In 2022 the Burgfest tasting of 2018 reds fell during the early days of the harvest. I have clear recollections of sweltering in our usually cool tasting room, trying to find the perfect balance between open windows and closed shutters to shield us from the sun – there’s a lack of aircon in the historic French hunting lodge where we taste!
There was no denying it was very hot, even before we knew that 2022 broke records for high temperatures in the region. Returning last week to taste 2022s in producers’ cellars, and having tasted Bordeaux 2022s earlier this year, we already knew the playbook for this solar vintage.
The 2022s I tasted last week confounded expectations and dashed preconceptions. We found wines that delivered an unlooked for degree of classicism and which, at times, are nudging towards genuine greatness.
Alcohol levels are generally at the moderate end of the spectrum, with many wines weighing in below 13.5%.
Many wines show fantastic poise and could not come from anywhere other than the Cote d’Or – in other words, there is plenty of terroir definition.
Lots of the reds have red rather than black fruit profiles and plenty show a degree of aerial lift and weightless quality.
2022 does favour reds over whites overall but there are white wines that are absolutely thrilling, shot through with an electrical charge of acidity and mineral drive – J-M Gaunoux, I am looking at you!
Jean-Michel & Henri Gaunoux
How can such wines result from such a growing season?
This is a tricky question and one to which I do not have a single, clear answer. To contextualise the heat, everyone recognises 2018/19/20 as a trio of warm-to-hot years. 2018 is usually singled out as bearing the clearest stamp of high temperatures and 2019 – in my mind at least – is probably the most highly regarded of the three.
When you actually analyse the statistics, 2019 was the warmest of those three vintages. Until, that is, 2022 came along and broke all the records as the mercury rose even higher.
Vignerons we spoke to offered different explanations for the balance and classicism of 2022 in the face of such conditions.
Charles Van Canneyt, at Domaine Hudelot-Noellat, spoke about rainfall replenishing the soil’s water reserves and helping alleviate stress in the vines; but according to Nicolas Rossignol, at Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, the season was pretty dry other than some June storms in Gevrey. In the opinion of Mark Fincham, at Marchand-Tawse, cooler nights were key to preserving freshness in the 2022s, the diurnal temperature range compensating for the heat of the days. Yet others spoke about the vines’ adaptation to climate change. Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini, at her eponymous estate in Gevrey, attributed the balance achieved by her vineyards to the domaine’s biodynamic farming techniques.
Ultimately, 2022’s success in the Cote d’Or is probably due to a complex interaction of different factors. Rainfall was certainly a big contributor to the quality of the vintage – rain at the right time and in the appropriate quantities. The fact that, although hot, the year did not really feature any violent heat spikes has to have been to the advantage of the vineyards; vines are better able to cope with a steady accumulation of heat than a sudden surge.
A key point probably not emphasised enough is that, since 2003, Burgundians have built a significant experience and body of knowledge regarding the management of hot vintages. Leaving foliage on the vines to protect and shield the fruit is a simple viticultural technique – one of an entire toolbox of practices – that is now widely employed.
Heat and drought can cause the stomata in a vines’ leaves to close; this halts respiration in the plant which, in turn, blocks photosynthesis. At this point grapes stop ripening – as the plant is no longer converting sunlight into sugar – but skins may thicken and shrivel in the heat. Fruit like this can deliver heavy, leathery tannins and raisined flavours. These grapes may increase in concentration, as evaporation increases the ratio of sugar to juice, but they are not advancing in terms of physiological ripeness as photosynthesis has been blocked. This combination of circumstances can lead to wines with high levels of sugar ripeness – plus alcohol and tannin – that also show coarse, green flavour profiles.
2022 was spared the heat spikes that can cause a vine to shut down and halt photosynthesis. At the same time, adequate rainfall replenished water reserves and acted to relieve the hydric stress that can cause the plants to block ripening. Furthermore, modern farming techniques help prepare the vineyards for such conditions and enable them to better weather climatic extremes.
The above is an inadequate explanation of how Burgundy has produced such fine wines from a vintage like 2022 but it begins to unpick some of the web of contributing factors and I hope it hints towards the complex interplay of different influences.
Charles Van Canneyt (Hudelot-Noellat)
Cherry pick selectively whilst others look the other way!
It is inevitable that the 2022 headlines are going to be hogged by Pinot Noir. Stylistically the vintage leans towards red wine and that is where the greatest concentration of successes lie. BUT, when I boarded my flight for this trip, I never expected whites of the quality to be found at Jean-Michel Gaunoux, in Meursault, or Jean Chartron, in neighbouring Puligny Montrachet.
2022’s ripeness could be translated into sun-kissed, slightly soft, and peachy Chardonnay. Perfectly tasty but far-removed from classic Burgundy. Such wines exist, and we tasted a few (which we won’t be buying), but every now and then we came across wines of pure electricity. Where domaines called everything just right – and I mean haute couture vineyard work, selecting the perfect harvest date, followed by absolute precision in the winery – there are world class white Burgundies to stand proud next to the finest wines of 2021 and 2014.
Climate change has been to the benefit of those at the margins of Burgundy. Historically the finest crus were those in privileged locations best placed to achieve ripeness in a region of marginal climate. Vineyards in cooler sites were relegated to a notional second division. As the Cote d’Or’s climate has warmed, those at the margins are more consistently achieving ripeness – witness, for example, Saint Aubin’s rise to prominence. At the same time, vineyards and wines in/from these areas are less expensive, presenting opportunities to young growers looking to expand and buyers looking for relative bargains.
Looking to the margins in 2022 will pay dividends. It was a warmer year in which cooler sites had the opportunity to flourish. Pernand Vergelesses is a great example and we tasted delicious wines, that will not be expensive, from both Domaines Follin-Arbelet and Dubreuil-Fontaine. Simon Follin even told us that he is starting to prefer the quality from his plots in the upper reaches of the En Caradeaux vineyard, which are unclassified, to that he gets from the warmer 1er Cru section at the foot of the slope. Christine Dubreuil’s 1er Cru from her monopole site of Clos Berthet has a compelling salinity and tension; I scored this just a couple of points behind her Corton Charlemagne.
Christine & Clementine Dubreuil
Continuing the theme of marginal sites, Clemence and Baptiste Dubrulle at Domaine de la Folie have made some beautifully chalky and mineral whites in Rully. They will doubtless be consumed too young – as their charms are hard to resist – yet they carry impressive cellar potential for the patient. At Domaine Chavy-Chouet we tasted a bright and vivid Maranges blanc, that is a new addition to Romaric’s range. From just north of Maranges an estate new to us, Domaine Borgeot, has fielded some very promising Santenay.
Clemence Dubrulle (Folie)
From the more prestigious villages of the Cote de Beaune, two old friends showed us just what was possible at the heights of 2022 in white wine. It feels as though Henri Gaunoux is coming of age, stepping out from his father’s shadow to put his own stamp on the wines of Jean-Michel Gaunoux. The various Meursault bottlings were the sweet spot, for me, and particularly the 1er Crus of Les Genevrieres and Les Perrieres, both of which shared elements of spice, fennel and mint.
At Jean Charton I was captivated by the richness shot through with acidity that Jean-Michel has captured in his wines. There was not a wine in the range I would be unhappy to have in my cellar. The Chevalier Montrachet Clos des Chevaliers was a total enigma in at once being delicate, elegant and almost painfully intense. Normally Clos des Chevaliers is the apex, for me, but this year I think Jean-Michel may just have shaded it with a show-stopping Montrachet. It was a triumphant tasting.
2022 in five white wines Bourgogne Aligote – Domaine de la Folie
Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru Clos Berthet – Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine
Chassagne Montrachet – Jean Chartron
Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrieres – Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux
Montrachet Grand Cru – Jean Chartron
If those monks got the classification of Burgundy’s vineyards correct, and making a great Richebourg is akin to shooting fish in a barrel (also of Richebourg?) year in and year out; then wines from lower tier appellations ought to offer a reliable bellweather as to the quality of any given vintage.
Our very first tasting on Monday morning was at Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini and we began with a trio of exemplary village Gevrey Chambertin wines, culminating in a stunning Les Songes that I rated 91-93pts – a pretty big score for a village wine. This was repeated two days later at Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, in the same early morning slot, when their Gevrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes out-performed its status. I always take special note when this wine shows well as it can often be quite challenging to taste from barrel; the 2022 was particularly good: red fruit, raspberries and spice finishing with a savoury, mineral crunch.
In strong vintages, we like to order some of our allocation of ‘junior’ wines in magnums. It is a good indicator of our enthusiasm for 2022 that we have returned already having placed a few orders for larger formats.
Recent hot vintages have presented challenges to winemakers in Chambolle Musigny and Volnay that have been born out in tastings such as Burgfest. My feeling is that these most transparent and filigree of wines have struggled in the era of climate change as, stylistically, there is nowhere for them to hide or shelter from the sun. Last week we tasted more Chambolle than we did Volnay, but saw very successful examples of both.
The two Volnays at Jean-Michel Gaunoux showed very well, my preference being for the multi-layered and persistent Clos des Chenes. Mark Fincham, at Marchand-Tawse – our first visit there – showed us an expressive and elegant Volnay 1er Cru Fremiets; one of his first reds to be picked and one of the few to be entirely de-stemmed. Domaine Violot-Guillemard’s Volnay 1er Cru Brouillards was extremely fine-spun and aerial for this vineyard, playing all in the treble register with delicate red fruit notes.
Our sample of 2022s from Chambolle Musigny was much broader. During my first visit to Domaine Lignier-Michelot it was the village Chambolle, made with 80% whole bunch and just 15% new oak, that gave a clear sign of intent as to the quality of this estate. On more familiar ground, the Domaine Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle Musigny was once again my pick for value in Charles Van Canneyt’s cellar. Dominique Le Guen, at Domaine Hudelot-Baillet, presented a fine old vine village cuvee, with silky tannins and impressive purity.
Chambolle’s finest 2022s include some truly astonishing wines. Domaine de Vogue’s Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru, from declassified Musigny, is staggeringly intense and vibrant as it soars across the palate. There are just 350L of Marchand-Tawse Musigny and it is an ethereal and weightless wonder – probably my highest-scoring wine of the week. At Domaine Robert Groffier, the animated Nicolas Groffier showed us two contrasting cuvees of Amoureuses: La Grace des Argiles, from clay soils, and La Delicatesse des Sables, from sand. The sandy terroir gives a texture so gossamer, delicate and silky that this reminded me of Chateau Rayas.
It is challenging to pin down a distinct style of red Burgundy in 2022. That the fruit is ripe is a given, and to be counted among the successes of the vintage, there has got to be freshness and acidity. It is my own preference, but I tend to highlight Pinot showing red fruit and floral tones over something darker-toned and bass-driven.
Within these parameters, the best 2022s seem to fall into two camps. There are wines of fragrance, finesse and fruit purity. I would include Fourrier, Marchand-Tawse and Hudelot-Noellat in this category. Other wines give greater emphasis to spice and structure, which does not have to be at the expense of elegance, and these tend to be more savoury in profile. Amongst this latter category I would include Lignier-Michelot, Groffier and de Vogue.
It is tempting to draw the distinction between the two groups described above on the basis of whole bunch fermentation and the use of stems. Indeed, this is currently one of the most talked-about subjects in the Cote. This being Burgundy, however, it is far from that simple.
Domaine de Vogue have always made very structural wines but it is only under winemaker Jean Lupatelli, whose first full vintage is 2022, that they have started to use 50% whole bunches in the fermentation vats. In the steps of his mentor Henri Jayer, Jean-Marie Fourrier has always practiced 100% de-stemming and this is still the case today; although they now add about 20% of the stems they have removed from the fruit back into the vats.
Jean Lupatelli (de Vogue)
We talked about stems so much during our tastings that I nearly subtitled this section of the report ‘The Bunch, the Whole Bunch, and Nothing but the Bunch’ except that I am starting to feel discussions of method are in danger of crowding out discussions of the actual wines! Rather than reflecting rigid winemaking recipes, I think these different wine styles demonstrate contrasting terroirs and personalities. For example, there is a consistent Groffier style, yet Nicolas varies his use of whole bunch from year to year in order to express his terroirs to their best advantage each vintage.
For value in 2022 red Burgundy, look to some of the less heralded villages of the Cote d’Or. The Fixin 1er Cru Arvelets of Lignier-Michelot, Beaune 1er Cru wines from both Violot-Guillemard and Marchand-Tawse and, in particular, Aloxe Corton 1er Cru Les Vercots from Follin-Arbelet all punch significantly above their weight. Follin-Arbelet’s Vercots is a brilliant wine, effortlessly harmonious, with an old vine depth that ages superbly – a recent 1993 was still full of life.
The village of Pommard seems to have been on a roll in recent years and this is the time to highlight the wines of Violot-Guillemard. As the new generation takes the helm, Domaine Thierry Violot-Guillemard is being re-named for his son Joannés. I had tasted the wines before but this was my first visit and I was rivetted to my seat as we went through the range. The style harnesses a high proportion of whole bunch fermentation to craft wines of purity, finesse, spice and perfume. Not only could I drink these all day long with huge pleasure, given the differential with Cote de Nuits pricing, I could almost afford to do so.
The usual suspects dominate my picks of the grandest 2022s we were privileged to taste. On day one, Fourrier’s exquisite Clos St Jacques and Griottes Chambertin led the pack, with Griottes ahead by a nose. Kaleidoscopic in its range, the Griottes continued to unfurl layer upon layer of floral scent and red fruit. Day two saw some great wines at de Vogue but Groffier’s Chambertin Clos de Beze took top honours. 100 year old vines, 100% whole bunches and 100% new oak – but you would never know it – made for a soaring, triumphant Beze that just throbbed with energy. The next big score went to Domaine Hudelot-Noellat’s Richebourg. Usually I prefer the lighter touch of Romanee St Vivant but this year the soaring intensity of the Richebourg, and its driving mineral punch, stole the show. For me, however, the very top spot of the week goes to the Marchand-Tawse Musigny. Winemaker Mark Fincham describes this as the Amoureuses of Musigny; I describe it as total seduction and one of the wines that has come closest to encapsulating the magic of Musigny that is so talked about. With only 350 litres produced, we may not get any at all but, if you see it and have the means, snap it up on sight.
2022 in five reds Aloxe Corton 1er Cru Les Vercot – Domaine Follin-Arbelet
Pommard 1er Cru Les Epenots – Domaine Joannés Violot-Guillemard
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Combe aux Moines – Domaine Fourrier
Richebourg Grand Cru – Domaine Hudelot-Noellat
Musigny Grand Cru – Marchand-Tawse
With best wishes,
Matthew Hemming MW
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