White Burgundy 2008: Time to Mature

May 9th 2017

A selection of top 2008 White Burgundies hosted by Sarah Marsh MW and David Roberts MW

Last Friday Sarah Marsh MW hosted a small group of the UK’s top tasters – journalists, sommeliers and wine buyers – at the new Goedhuis offices on Bermondsey Street. She had sourced two dozen 2008 White Burgundies directly from domaines’ cellars. Appellations on show included the Hautes Côtes de Beaune, St Aubin, Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet, and Corton Charlemagne.

Sarah-Marsh-wines2008 is a fascinating vintage in its own right, and this is a great moment to taste them, 9 years on. It was also a brilliant opportunity to taste widely across appellations, levels, and domaines. 2008 was not the easiest growing season, with a gloomy wet spring followed by a mixed summer. The wines have a combination of rich fruit flavours, sometimes tropical in their language, with a strict bone of acidity. This structure has served them well, and the best were a huge treat to taste.

Sarah-Marsh-wines22008 also lies in an interesting point in the winemaking story of White Burgundy. It is remembered as the vintage in which growers become aware of the damage premature-oxidation was having on their wines, and their reputations, and decided to take action. Quite why this ‘premox’ crisis came about is still debated (poor quality corks in the late 1990s and early 2000s flooding the market? the new era of pneumatic presses extracted far less phenolic content from the skins which had previous served to protect wines from oxidation? a conscious reduction in sulphur dioxide levels during vinification? higher potassium levels in the soil due to fertilisers causing a drop in pH in the wines reducing the efficacy of sulphur dioxide? climate change promoting lower acidities and higher pHs? higher levels of oak ageing steering winemaking away from reductive handling? the pursuit of a delicate, refined wine style through with lower turbidity? the list is endless…). But by 2008 many winemakers had realised something had to be done, and efforts to ensure their wines were adequately protected both during vinification (through reductive winemaking techniques which exclude oxygen) and in bottle (with higher quality corks, slightly higher levels of sulphur dioxide, and/or improvements in sulphur dioxide efficiency).

Because of this one might have expected the line-up to be extremely variable. But actually, it was really quite steady. Sadly there was one corked wine. But out of 24, that’s not bad going. And there were a few slightly further over to the reductive struck-match corner than I personally like, and inevitably a couple which were suffering from the duel foes of oxygen and age, though none I should point out had a case of full-on premox. But for the most part, we enjoyed a vibrant array of expressive, dynamic, and vibrant wines which portrayed the character of their vintage and region with panache.

Sarah-Marsh-tastingBelow is a list of my personal favourites (in order of appellations, not preference). If you have any 2008 White Burgundies in your cellar, go ahead and try them; you won’t be disappointed.

Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly 2008
Patrick Javillier, Meursault Les Clousots 2008
Comtes Lafon, Meursault 1er Cru Clos de la Barre 2008
Ballot Millot, Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes 2008 (magnum)
Louis Carillon, Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Perrières 2008
Bernard Moreau, Chassagne 1er Cru Morgeot 2008
Jean-Noel Gagnard, Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Caillerets 2008

Sarah Marsh MW will be collating feedback from the tasters and publishing her thoughts in due course.