This is a longer version of an article also published in the Financial Times.
See more than 2,000 tasting notes on 2010 burgundies via this complete guide to our coverage of the vintage.
The minutely parcellated and carefully groomed vineyards on the east-facing slope known in France as the Côte d'Or, the pale stone of the medieval buildings and, most of all, the often haunting and geographically precise quality of the wines made there cast such a spell that Burgundy attracts more than its fair share of ambitious wannabe winemakers. During the three weeks I recently devoted to tasting the 2010 burgundies, I kept coming across producers that were new to me – some of them very promising.
Historically only Burgundians were able to get their hands on a patch of Burgundian vineyard but today the Golden Slope seems to be in full ferment, land changing hands at record prices, and many a foreigner entering the winemaking fray. I came across two different new Franco-Japanese enterprises recently, for example, and Americans now seem to be as entrenched in Nuits and Beaune as in Paris – with two of the more notable ones, Alex Gambal and Domaine Dublère, making particularly toothsome 2010s.
Last summer one well-heeled investor is said to have paid so much for a tiny holding in the white-wine grand cru Bâtard Montrachet that the equivalent price would be almost 25 million euros a hectare, or one million euros an acre.
Burgundians are concerned about this upward spiral in the prices paid for their land. Presumably this will inevitably be followed by a similar movement in wine prices, but Burgundy's vignerons have long prided themselves on the contrast between their steady pricing and the volatility of the much bigger wine market in Bordeaux on the other side of the country.
Jean-Marie Fourrier of Gevrey-Chambertin, just turned 40 and one of the most thoughtful vignerons of his generation, decided last year to establish a négociant business named after himself (wines made from his family's vines are labelled Domaine Fourrier) because he wants to try his hand at making wine from grand cru sites other than the tiny slice of Griotte-Chambertin that the Fourriers already own, but he knows that he will never be able to afford to buy any more grand cru land. Instead, his négociant company in 2011 bought Clos de Vougeot and Échezeaux grapes from other proprietors.
Burgundy lovers will rejoice at this news as the disposition of great vineyards does not precisely match the capabilities of their owners in the cellar. Indeed, many of the most sought-after domaines such as Fourrier, Denis Bachelet, Ghislaine Barthod, Sylvain Cathiard, Michel Lafarge, Marquis d'Angerville and Étienne Sauzet have no, or only the most minute, holdings in grand cru vineyards.
Two things thrilled me particularly about the 2010s, apart from the generally delightful quality of the wines, both red and white. Firstly it was that for once the wines of the Côte de Beaune shone as brightly as those of the Côte de Nuits, with a particularly strong performance in many of the premiers crus around the wine town of Beaune itself. Not just the relevant domaines but all of the best-performing Beaune négociants Bouchard Père et Fils, Chanson, Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot seem to have put extra effort into their best Beaune reds in 2010 – or perhaps it was simply Nature that chose to sparkle there. These single-vineyard Beaunes, like so many 2010s, really did express their individual vineyard characters superbly.
The other very pleasing phenomenon was how well many of the lesser-known and sometimes relatively new producers performed; some of them are domaines making wine only from their own vines, some are négociants buying in grapes and some, an increasing number in fact, are a combination of the two, like Fourrier.
South of the Côte d'Or the quality gap continues to narrow between the best producers in southern Burgundy – the Mâconnais and the Côte Chalonnaise – and those on the Golden Slope heartland. I found the Pouillys of Daniel Barraud, the Mâcons of Heritiers du Comte Lafon, the Montagnys of Jean-Marc Boillot and the Rully Blanc of Jaeger-Defaix (owned by Bernard Defaix of Chablis) were particularly successful in 2010.
Well to the north of the Côte d'Or, 2010 seems to have been a more successful vintage for classic, long-lived Chablis than the softer, riper 2009s – although the tauter, more chiselled 2008s may turn out to be even more long-distance runners. Here I was especially impressed with the oak-free wines of Gilbert Picq and the rather denser, grander ones of Jean-Paul and Benoît Droin.
But I had encountered strikingly good wines from all of these producers before. The real excitement was discovering wine producers whose 2010s broke new barriers, either because this was their debut vintage or because they seemed to have reached new performance levels, often as a new generation takes over.
Chanterives is a tiny négociant-vinificateur to be based in Savigny but which made its first wines, in 2010, in rented space in Pommard. It is an exciting and brand new co-operation between Simon Bize's winemaker Guillaume Bott and Tomoko Kuriyama, whose German wines – Riesling and Pinot Noir – have already won considerable praise. Buy now while prices are still very reasonable.
Another (very unBurgundian) name that was new to me was Livera of Gevrey-Chambertin. I tasted only one wine, their 2010 Chapelle-Chambertin, but it was so good that I will certainly be looking out for more, and am heartened by what US importer North Berkeley Imports has to say about their purist style. This is just one of many domaines where a new generation has its hand on the tiller – in this case Philippe Livera's son Damien.
In Monthelie, Florent Garaudet now has his own label alongside that of his well-established father and the 2010s I tasted suggested future vintages might be worth following.
One producer whose short track record was confirmed with his 2010s was Domaine Tessier of Meursault. Arnaud Tessier was forced to take over the family domaine on the early demise of his father in 2005. Initially he followed family tradition of selling off most of the grapes to others but he clearly has some top-quality old vines, and considerable skill in turning them into crystalline white wines. According to UK importers Flint, he made only 17 barrels of wine in 2010, but prices are very fair indeed for the quality.
Son Antoine Jobard's influence at the domaine which until recently carried the name of his father François seems benign, just like the work of gifted winemaker son Thomas Bouley at Jean-Marc Bouley of Volnay. I have also been enjoying following the progress of Thierry Glantenay at his family's domaine above Volnay. His 2010s are extra fruity thanks to the arrival of a new press.
In Chambolle-Musigny, François Bertheau took over his father's 6.2 hectares of well-placed vines some years ago and I do wonder how he has managed to fly beneath the international burgundy-loving radar for so long. His 2010s are really outstanding – very pure and unforced.
Other producers whose 2010s seemed to me to be particularly successful are listed below.
These very varied producers, listed alphabetically, all seemed to perform particularly well in 2010.
Bruno Clair, Marsannay
Jean Guiton, Bligny-lès-Beaune
Patrick Javillier, Meursault
Benjamin Leroux, Beaune (pictured above)
Thibault Liger-Belair, Nuits-St-Georges
Fernand & Laurent Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet
Michele and Patrice Rion, Nuits
Cécile Tremblay, Morey
and Julia strongly recommends Jean Tardy of Vosne-Romanée whose wines I did not taste but which is also in the hands of a new generation.