Mother Nature Meets Wo/Man - 2010 Burgundy Whites in Your Glass(es)

In Burgundy, every vintage feels like a roll of the dice. Today’s disaster is tomorrow’s glory, Mother Nature willing. And, vice versa.


The 2010 wines from Burgundy are delicious. The weather affects white and red wines differently. I’ll start by pointing out why small weather events can change a lot, and sometimes everything, in the way wines taste in the end. In this post, I’ll focus on the whites - and not just Chardonnay. Yes, Chardonnay is the Holy Grail in Burgundy, but there’s also some awfully cool juice that comes from a few other grapes and sometimes for less coin.

Weather Matters
Double entendre? Oui! Anyway…

The beginning of every vintage starts the year – and sometimes two years – before. Cold, hail, disease and the size of last year’s harvest all stress the vine like other factors stress human beings. Think about that first wrinkle or that tenth gray hair. If you have either, you may well attribute one or the other to a specific event or time frame.

The 2009 growing season was kind to the vine and the vigneron. As the year eclipsed, however, things changed. Winter was drawn out and harshly cold. At least there was a fair amount of sunshine. That’s really saying a lot in gray, gray Burgundy.

Just before Christmas, temperatures around Beaune dived dramatically – in some spots down to -20°C. Oh la la! is right. Not all vines were dormant, so this was unfortunate. On flat land and in depressions at the bottoms of the slopes, some vines said au revoir.

Spring was elusive and the poor weather meant that the flowers that should turn into berries didn’t necessarily do so. Summer took its time, too, arriving late in June.

By July, a severe imprint had already been made on the vintage. The crop would be small due to the freezing cold and chilly spring. For vines that escaped dramatic weather events early on, hail arrived and further reduced the crop.

The rest of the summer was a wash. July brought warmth, even heat. However, grapes need sun more than heat. Thank goodness for September. The weather turned dry with beaucoup de sunshine. The grapes responded greedily and the harvest began to look much brighter.

The 2010 harvest was short – about 25-30 percent less than 2009. Though concentration is village- and producer-dependent, it actually helped that the troubled start to the season resulted in smaller berries and the naturally lower yields generally delivered more concentrated juice.

White Burgundy image via Shutterstock

So, what does this mean about these wines in your glass(es)? The 2010 whites are highly refreshing (high in acidity from the cool year), classic (ripe but neither lean nor tropical) and plump with youthful fruit and ample lactic acid (converted during malolactic fermentation from the generous malic acid in the grapes from the cool weather). The wines are lovely right out of the gate, but they will reward cellaring. Top village wines will easily age well for eight to ten years. From north to south, here are some VALUE 2010 whites from the sacred soils of Burgundy.

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