The age of modern Burgundy

The 2022 vintage seems to have truly marked the coming of age of modern Burgundy.   There is a sense of turning the page, of embracing organic and regenerative viticulture, of the transmission between generations and an optimism that growers can overcome whatever climate change throws their way.

After the frost, mildew, and drought of the previous years, 2022 has produced a generous and a very good vintage.  There was a calm winter with below average rainfall and mild temperatures that avoided frost damage in most of the region, except Chablis.  The Spring was warm and dry with good weather during flowering and little risk of mildew.  However, the Summer weather was dramatic:  it was the hottest and driest Summer on record in Burgundy, even if stormy weather at the end of June brought a deluge that delivered a month’s rainfall on Gevrey-Chambertin in the space of two hours.  Apart from this episode, the Summer conditions were ideal and as it looked as if picking would start in August, the weather obliged with cooler, calmer weather during that month with here and there a sprinkling of rain. 

Many people have compared 2022 to 2020 in terms of the weather patterns, although there was less drought and hydric stress in 2022.  If the vines shut down or slowed down because of the heat, this was not necessarily a bad thing; as the grape growing season lengthened it meant harvesting would continue in the cooler September temperatures.  While the whites started being gathered around the 20th of August, the picking windows were large because of the fine weather so the crucial harvesting date could be decided at leisure depending upon the terroir and the philosophy of individual estates. 

Burgundy growers were ecstatic and relieved that the harvest went so easily.   The wines were neither lacking in acid or too ripe and an abiding, juicy balance seems to mark so many of these wines.  It is as if the grapes took the growing season completely in their stride and did what they do best:  produce pure, elegant, wines that beautifully reflect the magic of their terroir with lifted fruit and underlying characters of minerals and rocks.

The hard lessons learnt over the last few years have paid off:  growers are pruning better; spacing out the bunches and pruning later to minimize frost damage.  Canopy management shades the fruit when necessary and aerates the bunches to avoid disease.  More and more vignerons are using whole berry fermentation to increase the acidity and purity with the stems being so ripe that they could add some structure to the wines.   Producers are increasingly using larger formats of oak barrels for aging, shying away from the make-up of new oak. Several have decided to bottle their wines earlier than usual to capture the wonderful, fresh fruity flavours. 

Across the board, this is an incredibly consistent vintage with great wines produced in both Côtes, whites and reds.   Especially important, is that there seem to be no excesses, no extremes, not too much alcohol or too little acidity.  The wines have stunningly bright colours and gorgeous, inviting expressive aromas.  Most producers feel that because of the balance in the wines, they will not shut down during their aging cycle as sometimes Burgundies have a tendency to do.  These should be wines that continue on a gentle trajectory of aging well over the next 20 to 50 years.  And finally, except for certain Grand Crus in the exalted appellations of the Côte de Nuits, prices have remained stable since 2020 – even prices in the secondary markets are becoming more sensible.   Like Goldilocks’ porridge, 2022 seems just right!  

© Fiona Morrison M.W.