2013 Vintage – potentially a very fine “burgundy vintage”

Almost everyone has been criticizing this vintage, which potentially gave signs of being very difficult. In fact it was a hell of a strange vintage, with a large slice of mildew and disease, very cool and wet conditions and a harvest that took place on the 4th of October…so very  late.  Which is also true of this article, which I have deliberately held back until some interesting and honest tasting could take place in the bottle.  Let’s face it, we were expecting very high acidity due to the rain and cold conditions, and some 2013 Pinots i have tasted have had a certain “tart feel” to them.  To be honest, I can’t often taste the so-called “greatest” wines from the so-called “top” estates, because I’m not a very famous wine critic…but let’s be honest, most of us can’t afford them, at least on a regular basis, and also the estates don’t have anything for us mere mortals to buy!  So for an objective and realistic tasting of Burgundy 2013 that we can afford to buy and drink, here it goes…

Cotes de Nuits…the Pinot noir territory.

A lot of estates expected a fairly acidic and “thin” Pinot but what they found was a classic Pinot vintage with the last three weeks ripening the grapes. Only those estates, and there are a few, who chose to harvest higher yields rather than reduce the quantity, would find their wines a little “tart” and not giving their true fruitfulness. There is the opulence in the 2012 vintage, but more finesse of a true “cool climate” Burgundy in 2013. Some estates thought of reducing acidity bu “de acidification” I.e. Using a chalky substance to reduce acid,  which is totally legal, but most thought twice as it gives a meaner, harder wine and often produces the opposite effect. 

The flowering period took place in early July, over 40 days later than the 07 and 11 vintages. Wine growers were forced to plough up to 10 times rather than the usual 4 or 5 as the grass and weeds grew.  

This is turning out to be a very well-balanced vintage, with great colour, ripe fruit and attractive bouquets. But a little patience is needed to enjoy the Pinot to the full.

Cotes de Beaune…Chardonnay Territory.

Again a difficult time for all, the Cotes de Beaune suffered from another painful hailstorm early July, destroying crops from Aloxe Corton to Meursault. However their was good acidity and those who picked carefully enjoyed a successful vinification.  The Chardonnays have more character than 2011 and better balance than 2010 and 2012.

Chablis
Very difficult time with some very low yields but producing some excellent wines. 

Conclusions.
Exceptionally cool, wet spring resulting in floods and in vineyards so muddy they were exceptionally difficult to enter, much less work. 

Rain during flowering in June resulted in very poor fruit set, and relatively low yields (which helped the remaining grapes inch towards ripeness at the end of the season). 

In July devastating hailstorms hit the Côte de Beaune for the third year running. 

Some warmth arrived at last in August, reducing the three-week delay in the growing season to two. 

A humid September brought the threat of rot, exacerbated by rainstorms on 5/6 October, but acid levels were still dangerously high. 

White wine grapes were picked mainly at the end of September and red wine grapes in early October. 

Sorting was essential but biodynamically grown grapes were generally in much better health, with earlier ripeness, than others. 

Stems were rarely fully ripe, making whole-bunch fermentations potentially difficult. 

Virtually all wines were chaptalised, with a bit of sugar added before fermentation to increase the final alcohol level. 

For winemaking, gentle infusion rather than extraction was the key.

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About stephenliney

Wine consultant based in Burgundy. Specializing in Burgundy, Rhone & Provence wines, wine investment, brand marketing, wine tourism & international wine export
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