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  • Jancis Robinson
Written by
  • Jancis Robinson
25 Jan 2002

Detailed tasting notes and ratings of individual wines are available on the purple pages.

It is rare that any Burgundy vintage can be summed up in black and white. Some years it can just about be summed up in red and white. In 1999, for example, reds were delicious with bags of everything; whites less obviously so. In 1992 it was the other way round. The best 1992 whites, such as a Coche Dury Meursault Perrières tasted recently, are just coming into their own whereas the reds have always been a bit vapid.

The 2000s do not submit to any easy summary. Disbelieve anyone who tells you so. The conventional wisdom is that it is a white wine vintage, a neat successor to the 1999. But it is by no means as simple as that.

As so often during a Burgundian autumn, rain and its precise timing and location plays an important part in the story of the vintage. The flowering was in such fine weather that a relatively large crop was set. July was exceptionally cool and wet but August and early September were slightly warmer and sunnier than average.

September 12 is the crucial date when after some humid days, very heavy rains fell south of Beaune. The relatively thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes on the Côte de Beaune were already quite ripe and many growers there had to hurry to pick their red wine ingredients before rot really set in (some Côte de Beaune reds do have that telltale metallic lack of freshness). Those who grow both red and white grapes on the Côte de Beaune were therefore forced to keep their sturdier, light-skinned Chardonnay on the vine for another week or so, gaining valuable additional ripeness.

The Côte de Nuits, classic red wine country, was left almost unscathed by the rains however and some very charming and occasionally truly thrilling reds were made there. But to judge from the nearly 600 2000 burgundies I tasted over the past two weeks, not all Côte de Beaune reds are write-offs by any means. Many have obviously been made from very carefully sorted grapes - although they are rarely better than their 1999 counterparts.

As ever in Burgundy, the producer is even more important than the appellation - although even this old saw is open to interpretation. Time and again with the 2000s, I would taste a producer's wines and find enormous variation between the success rates of even neighbouring vineyards - particularly among red wines whose less-than-fully ripe tannins (unlike the 1999s) tend to need a considerable weight of fruit to counterbalance them.

If 2000 red burgundies have a fault it is that they are not especially concentrated but the best will provide easy pleasure in the short to medium term. Those 2000 white burgundies that disappoint tend to do so because they are just not ripe enough to compensate for the high (and potentially attractive) acidity that characterises them. The next paragraph is for technogeeks and Master of Wine candidates only.

In 2000 there was a relatively high tartaric acid content, which comes across in the best wines as an attractive zip. In 1999 the proportion of malic acid was relatively high, which when converted into lactic acid by the second, malolactic fermentation, resulted in softer, less obviously crystalline wines.

The best 2000 whites are certainly more immediately attractive than their 1999 counterparts. With every new burgundy vintage there is a pre-tasting rumour (although, tellingly, this often varies by market, just to demonstrate how vague these approximations are). The early buzz on 2000 was that it is a very good vintage for Chablis.

While I am absolutely delighted if the spotlight of fashion is to fall on Chablis, for so long neglected and underpriced as a source of pure, long-lived, extremely refreshing and often unoaked white burgundy, my tastings suggested that even in Chablis there are disappointments. Some producers seem scared of the searingly high acidity that is a hallmark of good Chablis - so long as there is sufficient extract, often minerality - to compensate. There is no point in making Chablis as if it might possibly come from the New World. On the other hand this is by all accounts the best Chablis vintage since 1996 and 2001 is not nearly as good.

If anything I was more excited by the consistent quality, and value, of white wines to be found much further south, in the Mâconnais. Admittedly the wines I tasted had been handpicked by specialist importers from the sea of often rather ordinary Mâcons, Pouillys and St Vérans available. But with each successive year the proportion of really ambitious growers and winemakers in this large region seems to grow - and increasingly puts the more complacently classic Côte de Beaune in the shade.

No longer need we confine our expectations of fine white burgundy to the blessed trinity of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault (and, by the way, the classic description of Meursault as 'buttery' is surely well out of date). There are some very bright lights in lesser comunes such as Pernand-Vergelesses, St Aubin, St Romain, Savigny, even Hautes Côtes de Beaune.

Even in the Côte Chalonnaise, the rolling farming country between the Côte de Beaune and the Mâconnais which apparently took the brunt of the September storms, there were some fine whites to be found.

Winemaking the length and breadth of Burgundy has never better. The health of the vineyards is improving, with vine vigour and high yields the most notable enemies. The number of producers who have decided that their own vineyards simply cannot give them enough material to work on and are starting up their own little négociant businesses seems to double each year.

And the best news of all, which I have left till last, is that prices, with a few exceptions such as the likes of Denis Mortet and Emmanuel Rouget who are hitting the big time and big scores in the US, are remarkably stable.

I wish Bordeaux château owners could be persuaded to immerse themselves in the quality and value currently on offer across the hexagone.

Detailed tasting notes and ratings of individual wines are available on the purple pages.

Some of my favourite producers in 2000 - with their UK merchants

Chablis

Jean-Marc Brocard

(JBaker)

Dauvissat-Camus

(J&B)

Jean-Paul Droin

(Bib, DD, Gdh)

Louis Michel

(OWL)

 Mâconnais

La Croix Senaillet

(OWL)

Goyard/Domaine de Roally

(J&B)

Guillemot-Michel

(HHC)

Saumaize-Michelin

(Mont)

La Soufrandière

(M&V)

Talmard

(J&B)

Côte de Beaune whites

Michel Bouzereau

(BBR, M&V)

Vincent Dancer

(J&B)

Darviot-Perrin

(JA, L&W)

Féry-Meunier

(OWL)

Jean-Philippe Fichet

(M&V, Gdh)

Vincent Girardin

(Mont, OWL)

Jouard

(HR, M&V)

Martelet de Cherisey

(J&B)

Bernard Moreau

(OWL)

Morey-Coffinet

(Bib, BBR, Gdh, Seck)

Marc Morey

(HHC, JA)

Jean Pillot

(Mont)

Ramonet

(OWL)

Jean Rijckaert

(Farr, JA)

Rémi Rollin

(Bib, J&B)

Côte de Beaune reds

Marquis d'Angerville

(JA, Seck)

Chandon de Briailles

(HHC)

Darviot-Perrin

(JA, L&W)

Follin Arbelet

(J&B)

Nicolas Potel

(BBR, Gdh)

 

Côte de Nuits reds

Amiot-Servelle

(Mont, RAW)

Robert Arnoux

(HR, JA)

Bertagna

(BBR)

Sylvain Cathiard

(BBR)

Jean Chauvenet

(BBR, Bib, Gdh)

Robert Chevillon

(J&B, Seck)

Jean Grivot

(Bib, Gdh, Seck)

Géantet-Pansiot

(HR)

des Lambrays

(HHC, OWL)

Michel Magnien

(JA)

Méo-Camuzet

(Bib, Gdh)

Daniel Rion

(M&V)

Emmanuel Rouget

(Bib, Gdh, J&B, Seck)

 

 

RAW

Robert Anthony Wines of Bradford, West Yorkshire (tel/fax 01274 547 794)

BBR

Berry Bros & Rudd of London SW1 and Basingstoke (tel 0870 900 4300)

Bib

Bibendum Wines of London NW1 (tel 020 7449 4120)

DD

Domaine Direct of London EC1 (tel 020 7837 1142)

Farr

Farr Vintners of London SW1 (tel 020 7821 2000)

Gdh

Goedhuis & Co of London SW8 (tel 020 7793 7900)

HHC

Haynes Hanson & Clark of London SW1 and Stow-on-the-Wold (tel 020 7259 0102)

HR

Howard Ripley of London SW18 (tel 020 8877 3065)

JA

John Armit Wines of London W11 (tel 020 7908 0600)

J&B

Justerini & Brooks of London SW1 and Edinburgh (tel 020 7484 6400)

JBaker

Julian Baker Fine Wine(tel 01206 262358)

L&W

Lay & Wheeler of Colchester (tel 01206 764446)

M&V

Morris & Verdin of London SE1 (tel 020 7921 5300)

Mont

Montrachet Fine Wine of London SE1 (tel 020 7928 1990)

OWL

OW Loeb of London SE1 (tel 020 7928 7750)

Seck

Seckford Wines of Melton (tel 01394 446622)