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2021 Burgundies—Tiny Quantities; Mostly Moderate Quality with Some Successes 

December 30, 2022

Vintage Overview 

The 2021 vintage in Burgundy is indisputably two things: tiny and heterogeneous. Beyond that, commentators are likely to see the vintage’s heterogeneity through different lenses, depending in part on what they tasted, and when—and on whether they have wine to sell. So, you will no doubt hear a wide range of views on the vintage, as I certainly have, including from the producers themselves. 

For my own part, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s description of his political rival Clement Attlee as “a modest man with much to be modest about.” With slight adaptation, this might well serve as an epigraph for the 2021 vintage. That said, conditions were far from disastrous, and the best producers made wines that are very good and even, in a few cases, transcend the vintage. Yet if one considers the high prices the wines will no doubt fetch, the consumer needs to ask some hard questions about the quality/price ratio for even the best wines of this vintage.  

The defining event of the 2021 growing season occurred right at the beginning: a deep frost stretching over three nights, April 6-8, accompanied by snow. What made this frost particularly devastating was that a warm spell in March, with temperatures reaching the 80s, had encouraged the young buds. While many growers lit candles (in the vineyards, though maybe in church as well) in the hope of creating enough warmth to protect the vines, this only rarely was of sufficient help. The Côte de Beaune, where development was somewhat further along, suffered more than the Côte de Nuits, though the latter was hardly spared. Unlike most frosts, which tend to affect the vines in cooler sites (typically the lesser appellations) it was often the upper parts of the slope—where the favored sites budded earliest—that were worst affected. Thus, while overall losses were 25% below the five prior year average in the Côte de Nuits, and 35% for the Côte de Beaune reds, most of the producers we talked to reported far more severe losses. Also, we were told that the vines in the Côte de Beaune often took up to six weeks to generate secondary buds, producing grapes that never got fully ripe. However, a few lucky producers who had delayed their pruning (usually because of extraneous factors, rather than deliberate decisions), and whose buds in consequence had not developed, escaped serious loss. 

The situation did not improve following the frost, and one producer described the vineyards at the end of May as “looking like early April.” A cool and rainy summer encouraged mildew and oïdium, and frequent spraying became critical. Fortunately for the growers, the late-season weather turned sunny and by September 1st the north wind, the frequent savior of vintages, rose and kept the vines dry and nights cool—though several growers described September as “good, not fantastic”. The harvest generally took place well into the second half of September—average for Burgundy, before climate change made August harvests commonplace. Quite a few producers commented that, had the crop not been so small, it would never have reached even a semblance of maturity. 

Most growers reported that the grapes were healthy when picked—though, somewhat inconsistently, more than a few said that a lot of sorting was necessary, and there were some reports of botrytis-affected grapes. Fermentations passed off without incident, and while malic acidity tended to be high, the malos largely took place normally, though a few producers told us that they had some very late malos, and a tiny number were still underway. One issue for the growers was how to treat the second growth. These grapes are, of course, less ripe than the initial growth, but in an extremely short vintage, it’s a rare and conscientious producer who will not include them. Also, there was a lot of inconsistency in the use of stems in this vintage, with some producers believing they added density (and volume), while others, worried about insufficient ripeness, decreased or eliminated their use. Finally, alcoholic degrees were on the low side (averaging 11.5-12 degrees natural alcohol among the whites), and a few forthright growers admitted to chaptalizing–which of course means that many more did. 

The results were extremely heterogeneous, but a few patterns emerged, some seemingly contradictory: 

  • yields for the producers we visited were often down 50-80%, and especially among the premiers crus there was often not enough wine to make even a barrel from a single climat. A number of producers therefore combined some or all their premiers crus into a single cuvée or included a small quantity of premier cru in their Village wine. By contrast, there were some sites in the Côte de Nuits that suffered no more than minor losses.  
  • time and again, we heard producers refer to the wines as “classic” and a return to the types of vintages of the 1980s. Of course, not a lot of them were producing wines in the ‘80s, or else they have mercifully forgotten all the mediocre vintages of that decade, where only one red wine vintage, 1985, even reached the 4-star level. Fans of the ’21 vintage also cited their freshness, though with relatively high pH levels for the reds, this was often hard to see—but in terms of lower alcohol, they were indeed like the Burgundies before the era of global warming. 
  • in general, the whites tend to be overly acidic while the reds, by contrast, frequently seem softer and less structured. Many of the reds were light-bodied, especially when contrasted with the 2020s, but in the better wines there was enough fruit to make them enjoyable, though hardly profound. For the most part, they should be ready to drink relatively early. 
  • the Côte de Beaune clearly fared worse than the Côte de Nuits, not only in the extent of the frost damage, but from the long delay before the vines put out a second set of buds. With very little if anything left of the first crop, the resulting grapes—often underripe and acidic—in some cases provided much of what little production there was. 
  • approaches sometimes differed significantly: while many growers reported shorter cuvaisons and less punching down and intended to bottle on the early side to capture the freshness of the vintage, a few took the opposite approach, fearing the wines were too light and needed a longer maceration and more extraction. Because of the small quantities, producers were often unable to use their preferred mixes of new and older barrels—if you only have one barrel of a wine, then it’s either all in new wood, or none. 
  • although not universal by any means, I found more than a few of the reds to be characterized by rather dusty tannins—especially among the wines that did not merit individual reviews below.

Still, the only generalization that can really hold is that the results were heterogeneous. While even the best producers were not 100% successful given the capriciousness of Mother Nature, where skill and luck came together the results could be excellent and, even in a few cases, transcend the vintage. 

When asked about comparable prior vintages, few producers were willing to name any. Those that did, sometimes said 2010, which curiously is statistically highly similar to 2021, though the growing seasons were completely different, as are the wines—perhaps if anything showing the uselessness of statistical analysis in assessing vintage quality. A few growers mentioned some stylistic similarities to 2007, though again the growing seasons were very different, and others to 2001. While also characterized by very different conditions, it would be a very good thing indeed if the ‘21s turned out to be comparable to the ’01 Côte de Nuits reds; however, to me the ‘21 reds, though at their best fresh, medium weight and showing good terroir character, don’t have the same precision or intensity as the ‘01s. 

Fortunately for the producers, the harvest of 2022 was copious and reported to be of very good quality (tune in next year for a report), which meant that the producers were very upbeat, even about their 2021s—though with such small quantities, they have little need for a sales pitch.  

Because there were fewer wines to see, and fewer successes than in recent vintages, the reviews below are a bit cursory, focusing on the more successful wines of each domaine, but hopefully they will give the reader a flavor for this rather diverse and difficult vintage. 

Revisiting the 2020s: While as usual, our tastings of 2020s were episodic, the wines have clearly begun to close down in bottle and many are now tasting heavy, with the relatively higher levels of alcohol in this vintage being quite evident. The mid-palate lift and purity one saw last year in barrel seems, for the moment, to be suppressed. Because Burgundies not infrequently shut down to one degree or another in bottle, this is not yet cause for alarm, but given that we are in these days of climate change dealing with vintages that are often of a different character from the past, analogies to prior vintages are not always helpful. We will all need to wait and see if these wines can recapture the freshness they (perhaps improbably) displayed in barrel. 

———- 

Finally, if I may be permitted a small rant (and why not, it’s my blog!): I am increasingly concerned about the state of the Burgundy market—not its height, so much as the small bubbles that have begun to proliferate. The ever-escalating prices for exceptional wines, such as La Tâche or Rousseau’s Chambertin, are at least justified by their quality, though they’re not particularly scarce by Burgundian standards. And even if grand cru prices have in general become out of reach for many consumers, the combination of warmer vintages over the past two decades, improvements in winemaking, and greater rewards for quality winemaking, has meant that an increasing number of small producers are making wines from the “lesser” Burgundian appellations of high quality at prices that are still quite affordable.

What troubles me is the increasing number of instances in which prices have become completely detached from quality. Today, absurd amounts are being paid for wines from lesser appellations made by producers who, just a few years ago, were mostly laboring in relative (and in some cases, deserved) obscurity. If one even half believes in the concept of terroir (which is fundamental), is there really a Vosne Village lieu-dit whose hitherto unrecognized quality (having rarely appeared on the auction block before 2020 and then usually selling for under $100/bottle) suddenly justifies a price in excess of DRC’s Romanée St. Vivant? Yet the list of “hot” producers seems to grow, not shrink: I recently received an offering of 2020 Chassagne Village at over $1000 a bottle, from a producer whose wine sold for under $100 just a few years ago (as the Village wines from Paul Pillot and Bernard Moreau, both better producers, still do). It feels like “pump and dump” to me, and I suppose that’s tempting to some, in an unregulated market with poor information flow—maybe better, in that if they have an annual allocation at cellar door prices, they can keep this going for years. But it can’t be good for Burgundy when its wines become objects for market manipulation rather than enjoyment.  

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REDS: 

The Domaines: 

Côte de Nuits 

Roumier: 

Once again, Christophe Roumier has made some of the finest wines of the vintage. Here, the losses were in the range of 25-30%, with average yields of 24 hl/ha (17-18 hl/ha in Amoureuses and Musigny). Christophe said that the fruit was in good condition at harvest, and that he made only small adjustments to his winemaking regime: he did a bit more punching down, but he did not pull back on the use of whole bunches (which he varies by cuvée). However, he will bottle earlier than usual, and was about to rack the wines into tank when we visited in early November, with a view to bottling in January or February. Christophe noted that the pHs were a bit high (around 3.65) but that the wines, which had had quite a bit of acidity pre-malo, were much milder after. He compared the style of the vintage to ’07—lighter-bodied and not particularly dense, with mild acidity and a gracious texture.  

The Chambolle Village, though showing some slight reduction, had a lovely light red fruit nose, and on the palate was light and charming, with good brightness, while the Morey Clos de la Bussière was deeper, more redolent of champignons, with a medium light body. The Chambolle Cras was excellent, with red raspberries and citrus on the nose, good delicacy, and a pure mineral finish; while lighter-style, this had real charm. The Echézeaux had a greenish note on the nose, reflecting the 100% whole cluster, but a creamy touch, an elegant middle and great balance and delicacy, with a long open finish. The Charmes-Chambertin was quite perfumed, with light raspberry fruit, but it seemed slightly heavy and plodding. The Ruchottes-Chambertin, by contrast, had good complexity and excellent volume, with citrus, grilled meat, and saline notes, and while there was a bit more tannin in evidence than the prior wines, it was still moderate—a relatively delicately styled Ruchottes. The nose of the Bonnes Mares was simply splendid: perfumed, and elegant; this had a silky texture, and some charming strawberry fruit running through it; the tannins were buried; there was good density here, but still, I think this will be accessible relatively early (the ’14 Bonnes Mares, for example, is drinking beautifully right now). The Chambolle Amoureuses was even better: pure, with spicy red fruit, a touch of darker fruit, some soy, notes of perfume and spice—a long, beautiful, and supremely elegant wine that is one of the few that clearly transcends the vintage. The Musigny (from a new, 195-liter barrel) showed the new oak on the nose, and the 100% whole clusters; this will need time to integrate all the elements, but it is already elegant and delicate and the tannins are completely buried—a highly refined wine, and a success for the vintage, if not quite as exciting today as the Amoureuses. 

2020: Christophe noted that he thought the ‘20s might be shutting down a little, which tallied with my observations elsewhere. He also remarked that he had never seen wines with such deep color. Nonetheless, these are clearly excellent wines, beginning with the Chambolle, which was quite dense and ripe, though with good minerally acidity–an intense wine with a strong tannic finish (92). The Chambolle Cras was dense and intense, with notes of black cherry, soy, coffee, and perhaps mustard seed, then a gentle lift of acidity in the middle, with some strong but not fierce tannins (93). The Bonnes Mares had a slightly subdued nose, and while one felt the tannic presence, this was intense and layered, with plenty of supporting acidity and deep minerality, a linear wine of great power and finesse (95). The Chambolle Amoureuses, a kaleidoscopic wine of great elegance, had refined tannins and enormous purity, and was delicate by contrast to the power of Bonnes Mares yet of equal quality (95). 

J-F. Mugnier: 

Freddy noted that all his vineyards except Bonnes Mares had been touched by frost, with different spots affected at different times over the three nights of frost, and commented more generally that the climate had already changed as if Burgundy had moved 300 kilometers to the south. He was also quite voluble, and iconoclastic, on several subjects. He does not subscribe to the theory that the vines are adapting to climate change, noting that there can’t be the kind of generational change in a vineyard that characterizes evolutionary adaptation, though the vines were doing their best to survive in a drier climate. He also challenged the conventional wisdom that ice magnifies the sun and burns the buds, saying it’s purely a case of the cold doing the work. And he said that the discussion about pruning late to keep the buds from forming too soon was wholly impractical—that the work of pruning took two months for an average-sized domaine and couldn’t all be pushed later in the season. Finally, he rejected the notion of installing electrified wires to fight frost, noting the massive generative capacity in the vineyards that would be required. Tarps would be the most efficient solution, he opined, but said that INAO is thus far quite resistant.  

Turning to the wines, there was some inconsistency in the range, though the top wines were quite good. The Chambolle Village had nice clarity and bright red fruit and citrus notes, while the Chambolle Amoureuses had different fruit qualities (black fruit and citrus) than I was used to seeing in this vintage, but it was quite charming, especially on the finish. The Musigny stood out, not surprisingly, with a deep spicy blackberry nose, a citric touch, and a sweet yet balanced middle, leading to a long spicy finish. 

2020: These too seemed a bit inconsistent, though I quite liked the Chambolle Fuées, which had dark, jazzy fruit and dense mocha chocolate notes on the nose but was more open and pure on the palate, without giving up its density—a chewy Chambolle (92). The Chambolle Amoureuses was also relatively accessible, though smoked duck, mocha and soy notes predominated, and this seemed a heavyweight Amoureuses, especially for this domaine (90+).  

Comte de Vogüé: 

Winemaker Jean Lupatelli, who replaced François Millet in mid-2020, noted that yields were about half normal, or about 15 hl/ha. He said the grapes were fairly healthy at harvest (September 22), though they had sorted in the vineyards first, and removed the dried berries. He does not agree with those who said that the small quantity saved the vintage. At the domaine, the grapes were phenolically ripe, pHs were normal (3.25-3.3) and he thinks that ’21 is a beautiful vintage. Lupatelli has been busy making major (and much-needed) changes here, including, as a priority, changing the bottling process: where the domaine used to rack into small tanks (7-barrel maximum capacity) and then almost immediately bottle, he now is putting the wine into large tanks, where it has a chance to meld for 1.5-2 months after racking. This was only our second visit since Lupatelli arrived, but while much remains to be done (for example, Lupatelli said that changing the cooperage is in process but a long-term project), he is both thoughtful and determined, and there is reason to hope that this domaine may in time regain its historic luster.  

The Chambolle Village had a bright nose and a creamy finish, but it seemed not fully knit in the mid-palate, while the Chambolle 1er Cru seemed a bit extracted, and slightly rough-edged. However, the Chambolle Amoureuses, though it felt extracted by ’21 standards, was not by those of recent vintages, and indeed it kept its balance, beginning with an intense and spicy, cherry and coffee-inflected nose, a minerally mid-palate and a spicy finish with buried tannins. The Bonnes Mares was particularly fine, with excellent purity, clear and ripe fruit expression and a soft texture that was quite charming, devolving to a strong, expressive mineral finish with the tannins barely in evidence. The Musigny was even better, with beautiful pure red fruit on the nose, along with citrus, spice, and a mineral note; on the palate, there was surprising density for a ’21, and while there was plenty of material, this was both complex, intense, and finely balanced. The tannins were quite refined, and the pure mineral finish lingered for a long time on the palate. This was a very fine wine that also struck me as very different from, and transcending, most wines of this vintage. One hopes that, unlike in the past, these qualities will all make it into the finished wine. 

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: 

Bertrand de Villaine said that the domaine had made extensive use of candles in ’21 and managed to harvest an average 20 hl/ha (and for the Romanée-Conti vineyard, production was the same as in 2020). However, going forward the candles will be replaced by pellet heaters. The domaine used shorter cuvaisons in ’21 and were planning to put the wine into tank (they use small tanks holding about six barrels) by mid-November, and bottle 5-6 weeks later. Bertrand likes the high level of freshness and phenolic ripeness of this vintage, and he said that ’21 seemed to him like a vintage from the past, and that he feels a connection with the ‘91s as they now are.  

Overall, these are among the more successful wines of the vintage. While I felt the Corton had a touch of harshness to the tannins, and the Echézeaux seemed not quite knit, with relatively lighter weight and dense tannins, the Grands Echézeaux was extremely fine, with a perfumed nose and notes of black raspberry, soy, and pepper; it was dense and powerful on the palate, with intense but refined tannins and a perfumed finish with lifting acidity. The Romanée St. Vivant was Bertrand’s favorite wine in the range (and that of others who tasted at different times): the nose was highly perfumed, with lovely spice, raspberry notes, pepper and a light touch of oak; the oak recurred on the palate, the tannins were dense but refined, and there was excellent minerally acidity here, with great balance and a super-long, spicy, perfumed finish—an old-fashioned RSV in the best sense of the term. Nonetheless, for me (and our group) on this day, it was the Richebourg that took the palm: I loved the lift in the middle, and its dense cherry fruit, pepper, soy, and game notes, enveloped by a bright minerality; this had power, a bright spicy finish, extremely refined tannins, and a lovely sweetness at the end. La Tâche was perhaps the slightest of steps behind on this day, with the usual nose of kaleidoscopic oriental spice, and the minerality more in evidence than in the prior wines, but while elegant, this struck me as a lighter style of LT, and we’ll have to see how it develops. The Romanée-Conti was as usual still more refined and elegant, with a multi-dimensional nose and great purity; while I did feel it was not yet fully knit, with some finishing yet to take place, it should in time be a very fine Romanée-Conti, if not quite up to the very greatest examples of this wine.  

Comte Liger-Belair: 

The harvest here began September 24th. Louis-Michel Liger-Belair said the domaine had suffered 50-80% losses, and he ended up blending the Vosne Chaumes, Suchots, Petits Monts and Brûlées into a single premier cru. Malos finished quite late (mostly in September and October, other than the Clos de Vougeot, which still wasn’t finished in November when we visited). Some whole bunches were included in each cuvée. Many of the wines were already racked and in tank and Louis-Michel expects to bottle slightly earlier than normal. He said he found the wines of this vintage to be elegant and vibrant, and compared the vintage to 2001. 

While perhaps not entirely consistent across the range, and despite a little lingering reduction in some of the wines, I found that the best wines here were among the most successful of this vintage. The Vosne Village, while on the lighter side, had a charming mid-palate, with clear and pure red fruit and minerality. The Vosne La Colombière was even better, with beautiful pure fruit on the nose and a bright, silky touch on the palate—this was an unusually delicate Colombière. The Vosne Clos du Château was a particular standout, with an enticing nose; this wine had great purity and a lovely texture, with some moderate tannins leading to a remarkably pure and lengthy finish; one of the few wines of this vintage that elicited a “wow” from me. The Vosne 1er Cru (the combination of vineyards I mentioned above) was quite complex, soft, and silky, and may be very good in time, but it had not entirely come together yet. The Nuits Aux Cras had a lot of charm and silkiness for a Nuits, and the Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes was even more refined, with lovely line and purity. The Vosne Reignots, again, showed transparency, balance, and elegance with good complexity. The Echézeaux, still in barrel and showing a lot of reduction, needs more time but was dense, crisp, and clear, while La Romanée was spicy, with complex fruit, mocha, duck, and a perfumed touch on the nose; on the palate it was extremely pure and dense with highly refined tannins–an elegant wine that will be among the top wines of this vintage.  

Mugneret-Gibourg:  

The vines on the slope were the most heavily affected by the frost, according to Marie-Andrée Mugneret. The harvest started on September 24th, and there was some triage necessary, though not a lot. Several of the wines, including most notably the Ruchottes-Chambertin, produced tiny quantities–only two barrels–in ’21, and only the Nuits Chaignots was made with whole clusters. Overall, the Mugneret sisters (now, one needs to say the Mugneret family, as the daughters are fully involved) did a typically excellent job in 2021, though as at pretty much every estate, there was a degree of inconsistency.  

The Bourgogne was ripe and charming up front, though it had a touch of austerity, and heat, in back, while the Vosne Village was plummy, spicy, and soft, and the tannins were slightly dusty—as they were on the Vosne Colombière, despite its lovely spicy nose. The nose was even more pronounced on the Nuits Chaignots, with cherry, mocha, and spice notes; this was slightly light-bodied but with a nice mineral finish. My favorite in the lineup was the Chambolle Feusselottes (even if I still can’t spell it without a cheat sheet!), with an unusually deep color for this vintage, red cherry fruit, complex spice, great line and purity and extremely refined tannins—a wine of great charm that was balanced and very long. (Marie-Andrée said that the Feusselottes, which is on relatively flatter land and tends to bud later, give the highest yields in the range, about 36 hl/ha). The very good Echézeaux had nuances of coffee foam and spice, with fine tannins and an elegant texture, and although the Ruchottes-Chambertin seemed a bit dusty, the Clos de Vougeot had deep ripe fruit, medium depth but good density, and was finely balanced. 

2020: The alcohol levels were mostly clustered around 14% and, as is typical for the vintage, all had extremely deep and saturated colors. I did find a couple of the wines (Nuits Bas de Combe, Nuits Les Vigne Rondes and Ruchottes-Chambertin in particular) had slightly elevated levels of VA, but other wines were quite fine, including the Vosne La Colombière, with a rich, deep and spicy nose, excellent purity, an acidic backbone supporting the abundant fruit, and strong but relatively refined tannins (92), and another terrific Chambolle Feusselottes, with dark cherry and mocha notes, excellent supporting acidity, refined tannins and a lovely pure mineral finish (93+). The Clos de Vougeot was very good, with notes of green peppercorn, spice, and blackberries; it was medium dense, though the tannins seemed slightly dry (91). Best of the grands crus on this day was the Echézeaux, which was full of rich fruit, bright and beautifully balanced, with sophisticated tannins and a long and pure finish (94). 

Méo-Camuzet:  

Overall, losses here were about 40%, but uneven, with Nuits Meurgers and Echézeaux the most seriously affected. In ’21, there was a longer than usual cold soak, as well as a longer cuvaison. Malic acidities were high, as elsewhere, and the domaine reported doing a lot of triage. The wines at this stage seemed to reflect the vintage, with some positive qualities but not the density of the best vintages. The Nuits Village (a negociant wine) had a light red fruit middle and finished well, while the Nuits Meurgers had a creamy texture and was very expressive. The Vosne Chaumes seemed quite pure in the mid-palate, with light red fruit and minerals, if slightly hard tannins. I thought the Clos de Vougeot turned out quite well—medium bodied, with a transparent mineral aspect, blackberry, and spicy oak notes, and then a long pure light red fruit finish. The Vosne Brûlées, often one of my favorites here, had some fine elements, particularly the finish, but didn’t seem to have come together yet, while the Richebourg, though not without power, was also a bit on the lighter side, but had a creamy, peppery aspect and a pure and charming finish.  

Hudelot-Noellat:  

Charles van Canneyt described the ‘21s as classic and refreshing, pinot like it was 20 years ago. That said, clearly the frost took a toll: the crop was about half normal size and produced 90 barrels of wine in ’21 vs. 213 in the bountiful ’22 vintage. The harvest began on September 22nd, and Charles was forthright in saying that there was not a lot of triage in ’21, as there was so little crop, and it was painful to toss too many grapes. Even so, there will be no Vosne Malconsorts in 2021, as what little there was went into the Vosne Village, and no Nuits Bas de Combe. The grapes were, however, completely destemmed, as Charles did not feel ’21 was a good vintage for stems. Nonetheless, he believes that the small yields saved the vintage. He used a shorter cuvaison in ’21 and expects to bottle on the early side. pHs were somewhat high at 3.58-3.61. He finds a bit more VA in the wines than normal but feels that small touch enhances the wines (as it can if it stays below threshold). He also believes the wines are well-balanced and will be approachable on the early side.  

The wines here are generally quite successful for the vintage, though there is some variability, and these wines don’t reach the heights of other recent vintages. The Vougeot Petits Vougeots had excellent body and richness, and while I found the tannins slightly harsh, they could smooth out in time. The Nuits Meurgers, though slightly reduced, had very good purity and density, while the Vosne Beaumonts, despite rather substantial reduction, showed excellent potential. The Chambolle Charmes was perhaps my favorite among the premiers crus, showing great purity and minerality plus fine balance and spice underneath some reduction. The Clos de Vougeot, which was now in tank, had discreet fruit and was easy and pleasant if more premier than grand cru weight. The Romanée St. Vivant, also in tank, was still a bit reduced (Charles said the reduction had appeared only within the last few weeks, which is why it was racked), but was discreetly spicy, with great density on the palate, small-berry red fruit, mocha, and spice; this will be excellent in time. The Richebourg, despite showing some hardness and slight VA hints on the nose, may well turn out to be even better, as it is super-spicy, dense, with great freshness and clarity on the palate, good drive, and refined tannins, leading to an extremely long finish. 

2020: The first two wines we tasted, the Vosne Beaumonts and Suchots, both had dark colors and slight hints of VA on the nose, but the Beaumonts, while deep, rich, and ripe, showed very good purity on the palate (92), and edged out the Suchots, which seemed a bit heavier (91). The Clos de Vougeot had dark cherries, spice, and mocha on the nose, with sweet fruit wrapping the mid-palate (as it seems to do in this range), and the tannins present but relatively resolved (92). The Romanée St. Vivant had a super-dense color (as so many ‘20s do), a very dense nose with notes of spice and chocolate, and great purity on the entry leading to a mid-palate bursting with fruit, yet the wine kept its balance and, on the finish, showed refined tannins and lovely mineral qualities, with just a touch of heat at the end (94?). The Richebourg had more mineral lift on the nose than the RSV, with a lovely balance of fruit and pure minerality, totally resolved and refined tannins, and power and drive (95+). 

Château de la Tour:  

François Labet said that his losses had been 80% in the Côte de Beaune–and in consequence he did not show us the wines from the Domaine Pierre et François Labet this year–but only about 30% in the Côte de Nuits. The vintage reminded him of his earliest days, but he said that the grapes were better than in 1984 (as, I would add, is the winemaking generally). He noted that, because of the pause the vines needed after the frost, the ensuing second generation of grapes in the Côte de Beaune were less mature than in the Côte de Nuits. He also said that the domaine had increased its levels of extraction in ’21, with longer cuvaisons, and more pigeage. The wines were to be racked into tank in early December. The Clos de Vougeot Cuvée Classique was quite reductive, and the tannins seemed a bit rough, but the Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes, by contrast, had lovely balance and a soft, silky texture, with refined tannins. François said there would probably be no Hommage made in ’21. 

2020: The Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes had a deep color, black cherry, pepper, and mocha hints on the nose; on the palate it was quite ripe and had an excellent texture, and was well-balanced, though there was a slight touch of heat from the alcohol (93-94). (As a side note, the 2019 Vieilles Vignes was even better, silky and refined, with a finish that lasted for minutes (95+).) 

Trapet: 

Pierre and Louis Trapet have now joined their father, and there are many changes afoot in the vineyards, where Jean-Louis commented that new pruning methods have begun to produce an evolution in the fruit, and in the cuverie (where, for example, the cuvée Capita is being replaced by three separate single-vineyard wines from its component vineyards). The ‘21s here are well made and, in general, seemed to have more attractive textural elements than is common in this vintage. They had not yet been racked, so were all showing various degrees of reduction. The Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée 1859 (if you can find the ’19 vintage of this cuvée, buy it!) showed a fair amount of acidity, but there was lovely sweet fruit in the middle and a silky texture to the wine, which is not all that common in this vintage, while the Gevrey Petite Chapelle also had a nice texture, strong acidity, and a chewy and meaty finish that I found quite enjoyable. The Gevrey Combottes (which used to go into the Capita), made with 100% whole cluster, had blue fruit notes and fine density and minerality; it was pure and bright, with good energy on the finish. The Latricières-Chambertin showed complex fruit and was balanced, elegant and spicy, with a nice textural element, some medium tannins, and a soft finish; it reminded me a bit stylistically of the ’17 vintage. The Chambertin had charming blue and red berry fruit on the nose, and a perfumed touch; it was medium weight, with a silky texture developing, and a powerful if somewhat dry tannic finish. 

Duroché: 

Here the wines were already in tank, preparatory to bottling at the end of November. With an average yield of 20 hl/ha, quantities were not far off normal overall, though quantities were significantly down in certain vineyards, and hail at the end of June ‘21 in Brochon affected their Village wine. In 2021, according to Pierre, they used no new oak above the Village level, and no SO2 during the alcoholic fermentation, instead adding some CO2 (as seems increasingly common elsewhere as well). Pierre thinks his ‘21s are better than the ‘17s: more precise and complex. Overall, I found the wines here to be pleasurable, while reflecting the vintage. The Gevrey Village was quite nice, and I particularly liked the Gevrey Les Jeunes Rois, which had lovely purity and not much tannin in evidence. There was more material to the Lavaut St. Jacques, though it was quite reduced, and an as-yet-unnamed cuvée composed of Etelois, Estournelles and Cazetiers had pleasant if slightly light red fruit character and a strong mineral influence. The Clos de Bèze, if lacking the usual Bèze power, was nonetheless soft, sweet, and pleasurable, with little apparent tannin.  

Dujac:  

This past November, the Seysses family decided not to hold traditional cellar tastings for journalists or customers, but instead, once a week for three weeks, scheduled everyone together in a classroom-style tasting. While the reason given was the small harvest, unfortunately one is likely to see more of these efforts, particularly by domaines that have no trouble selling out their production, to avoid the annoyance of actually having to interact with the people who buy their wines (or, heaven forfend, those pesky journalists), even if it’s only for three weeks out of the year. I feel lucky to have gotten my Burgundian education at a time when one could stand in the frigid cellar with the person who farmed the vineyards and made the wine, ask them lots of questions, and come to understand how they thought about their craft, about Burgundy, and about life. I do understand that, with the world now descending on this small region, and mostly wanting to visit the same “star” domaines, cellar visits can become a chore for the vignerons, but they can also be an important way of connecting with the people who drink and appreciate their wines. For me, and others, lifelong friendships have been formed in those cellars. Nonetheless, as Burgundy becomes increasingly corporate—as one producer put it, more like Bordeaux–it seems unlikely that future generations will have that same privilege.  

Yields in 2021 were off 30-75%, with the whites most affected. Expecting the worst, the domaine had ordered a lot of sugar, but in the end only a little was needed. Jeremy said the vintage had an ‘80s feel, and in particular, though the vintage conditions were very different, the mouthfeel and volume felt to him like 1985. (To me, that’s a stretch, but it would certainly be nice for the few people who will own this vintage if it turns out to be true). Diana added that the domaine had used 80% whole cluster overall (though with some significant differences among the cuvées), and 70% new barrels for the grands crus. The wines were racked right after the malos finished, which previously the domaine had largely stopped doing. pHs were in the 3.5-3.6 range. The reds were still in barrel at the time of our tasting and may receive a light fining prior to bottling.  

Among the negociant (Dujac Fils et Père) wines, the Gevrey Village stood out, notwithstanding a somewhat reductive nose: with a surprisingly deep color for this vintage, it had a lot of attractive fruit, along with good Gevrey character. The domaine wines generally showed well, beginning with the Chambolle Village, which, though reduced, had good complexity, and while lighter-bodied, as is often characteristic of this vintage, it was well made. The Morey 1er Cru had excellent depth and intensity, with refined tannins, though the reduction made it hard to draw more than tentative conclusions. I also liked the Gevrey Combottes, which seemed quite dense for the vintage, with good purity and only a hint of dryness at the end. The Vosne Beaumonts displayed exotic spices, citrus, mocha, and soy on the nose, very good freshness, a medium body and a remarkable amount of fruit for the vintage, though there was a sense of dusty tannin in back that is also characteristic of this vintage. The Echézeaux was perfumed, open and bright, perhaps lacking a little weight but an easy and pleasant grand cru, while the Clos St. Denis was very much of the vintage with its light red fruit, freshness, light tannins, and good balance. The Clos de la Roche, while somewhat reduced, had more stuffing, with excellent transparency, and only a touch of dryness at the end might keep it from achieving real elegance. The Bonnes Mares too revealed the better side of this vintage’s character (insofar as this vintage has a definable character), with excellent clarity, refined tannins, and sweet red fruit opening onto a light mineral finish, a very good wine if on the lighter side, especially for Bonnes Mares. 

2020: We also tasted several 2020s, which, with their deep colors, richly textured ripe fruit, and high alcohol levels, formed a substantial contrast to the ‘21s. These included a Clos St. Denis with the characteristic deep color of the year, notes of spice, perfume, cocoa, and baked bread on the nose, along with sweet ripe fruit; this was elegant, still young and with refined tannins but the alcohol level was evident at the end (93). The Clos de la Roche had an even deeper color, a denser nose, and more intensity and power than the Clos St. Denis, though some dryness at the end. I slightly preferred it (93+) to the Clos St. Denis, but others were more partial to the latter. The Echézeaux, more than the others, showed the alcohol levels and seemed a touch coarse, as can happen in this vintage, but the Bonnes Mares, despite a touch of heat, had an excellent mid-palate and buried power (93). There was a lot of initial skepticism, even from Diana, about why the Vosne Malconsorts had been placed after the Bonnes Mares in the order of tasting, but to me, it seemed the most transparent of all these ’20s, with real delicacy and refinement (94).  

Domaine des Lambrays:  

Jacques Devauges said that July and much of August were cloudy, cold, and rainy, with mildew and oïdium to contend with, but that from September 1st, the north wind began to blow, and the days were sunny, cool, and dry until harvest began under excellent conditions on September 22nd. Crop losses were 50% for reds and 75% for whites, but Jacques believes that if the crop had been normal, it would never have reached maturity. 

Due to the small quantities, we did not taste the whites, nor the newly added vineyards (Vosne Beaumonts, where the harvest was a tiny 8 hl/ha, plus three Nuits premiers crus (Murgers, Cras and Richemone)). There will also be some new vineyards in Morey (purchased in ’22, parts of the original Cosson estate) and in Ruchottes-Chambertin (which was purchased subject to the rights of the current farmer so this will not be issued commercially until 2031; in the interim, the domaine is receiving grapes as rent, which it will vinify but not sell until ‘31). pHs for the reds were between 3.6-3.7. The ’21 Morey Les Loups was quite perfumed, with light red fruit though a bit of dry tannin. The ’21 Clos des Lambrays, made with 80% whole bunch, was not blended yet, but we tasted the likely blend, and it is excellent: a bright spicy nose, with notes of champignons, citrus and mocha; on the palate, there is some density, good balance and lift, medium tannins with only a slight touch of hardness, and a long, floral-inflected finish. 

2020: The ’20 Clos des Lambrays had a characteristically deep color; it was spicy and very ripe, but with good mid-palate lift, and the tannins, while strong, were fairly refined, the wine slightly chewy perhaps but quite good (93). 

Domaine Ponsot:  

The crop in ’21 varied widely here: Alexandre Abel reported that, because of late bud-break, their Gevrey crop was normal, about 40 hl/ha, while it was about half that in Chapelle-Chambertin, and a mere 8.5 hl/ha in Morey 1er Cru and Clos de la Roche. He also noted that the domaine harvested late, as usual (beginning September 29th and finishing October 4th), and had to do a lot of sorting. He also mentioned that a number of older vines have had to be replaced in recent years as the heat and drought have taken a toll.  

The range here was clearly affected by vintage conditions, as could be seen in the quality of the tannins. That said, the Morey Village was open-knit, with easy fruit and a bright mineral finish, if somewhat hard tannins, while the Corton Cuvée du Bourdon had bright red fruit, a citrus note, and softer tannins than the Morey, and the Corton Bressandes was light-bodied with a mineral center, an easy-drinking Corton. The Clos de la Roche had medium body and was more open-knit with fairly ripe tannins and excellent length; this will drink early and easily. 

2020: The Morey 1er Cru had an intensely dark color; it was slightly reduced but had a ripe black fruit nose and was very concentrated (90?), while the Chapelle-Chambertin, also deeply colored, had notes of black cherry, meat, and cocoa, with an open entry but then excellent density (93). The Clos de la Roche was dense and intense, with excellent terroir character, forceful but refined tannins, and a long spicy finish (94).  

Jean-Marc Millot: 

Alix Millot said she preferred her ‘21s to her ‘20s, as she likes the more restrained style. Although there are some good wines here in ’21, I can’t say that I agree. Overall, losses were 30-40% in 2021. Alcohol was 12-13% and the wines, which were picked starting September 25th, were all destemmed, underwent a 5-6 day cold soak, and were bottled in October. Both a soft and easy Savigny Village and a very minerally Côte de Nuits Aux Falques were good beginnings, and the Nuits Village had nice transparency in the middle, if a slightly muddled finish. The Vosne Suchots, despite some reduction, had an intensely spicy nose, good clarity in the center, and some serious tannins. Finally, I quite liked the Echézeaux, with its silky texture, clear fruit expression and pure minerality, and even preferred it to the slightly lighter-framed Grands Echézeaux.  

Côte de Beaune 

Marquis d’Angerville:  

Picking began here on September 20th and yields were between 5 and 12 hl/ha. Régisseur François Duvivier reported no rot in the vineyards, healthy grapes that were phenolically mature, no chaptalization, alcohols between 12 and 13 degrees, and normal malos and pHs, with the only significant change being that no new wood was used, except for 5% in Champans and Clos des Ducs. He likes the fresh and vibrant style of the vintage. While there was some inconsistency here (as there was everywhere), I did think that several of the wines represented the vintage well. In the range, I liked the bright and fresh Volnay Fremiets, while the Volnay Champans was even better, with a complex nose, excellent density and a deep and pure minerally finish. The Volnay Clos des Ducs was quite reductive on the nose, which François noted had begun a few weeks earlier, but there was also lovely purity, especially on the finish, and this has excellent potential. 

Lafarge:  

The domaine’s yields in Volnay averaged only 8 hl/ha, as they suffered a crop loss of 80%. Frédéric Lafarge, while noting the disease pressures up through mid-August, said the weather had dramatically improved thereafter, and the harvest took place beginning September 22nd under good conditions. He described it as a classic vintage, with good balance—a cross between ’10 and ’13, in his view.  

There was not much to taste this year, as all the Volnay premier crus were combined into a single cuvée. The Bourgogne Pinot Noir had a characteristic pinot nose, and pleasant fruit, while the Beaune Grèves, from hundred-year-old vines, was high-toned, earthy, and structured, with moderate fruit. The Volnay 1er Cru, of which there will be 11 barrels, was one of the better wines of this vintage: a dense, spicy nose, with floral and red berry notes, and on the palate it had depth, complexity, structure, and fine balance, with some still prominent but relatively refined tannins and a long, dense finish.  

Comte Armand:  

Paul Zinetti said that the estate’s losses were in the range of 60-70%, with a lot of grapes having been eliminated on the sorting table. Mildew and oïdium had required constant attention, with the latter, in Zinetti’s words, “touching the limit of organic farming in Burgundy.” Nonetheless there were some successes here, including the Volnay Fremiets, where the effective use of candles during the frost prevented major damage; it was a wine with a light sweet fruit center, cinnamon spice, and fine balance, and the flagship Pommard Clos des Epeneaux, which was nicely transparent and had good energy, chewy fruit, and moderate tannins. 

Chandon de Briailles: 

Here there was only about a quarter of a normal crop, with yields in the range of 5 to 8 hl/ha. Some destemming was done, in response to vintage conditions, but fermentations were normal. François de Nicolay described the vintage as classic, showing crisp fruit and freshness. Because of the tiny quantities, we only saw a few wines, including the Pernand-Vergelesses Ile des Vergelesses, which had the freshness and crispness François described, though the nose was still reductive, and there seemed a touch of hardness at the end. The Corton Bressandes had a similar sense of freshness, and good clarity, but with some firm tannins still to resolve.  

Y. Clerget: 

Thibaud Clerget is a rising star in the Burgundian firmament, and an ambitious one, as this domaine is not only expanding its vineyards (acquiring about 4 ha of new vineyards from Domaine Rossignol-Changarnier in 2022, including plots of Volnay premiers crus Mitans, Clos des Angles, and Brouillards) but also building a new cuverie and tasting room in Pommard. Losses were around 80% in ’21, both from the frost and a careful sorting. Thibaud will bottle directly from cask this year. He likes the elegance of the ‘21s, finding them to have more tannin and structure than the prior vintages. The wines here were clearly among the successes of the vintage, including a Volnay En Carelle Sous La Chapelle (100% destemmed with no SO2 and elevage in one year old barrels); despite some reduction on the nose this had a lovely mid-palate, with soft red fruit, good clarity, and crunch. The Volnay Champans by contrast was made with 100% whole cluster and elevage was in a single new oak barrel; this was also a bit reduced but quite intense, with a creamy texture and fine tannins, and the oak influence, while present, was not obtrusive. The Clos du Verseuil (a monopole), made with no stems and 20% new oak, had good backbone and density; and the Pommard Rugiens, made with 20% whole bunch and elevage in one year old barrels, was a bright, new-style Pommard with little tannin in evidence, light fruit, a pure middle, and fine balance. The Clos de Vougeot (from Grand Maupertuis; 50% whole bunch and 50% new oak), had been pruned late by chance and so largely escaped the frost damage. This was a fine Clos de Vougeot, which reminded me of the elegant Drouhin style, with dark sweet fruit, good weight, concentration and resolved tannins. We also tasted a version of this that had been kept in a glass wine globe, which several producers are now experimenting with. It will be bottled as a separate Cuvée Felix, and was more reductive, but also brighter and fresher, and the tannins were more prominent. It will be extremely interesting to see how these two cuvées evolve.  

Armand Heitz:  

Armand Heitz is one of the leading practitioners in Burgundy of what has been termed permaculture, or regenerative agriculture (to learn more of their philosophy, visit the domaine’s website). As a result of the changes in practices, the domaine (which also has a negociant business) has now started to pick their pinot noir before their chardonnay. They are looking for phenolic maturity, particularly because they use 100% stems, and they prefer low toast oak, with only a moderate use of new barrels (15-25% in what we saw). They also prefer to keep total SO2levels low.  

We are still getting to know this producer, and they us, and between that and the small quantities, the tasting of ‘21s was not as in-depth as we might have preferred. However, the wines we saw do reflect the vintage in the Côte de Beaune, with some fairly strong acids, and they also have a strong stem influence (I’m not sure this was the best vintage in the Côte de Beaune to be dogmatic about using 100% stems, but time will tell). Of the few ‘21s we tasted, the Pommard Clos des Poutures, a monopole, stood out: it had good purity, strawberry fruit, medium acidity, and some slightly dry tannins, with the stem influence quite apparent.  

Michel Gaunoux:  

This domaine is among those that only shows vintages once in bottle, so we tasted the 2020s here: 

2020: These, and in particular the Pommard 1er crus, were highly successful. The Beaune Village, while not especially complex, seemed destined to give much pleasure, while at the other end of the range, the Corton Renardes was powerful and intense, with the slightly animale note I often find in this climat; the tannins will need some years to modulate, but this is quite expressive of the terroir. The Pommard Grands Epenots had plums, black cherries, and minerals on the nose; on the palate, it was balanced, with more rich fruit in the middle than one typically sees in Pommard, but the structure and dry earthy tannins brought one right back to the underlying terroir of this layered and juicy wine. The terrific Pommard Rugiens Bas had a deeper and more discreet nose than the Grands Epenots, and was more complex and subtle, with a ripe, pure, and balanced mid-palate and excellent structure, some dry but reasonably refined tannins, and a very long, complex finish. 

The Negociants: 

[As a note, the line between negociants and domaines is an increasingly blurry one: the top negociants own considerable properties, from which they usually make their best wines (and which are most often what they present to us), while numerous top domaines, sensing economic opportunity, are purchasing grapes (and sometimes must) from other growers. Nonetheless, the scale of the negociant firms’ operations is significantly different from those of the domaines we visit.] 

Joseph Drouhin: 

All the wines here had been racked. About 10-25% whole cluster was used for the premiers and grands crus, by “positive sorting”—identifying the best-looking whole clusters for use. Véronique Drouhin reported that the small quantities of some cuvées inspired the maison to experiment with “vinification integrale”: fermentation of the reds, with the stems, in a barrel (with a special cap on the end which allows CO2 to escape); the barrels are then rolled frequently to promote maceration.  

The reds here include some excellent successes for the vintage; while I can’t say this is anything more than a feeling, it seemed to me that the winemaking was more sure-footed in this old-style vintage than it has sometimes been in the super-ripe, alcoholic vintages of recent years—or perhaps it’s just that such vintages are less congenial to the style of Maison Drouhin, which emphasizes elegance and finesse, than was this “classic” but challenging vintage. 

While, given the small quantities, we saw fewer wines than usual, all were good, starting with the easy and charming Beaune Grèves, which was followed by a silky Beaune Clos des Mouches Rouge that was minerally, spicy, perfumed, round, and ripe, with fine tannins and a transparent mineral finish. The Corton was unusually creamy for this terroir (in a good way), while the Chambolle Amoureuses, with a somewhat reductive nose, was reserved but showing great promise, and had serious but very refined tannins. Both the Clos de Bèze and the Griotte-Chambertin were fermented by vinification integrale (the former with 50% and the latter with 100% whole cluster). While I found the fruit on the Bèze slightly too sweet and rich for my taste, I loved the Griotte, which displayed a superb and dense nose with notes of spiced meat and cherries, a mid-palate full of sweet fruit, refined tannins, and a minerally intensity on the finish. Impressive! 

Faiveley:  

Erwan Faiveley told us that all the wines were still in barrel; while he had originally contemplated early bottling, he felt that the wines had more to gain from additional elevage. He compared the vintage’s flavor profile to ’07, with perfumed noses and little tannin. Most wines were between 12-13% alcohol and pHs tended to be high—in a few cases, up to 3.8. The frost was capricious, destroying the crop in Gevrey Cazetiers while leaving Lavaux St. Jacques nearly untouched.  

While I have had mixed feelings about recent vintages here, there is no question that Faiveley did an excellent job with its domaine wines (which are what we tasted) in this difficult vintage. The Nuits St. Georges Les St. Georges was nicely balanced, spicy, and saline with soft, sweet berry fruit. The Clos de Vougeot, despite not being from the best parts of the Clos, was pure and refined, while the Latricières was a very serious wine though still not fully knit, and the Charmes-Chambertin (a mixture of domaine and purchased grapes) had excellent density and a high-toned mineral finish. Among my favorites was the Mazis-Chambertin, which displayed pure fruit on the nose and an attractive fluidity; it was extremely well-balanced, and the tannins seemed fully resolved. The Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley, always served last out of pride, this year indeed was the best wine in the lineup, with ripe red fruits, perfect balance, and a spicy mineral finish with rounded tannins—a wine of both power and charm. 

Jadot: 

Frédéric Barnier said that sorting was the key for the reds in 2021. He feels this will be a challenging vintage for aging. Most of the reds are around 13% alcohol, and some will be bottled before the whites. Yields were 15 hl/ha overall, and 17-19 hl/ha in the Côte de Nuits. In general, he felt that Volnay, Beaune and Chambolle did relatively better in ’21 because they tend toward earlier ripening than other villages. The results here were mixed, in my view, with some dusty tannins marking a number of the wines. Among the more successful, the Beaune Cras was sweet and earthy, with good terroir character; the Chambolle Amoureuses, while perhaps not as complex as in other vintages, had good depth of fruit on the nose and an expressive mid-palate, and the Gevrey Clos St. Jacques had deeper color than most in this range, with good weight and a long, pure citrus finish. It was complemented by the Clos de Bèze, with a positive spicy nose, a pure middle, expressive red fruit, and a minerally finish. The Clos St. Denis had a hard edge to start, but ripe red fruit and citrus notes, resolved tannins, and very good richness. 

Laurent Ponsot:  

Laurent reported a near normal crop in ’21; however, we will have to wait until next year to assess it, as Laurent (along with Leflaive and some others) has taken to only showing the wines after bottling. We debated the merits of this approach; the advantages are that one sees the final assemblage of barrels, not merely one barrel on one day, and that actions taken between barrel and bottling can affect the final quality significantly; the downsides are that wines are often shocked by the bottling process, and that even once recovered may shut down for an extended period, whereas their character is more open and on display in barrel, and of course that buying decisions often have to be made before there is ever a chance to taste the wines in bottle.

2020: Laurent is pleased with the harmony of this vintage. While the volume produced here continues to advance, we saw only the grands crus, which meant mainly the reds (there is no Bâtard or Montrachet here in 2020 as the prices have become absurd, according to Laurent). All the wines had the characteristic deep colors of this vintage. The Clos de Vougeot had blue and black fruit on the nose, a spicy intensity, and a sweet finish, but one could feel the 14.5% alcohol (91). The Charmes-Chambertin had very good purity and balance, and the tannins felt ripe if slightly dry (92), while the Latricières was intensely plummy, though minerally and developing a silky texture—this wine felt as though it needed more time to knit (92+). The Clos de Bèze, while quite rich, had excellent balancing acidity, and expanded in the glass; I particularly liked the long minerally finish, and the tannins seemed ripe and refined (94), and I slightly preferred it to the rich though enjoyable Chambertin (92-93). The Bonnes Mares had incredible complexity and intensity, but (as a matter of personal preference) was a bit too rich a style of Bonnes Mares for me, a fine wine but without a particular sense of the terroir (92+). Similarly, I found the Clos St. Denis a bit on the heavy and rich side for what to me is a wine of finesse (92). The best in my view was the Griotte-Chambertin, with a dense, layered and slightly reticent nose; while quite ripe, this had a very positive mineral edge and was complex and intriguing, with lovely balance (94+). 

Bouchard Père & Fils: 

A period of change has begun at this storied negociant firm, as François Pinault’s Artémis Domaines has acquired a majority interest in Henriot, the owner of Bouchard since 1995. There has been a major reorganization, and given Artémis’s intense focus on luxury brands, rumors are rife in Burgundy that a large portion of the firm’s non-grand cru holdings will be sold off–though for the moment these remain only rumors. In any event, the firm decided that in light of the tiny crop in ’21, they would not show the vintage this year. Almost needless to say, this in turn generated its own set of rumors (which could be why I’ve now heard they’re allowing some journalists to taste), but in any event, there is nothing concrete to report from this major negociant, other than that allocations will be miniscule. 

WHITES: 

Paul Pillot: 

Losses here were in the range of 60-85%. The harvest took place over 11 days starting September 17th and Thierry Pillot said he had agonized over when to pick each vineyard. He also referred to the devasting event of the year as a “rich” frost—one that hit the top of the slopes more severely than the bottom. Nonetheless, Thierry said he likes the balance and energy of the ‘21s, while admitting that the whites can be too acidic, and the reds sometimes too thin. He said thought that unlike in ’16, one doesn’t feel the stress of the vines (he went on to say that he hadn’t liked the ’16 whites for a long time but feels they are aging well). He also, like Freddy Mugnier, dismissed the notion of later pruning as a preventative to frost problems, saying it carries its own problems.  

Whatever agonizing he did, proved useful. These are among the best whites we tasted– though even here, there were wines that were distinctly more successful than others. The wines, except for Grandes Ruchottes and La Romanée, were in tank, and will likely be bottled next May. The Bourgogne was a good exemplar, ripe and with a bright minerality, while the Chassagne Village, though slightly subdued by SO2 (as were the next two wines) was very pure, spicy, floral, and minerally—it had good energy, and the acidity was not overbearing. The Chassagne Mazures was, in Thierry’s word, “electric”, with lots of sweet fruit and floral notes, though perhaps a bit sweet. The Chassagne Champ Gains was particularly good, with a lovely floral quality (indeed the entire range reflected this quality), balanced and with a vibrant mineral finish. The Chassagne Clos St. Jean had a lot of drive and intensity, if a slightly harsh note in the mid-palate; I preferred the Chassagne Caillerets, with its citrus notes, balance and deep minerality, though there was still a slight hardness at the end. The Chassagne Grandes Ruchottes displayed delicacy and balance, with both saline and buttery notes, while the best, as usual, was the Chassagne La Romanée, with a profound nose of pure minerality, white flowers, and a little lime; this had a clarity and intensity that set it apart from the others, and a super-long and vibrant finish. In Pillot’s hands, this wine seems to me to achieve grand cru stature, and this example may well be one of the best whites of the vintage. 

Bernard Moreau:  

Alex Moreau noted that the most severe frost damage in Chassagne in ’21 was largely in different areas than in ’16, when the white grands crus, and the premiers crus near St. Aubin, suffered the worst losses. In 2021, Chassagne La Romanée and Grand Montagne were among the hardest hit, while there was a decent crop of Village wine in Chassagne in 2021. The harvest began on September 20th, and the domaine had to sort, but for the most part the crop was clean, with lots of malic acid; for Alex, the wines have a strong acid backbone but are not austere. While he managed to produce something from each of the domaine’s holdings in ‘21, the wines for which he usually trades were largely unavailable.  

While the wines are, as always, well and conscientiously made, I did find a lot of acidity here, which is of course typical of the white wines in this vintage. Nonetheless, the Chassagne Chenevottes had a lovely floral-inflected nose, and good balance, with a very long finish, while the Chassagne Maltroie had a lot of sweet pear fruit, saline minerality, and power, with knife-edge acidity almost reminiscent of an Alsatian Riesling. The acidity of the Chassagne Champsgains was firm but more modulated, with notes of baked apples and cream, while the Chassagne Morgeot (still in barrel rather than tank as were the prior wines), even with a bit of reduction, showed greater density and intensity, albeit with a creamy texture developing. Best, as usual, was the Chassagne Grandes Ruchottes, with a powerful, aristocratic nose and plenty of fruit and weight to balance the acidity; this was minerally and pure, perhaps just a touch austere, but fruity, spicy, persistent, and complete.  

Leflaive:  

Leflaive is among the domaines that has begun showing wines in bottle rather than in barrel, and so we tasted the 2020s here. 

2020s: The alcohol levels of the ‘20s were 13-13.5%, according to Pierre Vincent, about a degree lower than in 2019. These had been bottled in March-June. Leflaive has begun departing from traditional Burgundy barrels, increasingly using larger barrels in warm years (along with lighter toast) to lessen the oak impact, though Pierre said the domaine is also using an increasing number of 265L cigar-shaped barrels, which he now prefers. He remarked that in 2020, yields were normal (about 40 hl/ha) and he found the wines finer, more delicate and better balanced than the more alcoholic and powerful ‘19s, comparing the ‘20s to ’17, ’14 and ’10. For whatever reason (possibly the use of Coravin together with half bottle samples?), the wines were not all showing their full potential on this day. While the Puligny Folatières and Combettes (both 92+) were both nicely balanced—the former with a bit more structure and a fresh citrus finish, the latter with excellent balance and line—the Puligny Pucelles did not show nearly as well at the tasting as it did from a full bottle opened at dinner that same day, when it was exceptionally balanced and creamy (93+). However, the Bâtard had a rich nose, with spice, white flowers, and a citrus touch; on the palate it was a powerful, driven wine, intense but still well-balanced, and showed its class on a very long, spicy, and pure minerally finish (95).  

François Carillon:  

Losses here were worst in the premiers crus (around 80%), with the Village wines suffering about 40% losses and the Bourgogne about 30%. The harvest here began on September 17th, and they are picking more quickly now, as well as using less new oak, both of which have helped avert the tropical notes that occasionally appeared in earlier vintages. In ’21, the domaine believes the wines will benefit from a long elevage, with bottling likely to be deferred to June, or even the fall of 2023. Though we didn’t see the entire lineup, as some quantities were tiny, the domaine did well in ’21, starting with a very good Puligny Village, which was quite fresh, with citrus, floral and spiced apple notes, though a touch of extra acidity. The Puligny Champ Gain was spicy, saline, and refreshing, not overly acidic, and sweet and floral in back, with just a touch of the CO2 that the domaine favors to emphasize minerality. The Puligny Perrières was particularly fine, with great balance, a mineral spine, and an intense, pure, and extremely long finish.

Lafon:  

Léa Lafon told us that the domaine had lost more than half of the white crop, though the reds were not as severely affected, and there was no frost damage in their Monthélie vineyards. Because of the small quantities, we only saw a portion of the range of whites, which were definitely “of” the vintage. The Meursault Clos de la Barre was lighter-bodied but nicely balanced, with touches of green apple, lime, and minerals; the Meursault Poruzots had more power and intensity, with green apple notes as well; while the Meursault Charmes was pure and minerally on the nose, quite intense with some dry extract and citrus and floral hints on the long finish but also the green apple notes that so often characterize this vintage.  

Latour-Giraud:  

Jean-Pierre Latour said that crop losses were about 2/3, with yields in the range of 6-7 hl/ha. There was too much water, he said, and the wines achieved good but not exceptional maturity, though the harvest might have been disastrous, given the rain, if they had had more grapes. Even at that, there were not enough grapes to justify separate cuvées of Perrières, Poruzots or Bouchères, and so all went into the Meursault Cuvée Maxime, which in consequence had more depth than usual, with a spicy, creamy, and stony nose, and was quite pure, but the acidity does dominate the front palate. The Meursault Narvaux had lovely aromatics but was also dominated by green apple notes. Both the Meursault Genevrières and the Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre (only one barrel made) were floral and bright, the latter with a transparent open finish, though both were a bit on the heavy side; better was the Meursault Charmes, with excellent purity–a high-toned wine, which, if slightly lean, nonetheless had clean apple and citrus notes. 

2020: The difference between the ‘20s and ‘21s could not have been clearer. Jean-Pierre said that ’20 was the first vintage in his experience where the whites and reds seemed of equal quality, though he thought the same might be true in ’22. For reasons I don’t fully understand, this domaine continues to fly beneath the radar, but that does make for some very good values. The Meursault Narvaux had lots of spice and great nervous energy, a wine that still needs time to develop (90+); the Meursault Genevrières had a floral nose that was mineral-inflected and with hints of cinnamon; on the palate it was intense and yet restrained in its power, with a long, pure, and precise finish (93). The Meursault Perrières displayed even more refinement; this was deep and elegant, with perfect balance and a pure, prolonged, stony finish (95). It was hard to choose between that and the Meursault Genevrières Cuvée des Pierre: with a nose that jumped out of the glass, this cuvée was elegant and powerful at the same time, with flowers, citrus, butterfat, and a lot of dry extract (94+)—this was more powerful than the Perrières, and needs time, though the refinement of the Perrières may win at the end of the day. 

Bachelet-Monnot:  

This domaine, while located in Dezize-lès-Maranges, also has properties in the heart of the Côte de Beaune, and in recent years has become a go-to address, particularly for their Puligny premiers crus and their Bâtard. Marc Bachelet said that in ’21 the domaine had lost its entire crop in Meursault and St. Aubin, and 70% in Bâtard-Montrachet, but that losses were much less in Puligny and Chassagne, where pruning had been delayed until March. While there was no issue, according to Bachelet, with the second crop, the domaine eschewed its normal use of whole clusters and opted for light extraction. He describes the vintage as an early, easy-drinking one. Among the successful wines in ’21 was a remarkably fine Maranges Blanc La Fussière, with a floral nose, cream, spice, excellent stoniness, and a fine balance and energy; only a slight excess of acidity at the finish betrayed the year. Both the Puligny Referts and Folatières were excellent, the former beautifully balanced, with floral notes, a mineral underpinning and excellent length, the latter slightly reduced but nonetheless an elegant wine of great purity. The Bâtard was even better, with a white flower nose, intense minerality, lime and white pepper, all reflected as well on the powerful palate, and only a slight acidic bite at the end. Among the reds, there was also a fine Santenay Vieilles Vignes (this year, a blend of all three of the domaine’s cuvées), which was soft and charming, but not without depth. 

Chavy-Chouet:  

Romaric Chavy reported that the harvest had begun September 24th, as they had waited for maturity, and that a lot of sorting had been required, with dried and botrytis-affected berries needing to be removed. The whites were particularly successful here, beginning with a vibrant Bourgogne Aligoté and a bright Bourgogne Les Femelottes with excellent body. The Meursault Grand Charrons was nicely spicy, with characteristic butterfat, a floral character, and a long finish, while the Meursault Clos de Corvées de Citeau (a monopole), was quite fresh, with similar notes but more weight and intensity. Best was the Meursault Charmes, with excellent presence and weight, a tense, transparent and very well-balanced wine. 

Armand Heitz: 

The two premiers crus we saw (both from the domaine) were excellent: a Chassagne Morgeot with a charming floral quality, hints of pear and spice, and very good balance, and with a nice mineral touch at the end; and the Meursault Perrières, which had a rich spicy and floral nose, and good but not overbearing acidity–a balanced and complex wine. 

Joseph Drouhin: 

Véronique said that acidity is the marker of the ’21 whites, and much of it was brought by the less ripe second generation fruit. Sorting was heavy at the maison, and they are doing a shorter elevage than in ’19 and ’20. The wines we saw were still in barrel, but the maison had prepared a representative assemblage. The whites were generally good, if marked by the acidity of the vintage: a floral, soft, and sweet Chassagne Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche; a first-rate Beaune Clos des Mouches (less than 5 hl/ha), which was bright and crisp, with a nice floral touch and a creamy finish; a minerally and transparent Corton-Charlemagne, with quite a bit of acidity but not out of line for the vintage or this terroir; and finally, an elegant and refined Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche, with pear, apple and honey notes and good balance. 

Joseph Faiveley: 

The frost destroyed most of the white wine crop here, but an intensive use of candles saved some of the grands crus. The Corton-Charlemagne in particular turned out relatively well, with soft pear and white flower notes, and a crisp finish, though the acidity there is rather prominent. 

Jadot: 

Frédéric Barnier noted that the whites had much more acidity in general than the reds; while acidities had been high for the reds, there was more malic, and so they were much softer after the malolactic fermentation was completed. (He said there was also a relatively high level of malic in the whites, though some were, as is frequently the case at Jadot, partially blocked.) Yields averaged 12 hl/ha for the chardonnay. The wines reflected the high levels of acidity, though some, like the Puligny Combettes, seemed to have enough power and volume to support it, as did the Corton-Charlemagne, which had creamy, floral notes and some quite nice spice. The Chevalier Demoiselles was pure and minerally, with sweet fruit and floral overtones, and was powerful and crispy at the end—not quite as elegant as in the best vintages, but, as always, one of the best wines of the range (we did not see the Montrachet this year because of the tiny yield). 

Domaine Ponsot: 

The Morey Monts Luisants, with notes of elderberry flower, clover, cream, and citrus was quite an interesting wine and had excellent presence and power, though the acidity of the year was clearly present as well. 

Bessin-Tremblay:  

This was our first visit to this highly regarded Chablis estate, which in 2020 changed its name from Jean-Claude Bessin. Son Romain Bessin is now in charge. Losses in 2021 were about 50%, and Romain preferred to show his 2020s at this time. We did taste the ’21 Chablis Fourchaume, still on its lees, which had a charming fruit-forward nose and lots of material, but which needed more time to resolve.  

2020: The 2020s, which Romain finds more complex than the ‘17s and also prefers to the ‘14s–which he finds “too serious”–showed extremely well, beginning with a fine Village Chablis V.V., with excellent mineral cut (91) and a Chablis Montmains which, despite being slightly light in the middle, had real definition and purity (90). One of my favorites was the Chablis La Forêt, with notes of pear, citrus, white pepper, and golden raspberries; it was full-bodied, chalky and had a pure mineral finish (93). (The wines are made with whole cluster and 30% oak (none new) for the premiers and grands crus.) While the regular cuvée of Chablis Fourchaume was not showing fully on this day, the Chablis Fourchaume La Piece au Comte, from a 0.7 ha parcel with 70 year old vines, was a very different story: deep and spicy, with a chalky mid-palate, great depth and purity, and balancing sweet fruit, followed by a bright finish (94). The Chablis Valmur, by contrast, felt still reticent and unevolved, as though it had closed up in bottle; time will tell, but given the high level of winemaking here, it is worth revisiting. 

Samuel Billaud: 

Here too, losses were in the range of 50% in 2021. Samuel Billaud, who split from the family’s domaine, Billaud-Simon, several years ago and has been producing first-rate Chablis, sees ’21 as classic and fresh. Nonetheless, he wasted little time showing us the ‘21s, and while the Vaillons had a lot of Chablis character, it also had some excess acidity.  

2020: The ‘20s that we saw were excellent: an intense, powerful, and driven Monts de Milieu (92); a more floral and fruity, large-framed, intense and long Montée de Tonnerre (93); and a particularly fine Vaudésir, which was bright and transparent, balanced, and with excellent line, resolving into an extended, spicy and pure finish (94).  

William Fèvre: 

Nearly 90% of the Village-level crop was lost to frost. In addition, they decided to reverse the usual process, and in 2021 to ferment in stainless steel and age in wood, to give more body to the wines. Alain Marcuello, who conducted our tasting and who has decades of experience in Chablis, compared the ‘21s to the 2010 vintage. The premiers crus struck me generally as a bit severe, though reasonably good, though the Montée de Tonnerre stood out, with more floral tones than the others, fruit notes of pear rather than apple, and a bright mineral note on the nose; here the acidity seemed more fully integrated than in some others. There were several successes among the grands crus, including a Vaudésir that was nicely balanced between minerality and floral tones; a Valmur that was delicate and creamy, with excellent terroir character; and a Preuses that seemed rather Cistercian in its uncompromising austerity, but the cool purity of it was nonetheless attractive. Best of the range was the Clos, with bracing acidity and flint after, a powerful and intense wine, with a very long finish; this needs time but if it fully comes together, could be excellent.  

© Douglas E. Barzelay 2022 

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