barrel in a field

Vintage Report: Burgundy 2014

14 December 2015

Giles Burke-Gaffney

A victory for terroir over tempests

From North to South, the 2014 Burgundies gave us an overriding impression of balance and sense of place during our November barrel tastings. Earlier in the summer the reds were full of fruit and charm, for some growers the wines were almost suspiciously opulent and easy, light and too much of a good thing; but this fruitiness has remained during élévage, the wines have filled out and their freshness, whilst by no means too barbed, has tightened them up reassuringly.  These will not be wines to tuck away for decades. They should be drunk before the 2013s by and large, but not only should they give immense pleasure in their youth - they have the balance to age long into the medium term of 10 to 15 years.  The wines are harmonious; soft, ripe, fruity and fresh without the acidity being too noticeable. The vintage’s second quality is transparency. Each wine shows its true character and the top crus show their quality.

Bruno Clair hits the nail on the head when he says, “The most incredible thing of all about the vintage is the enormous difference between the wines.  How the terroir shines through so clearly in such young wines is such a very rare thing." Christophe Roumier echoes the sentiment, “The wines have a purity and accuracy in their flavours that I appreciate, I also like the freshness of the wines, they have no sharp edges. They are just very expressive and vivid. I like the shape. They remind me a little bit of 2002, but they probably are a little more gentle than 2002, they are rounder…something appreciable (about the 2014s) is that they do not overwhelm. The vintage is quite transparent to the terroir.”

So the mark of the vintage?  Precisely that there is none.

If the red wines are very good, the whites must surely be considered great.  What makes them so special?  Firstly that they are consistently good up and down burgundy, the whites are a lot more regular in quality than the reds. Secondly, that the wines themselves exhibit a poise and equilibrium seldom seen.  Not too ripe, too taut, too fat or too thin. Fruity but with plenty of individual character, zesty but charming, intense but graceful, these whites have it all. The best white vintage for quite some time. The brilliant Veronique Drouhin hails this as, “an amazingly beautiful vintage (for whites.)  From Chablis down to Macon the quality is very even and they have great precision."

The year started with unseasonably mild weather and an early bud break and flowering, a pattern that was broken by hail at the end of June and then mixed weather from July onwards that got wetter in August until the end of the month.  A north wind arrived, bringing an Indian summer and fine September.  The summer weather had delayed the season’s early start, so the grapes in general were harvested between the 12th and the 22nd September.  The hail that struck on the 28th June hit localised parts of Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Beaune and Corton.  Less devastating than previous vintages but enough to reduce yields considerably, at least it was too early in the season to affect quality. Elsewhere the crop was more reasonable than recent vintages without quite being particularly big, something akin to 2011.  The season’s challenges were mainly ones for Pinot, ripening was slow and the wretched Suzukii fruit fly meant that sorting out damaged berries early was crucial.  The fine September weather meant that there was no rot, though, and allowed ripening to complete whilst cool nights ensured fresh acidity levels were maintained.