There are whispers that Burgundy 2018 could become one of the region's all-time great vintages. Tim Atkin MW, Decanter's Burgundy correspondent, reports on the mood ahead of this year's Hospices de Beaune auction.
This weekend’s Hospices de Beaune charity auction, which will see 828 barrels of red and white wine come under the hammer in Burgundy, is expected to break all previous records.
The word in region, at least in public, is that Burgundy 2018 is one of the greatest ever vintages. One local négociant, Philippe Pacalet, compared it to the mythical 1947 harvest and the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) described the year as ‘ideal’.
It’s too early to pronounce on the overall quality of the 2018s, some of which have yet to complete their malolactic fermentations, but the growing season that produced them was marked by extreme heat and lack of summer rainfall.
2018 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy since 2003, as well as one of the driest ever, with 55% of the average annual precipitation over the last 30 years.
As such, 2018 takes its place alongside an increasingly common run of warm, early harvests such as 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2017, which appear to reflect global warming.
The bright sunny weather in late August and the first fortnight of September meant that picking took place over the space of nearly a month. As he often is, Arnaud Ente was the first to harvest on August 20th; Yves Confuron was one of the last to finish on September 25th.
Final volumes have not yet been confirmed by the BIVB, but this is the second large vintage in a row, which makes a welcome change after a series of small, mostly hail and frost-affected crops since 2009. The number of bunches that growers chose to leave on the vines will have a considerable influence on their styles of wine, which was also the case in 2017. So will harvest dates.
And yet, overall, it is concentration, colour and marked levels of alcohol that will almost certainly define the style of the 2018s, especially the reds.
Many growers picked their Grands Crus at 14% or more, 15% was not unheard of and one laboratory analysed a Bonnes Mares at 16.3%. Acidification is generally frowned upon in Burgundy, but was widely practised this year.
‘It was very, complicated,’ says négociant Mark Haisma, ‘and especially difficult to retain freshness and balance in the wines.’
With so much sugar in the grapes, stuck fermentations were an occasional problem as were early malolactics, which reduced stability.
The Hospices auction this weekend will almost certainly be a success, but a more considered assessment of 2018 will have to wait another year.
We will be publishing hundreds of Atkin’s tasting notes and scores for Burgundy 2017 en primeur wines in the next two months.
All will be available first, and exclusively, to Decanter Premium subscribers.
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