Burgundy 2017: first impressions


This week a large swathe of our Fine Wine team has swapped their desks for the cellars and vineyards of the Côte d’Or to taste the 2017 vintage: here Martyn Rolph reports on the first day of action and the team’s initial thoughts on the vintage

A tasting trip brings a sense of anticipation, perhaps for Burgundy more than any area for me, as it produces my favourite wines. Regardless of whether visiting a French, Italian, Spanish, or further afield region, we arrive having tried not to listen too much to the view of others – far better to form our own views based upon how the wines actually taste.

Nevertheless, it’s impossible not to garner some understanding of what we are likely to encounter, whether seeking the details or not. For Burgundy’s 2017 vintage, the impression is of a vintage larger than recent years, and that the whites are very good indeed – with vague comparisons to the superlative 2014s uttered by customers and colleagues alike. My understanding of the reds is limited at this stage, but clearly the outstanding 2015, and very good 2016 vintages will be difficult acts to follow.

We have sent a team of 12 to Burgundy this year – the largest ever group, I think – which illustrates the interest and demand for fine Burgundy amongst our customers. Our group will steadily form our views over five days of tasting (Monday to Friday), but the first day can set the tone for the trip and I exit Monday 6th November with a feeling of positivity.

One-half of the team pause between winery visits. Burgundy 2017

One-half of the team pause between winery visits

We started the day with a visit to Domaine de Montille and Château de Puligny-Montrachet, followed by Benjamin Leroux (a favourite of many of our team), Domaine Fichet, Jean-Yves Devevey and Camille Giroud. A colleague informs me that 94 wines have been tasted at day’s end.

A limited number of whites have been tasted, far more will be sampled tomorrow, but many of the whites had a focus and energy which the best vintages offer. Alongside the freshening acidity, many offer expressive, ripe fruit and perhaps more interestingly are generously fleshy and textural. I think there will be countless gems across the price spectrum.

I feel comfortable with my view of the reds at this early stage, although my views are still evolving, of course. The 2017 vintage won’t offer the same universal levels of concentration as recent years, but it is a vintage full of charm and the wines will be in demand. Purity, expressiveness and finesse have featured consistently in my tasting notes. Certainly not a 2010 and 2015 regarding power, but there’s no hint of greenness at all – the fruit is pretty and ripe. Generous acidity provides freshness and length across the palate, there’s a lovely linear feel to many wines. I have the impression that it’s a year whereby you may “get what you pay for”, but equally, one of my first “I need to buy a case for myself” wines is the Bourgogne Rouge from Benjamin Leroux.

The trend for whole-bunch fermentation continues to gather apace – producing wines with additional depth on the mid-palate, more complex aromatics and additional freshness. Countless wines are now made with 100 percent whole-bunch, the benefits of which are very clear when tasted alongside another cuvée made with de-stemmed grapes.

Having enjoyed a first day, many questions remain unanswered. The coming 25 or so visits, which will see another 400 or so wines tasted will tell a story all of their own. My colleagues will be giving their views as the week progresses.

Follow our team’s journey around Burgundy throughout the week; we’ll be posting daily updates.