Apart from the 1992 whites, 1990 was the last notable burgundy vintage, and there is an expectant buzz over the 1993 red. That year, warm late July and August weather and intermittent rains during September delivered a thick-skinned harvest whose main virtues are deep colours, mouth-watering fruitiness and the concentrated structure for ageing, particularly at premier and grand cru level.
Yet 1993 does not quite have the effortless gloss of the 1990 vintage because in some cases the instant appeal of the fruit is masked by high acidity and extracted tannins. The management of tannins is one of the keys to success in this vintage. Burgundyhas benefited considerably from the strides in quality made in the past decade, especially by a younger generation of growers.
But one of the wine's main problems remains the erratic nature of its release timetable: buyers wanting the best quality find it difficult to know whether to get their burgundy now or wait for further offers. Three London specialists, Morris & Verdin, Justerini & Brooks and Bibendum, have put on tastings in conjunction with early offers of the 1993 vintage. Goedhuis & Co in London and Raeburn Fine Wines in Edinburgh have also issued offers.
There are two reasons, though, to be cautious about these offers of unbottled young wines. Samples drawn from the cask are notoriously seductive, but the wines are unfinished and may yet need fine tuning. Since the futures market took a knock from the demise of the Hungerford Wine Company, customers should do their utmost to get the best guarantee possible that the goods will be delivered. A reassuring feature of the three offers lies in the established credentials of the wine merchants as quality purveyors of burgundy, specialising in growers' wines.
Do not worry unduly if you miss out this time. More is on the way from the likes of Lay & Wheeler and Laytons.
n Morris & Verdin, London SE1 (0171-357 8866)
Morris & Verdin makes no secret of its near single-minded devotion to fine burgundy. Among its star performers, Georges Roumier's village Chambolle Musigny is normally attractive stuff, but his Chambolle Musigny ler cru les Cras, £207 per case, with its intense strawberry fruit underpinned by classy vanilla oak, is an outstanding bet for 2001 and beyond. Rene Engel's smoky, strawberry-like Vosne-Romanee, £131 per case, is a star in the making, but do not think about his extraordinarily concentrated ClosVougeot, £337 per case, unless you have winning lottery numbers. M & V has an expanded customer tasting and offers in March.
Justerini & Brooks, London SW1 (0171 493 8721)
J & B offers a bevy of classy growers: Robert Chevillon; Meo-Camuzet; Tollot Beaut and Eric de Suremain. The aromatic, soft, raspberryish character of Tollot Beaut's rustic, village Chorey-les-Beaune, £78 per case (also at Bibendum, £82), is enhanced with an enticing layer of oak, while Suremain's Rully, Preaux, £102 per case, offers sweet, vivid pinot noir, as does the super-aromatic Tollot Beaut Les Lavieres Premier Cru, £108 per case. Perhaps the best Tollot Beaut for the price is the classy Beaune Greves Premier Cru £150 per case, which is densely packed with essence of pinot noir and raspberry fruitiness. Chevillon's pure, succulently ripe straight Nuits St Georges, £129 per case, is a delight, but the siren-call of his extraordinarily aromatic Nuits St Georges Premier Cru Les Chaignots, £174 per case, with its wanton, lingering flavours of raspberry pinot, is pure luxury.
n Bibendum, London NW1 (0171- 722 5577)
Despite Bibendum's tasting scrum, some of its stars managed to twinkle. At the "basic" level, Henri Prudhon's unassuming strawberry-rustic St Aubin Rouge, £60 per case, offers good, honest red burgundy at an affordable price, while Camus-Brochon's scented and sweetly fruity Savigny-les-Beaune, ler cru Les Lavieres, £99 per case, and the voluptuously spicy Tollot-Beaut Savigny Champs Chevrey, £115 per case, will both make delicious drinking. Jean Chauvenet's Nuits St Georges were excellent, in particularthe ler cru Rue de Chaux, £215 per case, which was smoky, superbly concentrated and intensely fruity. Ghislaine Barthod's Chambolle Musigny ler cru Aux Beaux-Bruns, £190, was delicately scented and expressive Chambolle Musigny ler cru Aux Beaux-Bruns, £190 per case, while Denis Mortet produced a fine Gevrey Chambertin "En Champs", Vieille Vigne, £199 per case. Lottery winners only need apply for Meo-Camuzet's sublime, flashy Vosne Romanee ler cru Au Cros Parantoux, £450 per case.
n Other offers from Goeduis & Co, London SW8 (0171-793 7900); Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh (0131 554 2652). Wines are offered at "in bond" prices, duty and VAT will be payable on delivery in 1995-96. Delivery is sometimes included.