According to Greenpeace, the wines of Burgundy are so badly threatened by rising temperatures that Meursault, Montrachet and Volnay could disappear for ever. Only an ostrich would deny the reality of climate change, but in the case of the 2008 vintage appearing on the market this month, Burgundy's growers must have wished for once that the climate had changed sooner rather than later. By and large, it was such a miserably cool, wet growing season that by as late as mid-September, even its most ardent admirers were writing the vintage off. But Burgundy has been the lucky region in the Noughties, and a harvest of potential discontent was saved, almost gloriously, by the Indian summer of the second half of September.
No burgundy is a necessity and it can be expensive, but it isn't subject to the unreasonable price hikes seen in Bordeaux. The UK also has a distinct advantage over the rest of the world when it comes to opportunities to buy not just good, but – a term that might seem oxymoronic – good-value burgundy. We are fortunate in having a critical mass of intrepid independent specialists who go to taste the wines, and in January – Arctic conditions notwithstanding – bring home samples of the wines they believe in for press and trade tastings in January. We, the press, have to make snap judgments given that not all the wines are even bottled yet, but we aim to report as accurately as we can as to whether the growers and merchants are peddlers of hype.
To call it a miracle vintage, as some are doing, is perhaps to over-egg the pudding. A surprise vintage is probably more accurate. It's not generally so much about which commune did well, but which wine producer. The best growers, those who didn't panic by picking too early, and who've been meticulous in their vineyard management and winemaking, have made delicious wines, both in white and red burgundy. Yields were low, so an opulence comes through in the successful white wines. While the reds tend to lack flesh, there's a seductive perfume and purity of red berry flavours in the best pinot noir-based reds, all with the freshness you'd expect from a cool vintage. The biggest reservation comes from a factor beyond the region's control: the poor exchange rate that makes all European wines expensive.
Leaving aside burgundy for the high rollers – and there are plenty of grand wines at premier cru level – what impressed me is that there are also good-value wines at superior "house" white and red burgundy level. If you're looking for value in this vintage, my advice is to head for the white wines of Jean-Paul Droin and William Fèvre in Chablis, Hubert Lamy in Saint Aubin, Daniel Barraud in the Mâconnais and Bourgogne Blanc from class growers such as Jean-Philippe Fichet, Etienne Sauzet, Guy Roulot and Denis Mortet. Value reds are a tougher call, but I like the bright, spicy Givry 1er crus of François Lumpp.
Of the top-quality, high-end white burgundies I have tasted to date, look to Philippe Colin, Moreau-Naudet, Fontaine-Gagnard, Roche de Bellène, Jean-Marc Boillot, Colin-Deléger and Paul Pernot. In the case of reds, Domaine Fourrier, Sylvain Cathiard, Jean Grivot and Mugneret-Gibourg are among the domaines that stand out.
If you want to delve further into 2008, check out tasting notes, with merchant and price details, at anthonyrosewine.com.Reuse content