With climate change causing uncertaintly and unpredictable weather conditions, each Burgundy harvest is a complex game of luck and tough decisions. Growers strive to find the perfect balance between sugar and phenolic ripeness, but this is becoming an increasingly elusive achievement.
For red wines this has meant increased alcohol levels (Tim Atkins reported on wines up to 20% ABV in 2018!) for white winemaking, Burgundy producers have had to make the sometimes-hard decisions to harvest early and acidify in the cellar. This does mean that terroir expression might sometimes be compromised in favour of a bit more elegance, drinkability and restraint.
The list below includes some of the best white Burgundy wines tasted by our experts across the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 vintages.
The 2016 vintage will no doubt be remembered for the devastating frosts combined with mildew as reported by William Kelley.
2017 followed with frosts, and hail contained to Chablis, but very hot temperatures throughout posed the ongoing dilemma of high potential alcohol early in the season not yet met by enough phenolic ripeness. Still, this was a year of good overall quality and yields.
The ripeness/alcohol balance was again the problem in 2018, a vintage that, as Tim Atkin MW pointed out, was not an exceptional year for white Burgundy – indeed you’ll only find one white among the top-scoring line up. The hottest year of the 21st century so far, 2018 is the quintessential ‘climate change’ vintage.
When reporting on the 2018 Burgundy wines, Tim Atkin said that ‘More than ever, it makes sense to follow individual producers rather than villages or vineyards.’ This may well be the inevitable truth going forward: craft, skill and knowledge might be the only answers to the unpredictability of the climate, especially in the most sensitive Burgundian climats.
Needless to say that, with balance and yields becoming an issue while demand increases in both primary and secondary markets, the prices commanded by Burgundy wines are reaching eye-watering levels. But don’t be off-put by the three digits required to get your hands on some of the top-scoring wines.
Immediately below is a companion selection of bottles with slightly lower scores but offering great-value and the possibility of enjoyment without breaking the bank. As highlighted in our recent Chablis value round-up, the northern Burgundy appellation offers particularly good bargain opportunities.
We have also included tasting notes for the top-scoring Burgundy wines to give a multitude of options.
White Burgundy – Value Buys:
Domaine de Bellene, Les Charmes Dessus, Santenay, 2017 – 93 points – £40.35 (Drinks & Co)
Domaine Paul & Marie Jacquesson, Rully 1er Cru Grésigny, 2018 – 92 points – £ 31.95 (Majestic)
Olivier Leflaive, Sous Le Château, St-Romain, 2018 – 92 points – £32.99 (Majestic)
Olivier Leflaive, 1er Cru Montagny, 2018 – 91 points – £28.99 (Majestic)
Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Clos du Four, Mâconnais Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine, 2018 – 93 points – £31.50 (Berry Brothers))
Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, En Chatenay, Mâconnais Pouilly-Fuissé, 2018 – 92 points – £22.50 (Justerini & Brooks)
Domaine Barraud, Sur la Roche, Mâconnais Pouilly-Fuissé, 2018 – 94 points – £35.75 (L&S)
Domaine Frantz Chagnoleau, Les Raspillères, Mâconnais Pouilly-Fuissé, 2018 – 93 points – £25.95 (L&S)
Daniel Dampt, 1er Cru Côte de Léchet, Chablis, 2019 – 93 points – £17
Domaine des Malandes, 1er Cru Vau de Vey, Chablis, 2019 – 93 points – £21 (Vinatis)
Domaine Séguinot-Bordet,1er Cru Fourchaume – 93 points – £17
*The prices are based on current market availability and correct on date of publishing. For those that have not yet been released, 2018 prices have been used as a benchmark.
After the challenges, to both harvesting the 2020 fruit and tasting the 2019 releases, imposed by Covid-19, one can only wait for 2021 to take stock again of the evolution of the white Burgundy wines we so love.
The best white Burgundy:
Wines scoring 96 points and above.