Booming Burgundy Wine
Expertise and Technology Have Created Burgundy's Greatest Run Of Vintages Ever, And 1997 Promises to Preserve the Streak
From the Print Edition:
Michael Douglas, May/Jun 98
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André Porcheret, winemaker for the vineyard-endowed Hospice de Beaune, an ancient charity hospital, and a grower himself, explained the consequence colorfully. "Some producers had vats of wine that flambéed," said Porcheret. By this he meant not that the wine turned into a Burgundian cherries jubilee, but that the juice was so sugar-rich that when fermentation (yeasts feeding on sugar) began, it took off almost uncontrollably. Temperature control equipment should have taken care of this--if the grower caught the problem in time. Some didn't.
At the very least, the '97 vintage should deliver very ripe-tasting wines, as both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir could be picked whenever the growers liked. There was not a care about rot or mold. Some really terrific Burgundies should result.
No vintage is perfect, though. One potential downside to the '97s might be, apart from overripeness, a deficiency in acidity. Some wines will be soft and lacking in refreshing crispness. That, in turn, will make them mature very quickly. We shall see. So far, '97 looks promising, but potentially treacherous.
For Burgundy buyers, vintages do matter. And they can be aggravating. But since the glorious (and now fully mature) 1985 harvest, it's been a pleasure to play. The odds are in our favor as never before. Some years you play white over red, such as '86 and '92. Other years you put your money only on red, such as '87, '91 and '93. And in a few rare years, such as '90 and '95, you play both white and red.
But one thing is certain: amazingly, not a year--or a harvest--has gone by when Burgundy hasn't delivered the goods. That is something no era of Burgundy lovers could ever say--or even imagine--until now.
Portland, Oregon-based Matt Kramer is a columnist for Wine Spectator. They Were Very Good Years
The very word "vintage" spooks wine buyers. There's always a niggling fear that you're not getting the right year. The word itself somehow connotes quality: "a vintage year." In fact, a vintage is simply the year of the harvest.
Vintage literally means "harvest," from the Latin vindemia, grape gathering. In Italian, it's vendemmia; in Spanish, vendimia; in French, vendange. Only in English does "vintage" refer to a year on a label.
In France, a Burgundian will talk about 1996 as "une trés bonne année" because it was "une grande vendange." Somehow, all this got lost in translation, resulting in our muddled, yet resonant phrase, "a vintage year." (The California wine industry used to crow that "every year is a vintage year.")
However you use the term, the table at right of vintage ratings compiled by the tasting panel of Wine Spectator magazine illustrates Burgundy's almost unblemished run of quality over a 12-year span.
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