I am just back from Burgundy, tasting lineups of 2018 wines. A eventful and lovely trip – the culinary side was excellent, as were most of the tastings. Yet I also found some of the 2018s problematic from normally very competent producers – indicating that 2018 was indeed a difficult year for some.
What we can say – and not say
It is clear that evaluating and rating wines is a difficult business in a vintage like 2018, comprising as it does many styles and qualitative outcomes.
Until this trip, I found only a few wines that were on the hot and problematic side vinification-wise. But during my July 2019 trip I found potential problems or issues in entire ranges, where almost all wines seem to be somewhat off the mark currently.
Let’s be clear: It’s very early, and I will not go into details about these wines or producers. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and review them later, when malos are finished and cask-maturation is further along.
I will, however, say some words about the problems that I encountered with the 2018 vintage, even among top-end producers.
The great 2018s
The great 2018s have the intensity – but also the vivid lightness – of a truly exceptional year. They can be very elegant and are more balanced than many of the 2015s, with less pronounced and extravagant sweet fruit.
In some cases, I prefer the 2018s to the 2015s, as they have a more classical stance and all the intensity one would ever need.
The variation is considerable – although I would not say that these wines are rare. But one should definitely be aware of choosing the right 2018, as some vignerons seem to have issues in this vintage.
The fine wines of the 2018 vintage
A signifcant number of wines have a lovely and relatively cool stance – with vivid mid-palate energy and acidity, and red fruit that is often quite forward.
These are definitely attractive, lovely and even collectable in many cases. However, be aware of the alcohol levels, as some of these can climb well over 14%.
The key here is freshness and energy, which give true Burgundian balance to the wines. They should have vivid energy and not be too dense, hot, or dark in both fruit and color.
I normally don’t focus very much on color with Burgundy wines. But in 2018 one finds grand crus with the color of an intense merlot … or perhaps worse!
So: Check the color, and then look for energy in the wines.
The potentially ugly
Sadly, the 2018 vintage seem to have produced some overly intense, hot, dense and extracted wines that currently are problematic if one prefers energetic, balanced and vivacious Burgundies. Let’s see if the elevage helps bring these wines back into focus.
To be honest, I do not have high hopes for the worst of these wines; they have quite depressing prospects.
In general three issues – at least – have proven to be problematic: timing of the harvest (level of maturity), extraction and the use of new oak.
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