“Ah, I love Burgundy,” sighed a twenty-something bearded sommelier behind me at a very crowded tasting of the region’s 2014 vintage last week. Well, me too. Previewing barrel samples of delicious whites and reds from the hottest wine spot on our planet is my idea of a great day.
To cash in on the must-have fervor of Burgundy aficionados, merchants are currently offering futures of the 2014 vintage and I’ve been trolling New York trade tastings in search of good buys. The idea of futures, of course, is to lock in your supply of these wines (which are made in tiny quantities) before they’re bottled and shipped, eventually ending up on retail shelves.
So should you play the game and buy?
Based on exposing my taste buds to a couple of hundred Burgundies over the past couple of weeks, my advice is a definite yes.
Overall, 2014 is a very sexy vintage, with super-drinkable, succulent wines. The whites shine brighter; they’re exciting, energetic, and truly outstanding. The reds exude charm and loads of yummy fruit, especially in the Cote de Nuits. The best have good aging potential, though the reds probably won’t last as long as they would in a great vintage.. (See below for my ten picks, from good values to shameless blowouts.)
The 2014 vintage was yet another year saved from disaster by miraculous September sun (a scenario so common it has become a Burgundy marketing cliché), but the story was much trickier in the Cote de Beaune. At the end of June, a huge hailstorm decimated many vineyards in Volnay, Pommard, Meursault and Beaune for the third year in a row. Then came an infestation of pesky flies. As she poured, Anne Parent of Domaine Parent in Pommard told me with a sigh, “We lost 58 percent of our crop.” This means even tinier amounts than usual, though the best vintners managed to keep the quality fairly high through drastic sorting of grapes.
Maybe when you think of wine futures, you picture Bordeaux, with its yearly hype over the latest “vintage of the century.” Then there’s the two-year wait before bottled wines are delivered, and inevitable collector groans about stratospheric prices.
The Burgundy futures on offer are slightly different—they’re more like pre-arrival reservations. Though reds are still in the barrel, almost all wines will arrive this fall, a boon for the impatient. Since demand usually outstrips supply, the best, rarest, and top values will probably disappear fairly fast. It’s not surprising that Burgundy lovers often suffer from FOMO—fear of missing out.
Price is another reason to snap some up. Good Burgundy is never cheap, but for Americans many 2014s cost the same or even slightly less than the corresponding 2013s (which was an even smaller vintage), partly because of the current beneficial exchange rate with the United States. Prices will be higher if you wait until the bottled wines arrive.) And the 2014s may end up looking like good buys next to the already-hyped 2015s, touted as a great vintage for ripe, rich reds. Echoing the worries of many others, Bernie Sun, a portfolio director at importer Kobrand cracks that the 2015s “will be super-priced.”
But before you plunk down money on expensive ones, check on older vintages. The grand 2014 Dujac Clos St. Denis is $817 a bottle at New York retailer Zachy’s, but you can buy the fabulous 2005 elsewhere for the same money and the very good 2008 for half that.
About two dozen merchants in the U.K. and a handful in the U.S. are offering pre-arrival Burgundies. Why so few U.S. retailers? Blame convoluted U.S. alcohol laws, a holdover from Prohibition. U.K. merchants can purchase allocations direct from the domaine, while many in U.S. cannot and thus don’t always know what they’ll be able to offer. (Prices of all the wines below are significantly lower in the U.K.)
As Charles Curtis, founder of global wine consultancy Wine Alpha, explained, “Buying Bordeaux is a matter of having the money; for Burgundy you have to know the right people.” U.K. merchant Haynes Hanson & Clark pointed out in their recent mailing that “loyal customers will be rewarded with favorable allocations.”
Start developing a cozy relationship with a good merchant right now.
From my tastings, here are 2014 Burgundies to look for:
For additional bargains, look for producers like Domaine Hubert Lamy, Jean-Philippe Fichet, and William Fevre, as well as undervalued regions like St.-Aubin and Rully.
Domaine Gagey Ladoix Le Clou d’Orge ($35 to $40)
Even village level wines, like this one from negociant Maison Jadot, are full of bright mineral elegance.
Chateau de Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Les Combettes ($68)
In the Macon region at the southern end of Burgundy quality is higher than ever. This bright, precise wine from a tiny plot tantalizes with lemon and smoke. The chateau’s Tete de Cru ($30) has some of the same finesse.
Domaine Faiveley Meursault Blagny ($80)
Very pure and lemony, with notes of stones and minerals, this rich-textured premier cru is from a producer with one of the largest holdings of premier and grand cru vineyards.
Agnes Paquet Chassagne-Montrachet Les Bottaudes ($70)
Just about everything from this up-and-coming winemaker is good, especially this floral, vibrant white.
Christian Moreau Pere et Fils Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru ($90)
Chablis costs way less than other Burgundy grands crus, and this one shows spicy lime aromas and an intense salty minerality. Also look for premier crus from Billaud-Simon, Patrick Piuze, Dauvissat, and Drouhin-Vaudon.
Domaine Lignier-Michelot Morey Saint Denis En la Rue de Vergy ($62)
This intense, silky textured red is round and charming, with underlying savor and depth. Also look for the more delicate, less expensive Morey-St.-Denis Vieilles Vignes and
Domaine Meo-Camuzet Corton Les Perrieres ($250)
From a hot producer, this grand cru has both lovely, juicy fruit and plenty of richness and depth.
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanee “Aux Malconsorts” ($420) Ok, it’s really expensive, but this small family domaine is on a hot streak; prices are set to rise. This fleshy-textured premier cru has dark berry flavors, earthy minerality, and outstanding potential for aging. The village Vosne-Romanee ($90) has surprising depth and juiciness.