You wouldn't expect our wine correspondent Harry Eyres to swear off booze for January. And you'd be exactly right — after all, why would he when there's a new batch of Burgundy to be enjoyed?
January is Burgundy month for the UK wine trade: big tastings are held for trade, customers and press. En primeur offers go out, singing the praises of the vintage before the one just harvested and urging us to invest in a few dozen of the wines that are now a little more than halfway through their élevage in small barrels (in the case of the top crus, this may be our only chance).
With 2018, the wine trade has a winner on its hands — this was one of the hottest and driest growing seasons on record, producing red wines of ripe, dramatic and bold character, as well as some excellent whites.
The great heat of 2018 might have produced atypical red Burgundies, but, although alcohol levels are high (more than 14% in some cases), I find the best wines (many from Beaune, Volnay and Vosne-Romanée) to be well balanced, with freshness and finesse, as well as power.
The reds might be the stars, but the whites aren’t far behind. 2018 was a record-breaking year for white Burgundy, but not necessarily in the way winegrowers would have wished. The harvest began very early, in the last days of August, after a torrid summer, and acidity levels — often seen as crucial for quality — were quite low in many cases. The best of the wines, however, appear to have great tension and elegance, as well as richness.
It was undoubtedly a warm year, but at a couple of tastings of 2018 cask samples before Christmas, I found many whites had lovely freshness and better balance than I associate with other hot years, such as 2015, 2009 and 2005.
Best of the reds
The fine house of Louis Jadot, big vineyard owner as well as negociant, was first out of the blocks last November. I especially liked a couple of its Volnays. Volnay Clos de la Barre 2018 (£265 per six IB; www.turville-valley-wines.com) is quite deep in colour, raspberry-scented, delicate and fine. Volnay Santenots 2018 (£265 per six from the same website) is perhaps even more typically Volnay, silky and seductive.
I also loved the energy and finesse of Jadot’s Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 2018 (£495 per six IB; www.turville-valley-wines.com).
From the much smaller, but excellent house of Chanson, I was impressed by a number of crus from Santenay, Savigny-lès-Beaune and Beaune, including Santenay Beauregards and Beaune Teurons. Look out for these in offers from www.thewinesociety.com and www.laywheeler.com.
Pick of the whites
The 44-acre Domaine Ferret in Pouilly-Fuissé is owned by Louis Jadot, but run independently, with winemaking in the hands of the talented Audrey Braccini. A number of parcels are vinified and bottled separately.
2018 wasn’t so straightforward in the Mâconnais as further north, with a very long-drawn-out harvest, but Mme Braccini professes herself surprised by the ‘elegance, tension and generosity of the wines’. Pouilly-Fuissé Les Perrières 2018 Domaine Ferret (£165 per six IB from www.richardkihl.ltd.uk) is lemony and fine — or ‘delicate and refined’, in Braccini’s words — and reminded me of a Puligny-Montrachet.
Pouilly-Fuissé Tournant de Pouilly 2018 Domaine Ferret (£215 per six), on the other hand, has a richness and power reminiscent of Meursault. From the Côte d’Or, and offering exceptional value, I was impressed by the delicate and citrusy Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes Louis Jadot 2018 (£130 per six).
The car in question, in case you're wondering about that headline, costs £23,340.
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