- Wednesday 1 May 2002
CLIVE COATES MWshares his expert views about the 2000 vintage in Burgundy.
2000 is a very good year for white wines, all the way from Chablis to Mâcon. But the reds are more patchy. Wines from the Côte de Beaune, with honourable exceptions, are a bit light: fruity but without backbone. Even the best reds of the Côte de Nuits are a shadow of the excellent 1999s, a vintage that has lived up to its early promise, not to mention the acclaim showered on the wines 12 months ago.
The weather can be summarised as follows. It was an early spring. The vines flowered quickly, uniformly and early, presaging a large, early harvest. Though July was miserable, August was warm. There was a little rain before the harvest; a severe thunderstorm on the afternoon of the second day of the vintage (12 September), which fell largely in the Côte de Beaune; then more showers. But after that the weather improved.
For those who had not controlled the size of their crop, and who felt the full force of the September rain, the 2000 vintage was a disaster. The crop would not have been fully ripe. The outset of rot would have been swift. Even where the harvest had been restrained, and sugar degrees were satisfactory, the fruit was phenolically unripe. Colours were difficult to extract. Flavours were lacking. It was as crucial to sort out the ripe from the rotten and unripe (triage) as to bleed off excess juice (saignée) to obtain a more satisfactory solid-to-liquid ratio. It was a difficult year for winemakers.In the Côte d'Or the vintage gets progressively better as one travels from south to north. Volnays and Pommards are better than Santenays, Savignys proportionately better still. In the Côte de Nuits there is yet more success, with Gevrey-Chambertin the best village of all.
The best wines are fresh and fruity, soft centred and will evolve in the medium term. As one climbs the hierarchy from village to grand cru the wines get proportionately better.'I call it a vintage without problems,' says Christian Gouges of Domaine Henri Gouges (meaning no problem for the consumer to enjoy). It is a vin de plaisir. Yet the wines are true to their terroir.' François Millet, the usually restrained winemaker at the Comte Georges de Vogüé domaine, is more enthusiastic. 'We have a confit of fruit,' he says. 'The wines are sensual, yet with no lack of structure and tannin.'
What is obvious is that the vintage has improved. 'At first,' says Aubert de Villaine of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 'I regarded 2000 as a 1992-plus, possibly a little fragile. But they aren't thin at all, as we feared.' I think the wines in the Côte de Nuits are more interesting than the 1997s. As Christophe Roumier of the Georges Roumier domaine points out, the 2000s have less alcohol than the 1997s but are fresher. The wines have aged less rapidly in barrel and may last better in bottle.
Despite the fact that the majority of Chablis is over-produced, picked by machine and made to fit into a price-point (all of which hardly encourages a perfectionist approach), 2000 is a fine vintage. The wines of the stellar domaines, those that can be sold at a premium, are very fine: rich, steely and profound, requiring several years of bottle age. Here 2000 is at its best. This is the best year in Chablis for some time. The vintage is also successful in the Côte de Beaune, despite the rain, having benefited from the fact that most growers had to rush out and pick their thinner-skinned Pinots, for they were susceptible to rot, as Vincent Girardin pointed out.
The wines are fullish, ripe, balanced and attractive. They have more to them than the 1997s and 1998s. Whether they are better than the richer, more textured 1999s is a question of opinion. Most growers marginally prefer their 1999s except those in Corton-Charlemagne. 'My best wine since the 1995,' says Jean-Charles Le Bault de la Morinière of Domaine Bonneau du Martray. Nonetheless 2000 is a fine vintage here.1999 was also a lovely vintage in the Côte Chalonnaise – where the whites come mainly from Rully and Montagny – and whether 2000 is superior varies from cellar to cellar, wine to wine. Prices are stable. In fact, given inflation they have been very stable throughout a decade of good vintages (not, sadly, something you can say for Bordeaux). This makes the whites an attractive buy. Whether you should buy red Burgundy depends on individual circumstances. It depends what else you will have in 2005 or so to drink while you wait for your 1999s, 1998s, 1996s, 1995s, 1993s and even some 1990s to fully mature. If you intend to buy 2000 reds, stick to the Côte de Nuits and the Côte Chalonnaise.
Clive Coates MW is an author and publisher of monthly newsletter The Vine.