France, Burgundy: A Preview of the 2017 Vintage

France, Burgundy: A Preview of the 2017 Vintage

by William Kelley | 1st August 2018 | The Wine Advocate | Interim End of July 2018

This article offers a brief preview of the Côte d’Or’s 2017 vintage. The purpose is simply to acquaint readers with the year’s salient characteristics and to offer a first glimpse of these as yet unformed wines. While the 2017s have come together rapidly in barrel, all these wines will have developed considerably by the time they’re bottled. They will be tasted again from barrel after the harvest and then from bottle a year later. So, the notes that accompany this article are intended simply to give readers an insight into the wines’ evolution—and into how they are assessed.

Since almost all of the 2017s that I’ve tasted at this stage are red, I’ll confine some provisional generalizations to red Burgundy. This was a large harvest—in many appellations, the largest in over a decade. In Pinot Noir, acidities are comparatively low, with several growers reporting the highest pHs since the 2006 vintage. The wines are typically supple and charming, without the concentration of 2015 or 2016, but with plenty of expressive fruit and flesh. In style, different producers suggest different analogies. At this early stage, these two strike me as particularly persuasive: think of 2017 as a riper, more generous version of the 2007 vintage, or think of it as a cleaner and somewhat more concentrated version of the 2000 vintage.


A Summary of the 2017 Vintage

When frosts threatened in April, growers determined not to relive the heartbreak of 2016 banded together, burning bales of straw to ward off the cold. Hot weather followed hard on the heels of the April chills, in some instances disrupting flowering. The summer’s heat sometimes stressed the vines, shriveling berries and retarding physiological ripening. Hail on the 10th of July, its impact largely confined to Morey-Saint-Denis, damaged grapes. Then, in late August, much needed rain brought relief, helping vines to bring their fruit to fuller maturity.

By late August and early September, harvesting had begun. Arnaud Ente in Meursault, generally one of the first to pick, started on August 25, and by September 1 the Chardonnay vintage was well under way in the Côte de Beaune. With rain forecast at the end of the week, the first reds were picked around the same time, with Charles Lachaux of Domaine Arnoux-Lachoux in Vosne-Romanée and François Millet of Chambolle-Musigny’s Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé both beginning on September 2. Others chose to wait, with Sebastien Cathiard only beginning two weeks later and the Domaine Ponsot finally getting underway on September 19. As ever, deciding when to harvest was a delicate matter: rain did indeed transpire on September 9, continuing on and off for the following week.

Along the Côte d’Or, the crop was plentiful and generally healthy. Vines touched by frost the year before tended to give especially generous, sometimes excessive, yields: rumors of fully 100 hectoliters per hectare in places, well in excess of the appellation limits, should give pause. Skins were comparatively thick, thanks to the summer heat, and generally well-developed, but seeds and stems were more unevenly ripe. Sugars, diluted by rain, were seldom especially high, and many producers needed to chaptalize.

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