Autumn Gold in Chassagne

EN PRIMEUR: 2018 Burgundy En Primeur

The early part of 2018 was dominated by the very high rainfall – almost twice the average until early May – which must have been very tiresome for those working in the vineyards, but which proved providential given the very hot, dry summer.  Bud break occurred comparatively late (around 25th April).  From late May the rain began to fade from the picture, allowing a very good flowering from around 5th June which produced plenty of bunches and plenty of berries.  There was some localised frost damage (particularly on 1st May in the Côte de Beaune), and there were also three hail storms – the worst of which, on 15th July, caused damage mainly in the southern part of the Côte de Nuits.  From late July and throughout August barely no rain fell, and temperatures were very high.  There were some welcome local showers on 15th August which relieved the vines, and the predominantly northerly winds of August kept the nights relatively cool and the vines healthy.  The rule of thumb has always been 100 days between flowering and picking – but the heat of the summer brought this down closer to 90 days in 2018.  Picking began early – in late August – but those who picked very early did so in very hot conditions as temperatures didn’t begin to drop until the last week of August.  Apart from the small areas affected by frost and hail, the crop was very generous in size – the biggest since 1982 according to some growers.  The big pitfall of the vintage is the level of alcohol.  Nicolas Groffier explained to us that some growers continue to work their vineyards as if conditions have remained unchanged, and as if everything still needs to be done to ensure all the energy of the vine is focused on ripening the grapes.  In fact of course, conditions have changed, and average summer temperatures have increased.  This requires a change of approach in the vineyards, effectively diverting the vines’ energy away from the fruit.  The challenge faced by growers is no longer to produce ripe fruit, but to avoid producing over-ripe fruit.  Those who have recognised this new reality, and who have risen accordingly to the challenge, avoided the alcohols of 14.5-15.5% that some have found themselves having to handle.  With the right approach in the vineyards, it remains possible in such conditions to produce wines of purity, freshness and balance.

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