While it’s still too early to judge the 2018 Burgundy vintage with any certainty, winemakers across the region are thrilled with how these wines developing so far. Louis Fabrice Latour, president of Maison Louis Latour, told The Drinks Business, “We are very pleased to have two big crops in a row of very good quality.” Some Burgundians, like négociant Philippe Pacalet, have even compared the 2018 vintage to 1947–one of the top Burgundy vintages in history.
But before you invest in 2018 Burgundy vintage futures, consider what type of Burgundy you’re looking to add to your cellar. Some producers made complex Burgundy with incredible aging potential, while others made wines that are more easy-drinking and approachable. Regardless of which style you’re looking for, our 2018 Burgundy vintage report will help you find the best examples for your collection.
A Year of Big, Bold Reds
With their excellent color and concentration, grand cru reds are the stars of the 2018 Burgundy vintage. This was due to a very hot growing season in Burgundy, especially in the summer and early fall; the 2018 vintage was the hottest since 2003. Moreover, Burgundy received 55 percent less rain in 2018 than the average annual precipitation in the area. As a result, the grapes developed exceptionally high sugar levels and wines from this vintage are much higher in alcohol than usual. Many grand crus have as much as 15 percent alcohol by volume (they usually have closer to 13 percent ABV) and some even go as high as 16 percent ABV.
The 2018 Burgundy vintage is bold and alcoholic, yet it also has freshness and acidity.
However, acidity is also high in this vintage, which helps balance out alcohol levels and gives the wines greater aging potential. Cooler weather conditions in the spring increased the acidity in the grapes early on by letting the grapes and soil soak up water before the warm, dry weather set in. So, although the summer was dry and hot, the vines had access to water deep underground which prevented the grapes from becoming too raisined. For this reason, the 2018 Burgundy vintage may actually be more successful than other recent hot weather vintages (like 2017, 2015, and 2009). It’s bold and alcoholic, yet it also has freshness and acidity.
Some estates increased this acidity even further through the use of acidification, which top-quality Burgundy producers generally avoid out of concern that it masks the unique flavors of the terroir. However, in the case of the 2018 Burgundy vintage, acidification may have greatly improved the vintage. Without it, many estates would have released wines that were far too hot with limited aging potential. In some cases, the wine never would have finished fermenting at all if not for acidification, since many producers faced stuck fermentations due to high sugar levels. The most successful producers were those that produced wines with naturally high acidity or that used some light-handed acidification.
Time will tell which wines will receive the highest scores from professional wine critics and will be most valuable on the secondary market.
The most successful region for red Burgundy in 2018 was the Côte de Beaune. The weather was ideal in this area, with just enough sunlight and rain to produce perfectly balanced wines naturally. Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, told Decanter, “After spring we had a favorable season with rain at the right times, especially during the hottest periods.” If you’re looking for the very best 2018 Burgundy, consider wines from:
- Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
- Maison Louis Latour
- Domaine Leroy
- Domaine Ponsot
- Maison Louis Jadot
- Domaine Clos de Tart
- Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair
This list is not comprehensive, and many other Burgundy producers made top-quality wine in 2018. Time will tell which wines will receive the highest scores from professional wine critics and will be most valuable on the secondary market.
Expect to See More Easy-Drinking Whites
While the best reds from this vintage have a perfect balance of acidity and alcohol, white Burgundy producers struggled to achieve the same balance, and 2018 white Burgundy is very low in acidity, even among some of the top producers in the region. As a result, these wines aren’t expected to have as much aging potential as usual and will likely be best consumed young. However, it would be a mistake to write 2018 white Burgundy off entirely. Some producers still managed to make wines that taste complex and elegant. For example, winemakers at Maison Louis Latour say that their white wines are still delicious and rich in flavor despite the lower level of acidity. If you love rich, bold white wines, then you’ll likely enjoy the 2018 Burgundy vintage.
The price and quality of white Burgundy will also depend on the reputation of the producer and the region in which it’s made.
While the lower acidity may affect the secondary market value of 2018 white Burgundy, high yields will contribute as well. Yields during the 2018 harvest were much higher than they’ve been in years and musts were already being sold for a lower price than usual because there was so much available. While 2018 white Burgundy may not command as high a price as it would in leaner years, this may be a good opportunity to stock up on some easy-drinking young white Burgundy to enjoy while you wait for your more age-worthy, valuable bottles to mature.
Of course, the price and quality of white Burgundy will also depend on the reputation of the producer and the region in which it’s made. In the Côte d’Or, prices will likely remain the same as they were in 2017, as this region’s wines are still in high demand among collectors. You may find lower prices in Chablis and Mâcon.
Takeaways from Early 2018 Burgundy Vintage Reports
The 2018 Burgundy vintage is one that has certainly been impacted by climate change. We’ve seen many similar Burgundy releases in recent years, including the 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015, and 2017 vintages. In general, it seems that Burgundy is becoming more alcoholic and concentrated and this trend will likely continue as temperatures rise in the region. If you’ve enjoyed any of these past vintages or generally prefer bold wine styles, then the 2018 Burgundy vintage will make a great addition to your collection. And since top producers like DRC consistently make wines that are elegant and refined, if you have a preference for lighter, more elegant styles of Burgundy, you may still want to give 2018 a chance. The high acidity and complexity of red wines from this vintage should save it from being monolithic.
If you invest in 2018 reds, you can expect them to age for many years before they peak.
For those who love mature Burgundy, the best wines of 2018 promise to be good investments. Some wine experts have compared this vintage to 1959 and 1982, both of which produced very age-worthy wine. If you invest in 2018 reds, you can expect them to age for many years before they peak.
Of course, we can’t predict exactly what this vintage will taste like, as most of it is still aging in the barrel. However, based on early reports from winemakers around the region, 2018 is shaping up to be an intense and fascinating vintage.
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