We’re really cracking into 2022 now.
We’re on track with the switch to Monday evenings for this newsletter. Phew.
Thinking of Buying Burgundy 2020?
Is anyone, except the elite few? I love Burgundy, but for me the top stuff is a (very) rare treat.
Every January, the wine trade plods it way around the fancy reading rooms of century old buildings just off The Mall, spitting out wines many of our customers can only dream of paying for.
Oh boy, they’re expensive. The average retail price of a bottle of wine sold in the U.K is around £6.25. That stat still surprises most people I talk to. Even the avid £4.99 spender often thinks the average is closer to a tenner.
The wine world still works in cases of 12, the sensible dozen. For plenty of the wines I tried this week, one bottle would happily retail for around the price of a dozen at the average*.
The En Primeur System
For those of you that aren’t in the trade**, the posh Bourgogne*** wines have a pretty dependable timeframe. Wineries pick the grapes in September(ish) 2020, make the wine throughout 2021, then release the wines to the trade in Jan 2022. Delivering them to customers and importers in spring 2022. So around eighteen months in total from Harvest to Delivery.
The cheaper, simpler wines are on shop shelves much more quickly, but nobody cares about those anyway.
This rigid structure allows for the market to be controlled, and the wines allocated out. Either to those that have either bought them before, or those that can afford to jump the queue. Much like EasyJet Priority Boarding, everyone gets on the same plane, but some people are happy to pay to sit down before you.
There’s a serious chance that if you don’t get in quick, you’ll miss out. Just like last year, except this year, definitely, not just maybe.
How Do They Taste?
They taste fine. Just like they always do. They’re up there as some of the best wines in the world for a reason. The reds have subtlety, and delicacy, only this year, perhaps a bit more structure. The whites are precise and vibrant, only this year perhaps a tad more acidity.
It often feels like a chin-scratching art critic discussing shades of grey, when there’s a whole wall of Kandinsky’s**** next door.
I’m not being disparaging, but some of the most fascinating wines I tasted last week were the outliers, the innovators. I tasted lots of benchmark Puligny Montrachet, with focussed acidity, restrained use of new oak and grip, obviously more complex and layered than their lowly counterparts, but without the identity or character required to justify their price tag.
You’ll often find hastily written articles looking for the ‘value in Burgundy’, and that can only exist if the top of the pile doesn’t represent good value. So why buy them?
From a study perspective, it’s fantastic, theses wines often crop up on exam papers, but I’ll continue to leave the space in my cellar for affordable wildcards.
* That’s £75 per bottle, at least.
** Hi Paul!! 👋
*** The international word for Burgundy
**** Link to Wassily Kandinsky
Prices starting from a tenner. By David Williams in the Guardian, Oct 2021.
How to buy (relatively) affordable Burgundy wines
An extremely thorough, and somehow ludicrously free, article proper on the vintage.
Dance the Quickstep: Burgundy 2020, Neal Martin for Vinous.com, Dec 2020
"Without wishing to sound like the same old record, the price escalation of Burgundy, which increases exponentially with producer/vineyard renown, has no end in sight. Demand outstrips supply by ever-larger amounts as an already limited supply is squeezed by low-yielding growing seasons.”