I wrote this a fortnight ago so the 2013 bit is more, or less, relevant depending on how you see it.
Tasting from barrel gives you a snapshot of potential. Tasting just a few gives you a glimpse: a snapshot of a snapshot. A thumbnail image, if you like. And, whilst on the one hand you can’t plot a chart through the Sahara with a thumbnail image of same, you don’t need a close-up to see that Angelina Jolie is quite pretty or that Cote-Rotie is quite steep.
I tasted thirty or so 2012 Burgundies a week ago, two thirds of them at one of the leading negociants. “Grower Burgundy” snobs might dismiss the large houses but (a) there are at least four of them who make seriously good wine and (b) tasting at one of the larger houses is a very effective way to get a hold on what a vintage is like, as you can taste from south to north, up and down the slope, with no variables of style or winemaking competence. You have a level playing field (it would be a little unfair to taste Champions’ League Vosne versus League Two Pommard, if that makes sense).
2012 is the third small vintage in a row for the Burgundians, and the clock is ticking on 2013, which is to say that a bit more sunshine is needed for this year’s grapes to fully ripen. Whilst Jacques Seysses says that “only journalists can judge the quality of a vintage before the harvest”, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, oenologist or meteorologist to work out that 2013 is in the balance at this stage. My point here is that a relatively scarce wine is relatively more scarce, despite the fact that it grows out of the ground. There is not much of this kit to go round.
Back to 2012:
1) I don’t think I’ve been so excited, so energized by a vintage since I tasted the 2005s. There is a bit of magic in these. I may be wrong but I reckon that 2010s are just a little over-rated, just a little too perfect. They are exceptionally well-wrapped (think Christmas presents) but you want to keep the receipt, I think.
2) Scarcity again: when you taste at Domaine —- ———, whose cellar is about the size of a decent double garage, you expect to see one barrel of this grand cru, two of that one, and three barrels of the village wine. When you see the same at Maison —– ——- it puts the whole thing into perspective. I have spent the past few years counting barrels in Burgundian cellars – it was particularly easy this year (and I don’t count so well, as my Dad will confirm).
3) If 2011s are 2007s with a bit more flesh, a bit more go, then 2012s (or at least the best ones) are 1999s with a bit of turbo.
4) See above: terroir. Vosne tastes like Vosne and Gevrey Gevrey. And Cazetiers tastes like Cazetiers and Suchots Suchots. I sort of get the impression that cooler sites did well, but this is based on one sample of a simply brilliant Lavaux St Jacques versus its neighbouring Clos St Jacques, and may well be wrong: the more famous wine may well just have wanted a little more elevage.
5) You want to buy some Burgundy. There isn’t much of it and it’s beautiful. 2011, 2009 and 2008 grand crus can still be found at opening prices, but not for long and it will walk out of the door while you’re not looking: one minute you’re sittting in a bar that is jam-packed full of totty; the next minute, when you’ve finally decided to make your move, the totty has all gone. Picked up, no doubt, by rich, old and ugly men. Pile in now. Do not be fussy. You will thank me for it in a decade’s time.
As far as 2013 is concerned, I give you a twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/JeremySeysses/status/373470015762497536
This, of course, give you more of an idea about the human condition than it does the 2013 vintage. A bit of sunshine will help both.
And I may well be wrong on 2012, but it’s nice to nail your colours up.