TRADITION & INNOVATION

The 2021 vintage highlights the challenges facing the current generation of Burgundian vignerons. However, far from being deflated and downhearted, I found tasting this vintage exhilarating and exciting. As they prepare for the future, there is an extraordinary energy, sense of adventure and innovation amongst this new cohort. Respectful of their forebears, traditions, and reputation as some of the finest viticulturalists in the wine world, they are also fully aware that with such radical seasonal and climatic changes they must adapt and move forward.

respect

Respect is the word of the moment. Today’s growers know they are only short-term incumbents, and it is their duty to preserve their land and the region’s reputation for the next generation.

It all starts with the land. Burgundy’s fame originates from its unique patchwork quilt of vineyards and the classification system that surrounds it. Terroir is everything in Burgundy. It was this that the Cistercian monks and their predecessors understood so well, when they mapped out the differences between the Grands and Premiers Crus sites and so on. If the land loses this identity, Burgundy becomes nothing.

The respect and preservation of this identity has been the driving force for the new direction in their vineyard management. Gone are the days of systematic treatments in the vineyards. The philosophy of biodynamic viticulture is no longer considered the domaine of the outliers but plays a crucial part in the protection and regeneration of the soil and its surrounding environment, flora and fauna. Many of our estates follow these practices and, whilst others are not necessarily certified as organic, the majority of them all follow an organic code of practice.
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TIMING & TECHNIQUES

TIMING & TECHNIQUES

Vineyard work is also changing. Timing and techniques of pruning were the buzz words this autumn. With less rigorous winters, growers appreciate the importance of deferring pruning until as late as possible, to delay the vines’ development in case of a harsh spring frost. Sebastien Cathiard is not alone in saying that before 2021 he used to start in December and now waits until January before tackling his Hautes Côtes vineyards and will certainly not complete his best located vineyards in the Côte de Nuits before the end of March.

The age-old system of low cane training is also under the spotlight. Morgan Truchetet of Domaine Truchetet, one of our new domaines this year, is experimenting with higher trained vines as heralded by Lalou Bize-Leroy. This encourages the upward growth of the vegetation which aids both photosynthesis and air flow through the vineyards protecting against disease. Thomas Bouley in Volnay concurs that this could be the future in some locations.
the physical work is also changing at a rate of knots. The return of horses in the vineyard is not for romantic reasons. Horse-drawn ploughing reduces the soil compaction that is such a concern with tractors and allows for more precise ploughing between rows. Alternatively, we now see minute caterpillar-tracked machines working rows as opposed to large-wheeled tractors, again minimising compaction.

WINEMAKING

Whilst every grower agrees that high-quality fruit is paramount for making great wine, it goes without saying that the decisions made in the winery during vinification are also of critical importance. These contribute the final part of the recipe.

The past few years have seen an increasing trend towards the traditional practice of whole bunch vinification. This gives an additional nuance to the scent and texture of a red wine and can also lower acidity levels, important in 2021.
However, destalking machines have never been more advanced and allow for a previously unseen precision and purity of primary fruit flavours. There is universal agreement that gentle handling and treatment of the grapes during the vinification is of the utmost importance. Infusion was the word of the year. We should all be excited that 2021 sees a further step in the pursuit of elegance and grace in Burgundian wines, rather than power and muscle.

These are exciting times. The new generation are most definitely not resting on their laurels and there is so much to look forward to.
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