L ondon was abuzz with Burgundy this January and the release of the challenging 2021 vintage En Primeur.
To buy En Primeur is to purchase before the wine is officially on the market and means consumers can snap up wines at an often more favourable price point – something that would be very desirable for this increasingly expensive region.
Experts of the wine trade, restaurant Sommeliers and collectors from the “Burgundy Brigade” attended what tastings they could to essentially “try before you buy”. The fact there were fewer tasting events was indicative of the major problem of the 2021 vintage, namely its size.
Mother Nature decided to get unusually temperamental and the result was a gross reduction in volume. Most of the region’s growers lost at least half of their crop, many lost more. It was especially bad news for Chardonnay, meaning white Burgundy is even more scarce than red, and the prices are enough to make even the most hardened collector wince.
The wine itself is looking rather good and a return to a classic Burgundy style, unlike the recent warmer years. The cool weather means the 2021 will in general have a higher fresh acidity, a more restrained refinement, more moderate alcohol, and lighter body.
The winemakers and producers I have spoken to all felt it was reminiscent of the Burgundy of old, something many wine lovers will find attractive. It is unsurprising that, by and large, the premier and grand crus are showing the best.
The good white wines are fresh, vibrant, and harmonious with a silky finesse as they are sipped. Less fruit forward than in warmer vintages many had a slick minerality, almost a savoury quality and a beautiful measured precision.
The red wines are lighter than previous recent years and there is an overall energy and elegance to them. There is some excitement about Pommard wines, the Burgundy village between Beaune and Volnay.
People used to see this as a bullish powerhouse of a wine, stomping out of the Côte de Beaune but, though the flavour is rich, the 2021 vintage has evoked subtle, elegant reds. Swirling Chateau de Meursault’s Pommard, Clos des Epenots 1er Cru (£515 in bond, case of 6) with Justerini & Brooks’ Burgundy buyer Julian Campbell, he recommended keeping an eye on who neighbours the more famous names.
Next door to illustrious Gevrey-Chambertin is the often-overlooked Marsannay, offering charming wines from top-quality producers. In the shadow (metaphorically speaking) of Corton lies Pernand Vergelesses which creates wines so flavourful and fresh as to be likened to a “mini Corton-Charlemagne” and “little known Maranges” can offer rewarding value, giving “many a wine from a more illustrious village a run for its money”.