Anthony Rose: The 2009 Burgundy vintage is an abundant crowd-pleaser. What’s not to like?'
Saturday 12 February 2011
The phrase "hurry while stocks last" is so trite that it would be easy to ignore the clamour for 2009 Burgundy if there weren't a risk of being crushed in the stampede for it.
Burgundy's 2009 vintage showed its hand in a series of London tastings in January and such is the demand for it that any wine lover who hasn't already secured a case of six or more might need to start giving some thought, and fast, as to whether this is an opportunity not to be missed. But is it all wine-trade hype?
There was a time when the only en primeur game in town was Bordeaux (unbottled samples of the new vintage, that is, delivered once the wine is in bottle). Keen not to be left out, every self-respecting UK Burgundy specialist worth their salt now holds a January en primeur tasting for trade, press and customers.
In a year as special as 2009, this makes absolute sense. Arriving on the coat-tails of the genuinely fabulous Bordeaux 2009, lauded by enthusiastic bloggers and Twitterers, Burgundy has seized the opportunity to sell, sell, sell, and the UK wine trade has grasped the baton and run with it.
It might be overegging the pudding to say that January's consumer evenings were frenzied events. But the well-heeled, spoken and coiffed were making a B-line, as it were, as if lives, or dinner parties at least, depended on it. Wine lovers who attend these bun fights are a savvy bunch and apart from quizzing growers on the arcana of vineyard and vintage, they were in no mood to come away without some sort of booty.
Lay & Wheeler, the fine wine arm of Majestic, had sold out of half their available wines before their tasting even started. Other merchants talked about having to re-stock. All of them were grinning like Cheshire cats.
All of which is interesting because few claim that 2009 is quite on a par with the great reds of 2005 or the intense whites of 2008. And the wines are not given away. Among typical descriptors, "sexy", "hedonistic", "charming" and "graceful" are common along with the cheesier "nature's gift", "the child you want to have" and "wines with smiles on their faces".
All these are true – 2009 is an abundant, immensely crowd-pleasing vintage for early- to medium-term drinking with plenty of delicious chardonnay and seductive pinot noir. Quality is harmonious from bourgogne rouge and blanc at the base of the pyramid to grand cru at its apex. This level of consistency is unusual for Burgundy, so to the extent that it's being hailed as an "exceptional" vintage, that's fair enough.
Burgundy 2009 is a "what's not to like" vintage. That isn't to say that you can stick a pin in it, but there's a broader range to choose from, even if more limited quantities compared to Bordeaux make it advisable to get in there in good time.
Every wine merchant whose tastings I attended reported intense demand, with many top producers, such as Cathiard, Mugneret-Gibourg, Fourrier, Barthod and Comte Armand, often sold out. Despite the hype, some merchants who are less well-known for Burgundy still have reasonable stock levels, while others have yet to release their wines. If you're keen on the idea of buying a case or more, check out anthonyrosewine.com with my tasting notes on nearly 200 recommended wines, including 20+ wines under £150 a case, plus a how and where to buy guide.
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