Burgundy 2013 ‘Hang time’

Burgundy 2013 ‘Hang time’
“Hang time” is the catchphrase that kept coming up in my tastings with more than 50 producers up and down the Côte d’Or earlier this month. It has become clear over the last decade or so that it is this and well-controlled yields that are two of the vital factors for making great Red Burgundy, certainly more so than hot and sunny weather.

Etienne Grivot sums it up better than anyone: “A difficult but incredible year.”

It was not an easy growing season: the weather was poor during flowering which greatly affected yields, summer was difficult and, although end of season weather improved and aided ripening, the very late harvest was interrupted by a storm in early October. In fact it was one of the latest harvests ever, certainly for Frederic Mugnier - the last time grapes were picked that late was 1984, the same goes for Marquis d’Angerville. However, despite all of this, the reds at top addresses have turned out brilliantly, something that could not have happened without the tiny crop the vines were carrying and the enormous amount of selection work that the top domaines undertook at harvest time. Acidities, though high, tend not to stick out anything like as much as other high-acid vintages such as 2008 and 1993, in fact they blend beautifully into the wines, adding nothing more than an appetising verve. The fruit, though it took a while, reached full maturity. Unusually in this day and age of global warming, grape skins and pips ripened at low alcohol levels; between 11.5 to 12.5%. But perhaps the most intriguing feature of this red vintage are the wonderfully suave tannic structures; a result of the long hang time on the vine (120 days instead of the usual 100 from flowering to ripening).

The wines boast that beguiling mix of lightness and intensity - Red Burgundy’s great attribute. Whilst not always a homogenous vintage, thanks to uneven ripening, rot and hail that damaged vines from Savigny to the north side of Meursault, the important point is that good growers with good vineyards were capable of making great wines. In 2013 each wine’s terroir characteristics were even more transparent than in 2012, a reason some vignerons rate their ‘13s more highly. At their best these are bright, transparent, seductive and certainly age-worthy.

The same can be said of the whites: quality and ripeness were uneven at lesser addresses and here acidities may stick out a touch, but at any domaine worth its salt they are truly excellent. Acidities are racy, the wines are streamlined, refreshing and show greater balance and refinement than 2012s, and a touch more ripeness than 2007s. Quantities, whilst not big, are a touch bigger than in 2012.

Overall it is difficult to generalise about 2013 apart from the fact that it was not a homogenous year and quantities are just as small as 2012, sometimes smaller. It is clear, though, that this can be an exciting vintage. There are some wonderful Côte de Nuits wines from good terroirs and, whilst the weather was a little more challenging in the Côte Beaune, there are some great reds to be found there too, notably around Aloxe and in parts of Volnay. For the whites, there are many extremely fine wines from the top vineyards of Chassagne, Puligny and the south side of Meursault.

Herewith some of our growers’ thoughts on the vintage:
Etienne Grivot: “A difficult but incredible vintage, the alcohols were low but the pips and skins were ripe, it was a very late
year, reminding me of 1978.”
Gregory Gouges: “A Beautiful Vintage.”
Christophe Roumier: “2013 started off reminding me of 1993, but now I am more inclined to think 2001 or 1995.”
Gerard Boudot, Etienne Sauzet: “Among the very best ever Puligny vintages.”
Erwan Faiveley: “An amazing vintage at the very best estates”.

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