Earlier this year the Burgfest tasting of 2019 white Burgundy delivered the most exciting, most satisfying and overall best Burgfest session I have yet attended.
Over the course of five mornings we blind-tasted our way through just over 200 wines at 1er- and Grand Cru level.
Aside from a couple kicked out for being corked, my scores ranged from 99/100 to 82/100.
I rated 28 wines, nearly 14% of the total sample, 95/100 or higher.
My top-scoring wines, for what it’s worth, were the Montrachet of Domaine Laguiche (Drouhin) and Domaine Leflaive’s Chevalier Montrachet.
The style of 2019 white Burgundy is not uniform. A warm-to-hot and dry vintage delivered a small crop with the potential for intense, powerful and muscular whites. Alcohol is generally higher than average and it would have been easy to make Chardonnay with acidity that is little more than moderate.
On paper, that stylistic summary does not add up to wines likely to excite me in the glass but it all comes down to the specific decisions taken by individual vignerons, both in the vineyards and in the cellar. As an example, here are three verbatim notes taken from our flight of Meursault 1er Cru Charmes.
Wine 1) Lots of power and muscle but also a mismatch between a slightly green fruit aspect and then a full and alcohol-laden palate profile. Potentially an acid-adjusted wine? Just not entirely in balance. Sherbert notes on the finish. 89/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Elevated freshness with notes of mint, sage and masses of spice. Fabulous, dynamic and driving energy ripples through the core of this wine. Great intensity but also sufficient light and shade to allow for nuance and ‘breathing space’. Love the clarity and tension. 96/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Wine 3) Moderately burnished colour. Has honeycomb notes and feels advanced from the get go. Waxy and short with a high alcohol, glycerol texture. Declines in the glass. 86/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Before you ask, I don’t think I’ll reveal the identities of these three – that doesn’t seem fair!
All from the same 1er Cru vineyard, I would hazard a guess that 1) was later picked because of the body, weight, alcohol and power it showed. Here the winemaker seems to have acidified the wine, to compensate for the late picking, but the result lacks balance and the added acidity sticks out. 2) is an example of the very best of the vintage. 3) was a mess: probably late-picked, high alcohol, top heavy, deficient in acidity and already falling apart.
The thrill of 2019 is that, with some careful selection, there are plenty of options along the lines of wine 2). Today’s best wine growers have learned how to manage riper, more concentrated fruit and shape it into chiselled, vivid and dynamic wines.
The era of global warming may mean that average pH values are higher and acid levels lower than in the past, but the current generation of vignerons in the Cote have learned how to embrace the shifting climate and still lock freshness into their whites. Many will tell you that the vines themselves are adapting to the new solar vintages but the viticultural work undertaken to prune, train and manage the plants in a changing climate is key. This is what is going to ensure the region’s future as home of the world’s greatest Chardonnay.
I have a theory that so-called classic Chablis might be the pre-phylloxera Bordeaux of my generation – ie, rare, no longer produced and fast-disappearing. This isn’t to say we should abandon buying new vintages and start hoarding all the 2014s we can find.
The style of Chablis is evolving: you no longer have the austerity of a rude slap in the face from an icy North Sea wave, instead a warm ocean breeze delivers the scent of oysters and iodine. Taking this back to the 2019 vintage, the heat and dry conditions clearly presented serious challenges to those seeking to produce lean and steely wines but, again, it all comes down to the choices of individual domaines.
I found our opening Chablis flights somewhat pedestrian. Too much peachy orchard, fruit, creamy textures and not enough electricity. Save for a saline, mineral and chalky Sechets Vieilles Vignes from Samuel Billaud – whose wines showed consistently well this year – I began to be worried about 2019 Chablis.
A bracket of Montmain and Butteaux signalled an up-tick in quality and led into an impressive flight of Montee de Tonnerre. This included my first 94/100, which turned out to be another Samuel Billaud wine.
Chablis 1er Cru Montee de Tonnerre 2019 – Samuel Billaud
Saline, oyster shells, preserved lemons and sea breeze. Has a layered complexity that gets close to the Montee de Tonnerre claim to Grand Cru status. There’s volume, precision and poise. The mid-palate fills out but without ever becoming blowsy or too broad. The acidity really asserts itself on the finish.
94/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Maybe the exposed slopes that delivered privileged ripeness in the vintages of the past are less of a blessing to the Grand Crus in today’s warmer climate? Our Grand Cru flights included my highest scores, and the group’s average scores were higher than those of any of the 1er Cru flights, but I did not see a significant gear change from Montee de Tonnerre.
I rated two wines 95/100, but that is only a point ahead of the Samuel Billaud Montee de Tonnerre: Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin’s Grenouilles and Christian Moreau’s Les Clos. I enjoyed the restraint and deceptive length of the Droin wine. The Moreau, which was the group’s highest scoring Chablis overall, showed fantastic structure and drive.
Dare I say it, but Samuel Billaud has got to be the value play in 2019 Chablis.
We tasted about 35 wines from Meursault, beginning with examples from Blagny and drawing to a finale with a flight of seven 1er Cru Les Perrieres. For my palate, Meursault hit its stride with Genevrieres, continued delivering some high points in Charmes and then really showed its class with Perrieres.
Wines from some serious domaines featured in these flights, including a nuanced and elegant 94/100 Poruzots from Dominique Lafon and a taut and glassy Roulot Perrieres that I also rated 94/100. Olivier Leflaive’s wines continue to shine at Burgfest. Stylistically they are quite flashy but they are so impressively crafted that they pull off the fancy winemaking.
One of my highest-scoring Meursaults was the Genevrieres from Ballot-Millot.
Meursault Les Genevrieres 2019 Domaine Ballot-Millot
Something pretty special. The scent is delicate, with hints of mint, menthol and fennel alongside more conventional orchard fruits. Begins on the palate with great subtlety and lightness of touch but the spice really begins to soar and accelerate. The texture is filigree and silky and there are many layers of extreme delicacy and finesse. Finishes scented and aerial.
96/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
This is clearly a domaine to watch and I also rated their superb Perrieres 95/100, putting it joint top of that flight.
Two other over-achievers are Michel Bouzereau, who made the group’s overall favourite Charmes and Vincent Girardin, whose Charmes (94/100) and Perrieres (95/100) both impressed me.
Antoine Jobard’s wines seem to be attracting significant attention and praise at the moment. Whilst I am sure his prices have accelerated beyond those of Bouzereau and Girardin, the Jobard Charmes was seriously good.
Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes 2019 – Domaine Antoine Jobard
Fresh, bright and engaging. There’s lots of matter, density and complexity here with a successful use of reduction that adds a savoury, mineral quality. Acidity and energy are sustained throughout. Finishes with spice and drive.
95/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Saint Aubin 2019
I was left somewhat perplexed by our dozen or so wines from Saint Aubin. Excepting one clearly advanced wine I rated everything between 88/100 and 92/100. There were plenty of perfectly nice wines but little in the way of fireworks.
The best wines had a saline minerality and some chalky acidity but too many were simply creamy and easy-going. I was left wondering whether the hilltop position above Puligny, that presented challenges to achieving full ripeness in the past, was unable to provide sufficient shelter in the extremes of the 2022 season?
Perhaps the grapes simply got too ripe to deliver that thrill of acidity?
Unsurprisingly, my favourite wines came from two of Saint Aubin’s best vineyards: En Remilly and Aux Murgers des Dents de Chien. As ever, the class of the terroir shines through. Olivier Lamy’s Dents de Chien (92/100) was initially a bit introverted on the nose but came alive on the taut, focused and chalky palate. Marc Colin’s En Remilly was the group’s highest-rated Saint Aubin and also my favourite from this vineyard.
Saint Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly 2019 – Domaine Marc Colin & ses Fils
An immediately ambitious style, both in the winemaking and the fruit intensity. A familiar wood signature of spice, sage and mint. The fruit sits within the frame, not underneath it, and delivers flesh and succulence. Texturally it’s creamy and satisfying.
92/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Chassagne Montrachet 2019
2019 in Chassagne Montrachet makes a strong case for this currently being the most exciting white wine village of the Cote d’Or. I absolutely loved our morning tasting these and from the very first wine found the driving acidity I yearn for in top white Burgundy.
We saw wines of citrus cut, clarity, tension and purity. The flight of wines from more elevated vineyards – Romanee, En Caillerets, Grande Montagne and others – was the most thrilling bracket in the three days to that point. Put another way, the best of Chassagne out-shone Meursault Perrieres – a site often deemed to be a Grand Cru in waiting.
The group’s highest scoring wines from Chassagne, two of the most highly rated 1er Crus in the entire Burgfest and personal highlights for me, were both from Paul Pillot. Make no mistake, Thierry Pillot has taken this estate to the front ranks of white Burgundy.
Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru La Grande Montagne 2019 – Domaine Paul Pillot
This would be easy to miss in many contexts as it’s softly spoken yet extremely persistent. Has a quiet intensity that grows and builds through the mid-palate. The underlying material is solidly savoury and mineral, emphasised by the reductive elements, yet there is generosity and ripeness to the fruit profile. The finish drills down in intensity, rather than broadening out
94/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Grandes Ruchottes 2019 – Domaine Paul Pillot
Stylistically this is very curious, combining a more classical, creamy, profile with something driven by citrus blossom scent and minerals. This makes for a fine and compelling balance, with a finely-spun texture and a sense of vivid, mineral drive.
95/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Amongst numerous excellent 2019s from Chassagne it is worth noting that both Ballot-Millot and Vincent Girardin both turned out top drawer examples. This is further evidence that these growers are worth attention.
Puligny Montrachet 2019
With its concentration of celebrated estates, it is not surprising that Puligny delivered plenty of high points. The now familiar distinction between ripe, fatter examples and those that held their acidity was maintained but there was also a clear Puligny identity and grilled hazelnut signature in many wines.
One of the early wines we tasted was Jean-Marc Boillot’s Truffieres. It bore clear marks of 2019’s heat but there is also freshness and lift skillfully woven into the wine’s fabric. This won’t last forever but it delivers a well-balanced, authentic and satisfying Puligny experience.
Classy and moderately sophisticated wine that, despite quite warm alcohol, has a brightness of acidity and the sense that it’s actually going somewhere. Colour still shows a tinge of green. Texture is full and creamy but underpinned by freshness and there’s drive through the mid-palate. This is flattering to drink now and may not develop hugely but neither does it feel in danger of declining any time soon. Succulent orchard fruits on the mid-palate and a gently creamy finish.
92/100 – Matthew Hemming
The bracket of 1er Cru Pucelles marked the pinnacle of our Puligny tasting but, for me, one of the finest wines we tasted during the entire week was Domaine Leflaive’s Combettes.
Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes 2019 – Domaine Leflaive
Similar to the above [Vincent Girardin’s Puligny Combettes] but with more layers of intensely savoury and mineral complexity. Has a Grand Cru degree of volume and authority. The nutty, savoury, mineral reduction is extremely classy. There is precision, depth and nuance as the wine continues to evolve and pop in the glass. The texture combines glassy tension and a richness of fleshy fruit. Spicy on the finish.
97/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Domaine Leflaive have clearly re-discovered their magic and their Pucelles (96/100) also shone in the Pucelles flight, where it was so distinctive I picked it blind. However, I would like to highlight the superb Clos de la Pucelle from my friend Jean-Michel Chartron. Far from the most expensive wine in the bracket, I felt this more than held its own.
Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Pucelle 2019 – Domaine Jean Chartron
All hazelnuts and cream. What’s interesting is that, whilst some wines in this flight lose mid-palate energy, this gains and crescendos. There’s more spice, more volume and more fruit as layer after layer unfurls. Lemon cream and citrus butter with accents of blossom and white flowers. A seriously beautiful mid-palate scent.
94/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Puligny has an embarrassment of richness amongst its producers and there are some extremely fine wines to choose from in 2019. Michel Bouzereau, Vincent Girardin and Olivier Leflaive continued to impress, as they did throughout this tasting. Two growers whose wines had not featured previously also showed extremely well.
Bachelet-Monnot are making flamboyant, sophisticated wines that are beautifully charged with acidity and minerality.
Etienne Sauzet seems to be back in the game, making wines with fabulously judged oak spice and reduction married to great precision and cut.
2019 Grand Crus
What a chore tasting through nearly 40 Grand Cru white Burgundies!
The 2019 high points were, indeed, as high as you have the right to expect for the price of these bottles but there were too many dull-edged and top heavy wines with flabby fruit, butterscotch notes, toffee oak characters and insufficient acidity.
Whilst a new generation of producers is challenging the convention, it is certainly traditional to treat your Grand Crus to a higher degree of new oak than your 1er Cru or village wines. There was plenty of toasty new oak on show as we tasted through the 2019 Grand Crus. The best wines, of course, were swallowing their barrels and allowing fruit and terroir aspects to shine through. The danger – in a hot, dry and concentrated vintage – is that very ripe fruit and sweet new oak act to exaggerate each other’s characteristics and result in heavy, honeyed and even oily-textured whites that lack life and energy.
An example of what I felt to be really successful winery technique was Jean-Claude Bachelet’s Bienvenues Batard Montrachet. Typically the wines of this domaine show quite a lot of (very high grade) oak and a marked winemaker signature but I felt that this was so well judged here that it worked really well and enhanced the overall wine.
Bienvenues Batard Montrachet Grand Cru 2019 – Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet
Ridiculous, giggle-inducing wine. There’s plenty of technique but it’s been applied with such skill it’s totally thrilling. Melted butter, nuts, reduction. This is the dragon everyone chases. A flamboyant performance, and there is a lot of glycerol and alcohol, but the spice and mineral drive is more than sufficient to ride it out. If it just kicked up a bit more on the finish…
95/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Corton Charlemagne is frequently a frustratingly inconsistent flight at Burgfest but I found the 2019s much more even in quality and also delivering higher highs than in many years. Topping my ratings were Olivier Leflaive’s taut, grippy and blossom-scented example (95/100) and Henri Boillot’s classically-structured Corton Charlemagne (96/100) that seemed to nod towards Chablis in its salinity and verve.
I often find myself skipping over Jean Chartron’s Corton Charlemagne but 2019 seems a particularly successful vintage of this wine, which shares a classical mealiness and structure with the Boillot version.
Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2019 – Jean Chartron
Deceptive in that this starts quite buttery and gives the impression of something quite old school and classical but then an unlooked-for acid line kicks in and brings real life and vivacity to the party. This isn’t showy but neither is it particularly rich or top heavy, which it seems as though it might be at first. There’s a fundamentally savoury framework. Creamy layers unfurl – this would be extremely easy to miss.
93/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
We tasted just a single example of Criots Batard Montrachet – sadly it wasn’t d’Auvenay! – but this stood head and shoulders above many of its neighbours from Bienvenues or Batard. Texturally, Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard’s Criots was close to sublime. I kept asking myself whether I was being seduced too easily by the wine’s richness and creamy fruit but, however I approached it, this brilliant 2019 kept delivering the thrills (97/100).
In Batard Montrachet, Vincent Girardin once again stole the show for me. This was his most backward and introverted wine. It is crying out for time in the cellar and really took time to unfurl in the glass and reveal its chiselled, mineral framework. This is a muscular and tightly-wound vin de garde that will be brilliant in about 10 years from now (96/100).
Taken as a whole, our bracket of nine Chevalier Montrachet was a bit less thrilling than usual. 2019 doesn’t easily lend itself to piercingly mineral, linear and high-tensile Chardonnay. Bouchard’s La Cabotte showed plenty of promise and did start to accelerate in the glass but it was the triumphant Domaine Leflaive that exploded from my glass to deliver what I hope for from Chevalier Montrachet.
Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2019 – Domaine Leflaive
Finally!!!! This is limey and reductive but with so much underlying substance and density. Spicy, crystalline, pure and poised. As it gets more air the point at which the wine takes off moves forward so it’s no longer on the mid-palate from almost before it hits your lips. This is aerial, electric and just pops all over! Saline, long.
99/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Burgfest finished with a quintet of Montrachet. We tasted examples from Marc Colin, Olivier Leflaive, Marquis de Laguiche, Bouchard Pere et Fils and Comtes Lafon.
I readily admit that I struggle to ‘get’ Montrachet – I love the minerality and cut I find in Chevalier but struggle with the density, volume and weight of Montrachet itself. As a result, I spent more time really tasting and considering these wines and less time writing lengthy notes.
The group favourite was Olivier Leflaive. I found this a more electric, vivid and mineral expression of Montrachet, and rated it 97/100. My personal favourite, however, was the Marquis de Laguiche wine from Drouhin.
My note is brief, my score is high but, believe me, I spent a long time pondering this wine. The combination of concentration and vivid acidity is pure magic – it is almost a distillation of what 2019 white Burgundy achieves at the very highest level.
Montrachet Grand Cru 2019 – Marquis de Laguiche
A fatter style, showing the gras of Montrachet but this also has razor-sharp acid definition.
99/100 – Matthew Hemming MW
Related blog posts
January 11 2023
Vintage Report: Burgundy 2021 by Matthew Hemming MW
To provide the best experiences, we use technologies like cookies to store and/or access device information. Consenting to these technologies will allow us to process data such as browsing behaviour or unique IDs on this site. Not consenting or withdrawing consent, may adversely affect certain features and functions.
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.