The 2013 Vintage

October 22nd 2013

The 2013 vintage is now fermenting away in the growers' cellars.

Spring, as I have already reported, was damp, cold and miserable. The sortie of potential bunches was already diminished as a result of poor weather conditions in 2012, and further reduced by the bad 2013 spring. There was much millerandage. The crop was then affected by a devastating hail storm on July 23rd. This particularly hit the vineyards from Pernand-Vergelesses, through Savigny-Lès-Beaune and Beaune itself, and down into Pommard, Volnay and Meursault. Here some domaines have lost 90 percent of their harvest. Elsewhere the crop is 30 percent less than the average.

The weather did not start to improve until the beginning of July. This month the sun shone and it was even quite hot from time to time. August was also largely fine, though colder at night. Once we got to September conditions began to deteriorate, with cool, wet days at the beginning of the month, followed by mainly dry but merely bright rather than sunny days through to the end of the month.

The poor start to the season indicated a late harvest, and this is what ensued. Today we normally start picking around September 10th. In 2013 nothing was ready, even in the Beaujolais, until the last week of the month. A few brave souls started to collect some Chardonnays on Tuesday September 25th. Most waited until the following week-end. The Mâconnais and Chablis began picking at the same time as the Cöte d'Or. Even then the Pinots were not ripe. These did not arrive at full maturity until the first week-end of October. Laurent Ponsot, always late to commit himself, began on Wednesday October 9th. Some growers were still in their vineyards 10 days later.

The fine weather in July and August has done much to compensate for the cool, wet spring. First reports, cautious as always, are quite positive, even quite enthusiastic (if we separate out the question of yield) about the red wines. This is particularly marked in the Côte de Nuits and in the communes to the north of that section such as Chambolle and Gevrey. It seems that here the precipitation in the weeks leading up to the vendange was at its lowest. It often has been, for some reason, in recent years. We may see some surprisingly good wines here. Throughout, but especially vital this year, has been the need to sort out the good from the bad on the tables de tri. One important domaine, not known for its exaggeration, mentioned 2010. Acidities are high, but if the wines are concentrated this is no bad thing. Opinions on the whites indicate a lower level of quality. Some fear that acidities are too high. The fruit, reports suggest, lacks real richness and depth. On both sides growers will tell you that the wines get better and better as one climbs the hierarchy. But that is also something one often sees is difficult vintages.

So we will see. It is far to early either to acclaim this vintage or to suggest that it is a write-off. One thing we do know, however, is that there will be little of it. And that is bound to be reflected in the prices.