Wine trade goes Burgundy mad

HEAD SOMMELIER AND MANAGER OF LUTYENS RESTAURANT

Last week saw one of the English Wine Trade’s odd annual rituals, the Burgundy en primeur tastings. For a week, we all traipse around assorted grand venues, tasting samples of wines from the new vintage about to be released.

In many cases the wines have not even been bottled are represented by samples of varying degrees of freshness. It’s somewhat akin to deciding University applications on the basis of ultrasound pictures.

The crazy thing is that many of these wines will be bottled in the next few weeks. By the time that they are in the bottle, however, they will for the most part have already been sold.

It’s a dangerous business to leap to conclusions about any wine region and the whole tasting process really only lends itself to the most banal of generalisations, but I’ve never let the danger of banality prevent me from shooting my mouth off so here are my impressions of Burgundy 2010.

First of all it looks like a good vintage. For the whites especially, it seems to combine the power of 2009 with the elegance and acidity of 2008 and so is a more harmonious and, dare I say it, complete vintage than either.

The reds have a more classical elegance to them than the exotic 2009s but without the austerity of the 2008s or the (whisper it) dilution of 2007.

That’s the good news. The bad news, inevitably, is that there is not much of it to go around. Volumes are way down and demand is surging in emerging markets. By the time restaurants are starting to list these wines they may have changed hands (figurative speaking) many times and the prices (already high) will be stratospheric.

It is a curious sensation to taste wines at the absolute pinnacle of the quality scale knowing that there is little realistic prospect of ever seeing them again once they have entered their drinking window. It is a somewhat melancholy feeling.

In this context it is always nice to come across a producer whose wines remain relatively affordable. I was mightily impressed by the wines of Cécile Tremblay, based in the village of Vosne-Romanée, which, while not cheap (Burgundy rarely is), show a correspondence between price and quality that makes them particularly attractive. I will be seeking them out in the future.