The 2014 Vintage

October 1st 2014

We urgently need, I said on September 1st, an Indian Summer.

That has been exactly what we have had, for which a thousand thanks. With the exception of two over-night storms and one morning of drizzle, the sun has shone almost without exception throughout the month. It has not been hot, by any means, but it has been warm enough, and as I have pointed out several times in these pages, it is sunshine rather than heat which ripens fruit. Moreover, the quite chilly temperatures during the night have helped preserve acidities.

So we have had a harvest which has been one of the healthiest of recent years, and while short in quantity from Santenay down to Meursault, elsewhere volumes are quite correct, if not reasonably plentiful.

Picking began in the Mâconnais and the Beaujolais on Monday 8th September, by the end of this week in the Côte de Beaune and the Côte Chalonnaise, and in the Côte de Nuits and Chablis on Monday 15th. All was finished, apart from some vineyards in the Hautes Côtes, by Friday 26th.

We have not had such splendid harvest weather for many years. This will ensure high quality (fragrant, classy and succulent are words already being used) across the board, up and down the hierarchy and well as consistently from south to north geographically (apart from those vineyards ravaged by the hail at the end of June). 'Best I've seen since 2009,' said one grower. The last time we had a fine '4' year, incidentally, was 1964: 50 years ago. So one was due.

September 2014

The more 2014 advances, the more depressing it gets. As I have written, June was fine until the terrible storm at the end of the month. July was not too bad. Some hot days alternating with the wet and windy. But August temperatures have struggled to reach 20° C, while it has continued to rain if not every day, at least in most of them. It is the cold which worries me. The fruit will eventually ripen – this is the progress of Nature. But in an absence of heat there will be no concentration; tannins will remain green, and the wines will lack generosity. And the risk of rot will be high.

We need, ungently, an Indian Summer. Keep your fingers crossed.

August 1st 2014

The weather in July has been mixed. Warm, even hot, sunny periods have alternated with the cool and cloudy. Rainfall has been high, and even when it was fine there were frequent echoes of thunder in the distance. Thankfully, however, these have not translated to any further hail damage; though there are reports of fruit being scorched by the hot sun where the end of June hail damage led to a lack of leaf protection over the fruit. Additionally, both oïdium and mildew have threatened. It has not been an easy summer. Now it is holiday time, but such is the fragile state of the vines, most vacances will be petit rather than grand: a token respite only.

We know already that 2014 will be a short crop, though larger in the Côte de Nuits than the Côte de Beaune. Whether the quality will be high or only medium will depend on the weather over the next six weeks.

July 1st, 2014

I was just about to type: 'so far, so good', for the weather in June has been splendid, when in the early evening of Saturday 28th June a severe thunderstorm ravaged Volnay, Pommard and Meursault – the usual communes, recent history would suggest. There is lesser damage, but damage nonetheless, in the Côte de Nuits in Vosne and Chambolle. The full extent of all this will not be exactly clear for a week or so. But it certainly seems worse in the Côte d'Or than further south.

Prior to this the vines flowered swiftly, evenly and quite precociously in the first week of June and until this last week-end escaped any subsequent battering by wind, rain or hail.

The June weather has been largely dry and warm, and sometimes quite hot – I define hot as 30° and above, and there were at least a dozen days as high as this - reducing to a minimum any danger of coulure or mildew. Until this last week-end, therefore, following the satisfyingly abundant sortie, it was looking as if we might well have the quantity the wine economy is desperately in need of. Now, of course, we shall have to wait and see.

Currently projections suggest that the harvest should begin on September 8th (which is a Monday).

June 1st 2014

After three very small harvests what Burgundy urgently needs in 2014 is quantity. These days vintages seriously deficient in quality are, thankfully, very rare. With modern methods such as triage (sorting through of the fruit on arrival at the winery) what we find are rich, concentrated, full-bodied vintages for the long term, on the one hand, or lighter, but frequently equally fragrant, balanced and elegant wines for drinking sooner, on the other. Look back over the last decade. Even in 2004, on which I shall report more fully in a few weeks after my regular 10 Year On tasting, there are plenty of agreeable wines, and this vintage is regarded as the worst of the decade.

So far – but keep your fingers firmly crossed – 2014 promises at least reasonable volume. There was no winter to speak of, and February, March and most of April were mild, sunny and largely dry. This encouraged an early development of the vine. It even looked at one stage as if we could anticipate a harvest in the last days of August. The last six weeks, however, have been cool and quite wet - we needed a bit of rain – and this has retarded the vine's progress. There are no flowers as yet. At this stage we can expect picking to start in mid-September. Let's just hope that the Burgundy vineyard escapes the storm and hail damage that ravaged the crops of 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Meanwhile, what of 2013? The malo-lactic fermentations have been very slow to take place. Indeed there some, as I write, which have not even yet begun. So for even the experienced taster assessing the 2013s is as yet a bit of a mug's game. The wines appear to have decent volume and attractive, nicely pure fruit. Perhaps the whites, for once, are better than the reds. But it is best to wait until the autumn and taste the wines then.