I have followed Burgundy wines closely since the early 1990s – almost 30 years -and during this period I have seen a vast improvement in their quality on average.
When I began my Burgundy quest, 80% of randomly selected Burgundies were either poor, som downright disgusting, or flawed, without a strong character or sense of place.
This is hard to believe today, as almost all of them these days are technically well-made and free of obvious flaws.
The wines have improved tremendously over the last three decades, and bravo for this achievement. It has been an endeavour partly helped by global warming, which now ensures that the grapes are relatively ripe at harvest.
Climate change has ensured that very good wines can be made by the top producers (the top 50 or even 100 perhaps) almost every year to a degree that has almost eliminated the term poor vintage. The last one I recall was 1994, interestingly around the time when I began my passion for Burgundy.
The flip side of the coin
It’s fantastic that most Burgundian wines can be drunk without disappointment, and often can be enjoyed with a sense of pleasure, albeit vague on occasion. These are the wines that above I called technically sound, well made; all the nice words that also sum up – for me – the essence of indifference.
Great wines are definitely being made – more and more so – that induce both hedonistic joy and decadent enjoyment. The greatest enjoyment in the vinous world can still be found in our beloved Burgundy.
The indifference catch
Many Burgundies are, however, rather indifferent; technically sound, yet completely indifferent in the literal sense of the word: They taste more or less the same. They have little or no energy, and the hallmarks of terroir and vintage are quite, or even very, vague.
They are consultant, even oenological, wines with little or no personality, made to blend in and not to offend.
The same problem can be seen in Bordeaux, where it has existed even longer than in Burgundy.
Is indifference worse than disgust? In its basic essence, I would argue no. But it is a warning sign in a world of change.
The positive angle is that potential in Burgundy is tremendous: 10 or 20 times the current volume of interesting wines could be made by caring and daring.
Care to grow and sort high-quality grapes, without Roundup or other chemicals; dare to be bold and expressive rather than technically sound and, yes, indifferent!
The difference between indifference and genius might appear slim, but in reality these two are worlds apart.
Very few great things are made without taking risks, and an occasional failure should be regarded as a strength, even by observing journalists.
Vins d’emotion for the people who care, from the vignerons who dare.