'So you think Today's Burgundies are Brilliant?'
Burgundy has not had a bad vintage since 1984. It is as if Le Bon Dieu is smiling on the region and rewarding the growers for their dedication and individualism, their refusal to submit to uniformity and indulge in petty jealousies, and their reasonableness with prices. The standard of the wines, and the very large number of praiseworthy domaines and merchants is far higher than it has ever, ever been in the past. Yet things can only get better – much better. While everyone is well equipped in their cellars – sorting tables, temperature control, attention to the minute details of élevage, and so on, is as exigent about dispensing with herbicides and systematic sprays, and is, indeed, as biological is not bio-dynamic as one would wish, the raw material, the vines themselves, leave much to be desired.
Todays 'old vines' are no longer, for the most part, those planted in the 1900s, the 1910s and the 1920s, i.e. the first generation of grafted vines planted after the vignes francaises died out. Sadly these are now rare indeed. They are more likely to be the infamous Pinots Droits planted in the 1960s or the first generation of clones, reared for quantity as much for disease resistance. Neither, of themselves, produce fine quality. Nor, for the most part, were the rootstocks they were grafted on to, for instance the SO4, the most desirable. A vine on SO4 tends to race to maturity as September evolves, rendering the window of perfect opportunity very narrow indeed.
Moreover, there is still much of the Burgundy vineyard, over-fertilized in the 1960s and 1970s, which is today, 40 years on, over burdened with potassium, resulting in wines with a deficiency of acidity.
So, if you find your 1999s delicious, and are licking your lips in anticipation over the white 2002s and the red 2005s, just think how brilliant the Burgundies are going to be in 2029, 2032 and 2035! Of course, some of us may no longer be around – and there is the threat of global warning – but it's a nice thought.