Autumn Gold in Chassagne

EN PRIMEUR: 2019 Burgundy En Primeur

It hardly needs saying that we are currently living in difficult times.  The release of the new Burgundy vintage is usually the focus of numerous tastings in London and elsewhere at the beginning of January; these are of course not possible this year. Our obligations to you as your wine merchant are to do our best to guide you through the 2019 wines and provide you with as much information as we can so that, in lieu of being able to taste the wines, you can make an informed decision as to which wines you would like buy.  As a start to that process, below is a report on the 2019 vintage, together with some indications of what to expect.

We will begin to offer our wines from Monday 11th January, and we hope to do this on a daily basis, producer by producer.  Where there are reviews they will accompany the offers and where there are not we will be happy to provide what guidance we can. Many of you will have followed various producers over the years so you will be familiar with their particular styles.

The winter was mild, with February and March temperatures above average leading to an early bud-break (2 weeks earlier than in 2018). April’s temperatures were normal for the time of year, although a very hard frost on 5th April affected the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise and the Maconnais. Further frost scares between 13th and 15th April, and also in early May, were not as serious though there was some limited further damage. Poor weather in early June slowed the flowering, which had begun on 4th, and caused millerandage (irregular berry size and maturity) and some flowers to abort thereby reducing the potential crop. Peak flowering took place between 12th -15th June. The last week of June saw the first of two heatwaves with temperatures exceeding 40â—¦C. July remained sunny with some localised hail in the Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise on 7th (minor damage) and 14th (more damage, particularly around Aloxe Corton). The second heatwave arrived in the third week of July and delayed the veraison (colour change of the grapes) so that full colour change was only achieved in late August. The hot dry conditions caused vegetation to shut down, especially amongst young vines in drier hillside terroirs. This situation was alleviated by decent rainfall in August that set the growing process in motion again. The overall consequence of these conditions was greatly reduced yields, particularly for Pinot Noir. The harvest began between 11th and 15th September (5 days later in Chablis) - some 90-95 days from flowering (therefore earlier than the 100 day rule of thumb) and was conducted in fine weather.

The principal characteristic was the severe lack of rain: over the course of the vintage, rainfall was 30% below average while, in the main, sunshine was abundant through the season. It is worth noting that the changing climate is resulting in earlier and earlier bud-break which increases the danger of frost damage, and higher average temperatures which drain moisture from the soil and lead to stress later in the year. The good news however is that, whilst quantities were reduced, the fruit was in great condition as there was no mildew and no rot; skins both for Pinot and for Chardonnay were thick and firm. As a consequence of the heatwaves, malic acids were very low but pH balances were maintained by the remaining tartaric acid giving the wines surprising freshness. 2019 is clearly one of the ripest recent vintages, alongside 2015.

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