First, a qualifier. Having visited Burgundy more than two dozen times since first stepping foot in these respected vineyards in the 1980s, I have personally experienced many of this generation’s “greatest vintages ever produced” – first hand. Sampling literally thousands of the Cote D’Or’s singular examples, I have compiled volumes of notes spanning more than 25 years. These reports on barrel samples as well as notes on bottled wines represent the wares from producers spanning the full scope of Burgundy. From the northern reaches of Gevrey to the southern tip of Burgundy’s Golden Slope, I have compiled enough literature on the Cote to feel quite confident offering advice on its vintages. Confident enough, in fact, that it was my profession for more than a decade.
During this span since the 1980s, I have tasted, written about and purchased no less than a half dozen vintages that could have been (and were) declared a perfect vintage (and for what it’s worth, I even worked the harvest for two of these stellar vintages, including 1990). Moreover, I’ve also experienced at least that many additional harvests where the vignerons and press were at odds with one another over declaring those vintage worthy of the “perfection” moniker. As with all things vinous, perfection is subjective – but possibly nowhere else is this sentiment as pertinent as in Burgundy. What makes a Burgundy perfect for the vigneron doesn’t necessarily translate to the critic – not to mention the consumer.
And then there comes a vintage such as 2010. Critics, wine-makers, consumers – it appears EVERYONE is beating a path to the nearest outlet for an opportunity to taste and order these wines. And after today’s event in San Fran – where I was the guest of Frederic Wildman & Sons at their Annual Vintage Tasting – I would like to be among the first to announce: 2010 is the greatest modern vintage I have yet tasted.
The wines of 2010 – and I’m primarily focusing on several of the reds in this report, yet the whites are equally superb – at this point in their evolution, outshine the 1985s, and 1989s. They outshine the 1990s, and 1993s, the 1995s, 1996s and 1999s. These 2010s outperform the2002s, 2003s, the 2005s (yes, even the great 05s), as well as any vintage since those world-stopping efforts. In short, there simply isn’t a vintage in modern history that compares or competes with the 2010s. So, what happened? Wasn’t 2009 supposed to be the greatest effort since those 05s?
In speaking with a half dozen winery representatives today during the event, to a man they spoke very highly of 2009 – each of them reminiscing that at first no one really knew just how good a vintage 2010 really was. Beginning with reports from the south, in Volnay, the vintage was as perfect a one as Domaine Jacques Prieur could recall; their only question mark being a bit of extra work required on the table de triage to sort some of the berries being brought in from the vineyards in Beaune.
Further north, in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Domaine Faiveley – a company on a qualitative hot-streak, without a question – consistency in both white and red was reported. Faiveley compared the 2009s and 2010s by stating that the latter is a very serious vintage (just as its predecessor was); but that what sets this current set of wines apart is what makes Burgundy, Burgundy: transparency. There is an unmistakable sense of place in these 2010s, balanced by an impressive tannic backbone, brilliant and extremely clean fruit, and tannins for ageing. The aspects of the vintage, which also set this year apart from 2009, included coulure – where the cold weather, just after flowering, caused the initial, emerging berries to drop; ensuring a reduction of the crop, thus more concentrated berries at harvest. Faiveley also reported millerandage – another sign of wide-spread cold weather during the vintage, which will lead to concentrated berries, powerful fruit, as well as a high skin to juice ratio. The cold nights – far more and colder than the 09 season – resulted in these stressful conditions for the vines. And as vignerons will tell you: stress is good for the vine; it builds character.
Remaining in the north, now moving up the road to Gevrey, reports from Armand Rousseau compare 2009 to 2010 by calling the former a warm and jammy vintage – perhaps more California than Burgundy, some may say. But, according to Rousseau, 2010 brought back the natural Burgundian acidity, perfectly balanced fruit – due to the colder nights – and a vintage such as they haven’t seen in a generation.
However – and this is the key point – each representative I interviewed and tasted with – even as they were expressing their sheer pleasure and excitement with the 2010s (as well as their amazement with the perfect cold, north wind during harvest that kept things so well protected) – was still seemingly forlorn. Why?
Yields! Domaine Prieur? Yields were down 40%. Domaine Faiveley? Similar reports. Armand Rousseau (a Domaine where you’re already reduced to miniscule allocations)? DOWN 35%!
Mother Nature has a way of balancing the scales, doesn’t she? The vintage of a life-time; but how many of us will have the opportunity to taste these perfect specimens? Not to mention own a few bottles?
This is part I of a multi-part report that will include dozens more notes, which I will publish from Burgundy during my trip through the Cote D’Or in March.
Domaine Jacques Prieur
Domaine Jacques Prieur is the only domaine in Burgundy that owns vines within each of the 5 fabled grand cru appellations of Chambertin, Musigny, Clos de Vougeot, Corton Charlemagne, and Montrachet. By this fact, this domaine is perhaps alone to rival Domaine de la Romanee Conti. Prieur’s vineyards cover 20.68 hectares, including almost every appellation of note in the Cote d’Or. Domaine Jacques Prieur is at the summit of the hierarchy of the most prestigious estates in Burgundy, with 51 acres of vines situated within the most highly sought after grand and premier crus of the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune.
— Frederic Wildman & Sons
2010 Meursault Clos de Mazeray (Monopole)
Pronounced aromatics; very focused, very pure; great balance between wood and fruit. Nuances of mineral and apricot. Delicious palate; fullish, pure, ripe, yet balanced on the attack. Great acidity. Ripe, round, buttery, with balancing acidity. Class and breed.
2010 Beaune Blanc 1er Cru Champ Pimonts
The soil here has a high percentage of chalk. Here we have a very bright, apple-y nose; a bit more simple and fruity/forward than the Meursault Mazeray. Round and tender on the palate. Also fullish, but a bit more simple. Yet good, with that apple-y fruit from the nose showing up on the palate. Fresh, fruity, fun.
2010 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru les Combettes
Excellent aromatic profile. Great clarity of terroir and mineral. Beautiful fruit. Quite expressive aromatically. Nuances of peaches, ripe oranges, and assorted exotic fruits. Rich, full bodied palate showcases medium length and a refined finish. Good acidity and a pure, balanced, delicious follow-through. Excellent.
2010 Volnay 1er Cru Santenots
Beautiful color; gem-stone in color. Also a beautiful aromatic profile: highly expressive, floral, very fruity and high-pitched. Very fragrant. The fruit on the nose is encased in a robe of sweet smoke and truffle/mineral nuances. The palate is quite sweet, gentle, balanced with adequate acidity and buckets of juicy red pinot fruit. This is just delicious. Won’t make old bones, but will make a lot of friends.
2010 Beaune 1er Cru Champ Pimonts
Great color again, similar to the Volnay Santenots. Wonderful red and blue Pinot fruit nose. More fruit than mineral on the nose here; very seductive. This coats the palate similar to the Volnay, but comes across more firm and dark fruited. This is also quite friendly, ripe, balanced, warm and seductive. Drink young.
2010 Corton Bressandes
Approaching opaque in color. The purity of the aromatics is found in the reticent yet serious nature of the aromatics; this is at once very dark fruited, yet backwards. Aromatically, this offers galets and minerality in spades. Classic terroir follows on the palate, as this is decidedly masculine. The body, grip, dark pinot fruit, mineral, spice and acidity and very well balanced here and offer a terrific example of this place on the Corton hill top. Three minute finish. Outstanding.
2010 Clos de Vougeot
Classic terroir in the aromatics of forest floor, gravel and black pinot fruit offer a serious version of this appellation. Very classic aromatics are further enhanced by nuances of smoky bacon, wood smoke and a hint of truffle. The attack is sweet, full bodied, and very serious. This is a sturdy wine, meant for the long-haul. Very full bodied, with great minerality, this offers great persistence, yet seems a bit closed today. For all the aromatic complexity and palate presence, this lacked the finish to take it over the top, somehow. Time will tell.
While the name Faiveley has been synonymous with Burgundy since the 19th century – the current Faiveley, Erwan is the eighth consecutive to run the family business – few can argue that it is this current team of passionate wine-makers, managers and technical supervisors who have catapulted Domaine Faiveley to a level never-before recognized. With state-of-the-art vinification equipment as well as a wine-making team now headed by the former managing director of Bouchard Pere et Fils, M. Bernard Hervet, the progress at Faiveley is indeed measurable. With all that’s happening Chez Faiveley, it should come as no surprise that leading Burgundy critic, Allen Meadows (of Burghound fame) has this to report, “…Faiveley is a name that absolutely should be represented in your cellars.”
2010 Mercurey Blanc Clos Rochette (Monopole)
Quite fruity, forward and full of that apple-y fruit this year. Very fragrant aromatically. Fresh, bright and frankly tasty and forward on the palate. A fruity, slightly toasted, bright, peachy palate with a zesty finish. A fun wine.
2010 Meursault 1er Cru Blagny
Pronounced fruit on the aromatics, coupled with a bit more wood smoke than the Mercurey. Additional, complex nuances of flowers and spice add to the overall impression on the nose. Spicy, toasted palate as well. This too is fresh, bright and has just the right kiss of wood. Focused, balanced finish is impressive.
Amazingly focused, pristine and unmistakable pure orange zest in the aromatics. The wood spice too is quite pronounced but buffered by the purity of the fruit. The palate is zesty, powerful and offers nuances of orange rind as well as orange marmalade. This is classically exotic, yet quite focused, pure, balanced and ripe. Extremely well made.
2010 Mercurey La Framboisiere (Monopole)
Very fragrant. Loads of ripe berries on the nose here. Quite the juicy offering. Ripe, black and red Pinot fruit crosses the line into New World, but retains a sense of place with a deft touch of minerality running throughout the nose as well as palate. Just a delicious wine for drinking young.
2010 Beaune 1er Cru Clos de l’Ecu (Monopole)
Wonderful, classic aromatics of warm blue Pinot fruit and freshly turned soil / forest floor combine with a perfume to announce a truly Beaune aromatic profile. Wonderful aromatics. This palate is pure, ripe, and coats the tongue with lush fruit. Good minerality honors the terroir. This offers great grip and focus. Quite delicious and serious as well.
2010 Volnay 1er Cru Fremiets
A very buttery, toasted, red and blue fruited nose announces another wonderful aromatic profile. Again, loads of forward fruit on the palate. The nose and positively delicious fruit borders on New World, with a sweet, lush and juicy personality. This offers classic Volnay gentility, great acidity, and purity; albeit in a modern style that bothers me not.
2010 Nuits-Saints-Georges 1er Cru Les Porets St-Georges
Classic aromatics offer minerality, wood smoke and truffle. This has a very pronounced, stern and properly aggressive nose. Vis-à-vis the Damodes, this is positively masculine; very Nuits. This is quite dark fruited; black Pinot. The palate is powerful, grippy, tightly wound at this point, yet long; with the black Pinot fruit and buckets of minerals lingering through a long finish. Certainly very different from the Damodes, but not necessarily better.
2010 Nuits-Saints-Georges 1er Cru Les Damodes
More elegantly perfumed blue Pinot fruits than the Porets greet the nose here and offer a more refined, perfumed aromatic profile in the classic style. Also more graceful and polished on the palate, this combines the grace, structure and dark Pinot fruits with a pronounced minerality and precise finish. A notch above the Porets and quite fine.
2010 Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru La Combe aux Moines
Buckets of red Pinot fruit greet the nose here. This is quite the alluring aromatic profile. This is juicy, showy and offers the same pronounced fruit from the aromatics on the palate. While forward and approachable, there is an underlying tannic spine and serious acidity to balance the otherwise delicious fruit. Another excellent showing.
2010 Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers
As compared to the Combe aux Moines, this offers a completely different and more complex / complete aromatic profile replete with layers of minerality, wood smoke – as well as multiple other notes of torrefaction – and a very real sense of place. The fruit here is classic black Pinot, and there’s a ton of it. The palate follows the promise of the nose, with a bevy of fruit, smoke, tannin and complexity. This is very serious and a total wine of great purity as well as power.
Layers upon layers of wood smoke, combined with deep minerality and classic Mazis animale terroir nuances announce one of the top versions of this appellation for the vintage. Classically sweet, deep, and pronounced flavors offer an even stronger palate impression than the Rousseau Mazoyeres today. This is quite palate staining and a real wow wine with its buckets of minerality allied to tons of black Pinot fruit. One of the “must-haves” of the vintage.
2010 Chambertin Clos de Beze
One of the great examples of the essence of Pinot Noir on the aromatic profile. A first class, powerful nose offers room filling fragrance that recalls (again) Rousseau. On the palate this is lush, powerful and completely full throttle. An amazing wine of power, balance, structure and a full cornucopia of all things Pinot: red, blue and black fruits galore. There isn’t a thing out of place here as the fruit buffers literally everything. A “must-have” for the vintage.
2010 Corton Clos des Corton Faiveley (Monopole)
Not unlike the Beze, one experiences another absolutely lush and hedonistic aromatic profile here. In all the years of experiencing Cortons, there have been precious few that can compare with the sheer thrill of the aromatics and flavor profile of this singular effort. While there is certainly the requisite tannin and acidity buried deep inside the wine’s structure to reward extended cellaring, it is totally buffered by the miles of sweet, sappy fruit and intense viscosity. Another wow wine, this too is a “must-have” for the vintage.
Domaine Armand Rousseau
There are few finer domaines in the Cote d’Or than that of Armand Rousseau. With land in Le Chambertin itself, Chambertin, Clos-de-Beze, Mazis, Chapelle, Clos-Saint-Jacques and Cazetiers, all in Gevrey, as well as in Clos-de-la-Roche in Morey-Saint-Denis, this 14 hectare estate can boast some of the finest sites in the northern part of the Cote. The vines are old, the rendement low, and the wine-making perfectionist – and the wines themselves are stunning.
— Clive Coates, MW – “Cote D’Or, A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy”
2010 Gevrey Chambertin
Blended from the fruit harvested from 9 different parcels. Extremely forward, perfumed, strikingly sweet and voluptuous on the nose; offering a cornucopia of fruit as well as sweet spices and a buttery note. Juicy, lush and spicy on the palate; just a dream to taste. The tannins are pronounced and hold it all together, but the fruit is quite alluring. Excellent material here. Serious village wine.
2010 Charmes Chambertin
60% Mazoyeres. Exceedingly mineral on the attack aromatically; this epitomizes minerality. Behind that lurks the purest 100% black Pinot fruit. On the aromatic as well as flavor profile, there is a pronounced smoked bacon and wood smoke nuance that is quite appealing. This is absolutely palate staining; with sweet, mineral infused fruit. Fabulous, alluring and classically charming. Very long finish. Outstanding.
2010 Clos de la Roche
Amazingly penetrating, sweet, powerful, perfumed aromatic profile is so fruited that the wood application takes a back seat. This is another wine offering a full cornucopia of red, black and blue Pinot fruit. Amazing texture on the palate as well. This coats the palate with a succulent texture, buckets of fruit and serious power. The packed fruit is all supported by pristine tannins that offer balance and and amazingly long, alluring finish. Another outstanding effort.
Absolutely ethereal aromatics. A wine of almost indescribable depth on the nose. Describing the aromas as room-filling and captivating do not do these aromas justice. This is the purest essence of Pinot Noir. Wow. Striking aromatics. The palate actually outshines the nose. This is viscous, full bodied, sweet; with perfect acidity, perfect clarity, powerful yet precise fruit and a presence on the palate that this taster has never before now experienced. There is so much seemingly unbridled power to the fruit, yet the precision and clarity hold the wine perfectly in place. Truly a “must-have” and absolute WOW wine.