Published 6th January 2015
Atlas' Vintage Report is below and tasting notes can be found by clicking on the individual producers, also listed below. To request a specific wine, please contact any member of the sales team on +44 (0) 20 3017 2299. You can also reach Simon Larkin MW, Richard O'Mahony, and Steve Weids by email.
Simon Larkin MW, Managing Director
Following our extensive tastings this year, it is clear that 2014 Burgundy has a great deal to offer, yet its value and qualities may be in danger of being overlooked as the promise of the far bolder 2015 vintage looms large on the horizon. To miss out on 2014, would however, be an incredibly blinkered approach to collecting.
At a recent Burgundy tasting with a group of clients, I bemoaned the fact that collectors are still led by point scores, critical acclaim and gross generalisations; with regard to the reds, they purchase the more concentrated, riper vintages of Burgundy in greater quantity than they do the more classical, poised vintages, such as 2014. What is more, they invariably broach the more powerful vintages too early, before they hit their stride. Yet, when I talk to clients about vintages that they have enjoyed drinking recently, they often cite the lighter more accessible vintages. The 2001 vintage is often mentioned as a vintage currently being enjoyed in its prime. The forward-natured 2007s – almost overlooked on release – come in for considerable praise time and time again. Interestingly, when comparing 2009s and 2008s side by side at a recent tasting, the preference was for the energy of the 2008s over the opulence of the 2009s. Clearly each vintage has its merits and the 2014 reds do not disappoint. They offer bright fruits, reveal classic mineral notes and are underscored by an attractive freshness.
In bolder, riper vintages such as 2005, 2009 and we are told 2015, patience is undoubtedly required as in youth the character traits derived from a vineyard’s specific terroir are overpowered by the richness of the fruit. These traits then re-assert themselves after time in bottle, when the wines are comfortably onto their plateau of maturity. Broach great reds too early and you may find a notably spiky, unknit Pinot Noir that fails to impress…Pinot Noir is, after all, renowned for its awkward adolescent phase and it takes time to arrive at a true harmony of components. How many clients have been disappointed by the current showing of the much heralded 1999s? How many fail to see magic in the legendary 2005s? These concentrated vintages have every chance of delivering on their promise, but the Premier Cru and Grand Cru from leading growers demand patience. In the meantime, it is worth considering what stocks you have in your cellar that will be in their prime for current and mid-term drinking and how to plan ahead. Vintages like 2014 have the capacity to surprise and surpass expectations as there is a lightness of touch that will render the reds from this vintage enjoyable from a comparatively early stage and, over the mid-term, clearly exhibit the individual traits of the vineyard. Isn’t that why we all find Burgundy such a fascination in the first place?
The glossy veneer that is applied to vintage generalisations these days often leads to mediocrity or greatness being bandied around almost before the fruit has been picked from the vine. Equally, this judgement is seemingly applied to all areas of the Côte d’Or, covering a multitude of different sites and wines made by a great many different producers. In the complex patchwork quilt of Burgundian vineyards such generalisations sit uneasily in even the most homogenous vintages. Oddly enough, if it is pre-ordained to be a ‘great’ vintage for Pinot Noir, the comments seem to transfer grandeur to the whites too and yet in bolder, warmer vintages Burgundian Chardonnay can lose the poise and balance that are envied the world over. In such vintages, Chardonnay can come across as cumbersome and weighty; the magic of white Burgundy occurs in cooler vintages in which scintillating freshness and racy acidity offset wonderfully pure citrus and stone fruits. The 2014 vintage delivers just such a sense of energy and poise among the estates we represent in the Côte de Beaune. Surely, a point worth noting? Please pay heed.
Another point to stress this year concerns price. Burgundy is enjoying unprecedented popularity on a global stage. I read an article recently that talked about the ‘Louis Vuittonisation’ of Burgundy that is frankly inevitable. Prices continue to escalate and the challenge for Atlas is to continue to unearth value, adding new producers where we see fit. We are a discriminating bunch (that is, after all, ourraison d’étre). We make decisions backed by our experience and decisions which look out for our clients’ interests. Finding value in Burgundy will become a greater challenge in forthcoming years as once a ‘great’ vintage is heralded, prices duly increase. Some growers were murmuring about nudging prices on a few percent in 2014. Some have done so, whereas others have maintained last year’s pricing. I have some sympathy here as 2014 is the first vintage in three years to represent a normal yield for Burgundian growers and those that have increased price are perhaps looking to recoup lost income. However, I feel sure that we will see a more pressure to increase prices when the 2015 vintage comes to market, so any notable rises for 2014 would seem unwarranted. We have discussed the topic in the office and have concluded that the value offered by the vast majority of 2014s may soon become a thing of the past. Just with Bordeaux, where the 2008 vintage marked the end of an era in terms of release pricing, I wonder if the future prices of Burgundy will ever return to the levels at which we are able to offer the 2014s – which have additionally benefitted from a favourable exchange rate. Another point to keep in mind.
In Burgundy last autumn, two topics dominated our conversations with growers more than any other and more so than in any other year: firstly, land prices and secondly, release pricing. The starkest example of rising vineyard prices concerns the recent acquisition by Domaine Faiveley of an ouvrée (one hundredth of a hectare) of Musigny Grand Cru for a sum rumoured to be around three million euros. This is an unprecedented purchase in what is already an expensive region. Such increases in the price of vineyard land will in turn drive wine prices further on and will undoubtedly lead to complications as vineyard holdings are passed from one generation to the next and inheritance tax becomes due. Should a domaine be obliged to sell, the new owner is likely to be one of the major houses, a corporation or a billionaire investor as even deeper pockets are required.
Fortunately, a return to ‘normal’ yields has led most growers to set somewhat stable pricing for the 2014 vintage or, as mentioned, to set nominal increases. This translates largely into the same final sterling price to clients as last year, once the favourable exchange rate (favourable compared to a year ago) is taken into account. But the considerable hype building over the 2015 vintage has fuelled concern over significant price increases in Burgundy. Just look at Decanter magazine’s article from the 21st September 2015, written before the harvest had even finished and entitled ‘Burgundy wine harvest – is 2015 a great year?’ To date, few commentators have tasted the 2015s and even those who have will struggle to assess quality at such an early stage.
My advice to clients is to take a serious look at the 2014s from both a quality and a value standpoint. There is much to enjoy in 2014 as the following Vintage Report and Tasting Notes attest and prices will inevitably step up this time next year.
Simon Larkin MW
Victoria Stephens-Clarkson MW, Head of Buying
Even more than before, we have spent considerable time in Burgundy looking for producers to supplement the Atlas Fine Wines’ portfolio. There is no paucity of producers in Burgundy (they number in the thousands) but it is the pre-eminent domaines with the rarefied vineyards that hold the interest, or those that offer significant value within a region where pricing marches ever upwards. We are delighted to announce the addition of Domaine Perrot-Minot to our list. Widely consider to be one of the new stars of Burgundy, to now have the chance to offer Christophe’s wines can be considered something of a coup for Atlas. Additionally, we have been able to add a selection of the leading wines of Domaine Louis Jadot to our list. The challenge here is to be able to navigate our way through an intimidating range of wines to focus on the finest within the Domaine’s extensive holdings.
These new domaines join established names in our portfolio such as Sébastien Cathiard, Olivier Lamy, Laurent Ponsot and François Carillon (the latter two release later in the season). We have also worked on building our allocations from Didier Darviot, whose stunning Meursault Premier Cru and exceptional Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Blanchots Dessus continue to impress. The interest in the reds of Romain Taupenot-Merme seems to build every year as clients become aware of the strides forward made at this impeccably run domaine. And then we have Domaine Méo-Camuzet as well as the outstanding portfolio of wines from Domaine Lecheneaut. Outside of these domaines we continue to track and explore the possibilities with other up and coming names, whose 2014s we tasted on our last trip.
Broadly speaking, our producers were enthusiastic regarding the 2014 vintage, although conditions certainly presented several challenges and was arguably one of the most complicated harvests in 25 years. The winter and spring were mild and the very dry weather ensured a successful flowering period, which usually ensures a good crop of grapes later in the year. However, low rainfall (roughly half the normal amount of rain until June) led to some vine stress and uneven ripening, which resulted in fewer and smaller berries, with the consolation of increased fruit concentration. On balance, yields returned to normal for most vineyards in Burgundy, after a several low yielding vintages. The one exception – yet again – was the northern part of the Côte de Beaune which suffered a particularly destructive hailstorm on the 28th June. It affected Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Pommard and Volnay the most, with some producers losing as much as 50% of crop. Fortune has not smiled on the Côte de Beaune these last few vintages with hail almost ever-present.
From the middle of July until the middle of August, the rain fell. For producers who had not tended to their vines appropriately or did not sort their crop when it was harvested, rotten grapes were a real possibility. This is where exacting standards and meticulous attention pay dividends for quality-conscious growers.
In the trade press, there has been plenty of commentary on the problems posed by a species of Asian fruit fly in the vineyard, which attacked Pinot Noir, essentially spreading rot in fully ripe fruit, although I can report we found no evidence of impact on the wines from our growers. Autumn conditions were more clement however, with northerly winds coming in to dry out the vines and sunny warm weather returned to push on the ripening of the fruit. Following a laborious summer, the harvest was relatively unproblematic and was accomplished quickly in warm conditions. Almost as in the 2008 vintage, there was a surge of activity as growers rushed to bring in the crop in order to realise optimum balance.
Perhaps the most succinct summary of this complicated vintage was provided by Véronique Drouhin, who commented as follows: ‘Summer weather in spring, autumn in summer, and then back to summer in September!’ Certainly these days (and as we write in what appears to be an unseasonably warm December), it is impossible to make generalisations regarding what is a normal viticultural year. It is significantly easier to assess the wines in the glass. The reds are vibrant in fruit, with silky-textured, ripe tannins and a fresh, elegant feel to them. They have slightly more moderate levels of acidity compared to 2013 but greater weight than either 2013 or 2011. Indeed, the finer examples of the vintage will have a greater window of maturity, as we would expect. It was the clarity of fruit that impressed us most within the 2014 vintage; this transparency (as many growers referred to it) allied to a fine textural impression led to a whole host of fascinating barrel tastings. It will be interesting to revisit the 2014swith a few years in bottle. If they take on a little weight during élèvage they may surprise many.
In the press, the 2014 whites seem to be given the edge over the reds as they were harvested at the start of an otherwise warm, brisk vintage and therefore have slightly higher acidity levels relative to the reds, but this is not a particularly strong distinction. Generally the whites provide the classic nature of fine Chardonnay from this region, with graceful citrus fruits and an impression of energy and focus that usually pre-empts successful ageing.
Vicki Stephens-Clarkson MW
Head of Buying
*We regret that, just like all fine wine merchants, we are unable to sell leading Grand Cru and Premier Cru or wines from particularly sought after domaines in isolation – we cannot buy them from the domaines that way ourselves and we are aware that demand is sure to outstrip supply. Instead of running a complex system of allocations, we aim to confirm requests shortly after they are made or highlight where we are unable to assist or where a balance might be required to secure a particularly desirable wine. Such wines will be marked with an (*).
To request a wine, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Atlas team. We can be reached on +44 (0)20 3017 2299, firstname.lastname@example.org or by submitting the form below. Please note that stock may be limited and is always sold on a 'first come, first serve' basis.