Burgundy attracts more than its fair share of ambitious wannabe winemakers. The carefully groomed vineyards on the east-facing slope known as the Côte d’Or, the pale stone of the medieval buildings and, most of all, the often haunting quality of the wines, together cast a powerful spell. During the three weeks I recently devoted to tasting the 2010 burgundies, I kept coming across producers that were new to me – some of them very promising.
Historically, only Burgundians were able to get their hands on a patch of Burgundian vineyard but today the Golden Slope seems to be in full ferment, with land changing hands at record prices, and many a foreigner entering the fray.
I know of two new Franco-Japanese enterprises, and Americans now seem to be as entrenched in Nuits and Beaune as in Paris – with Alex Gambal and Domaine Dublère making particularly toothsome 2010s.
Last summer one well-heeled investor is said to have paid so much for a tiny holding in the white wine Grand Cru Bâtard Montrachet that the equivalent price would be almost €25m a hectare.
Burgundians are concerned about this upward spiral in the prices paid for their land. Presumably this will be followed by a similar movement in wine prices, but Burgundy’s vignerons have long prided themselves on the contrast between their steady pricing and the volatility of Bordeaux.
Jean-Marie Fourrier of Gevrey-Chambertin, just turned 40 and one of the most thoughtful vignerons of his generation, decided last year to establish a négociant business named after himself (wines made from his family’s vines are labelled Domaine Fourrier). He wants to try making wine from Grand Cru sites other than the slice of Griotte-Chambertin that the Fourriers already own, but he knows that he will never be able to afford any more Grand Cru land. Instead, his négociant company in 2011 bought Clos Vougeot and Echezeaux grapes from other proprietors.
Burgundy lovers will rejoice at this news as the disposition of great vineyards does not always match the capabilities of their owners in the cellar. Many of the most sought-after domaines such as Fourrier, Denis Bachelet, Ghislaine Barthod, Sylvain Cathiard, Michel Lafarge, Marquis d’Angerville and Etienne Sauzet have no, or minute, holdings in Grand Cru vineyards.
Two things thrilled me about the 2010s, apart from the generally delightful quality of the wines, both red and white. First, the wines of the Côte de Beaune for once shone as brightly as those of the Côte de Nuits, with a strong performance in many of the Premiers Crus around Beaune itself. Not just the relevant domaines but all of the best-performing Beaune négociants, Bouchard Père et Fils, Chanson, Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot, seem to have put extra effort into their best Beaune reds in 2010. These single-vineyard Beaunes, like so many 2010s, really did express their individual vineyard characters superbly.
The other pleasing phenomenon was how well many of the lesser-known producers performed.
South of the Côte d’Or the quality gap continues to narrow between the best producers in southern Burgundy, the Mâconnais and the Côte Chalonnaise, and those on the Golden Slope. I found the Pouillys of Daniel Barraud, the Mâcons of Héritiers du Comte Lafon, the Montagnys of Jean-Marc Boillot and the Rully Blanc of Jaeger-Defaix (owned by Bernard Defaix of Chablis) were particularly successful in 2010.
Well to the north of the Côte d’Or, 2010 seems to have been a more successful vintage for classic, long-lived Chablis than the softer, riper 2009s – although the tauter, more chiselled 2008s may turn out to be even more long-distance runners. Here, I was especially impressed with the oak-free wines of Gilbert Picq and the rather denser, grander ones of Jean-Paul and Benoît Droin.
But I had encountered strikingly good wines from all of these producers before. The real excitement was discovering wine producers whose 2010s broke new barriers, either because this was their debut vintage or because they seemed to have reached new performance levels, often as a new generation takes over.
Chanterives is a tiny négociant-vinificateur based in Savigny but which made its first wines, in 2010, in rented space in Pommard. It is an exciting and new co-operation between Simon Bize’s winemaker Guillaume Bott and Tomoko Kuriyama whose German wines, Riesling and Pinot Noir, have already won considerable praise. Buy now while prices are still very reasonable.
Another name that was new to me was Livera of Gevrey-Chambertin. I tasted only one wine, their 2010 Chapelle-Chambertin, but it was so good that I will look out for more. This is one of many domaines where a new generation has its hand on the tiller.
In Monthelie, Florent Garaudet now has his own label alongside that of his well-established father and the 2010s I tasted suggested future vintages might be worth following.
One producer whose short track record was confirmed with his 2010s was Domaine Tessier of Meursault. Arnaud Tessier took over the family domaine in 2005. Initially he followed family tradition of selling off most of the grapes to others but he clearly has some top-quality old vines, and considerable skill in turning them into crystalline white wines.
Antoine Jobard’s influence at the domaine that until recently carried the name of his father François seems benign, just like the gifted winemaker son Thomas Bouley’s work at Jean-Marc Bouley of Volnay.
In Chambolle-Musigny François Bertheau took over his father’s vines some years ago and I do wonder how he has managed to fly beneath the international burgundy-loving radar for so long. His 2010s are really outstanding – very pure and unforced.
Other producers whose 2010s seemed to me to be particularly successful are listed on the previous page.
For 1,900 tasting notes on 2010 burgundies see Purple Pages of JancisRobinson.com
These very varied producers, listed alphabetically, all seemed to perform particularly well in 2010.
● Chanson, Beaune
● Bruno Clair, Marsannay
● Darviot-Perrin, Monthelie
● Jean Guiton, Bligny-lès-Beaune
● Patrick Javillier, Meursault
● Jessiaume, Santenay
● Benjamin Leroux, Beaune
● Thibault Liger-Belair, Nuits-St-Georges
● Fernand & Laurent Pillot, Chassagne
● Michele and Patrice Rion, Nuits
● Cecile Tremblay, Morey