Your Guide to Burgundy Vintages: How to Choose the Most Iconic Wines for Your Cellar

Guide to Burgundy Vintages

Any guide to Burgundy vintages needs to include wines from Côte de Nuits, which is Burgundy’s most popular wine region. Photo Credit: Wikimedia CC user Stefan Bauer

 A young wine collector I know visited France for the first time, and decided to spend a full day shopping for new bottles in Lyon. In one wine shop, she found several 2008 bottles from her favorite Burgundy producer, each selling for about $100 less than the bottles she usually saw in U.S. shops. Thinking that she was getting a steal, she bought two bottles. However, by the time she got home and did some research on the vintage, she discovered that the 2008 was one of the worst recent vintages to collect from that producer, and the wine wasn’t worth nearly as much as she expected. She sold the bottles, and barely broke even on her investment.

This is why it’s important to spend some time learning which Burgundy vintages are worth a space in your cellar. Using our guide to Burgundy vintages, you’ll be able to spot the most iconic wines at a glance, and know which vintages to avoid.

Your Guide to Burgundy by Region

Quality varies greatly by region, even in the same vintage year. Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits might have an idyllic spring, whereas Beaujolais might have been plagued by hail and late budding. Before you look at the vintage year, pay close attention to the terroir in which the grapes were grown.

Here are Burgundy’s primary wine regions:

Guide to Burgundy Vintages

 

Côte de Nuits

Grapes Planted: Primarily Pinot Noir (red blends and rosé) and some Chardonnay.

Ideal Weather: The quality of these wines varies greatly because it’s located in the north, which is prone to spring frost and summer rain. The best vintages come from years with unusually warm summers.

Must-Try Terroirs: Every terroir in the central part of Côte de Nuits (from Nuits-Saint-Georges to Gevrey-Chambertin).

Investment Tips: Avoid vineyards that were heavily impacted by frost or rain, and look for wines that grew under the warmest conditions possible for the region. These wines are among Burgundy’s most collectible.

Côte de Beaune

Grapes Planted: The northern section produces primarily Pinot Noir. The southern section produces more Chardonnay.

Ideal Weather: The weather here is far more mild than it is to the north, meaning that both red and white wine can grow more easily, with greater consistency between vintages.

Must-Try Terroirs: Aloxe Corton and Puligny-Montrachet.

Investment Tips: If the weather in Burgundy was poor, Côte de Beaune can be a safer investment than other regions, especially its Grand Crus and Premier Crus.

Côte Chalonnaise

Grapes Planted: Mostly Pinot Noir, with some Chardonnay and Gamay.

Ideal Weather: The region has less rain than many other Burgundy terroirs. It varies greatly by vineyard due to microclimates.

Must-Try Terroirs: Mercurey and Montagny.

Investment Tips: There are no Grand Cru vintages here, so you’ll want to focus on Premier Cru wines, or simply drink these wines young.

Mâconnais

Grapes Planted: Mostly Chardonnay, with some Gamay and Pinot Noir.

Ideal Weather: Hot summers can be too warm for red grapes. Go for white wines in warm vintages, and only buy red wines when the region was cooler than usual.

Must-Try Terroirs: Mâcon-Villages and Pouilly-Fuissé

Investment Tips: These wines aren’t nearly as collectible as Côte de Nuits or Côte de Beaune, so only invest in them if you enjoy their distinct flavors.

Beaujolais

Grapes Planted: Gamay, with some Chardonnay and Aligote.

Ideal Weather: Warmer than most other regions, with some winds from the Mediterranean. The best vintages come from warm summers that experienced cooling winds in the evening.

Must-Try Terroirs: Cru Beaujolais.

Investment Tips: Most Beaujolais Nouveau is mass-produced and not worth collecting, however, the Cru wines differentiate themselves, and in some cases, are highly valued on the market.

Chablis

Grapes Planted: Primarily Chardonnay.

Ideal Weather: Similar to Champagne, in that it has long, cold winters, cool springs, and warm summers. The perfect vintage will bud slowly in a cool spring, pick up concentration during a warm summer, and increase in acidity during a dry (but cool) fall.

Must-Try Terroirs: All Grand Crus are located on the same southwest-facing hill near the town of Chablis, and these wines are the most collectible.

Investment Tips: Cold, rainy vintages produce wines that are too acidic, so look for warm summers and mild harvest seasons. However, nearly all wine grown here can be worth your time.

In general, it’s best to buy the most popular varietals grown in each region, and to choose vintages when the weather was most ideal for the terroir (such as particularly warm weather in northern regions like Côte de Nuits).

Your Guide to Burgundy by Producer

Once you’ve identified the most promising terroir and varietal for each region, you’ll want to consider who the most collectible producers are in order to make the best investment. In some regions, like Côte de Nuits, the quality of the terroir is so high that nearly any producer will be worth your time. In others, like Beaujolais, it’s more difficult to find wines that are worth collecting and storing long-term, since most of the wine made in this region is inexpensive and meant to be drunk young.

Take a look at our guide to Burgundy vintages, based on which producers show the most promise on the market:

Guide to Burgundy VintagesThe Best Red Burgundy Vintages in Recent History

The most successful Burgundy collectors can tell the difference between a high-quality vintage and a low-quality one based on terroir and producer alone, but most experienced collectors also memorize the overall quality of Burgundy’s most recent vintages. That’s because Grand Cru producers like DRC will never have a truly bad vintage, however, some DRC bottles are still more valuable than others. Knowing the overall quality for the vintage will help you decide between two otherwise identical bottles.

Here’s our guide to Burgundy vintages made from Pinot Noir or other red grape varietals, ranging from 2005 through 2015. These are based on a 100-point scale. It can be helpful to memorize the best and worst vintages within this timeframe, based on whether they’re more valuable to drink now or hold in a cellar for the next few decades. Then, when you visit your next wine shop or look for wine online, you’ll know which recent vintage years showed the most promise, and which struggled.

Guide to Burgundy Vintages

The Best Vintages

The most promising recent red vintages include 2005, 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015. The 2009, 2012, and 2014 vintages had a refined balance of flavors overall. Consider hanging onto these three years for at least another 10 years. The most collectible, potentially legendary recent red vintages are the 2005 and 2015. These will last far more than 30 years in a cellar, and you shouldn’t drink them too early. The 2015 in particular, while still exceptionally young, is likely to be even higher in quality than the already iconic 2005. If you see any of these five vintages in a wine shop, store them professionally until they reach age 20, at a minimum (longer for the 2005 and 2015).

Average Quality Vintages

Middle-of-the-pack red vintages include 2010, 2011, and 2013. Out of these three vintages, the one that shows the most promise is the 2010. All of these had prominent acid, but wines from Côte de Nuits were especially high in quality, and worth a space in your cellar. The 2011 struggled with rot, but you can still find some decent quality wines in this year–seek out producers who cut their yields down in order to avoid pressing subpar grapes. The 2013 vintage had issues with hail, especially in Côte de Beaune, however, the flavors are still relatively balanced. You can drink any of these wines young or old.

Lower Quality Vintages

The least promising recent vintages are those from 2006 to 2008. Mildew and uneven ripening led to problems across many terroirs during these three years. If you see any of these vintages, look carefully at the wine’s tasting notes before you invest. There are still some gems here that are worth your time, especially in 2006, but it’s unlikely that these wines will be high in value unless they come from Grand Cru or Premier Cru estates.

The Best White Burgundy Vintages in Recent History

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow under entirely different weather conditions, and as a result, you can’t assume that a great red Burgundy vintage will also be a great white Burgundy vintage. You’ll want to memorize the following guide to Burgundy vintages for white wines:

Guide to Burgundy Vintages

The Best Vintages

The most promising white Burgundy vintages are 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2014. Out of these four, the 2014 is by far the best investment. Slow ripening and strong acidity will allow these wines to age for at least another 20 years, likely more. Meanwhile, the 2010 and 2008 vintages weren’t as all-around spectacular as the 2014, however, their especially high acidity will give them long aging potential. Finally, the 2005 is one of the rare vintages that was great for both white and red Burgundy in equal measure. If you can only remember one great Burgundy vintage, make it the 2005.

Average Quality Vintages

Middle-of-the-pack white Burgundy vintages include the 2006, 2007, and 2009 vintages, along with vintages ranging from 2011 through 2013. Both the 2006 and 2007 vintages experienced challenging summers with a bit too much rain. As a result, these wines are on the fleshy side, and best drunk now. Between 2011 and 2013, white Burgundy didn’t ripen as well as it did in better years, so these wines vary greatly in quality. Pay close attention to the tasting notes for wines from this timeframe, and only choose producers who grew their grapes to full ripeness. “Green” grapes were a problem due to the rainy weather conditions.

Lower Quality Vintages

The 2015 vintage is still too young to accurately rate, but so far, critics suspect that it will be middle-of-the-pack in quality. It’s not as refined as the 2014, and low acidity will make it less age-worthy, but its richness could make it worth drinking in its youth.

Before you invest too heavily in white Burgundy, remember that premox is still a major problem, even for some of Burgundy’s top producers. Premox primarily impacts vintages from the 1990s and early 2000s, however, recent vintages occasionally have this problem as well. Check tasting notes from your fellow collectors to determine whether a particular wine has a history of premox.

Legendary Burgundy Vintages of the Past

You’ll primarily want to focus on recent vintages if you want to make the most out of your Burgundy investments, since these wines haven’t yet reached their peak. However, you should also know which past Burgundy vintages are most worthwhile and desirable. This is especially true if you plan on drinking the wine right now, rather than cellaring it. Here are the best Burgundy vintages prior to the year 2000 for both red and white varietals:

  • 1947 – Try Georges de Vogue
  • 1949 – Try DRC La Tache
  • 1959 – Try Moreau Roger
  • 1962 – Try Chanson Pere et Fils Vougeot Clos De La Perriere
  • 1978 – Try Henri Jayer
  • 1985 – Try Jadot
  • 1990 – Try De Vogue Musigny
  • 1996 – Try Claude Dugat

You should consider drinking any wines prior to 1960 right now. Only the finest wines will reach age 100, and even so, Burgundy can sometimes be more enjoyable in its 70s than it is at 100. The 1947 vintage experienced an Indian summer that gave these wines lasting power, and they are richer than usual. Similarly, 1949 saw warm conditions, however, these wines are a bit more balanced and elegant than the 1947. Finally, the 1959 should be on your drink-now list for its full-bodied, soft personality–this came from the grapes’ slow ripening that year.

Wines ranging from the 1960s through the 1970s will likely need more time in the cellar, although you could drink a few of them now without sacrificing flavor development. The 1962 had a slow start and a late harvest, but the wines developed a strong structure that has allowed them to age for this long. The 1978 had a long summer, giving the grapes a silky personality–this might just be the wine of the century.

Wines you’ll want to hang onto for at least another 10 or 20 years range from the 1980s through the 1990s. The 1985 vintage is more fruit-forward than usual, yet these wines still have long aging potential. Meanwhile, the 1990 vintage was especially high in quality for red wine, with a strong backbone and deep coloration. The most recent legendary vintage is the 1996. Low temperatures throughout the season gave these wines a biting acidity, but it’s this acidity that will allow these wines to reach age 100.

Knowing which vintages are worth your time involves more than simply looking at the year listed on the bottle. You need to have a sense of which terroirs excel under certain weather conditions, and which producers are most sought-after by your peers. Using (and memorizing) this guide to Burgundy vintages can give you the tools you need to make a quick decision on any bottle of Burgundy, even if you don’t have access to tasting notes on the fly.

Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.

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passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles–we love sharing a great
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Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.