A French wine ad with the slogan au goût de la vie has recently been banned. The reason? It links drinking wine with enjoyment. Just as well that we live in a civilised country, because otherwise I might be in trouble if I mentioned that the new-release burgundy 2013 vintage might just, maybe, be enjoyable, too. Since I was busy tasting a selection of wines currently on offer en primeur (ie pay now, drink later), it seemed a good time to take the temperature of the burgundy market.
2013 was small vintage in burgundy. The variable summer weather, with storms and rain, coupled with an abnormally late harvest, made for challenging wine-making conditions. Meticulous vineyard management and conscientious cellar work were called for. The result is a surprisingly fine year, which is, as one merchant said, "much better than they dared hope for".
There are two basic issues with any pre-release offer. Is it a good – or better still, great – vintage and is it worth forking out for? First impressions are that 2013 won't go down in memory as a vintage of the century, nor even of the decade. Quality is variable. Some whites have achieved that delicate balance between purity, minerality and freshness, while others are a little green around the gills. Most will be ready to drink young. There's a plethora of disappointingly scrawny reds, but the best at premier and grand cru level, have the perfume, flesh and backbone to mature nicely in bottle.
It's typical of burgundy, especially in a vintage fraught with difficulties, that you encounter a kaleidoscope of contradictory opinions on it – and so it is with the 2013s. Some wine merchants seem more enamoured with the whites, others with the reds. Some think they should be drunk young, others that they need time in bottle to show their best side, as it were. Given that burgundy is a wine that appeals so much to the senses, it's not surprising that chacun à son goût (to each his own) is the watchword.
I'm writing, but not writing home, about burgundy 2013. I remain cautiously optimistic about some of the wines. I think that there are a handful of good buys at relatively reasonable prices in both reds and whites at around the £20-£25 mark. The weak euro has compensated to a small but barely noticeable extent.
A PR person recently asked me if I'd like to try some everyday burgundies – it was the first oxymoron of the year. For most of us, burgundy is not an everyday pleasure but a treat, and the wines of 2013 are likely to give us some of those. Whisper it quietly though, the French authorities might overhear.