, Domaine Ghislaine Barthod 18.5+/20 £690.00

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin, 1er Cru Le Poissenot, Domaine Géantet-Pansiot 18++/20 £700.00

2013 Chambolle-Musigny, 1er Cru Les Cras, Domaine Ghislaine Barthod 18.5++/20 £730.00

2013 Vosne-Romanée, 1er Cru Les Suchots, Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat 18++/20 £740.00

2013 Pommard, 1er Cru Clos des Epéneaux, Domaine Comte Armand 18.5++/20 £950.00

Berry Bros & Rudd

white

2013 Bourgogne Blanc, Dominique Lafon 17/20 £162.00 QP

2013 Bourgogne Blanc, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet 17/20 £168.00 QP

2013 Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru Les Frionnes, Domaine Hubert Lamy 17.5+/20 £228.00 QP

2013 Ladoix, 1er Cru Les Gréchons, Domaine Sylvain Loichet 17.5+/20 £228.00 QP

2013 Meursault, Les Tillets, Domaine Patrick Javillier 17.5+/20 £306.00 QP

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, Les Aubues, Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet 17.5+/20 £318.00 QP

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, Benjamin Leroux 17.5+/20 £360.00

2013 Meursault, En la Barre, Domaine Antoine Jobard 17.5+/20 £378.00 QP

2013 Meursault, Les Gruyaches, Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet 17.5+/20 £396.00 QP

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, Château de Puligny-Montrachet 18+/20 £396.00

2013 Meursault, Cuvée Tête de Murger, Domaine Patrick Javillier 18+/20 £504.00

2013 Clos Blanc de Vougeot, 1er Cru, Domaine de la Vougeraie 18+/20 £570.00

2013 Meursault, 1er Cru Les Genevrières, Domaine Antoine Jobard 18+/20 £660.00

2013 Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Le Cailleret, Château de Puligny-Montrachet 18.5++/20 £810.00

red

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, La Charmotte, Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair 17.5/20 £384.00 QP

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru Clos de Thorey, Domaine de la Vougeraie 17.5+/20 £420.00 QP

2013 Vosne-Romanée, Domaine Sylvain Cathiard 18+/20 £480.00

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru Aux Thorey, Domaine de Montille 18++/20 £492.00 QP

2013 Volnay, 1er Cru Les Taillepieds, Domaine de Montille 18.5++/20 £660.00 QP

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1er Cru Les Saint Georges, Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair 18+/20 £750.00

2013 Clos de Vougeot, Grand Cru, Domaine de la Vougeraie 18+/20 £816.00

2013 Clos de Vougeot, Grand Cru, Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair 18.5++/20 £1110.00

2013 Vosne-Romanée, 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts, Domaine Sylvain Cathiard 18.5++/20 £1800.00

A directory of noteworthy Burgundy En Primeur Merchants –

A&B Vintners tel. 01892 724977 & www.abvintners.co.uk

Averys of Bristol tel. 03330 148 210 & www.averys.com

Berry Bros & Rudd tel. 0800 280 2440 & www.bbr.com

Corney & Barrow tel. 020 7265 2400 & www.corneyandbarrow.com

Genesis Wines tel. 020 7963 9060 & www.genesiswines.com

Goedhuis & Co. tel. 020 7793 7900 & www.goedhuis.com

H2Vin tel. 020 3478 7376 & www.H2Vin.co.uk

Handford Wines tel. 020 7589 6113 & www.handford.net

Haynes, Hanson & Clark tel. 020 7584 7927 & www.hhandc.co.uk

Howard Ripley tel. 020 8748 2608 & www.howardripley.com

Jeroboams tel. 020 7288 8850 & www.jeroboams.co.uk

Justerini & Brooks tel. 020 7484 6400 & www.justerinis.com

Lea & Sandeman tel. 020 7244 0522 & www.leaandsandeman.co.uk

Tanners tel. 01743 234500 & www.tanners-wines.co.uk