Stephen Brook and Gerard Basset OBE MW MS offer their summary of the Burgundy 2014 vintage growing season and their first view of the wines in bottle, as the latest Burgundy en primeur campaign gets underway.

Burgundy 2014 vintage ratings at-a-glance:

‘Far from easy’

As in so many recent years, the Burgundy 2014 vintage produced many excellent wines. Yet it was far from an easy growing season.

The Burgundy 2014 growing season:

Conditions got off to a good start: spring was warm and dry, leading to a fairly early budbreak and an uneventful flowering in early June throughout Burgundy.

But later that month the problems began. On 28 June a hailstorm, as in 2012 and 2013, tore through the Côte de Beaune, causing huge damage in villages such as Volnay, Pommard, Meursault and Beaune.

The renowned vineyards of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet largely escaped, although some problems during flowering here did lower the crop. The Côte de Nuits was much less affected, but still there were growers who experienced considerable damage.

Not all vineyards within each commune were affected by hail, but nevertheless many producers reported losses that averaged about half their usual crop; at Domaine Jacques Prieur, which owns vineyards across the Côte d’Or, the average yield was 14hl/ha.

The silver lining was that the reduced crop reached maturation with ease despite the difficult
summer.

However, feeble yields in damaged sites forced some growers to blend premier cru sites into a single blend rather than releasing them separately, since there was too little wine to justify single-vineyard bottlings.

Tricky conditions

The summer was frankly poor, with wet, chilly conditions interspersed with a few hot days in July and worsening conditions during the first half of August. There was surprisingly little disease, but maturation proceeded slowly.

Pierre Damoy, of the eponymous domaine in Gevrey-Chambertin, confessed: ‘Given that
this was supposed to be an early vintage, the awful weather in August slowed everything
down and caused us great anxiety.’

From mid-August the weather improved, with mostly dry, sunny conditions continuing well into September, giving the grapes a steady maturation and a harvest beginning generally from mid-September.

A north wind helped to keep the bunches healthy. Chardonnay was largely problem free, but there was some rot in the Pinot Noir that had to be dealt with in the vineyard or on sorting tables.

The sunny conditions meant there was no pressure to pick very quickly.

Fruit flies: Drosophila Suzukii

However, from late August there were localised infestations of the drosophila suzukii fruit fly that can penetrate damaged grapes, especially those with soft skins such as Pinot Noir.

According to Grégory Patriat of Jean-Claude Boisset, some growers panicked and picked too early, resulting in hard tannins in their Pinots.

The damage done by these spotted-wing, vinegar flies provokes sour rot, which needs to be eliminated by careful sorting in the vineyard and winery, and this was done by all top-flight domaines.

Burgundy 2014 white wines overview

Chablis

In Chablis there were memories of botrytis attacks the previous year, and Jean-Philippe Archambaud at Simmonet-Febvre pointed out: ‘Quite understandably some growers were
nervous and tempted to harvest too early, but it was important to wait.’

The sunny, breezy first half of September resulted in delicious and fragrant wines with ageing potential.

Fabien Moreau at Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils said: ‘It was a very healthy harvest
and the wines have a classic style.’

General: ‘A large range of enjoyable and easy drinking wines’

Overall, the Burgundy 2014 white wines across the whole region are admirable: ripe, juicy and
relatively forward.

At Domaine Alain Chavy in Puligny the grapes had natural sugars of 12.8% potential alcohol or more, so no chaptalisation was required. Acidities were normal, but even so there are some soft wines that may not age particularly well.

This means there will be a large range of enjoyable, easy-drinking wines.

At the same time the great sites delivered excellent wines of minerality, fruit intensity and staying power. Antoine Lepetit de la Bigne, of Domaine Leflaive, said that after racking in the summer, the whites gained in intensity and structure. He had no doubt they would age well.

Both picking dates and the use of (or blocking of) malolactic fermentations will have affected individual house styles, so the white vintage is far from uniform. Yet they combine the richness of 2012 with the freshness of 2013, says Jean-Pierre Cornut at Château de la Maltroye in Chassagne.

‘Classic’ Burgundy 2014 red wines

The reds, especially in the Côte de Nuits, are less voluptuous and rich than 2009 or 2012, but also riper than 2008, which had a similar growing season.

As with the whites, there are many forward wines for drinking over the next eight to 10 years, as well as superb wines from the top vineyards that should age well.

Thierry Brouin at LVMH-owned Clos des Lambrays in Morey-St-Denis believes 2014 is a great vintage that may be overlooked after all the praise already being heaped on the Burgundy 2015 crop.

Jacques Devauges at the neighbouring Clos de Tart was less concerned: ‘We’ve had a succession of small harvests coupled with high worldwide demand, so I’m not worried about the 2014s, which are full of charm and flesh.’

In the hail-affected areas, growers were presented with challenges. First, the yields could be risibly low. Secondly, levels of extraction could be worryingly high.

There is huge stylistic variation among the red Côte de Beaune wines. Many are limpid and pure, as they should be; others are dark and dense.

Written jointly by Stephen Brook and Gérard Basset OBE MW MS

See 100 of the best Burgundy 2014 wines rated by Gerard Basset and Stephen Brook – including a selection offering great value – in the February issue of Decanter magazine. Subscribe to Decanter here.

Decanter February 2016 issue, Burgundy 2014

Decanter February 2016 issue, Burgundy 2014

 

Page Updated on 18 February 2016