Burgundy 2013 Vintage Report
When we embark on buying trips for a primeur offer, we make a point of not finding out too much about the vintage conditions in advance. This might sound a bit naive, or even slightly lazy, but in a region like Burgundy with myriad appellations there are so many variations on the theme that what is true for one village may be the complete opposite for another. 2013 has turned out to be one of those years where generalisations just cannot sum up everything that contributed to what is an extraordinary vintage, where we found producers somewhat shyly admitting that their wines are so much better than they had dared hope for.
The Growing Season & Harvest
The growing season was anything but easy, a gloomy January recording just 17 hours of sunshine in the whole month, presaging a cold, damp and therefore slow start to the vines’ cycle. April and May were very wet, so wet that the tractors couldn’t get into the vineyards and many growers had to revert to hand spraying – the alternative was queuing in Beaune to get a rare slot on the helicopter sprayers’ lists. Pictures of ducks paddling between the vines abounded – not what any farmer wants to see.
Flowering started later than usual, in mid-June, initially under fine conditions, however a violent storm part way through caused some flowers to abort (coulure) or set but then fail to develop properly (millérandage); by the end of flowering the vignerons knew that it was to be another smaller than average harvest, with some 30% reduction in Nuits, just what they didn’t need after the small harvests of 2010, 2011 and 2012. Happily, July, August and September were mostly hot and sunny, however the price of the heat after the earlier humidity was a severe hail storm on 23rd July which ravaged the Côte de Beaune, destroying some 1,100 hectares of fruit in Pommard, Volnay, Savigny, Corton, and Pernand Vergelesses – many of the same names which had been hit in 2012 with savage results.
Towards the end of September the heat continued but the humidity built up, bringing with it the threat of rot; too late to spray, the vignerons had only one choice – to harvest as quickly as possible and sort the fruit thoroughly before committing it to the vats or barrels, leading to a further 5 to 25% of fruit to be lost. Harvesting was mostly in late September or early October and was the latest harvest since 1984.
So far, so challenging. However, 2013 produced delicious wines, unexpectedly so given the weather, and here is the reason why: with a reduced crop and a mostly fine July, August and September, the scene was set for some good fruit maturation and concentration. Those berries which survived the various crises of flowering, hail and rot and made it to the vats were deliciously clean and pure and, without a massive heatwave over the summer, they had an incredible intensity of fresh fruit and substantial malic acid, most of which has been converted to lactic acid in the maturation process.
The whites are truly delicious, fresh and pure, with an extraordinarily edible acidity described by Bill Nanson of The Burgundy Report as ‘gushing sweet acidity’ – an oxymoron if ever there was one, but absolutely true. Terroir looms large on these wines, with the difference between clay and limestone vineyards more clearly marked than usual. The reds are equally plump and round, with my notes stating ‘gourmand’ on more than one occasion – spiced, juicy and intense, the majority have plenty of tannins but you have to remind yourself to look out for them, so well are they integrated with the fruit.
These are wines which are going to drink in the medium term, mostly before the 2012s, whilst their fruit is so gloriously enticing. They will also age gracefully in the mid to mid plus term, particularly in the top vineyards.
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Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler MW