A flood of statistics have been created in the rush to find the first and best information on red Burgundies. If numbers are to be believed,
Recently with 2014,15,16,17,and the 2018 , ‘Outstanding’ numbers proliferate. The best headlines are reserved for 2015 and now 2018, although the latter is still very much in the formative stage. ‘Hot’ dominates.
Deep ‘Ninety+’ rules the ratings, but does it reflect value or character for the consumers?
First, the vintages. The ‘half decade’ has indeed been generous, sometimes to a fault. Perhaps the question isn’t ‘how good?’, but ‘how it is good?’. 2014 has almost been forgotten, with classic styles of reds and bracing, chiseled whites. The rush to declare 2015 as ‘the greatest vintage since..[fill in the blank] avoided some complex issues. Hot vintages lead to extracted wines that have consistancy issues. Balance is important. 2016 arrived, intense but surprisingly approachable, it rushed through sales with painfully short crops. 2017, a normal sized crop [finally?] has been related to a lower rung on the ladder, due to its strengths. Wildly aggressive fruit[1985?] abounds and luscious drinkability right off the shelf. Pigmentations are not as ‘dark’ as the others, legitimizing press talking points. Amateurs of wine and some experts fail to understand these complaints. ’17 drinks well. 2018, hailed as the best ever as the grapes fell onto the sorting tables, is the difficult child of the moment. Wise hands will wait until it has reached bottle before deciding on filling their shopping cart.
Second, the sources. When so much good information is available, the quick way to categorize is to slavishly rely on the pink-green-yellow chart of Grand-Premier-Commune classification. Perhaps more reliable in ‘lesser’ vintages, this is misleading at best in the context of these vintages where the gradations are extremely compressed and sometimes overridden by the talent of the proprietors. It is safe to say that Grand Cru are the best if pricing is the sole criteria. If the winery owner didn’t get this me$$age, the many levels of distribution will correct any underpricing. Do not think that the situation precludes your ability to circumvent this ‘Visa’ card madness. There are amazingly successful wines in all levels.
Blind taste! If the 2016 Fixin outshines the Clos de la Roche, consider it your fortune to know that. 2014 establishes an order, 2015 flips the order upside down, 2016 little order comes from the tiny quantities, and 2017 ignores the order. Make your own order.
Too much of a good thing fatigues the 100 point system, where only 90+ pointers need to apply. There is just no room in the Inn for Haut Cotes, Communes, or Chalonnais. Watch for the ‘Gems of Givry’, the ‘Fantastic Fixins’, or the ‘Voluptuous Volnays’. Rarely does Burgundy give you so much to choose from. No one is scoring your pleasure. You might find a life long friend. You don’t need numerical validation.
To paraphrase an assessment of a recent US Government budget to wine ratings: “There are lies, There are damned lies, and there are statistics.” Here’s to what is in the glass. Bob