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January 8, 2024updated 11 Jan 2024 4:06pm

2022 Burgundy: Harmony born of an easy season

Our 2022 Burgundy en primeur coverage begins with a comprehensive overview of a vintage of "super-charming" red and white wines.

By Sarah Marsh MW

After the challenging conditions of 2021, the hot, dry 2022 Burgundy growing season delivered red and white wines that, for all their ripeness of fruit and ample texture, are nonetheless balanced by a surprising freshness and energy more in keeping with cooler years, says Sarah Marsh MW as she introduces The World of Fine Wine’s extensive en primeur coverage.

2022 Burgundy: A guide to the villages and vineyards

2022 Burgundy: A delightful Chablis vintage

2022 Burgundy: Chablis tasting notes

2022 Burgundy Vintage Report

A hot and dry summer produced sunny, supple whites and silky, red-fruit Pinot. An early harvest made the vintage. More accurately, it saved the vintage, for the style is fresher and lighter than might be expected of the season. The old adage, “September makes the vintage,” is rarely the case these days. In 2022, some producers were done and dusted before the end of August.

The reds and the whites both have a summer sunshine glow. Super-charming and forthcoming, they were born of an easy season, with no hardship in the vineyard and nothing discordant in the wine.

2022 Burgundy—style

Whites

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The whites are elegant, eye-catching wines that have instant appeal. Richly floral and fruity, but not a whit heavy. Light to medium-bodied, just nicely rounded but trim—rather silky, sometimes glossy, but not thick or weighty. Floral aromas veer toward the extravagant and exotic. The fruit is definitely on the riper side, from candied citrus, to golden peach, while the ripest whites show tropical and dried fruits. Many are spicy. Ginger often appeared in my tasting notes; fresh and ground, but also frequently the sweet impression of crystalized ginger.

The surprise of the vintage is the sense of freshness, which belies the laboratory analysis. Whites are typically juicy, lively, and above all, well-balanced. This depends, of course, on timely harvesting. Left later, they are softer.

There tends to be modest new oak on the whites. Wisely, most producers pulled back, so that the oak barely imprints, but is nevertheless nicely supportive.

The style varies within this global impression because of the lack of rain. At one extreme, there is a more savory style. These wines come from vineyards that suffered hydric stress; warm sites with thin rocky soils, typically on sunny slopes, but anywhere with well-drained soil and a warm microclimate. This style has concentrated saltiness, and it is this that balances the fruit rather than obvious acidity. The impression may be salty or bitter—an attractive, lemon-pith, bitter-almond character. These wines may also have richly candied citrus or topical fruit, with which the saltiness provides an attractive contrast.

This impression of saltiness and/or bitterness seems increasingly apparent in recent vintages and could be linked to hydric stress. It differs from those perceptions of “minerality” that have always been integral to the taste of white Burgundy. These dry-salt and bitter wines may have higher levels of dry extract, but at present this is something few producers measure. Perhaps it’s enough to observe that sensations of tasting Burgundy are changing.

The profile of wine at the other end of the spectrum reflects the terroirs that had sufficient water reserves—typically, but not exclusively, the richer, deeper soils on gentle inclines, or flat sites with more water-retentive clays. This style is fuller and juicier, with more obvious and sweeter acidity. They are generous wines, but not as aromatically extravagant as those from hot and dry terroirs. They have more exuberant energy and a warm/fresh feel, as distinct from the exotic aromatics and the salty sensation of wines from the more water-deprived vineyards.

Occasionally, I detected green notes, probably where hydric stress prevented full maturity.

Reds

The style of 2022 red brings together the fruit, aroma, and tannin of a warm season with the freshness, moderate body, and alcohol of a classic cooler year. It’s predominantly a red-fruit vintage, with expressive floral notes and ripe tannins. The acidity is not high, but the impression is crisp and refreshing. The style is quite consistent across the Côte d’Or, although I was particularly impressed with the elegance of the reds from the Côte de Nuits, which combine good intensity of fruit with a light touch and fine texture. Have tasted Burgundy over the past 20 vintages from barrel, I have rarely found wine from the Côte de Nuits to be so appealing in October a year following the harvest.

It’s a notably perfumed vintage. Rose-petal and other floral aromas can be found everywhere—not only in Chambolle and Volnay, but more unusually in Gevrey and Pommard. From the warmest sites—well-exposed on the slopes and on stony, limestone soils—the perfume becomes more exotic, sometimes extravagant. From the Côte de Nuits, these wines hold their line, remaining trim and crisp. In the Côte de Beaune, however, there was more variation, with some wines falling rather flat.

The reds taste ripe, sometimes luscious, but not super-concentrated. There’s an airy feeling. They are medium-bodied, with moderate alcohol. Even the grands crus that are typically voluminous are neatly defined and not heavy. Some reds have an attractive bitterness; something they share with the whites.

Tannins are silky smooth—from gauzy wines with gossamer textures, to rich velvet and brushed suede. At the top end, the grands crus are sleek and polished. The texture is refined, not thickly glossy. They are fruity, but rarely overly sweet, with lower glycerol and alcohol that many a recent hot vintage. The energy level is lively for a ripe season. They glide, they dance, they pirouette. The big wines are vigorous and vital but imbued with much charm.

It’s usually cooler vintages that are most translucent to the terroir—2016 or the difficult 2021—but terroir expression is equally precise in 2022.

Of course, these favorable observations are conditional on optimum picking times. The greatest danger was leaving the reds a little too long in warm sites, but I also tasted some reds from the Côte de Beaune that tasted rather green, picked before the phenolics were sufficiently ripe.

2022 Burgundy: Vintages to compare and contrast

There is no vintage with which to make a direct comparison for red or white.

Whites

The 2022 whites feel somewhere between 2015 and 2017, but more like 2017. They nod toward 2015 in the rich, candied, and sometimes tropical fruit and in their silky texture, while they bear resemblance to 2017 in their sweet, citrusy acidity, translucency to terroir, and refined, delicate finish. All three are warmer vintages, with acidity quite different from the cutting and lactic notes of a cold year.

The saltier 2022 whites, however, differ from the 2017s. There was no hydric stress in 2017, while some 2018 whites share the salty impression found in some 2022s.

For body and weight, they are not unlike 2011, which has moderate but adequately fresh acidity and light to moderate alcohol. The 2011s were also charming from the get-go but suffered a lack of appreciation after the rich 2010s and 2009s. But 2022 has greater density, intensity, and power than 2011, and was much more exciting to taste from barrel than 2011.

The 2022s whites differ, it seems to me, from the recent hot vintages of 2019 and 2020, with which some producers have compared them. 2022 is more elegant. 2019 and 2020 are bigger, fuller-bodied, richer whites. All three vintages share an opulence of aroma and fruit from the warm summers, but 2019 and 2020 are more concentrated. In 2019, the vines carried very little fruit, which exacerbated the effect of the hot, dry summer. Sugar escalated and acidity declined, producing weighty wines with more matter and less freshness than 2022. 2019 needs time to slim down.

The 2020 whites have richness but also vibrant acidity, which is higher than in the 2022s, and the pHs are lower. 2020 will repay, indeed requires, cellaring, while 2022 is less compact, more supple and open-textured, so won’t demand aging in the same way as 2019 and 2022.

Reds

The reds look toward 2015 in the juicy red fruit, density of mid-palate, and ripe tannins, but are lighter bodied, fresher, and purer. In this, and in their translucency to the terroir, they nod in the direction of 2016, despite 2022 being a warm vintage. They have the charm of 2017, but with more density, freshness, and… well, quality. Jérôme Flous, technical director at Faiveley, remarks, “2017 is the closest vintage in style for white and red, but 2022 is riper than 2017.” François Duvivier at Domaine d’Angerville is of the same mind: “2017, because it was delicate.” Others concur, but a surprising diversity of vintages was referenced.

To contrast, there is not the sweetness, glycerol, and high alcohol of 2019, nor the weight of 2009—which is a good thing in my book. They don’t have the dark fruit and alcohol of 2018. 2022 is not exclusively red fruit—there is also fresh-tasting forest fruit—but never the black plum/prune of 2018 or its often rather rustic tannin, either. The 2022s are, of course, very different from the lighter, leaner 2021s. Nor is there the concentration of 2020, which was an exceptional red vintage, not only in quality but for the unusual combination of high ripeness and low pH.

Paul Zinetti at Comte Armand remarks, “2022 is less extreme than 2020. Concentrated but balanced. When I saw the warm season, I thought it would be like 2020, which I love, but it would not be good if every vintage was like this. Because we have more quantity, we have a good balance—without this quantity, it would be more powerful and extreme.”

Jean Lupatelli at De Vogüé also wonders if 2020 would have resembled 2022 if yields had been higher. In the event, he finds it more like 2018—“ripe, round, and balanced”—while Christophe Perrot-Minot sees some similarities with 2012, “with more freshness and grip.”

Looking back to an older vintage, it’s a little like 2002. I took a moment to reflect on this at Domaine Tortochot, tasting the 2002 Mazis-Chambertin there. The similarity lies in the sweetness of fruit, lively energy, and vibrant freshness to finish. 2002 has more acidity, while the quality of tannin is more refined in 2022. Extraction was more aggressive in 2002, and many high-level wines had more new oak. Nevertheless, 2002 has evolved into elegant, mature wine, and I see no reason why 2022 should not age as gracefully. Jean-Nicolas Méo finds “the appeal and the structure of 1999”—another generously yielding, attractive, fresh, red-fruit vintage.

Aging capacity and when to drink 2022 Burgundy

Whites

An early malolactic has given plenty of time for the whites to settle and integrate during élevage, with the result that these charming whites should come forward quickly. A year or two in bottle for village and lesser premier cru wines should suffice—from 2025/6–2030 and beyond—while more serious premiers crus and the grands crus could be opened from 2028/30. Consider Meursault Charmes, for a moment. In the old days, this premier cru often demanded bottle age to become expressive, but its personality has changed over recent warm vintages. It integrates quite quickly and four years after the vintage is now plenty for most of the wines.

There is no reason, however, why this vintage should not mature beneficially over an extended period. Admittedly, the pH is not low, but as important as pH, and probably more so, are good balance and healthy fruit. 2022 is nicely balanced. The fruit was clean. A Mary Poppins “spit spot” vintage. No gray rot. No botrytis. No unpleasant insects. There should be no deviation from fresh fruit, to funky characters, as the wines mature. I feel they will age gracefully, with a lucid expression of terroir in both colors.

The drinking dates given in my tasting notes are approximate and conservative. Under a sound closure, white Burgundy matures for longer than might be expected—quite as long as red Burgundy, longer in many cases, and often with more intriguing results. I am sure that the best premier cru and grand cru whites will mature happily, becoming more complex and captivating from 15 to 20 years of age, and probably well beyond this. Even a top village wine like Meursault Tesson or Narvaux will age nicely for ten years, and why not 15?

Reds

The story is similar for the reds. The village wines can be enjoyed for their fruit soon after bottling, from late 2024 into 2025, while the Côte de Beaune premiers crus could be opened from 2026/27. They are so forward and fruity. The premiers crus from the Côte de Nuits and Corton, from 2027, with even the more structured premiers crus from 2027/28 and the grands crus from 2028/29. Christophe Roumier advises, “Wait five years until the oak is digested, and then you can start drinking them, as many people like younger wine.” Yep, even grand cru ’22s were forthcoming from barrel.

It’s an accommodating vintage. Not only will it come forward early, it has the balance and intensity to evolve beneficially in bottle over the long term:15 to 20 years for the best terroirs, probably longer for those who enjoy very mature reds. As Roumier reminds us, “Higher pH vintages can age. We opened an ’83 for my mother’s birthday at the weekend. It has high pH and was lovely.”

These days, most winemakers aim to produce reds in a style that has the widest window of drinkability—within the context of the vintage. While I was on my rounds tasting the 2022s, I sampled a few 2021s. The village wines and lighter premiers crus are already very pleasant. Not every vintage merits keeping, but you should certainly stash away some 2022s.

2022 Burgundy: Terroir and typicité

The vintage respects the terroir. The lighter body, moderate alcohol and glycerol give the 2022s a certain translucency. It is not necessary to wait for the stamp of the vintage to recede. In this respect, the 2022s have a limpidity that other recent warm vintages have lacked. Moreover, the appellation hierarchy is largely respected. We have become accustomed to the “lesser” villages benefiting from recent warmer vintages, which has resulted in a collective rise in ripeness and quality—from the less favorably exposed slopes in Pernand-Vergelesses, to the “second côte” of Monthélie, Auxey-Duresses, and St-Romain—but in 2022, within the principal communes there is a clear sense of scaling the appellation ladder, through village and premier cru to grand cru. Warm vintages, 2019 in particular, seem to compress the hierarchy, while it is precisely articulated in the detailed and pellucid 2022 vintage.

The quality and consistency of 2022 Burgundy

If you define quality, at least in part, by the purity of terroir expression, then 2022 is an excellent vintage in both red and white. If you consider aging potential a measure of quality, I don’t think 2022 will disappoint. But of course, balance, depth, and intensity also come into the equation, and while it is a well-balanced vintage, it is not the deepest, most intense or layered. An exceptional vintage has a certain something that sets it apart—the crystaline quality of the 2014 whites; the vivacity of 2010 reds; the 2020s, which flash with the opposing elements of freshness and concentration in both colours. So, 2022 is a very good vintage, but not the vintage of the decade.

For now, the whites rank slightly below the quality of the 2017s, but it’s worth remembering that they improved throughout their élevage and, after a year or so in bottle, had upgraded 2017 from a good white vintage, to a very good one, while the 2017 reds just remained jolly nice. If the white 2022s are given time on lees, they should straighten, becoming more precise, but for the moment, 2022 is a better vintage for reds than for whites.

The red 2022s are certainly finer than the perfectly pleasant red 2017s, and I prefer them to the richer and less refined 2018s and the opulent 2019s. For me, they are similar in quality to the 2016s and 2015s.

Frédéric Webber from Bouchard is enthusiastic. “For the reds, it is a very great vintage. Maybe best red vintage recently. I prefer it to 2018, 2020, and 2021. Maybe it’s even better than 2019, as it’s fresher.”

Is it as good as 2020, albeit in a different style? Well, not in my book. And probably the very best wines of 2016 (a comparable vintage for quality) will surpass those of 2022. But it was challenging to make a tip-top 2016, while overall quality is more consistent in 2022, and much more wine was produced.

From my initial assessment, the Côte de Nuits reds are a notch up in quality and consistency on the Côte de Beaune, although I can already hear the grunts of disagreement from producers in that half of the Côte d’Or.

Yup—I was captivated by the Côte de Nuits. They are everything you could want in red Burgundy—purity of fruit, subtle texture, freshness, and energy. They have great balance and are instantly translucent to the terroir. These are wines I want to drink.

2022 Burgundy Chambolle-Musigny vineyards.
Chambolle-Musigny. One of the vintage’s “sweet spots.” Photography by iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Sweet spots include Chambolle—not often the case over recent vintages. Gevrey is always more reliable and again very much on form in 2022. Morey leans in style and quality toward Chambolle. There is so much to like on the Côte de Nuits, while the Côte de Beaune was more of a mixed bag—some gorgeous wines and some disappointments.

While quality varied quite widely in 2021, 2022 is more dependable. Of course, there are caveats. Some harvested too late, with predictably softer and more alcoholic results. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the overall consistency of the style and quality of both whites and reds A good producer will have measured sugar and acidity meticulously approaching harvest. Those who picked Chardonnay later than their neighbors (obvious examples are Bouchard and Buisson-Charles) were waiting for golden skins, while assessing this in relation to sugar and acidity.

It’s worth remembering that not all whites on the Côte d’Or are hand-harvested, particularly in lesser villages such as Auxey-Duresses, while off the Côte d’Or, harvesting machines are widely used. Machine-harvesting whites in 2022 was no bad thing where it helped catch falling acidity and swiftly rising sugars. Machine-harvested fruit is destemmed; compromising when the fruity is iffy, but in vintages where the crop is clean, the leaking juice will not be contaminated with rot. And there is the advantage of harvesting in cool, dark, early-morning hours, before it’s possible to mobilize a picking crew.

So, there are some distinct benefits to machine-harvesting whites in this kind of vintage, and this helps insure that more everyday whites, from regional and village level, achieve a good and consistent quality. There is more about machine-harvesting in the introduction to the Chablis section.

A quick pause here to consider the more affordable end of the market. There are yummy Bourgogne wines in both colors. Warm vintages suit Aligoté, which benefits from a ripe concentration of citrusy fruit to balance its naturally high acidity.

I particularly liked the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits for its crunchy, ripe reds and sappy whites. Among the best Chardonnays are the Michel Gros Fontaine Saint Martin from a vineyard near Chevery, the Anne Gros from Concoeur, and especially Domaine de l’Arlot Le Mont, from just above its Clos des Fôrets. Hautes-Côtes de Nuits blanc is increasingly available, and I love its savory, un-fruity profile, while Hautes-Côtes reds, which were all too often lean and green until recently, are another beneficiary of climate change. At Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur, Vincent Gros harvested his Hautes-Côtes in 2022 directly after picking the vines on the Côte, whereas he used to wait a week for more ripeness. Admittedly, the canopy is high, speeding the grape maturity, and his parcel is on the hill-top just above Vosne-Romanée—not way out in Chevannes, for example—but across the Hautes-Côtes, fruit is ripening earlier and well. Incidentally, on the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, there is beautiful countryside, best enjoyed on a bicycle, from Curley to Bevy, and the various Villars and Villers down to Pernand-Vergelesses. The landscape is scattered here and there with vineyards, which is more pleasing to the eye than the intensive viticulture of the Côte. More important still for most readers, the wines are now well worth seeking out, as the quality is much improved.

One evening, as chance had it, I peddled north and steeply uphill from Nuits, through vineyards and the protected wildlife zone, to the parcel of Chemin des Moines de Vergy. I photographed the engraved cross hoping to discover who had planted this vineyard. Some days later, I tasted the wine without knowing its provenance, liked it, and only after some conversation made the link. The land has no classification, so officially it’s Vin de France, but it yields an attractive wine combining ripe fruit and a tight line of savory minerality. Entry-level wine from Burgundy to knock your socks off.

2022 Burgundy in the vineyard

The 2022 growing season was hot and dry; more than 2.5º to 2.7ºF (1.4º to 1.5ºC) hotter in comparison with vintages over the previous decade, with a 16 percent deficit in average rainfall and 280 hours more sunshine. It was the second-hottest summer since 2003, but unlike 2003, it rained at crucial moments.

The winter was dry. Frost in April passed with little or no damage in the Côte d’Or. During the hot and dry spring, the vines grew quickly, putting pressure on vineyard work as debudding ran into tying up. There was no pressure from mildew, and odium was easily managed. Lovely conditions for flowering, which was rapid and smooth, with a mid-point around May 21/23.

Frédéric Webber commented, “June was the most important month to explain 2022. It was hot and dry to begin with—the earliest heatwave we have ever seen—but the end of June brought big storms with lots of rain, more than average. There was 100mm [4 inches quite widely] and in Gevrey, 200mm [8 inches] with some damage to the soil, but it changed everything, because it gave the vineyard sufficient water until harvest.” Others also mentioned the June rain, with storms between the 20th and the 25th, which provided water reserves for the dry July and the first half of August. (BIVB stats show 5.3 inches [135mm] of rain in June on the Côte d’Or, versus the more usual 2.5 inches [65mm].) In Gevrey, many producers specified the storm on June 21—more than 3.5 inches (90mm) in 30 minutes, and 7.8 inches (200mm) over the week.

July and August saw heatwaves; a hot and dry “dome” from the Sahara. BIVB records suggest that the increase in total sunshine hours had more impact than the above-average temperatures. There were only a few drops of rain. Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau noted a total of 0.8 inch (20mm) in Meursault after August 15. Other villages had 0.4 inch (10mm) more, including some villages on the Côte de Nuits, but this was considerably less than the 2.4 inches (60mm) the BIVB records as typical. That rain, however, changed everything. Afterwards, the vineyards matured very quickly. Dimitri Bazas at Champy has never seen such rapid ripening. Laurent Pillot recalls, “The vines were like flowers that were wilting. Then they had a little water and… boom! For the young vines, such stress is not a bad thing—it pushes the roots deeper.” Everyone emphasized the importance of constantly tasing and analyzing grape maturity from this point.

Hydric stress prolonged veraison. Puligny producers noticed stress in Folatières and Champs Gain on the slope, but also in Clavoillon—despite the depth of the soil—because it is well-drained. Climats with a higher proportion of limestone and less clay, including part of Beaune Grèves, were more susceptible to hydric stress. Meursault lieu-dit Meix Chevaux, which has a sandy top-soil, suffered, while the clay in Bouchères retained sufficient moisture. The richer parcels planted to Pinot Noir on the hill of Corton sailed through the heatwave, as did Vougeot. Producers finished harvest with more limestone parcels on the mid- and top slope, where the maturity was blocked. Céline Fontaine found that ripening in the Chassagne-Montrachet premier cru Clos des Murées—a warm climat surrounded by houses—stalled, and the resulting wine is slightly green and lower in acidity among a lovely flight of ripe and fresh wines from Fontaine-Gagnard.

Jérôme Flous at Faiveley was among the many who observed more severe hydric stress on sandy textured, well-drained soils, notably Gevrey-Chambertin La Justice, than on the thin limestone soils even on well-exposed sites such as Gevrey-Chambertin premier cru Cazetiers. “Thin limestone soils do stress, but somehow the limestone does retain some moisture, and if the vines are old, they can access it at some at depth.”

After the difficulties of 2021, there was very little disease pressure in 2022, but in June 2023—when I was tasting the 2022 whites—the pressure of odium was high and the air was thick with sulfur. Some organic producers sprayed twice a week in Meursault during the summer of ’23. Consumers intent on buying “natural wine” are wrong to suppose that organic producers use fewer products in the vineyard. Copper and sulfur are contact sprays that are washed off by rain. So, if they are the only weapons in the armory, they will be used more often when powdery and downy mildew threaten, than if combined with one or two systemic sprays. I am convinced that organic production is a better approach for the vine, the wine, and the environment, but it is not as clear cut as it might seem.

Clos de Vougeot
Château Clos de Vougeot. Photography courtesy of Sotheby’s

Harvesting

On the Côte de Beaune, harvesting began on August 20, in earnest from the 25th, and many domaines finished over the first two or three days of September. The Côte de Nuits harvest was a little later, some starting on the 1st, others not until the 6th. Domaines with extensive holdings had an extended harvest. Bouchard began on August 25 with Volnay Caillerets, and finished on September 13 with Clos de Bèze and Chambertin. Champy also wrapped up on the 13th in Pernand-Vergeleses. Webber remarks, “In a normal year, alcohol would increase by 0.2º daily, but in 2022 it was between 0.4º and 0.6º. The northeast wind accelerated maturity.”

Many in the Côte de Beaune harvested reds before whites, due in part to the season, but also because Chardonnay is being pruned later to avoid the risk from frost.

Producers harvesting Pinot too late risked Porty characters, as found in some 2018s, but erring on the other side resulted in underripe skins and stalks. Not everyone achieved good phenolic ripeness, but some producers pushed ahead with whole-bunch fermentations nonetheless.

Not so long ago, September was the critical month. A warm dry September would compensate for a cool and often rainy August—a classic Burgundy season—but these days, grapes ripen over a short, sharp summer more often than not. The traditional 100 days from flowering to harvest, is now more like 90.

Many domaines, including Génot-Boulanger in Meursault, increased their harvesting teams. “We doubled the number of pickers,” reports Guillaume Lavollée, “in two teams, so everything was picked in the morning. With 60 pickers for 22 hectares [55 acres], we did everything in ten days.”

Healthy fruit required little sorting. Chardonnay yielded around 50hl/ha and Pinot Noir between 35 and 40hl/ha. A decent quantity to be sure, but not the generous plenty of 2018.

Climate change

There are vineyards that, for one reason or another, are well adapted to hotter and drier summers. They may have a cooler exposition, benefit from shade, have deeper and naturally wetter soil, or be fed by a natural spring. Even a parcel high on the slope on thinner soil, such as Meursault La Ravelles, fares better than you might suppose because it’s shaded under the wood and fed by springs. “Lesser” terroirs are often better suited to warmer, drier summers, while some of the best expositions get very hot and dry. I have highlighted examples of both in the following commentary on villages.

There is much discussion in Burgundy about how to manage the effects of climate change—in particular, more sunshine and less rain in summer. An early harvest is the most significant short-term approach. It’s interesting to recall that until 2008 there was a ban des vendanges—a date from which producers were authorized to start harvest—devised to discourage less quality-conscious producers from picking too early, before sufficient ripeness.

Longer term approaches to the changing climate include rootstocks adapted to drier conditions, such as 3309 and 101.14. Many producers are currently replanting vines that were grafted onto the rootstock 161-49. Widely planted in the 1980s, it is suited to wet conditions, but on thin, dry, and rocky terroir, vines grafted on it are dying.

Ben Leroux remarks, “We are still using 3309 on the flat Bourgogne land where there is sufficient water, but we need to be more detailed on the slopes, on limestone, and on drier soils. We have to learn from the mistake of planting only one rootstock. So many vines were planted on SO4, followed by 161-49. Vines that should have been reaching their prime now are dying.” He envisages using a selection of several rootstocks within small parcels targeted to the specific profile of the soil. Meanwhile in Chassagne, Sébastien Caillat at Domaine Lamy-Caillat will try 5C in Vergers. “It’s an old and rustic rootstock, which I will pair with a fine and qualitative clone.” In Santenay, Jean-Marc Vincent is also using 5C grafted with fine Pinot where he has deep soil, and elsewhere the drought-resistant 420A.

Given that many vineyards are currently being replanted in Burgundy, is there any advantage to orientating rows north to south across the slope rather than up and down—other than to spread the risk of frost damage? Most seem to think it has a small advantage on the slopes—as long as the incline is not too steep and therefore dangerous to use tractors—because the vines are more shaded and lose the evening sunshine. In Meursault, Gruyaches Heitz-Lochardet finds the north-south planting an advantage. At Domaine Génot-Boulanger, Guillaume Lavollée says, “We have a lot of exposure to the morning sun, but afterwards it is then very protected and less stressed here.” In Puligny, Domaine Thomas-Collardot has some north-south planting in Derrière La Velle, a flat village parcel, and even here Matthieu Collardot notices a small difference.

At Louis Latour, however, head winemaker Jean-Charles Thomas finds it more of a disadvantage in Bâtard-Montrachet, where Latour has north-south planting. Although the vines benefit from some shade, they are more affected by the north wind, which dries and shrivels the leaves. In Vosne-Romanée, another dissenter is Pierre Gros, who is familiarizing himself with Echézeaux, recently redistributed to Domaine Michel Gros, since he has found some sun-burned grapes as well as some shading.

What about training and pruning? In Chassagne, Pinot Noir is traditionally trained on Cordon de Royat and spur pruned in order to avoid spring frost damage. At Domaine des Terres de Velle in Auxey-Duresses, Sophie Laronze has some old vines on Cordon de Royat and finds that “The proportion of leaves and grapes is better. There are fewer leaves. The grapes are better placed and it’s easier to work.” But most people I asked about Cordon de Royat find it problematic in hot vintages because everything ripens earlier, and it’s more difficult for grapes to reach phenolic maturity than on vines trained on Guyot.

Can changes in the management of the soil and canopy be helpful? In Burgundy, it’s traditional to maintain a low canopy by trimming the shoots. Typically, the vineyard is given a short back and sides before the producers go on holiday in August. This approach to canopy management is being adapted, however, to manage the hot, dry summers.

It is very easy to spot those who prefer a higher canopy in their vineyards. Plenty are now trimming at a height of 51 inches (130cm), even 55 inches (140cm), to shade the neighboring row. If there is no trimming, the vineyard will, of course, become overgrown. Jean-Marc Vincent and Jean-Philippe Bret are among those using tressage, whereby the apex of the shoot is not trimmed, but rather looped down and woven to secure it. This provides shade and encourages the roots downward, helping the vine to become more drought-resistant. “If you cut the apex, you give a message to the vine to produce more lateral shoots and with less growth of the roots,” remarks Bret.

Vincent believes that tressage has also improved grape composition, with better skin ripeness, skin-to-juice ratio, and juice concentration. Since 2004, inspired by Olivier Lamy, Vincent has moved his estate to high-density planting (from 13,000 to 17,000 plants per hectare), and he feels this contributes to the improved quality of fruit.

Stéphane Follet-Arbelet, however, is less enthusiastic about tressage, with which he experimented in his own vineyard on the hill of Corton. He found it increased humidity among the vines and prefers to have a high trellis, but not to loop the shoots down.

Bret has also increased the height of his posts, tacking on another 12 inches (30cm) in some rows of Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Quarts, although this will now be too high for the conventional overhead tractor.

Ben Leroux foresees great advances on this front. “Within five years there will be electric robotic tractors with AI, far better equipped to manage spraying, for example, by analyzing the leaves and delivering a correct dose. We will be able to decrease our total quantity of sulfur. I am waiting for the new tractors and technology before I change my posts and canopy,” although he has already increased some to 59 inches (150cm). “We will need different and less heavy tractors to go higher.”

Meanwhile, the other school of thought argues that greater leaf surface increases evaporation and photosynthesis. Louis Latour is among those producers who have reduced the canopy in warm vintages. Guillaume Lavollée bucks the trend for a higher canopy. “Generally, we are decreasing the canopy as we have seen that when it’s hot, the plant needs more energy for the leaves and fruit. When we cut, we see less stress than when we were increasing the canopy, as we did for years. We have less photosynthesis and less alcohol with the lower canopy.”

At Rossignol-Trapet in Gevrey, Nicolas Rossignol remarks, “We are not changing the height of the canopy. We have old vineyards, with a high density of 12,000 plants per hectare. With so much sun, it’s not a good idea to have more leaves, which increases evaporation and dehydration.”

Etienne de Brechard adapted his approach to a shorter, but wider canopy at Domaine Chapelle de Blagny. From 51 inches (130cm) tall and 16 inches (40cm) wide, to 43 inches (110cm) tall and 22 inches (55cm) wide. “This keeps the bunches protected in a fresh area, especially in the evening, so the grapes are under the leaf. It is more sensitive to mildew but keeps more acidity, and you find the ‘old’ taste that we have in a normal year. The shorter height gives less sugar, as we look for a balance between sugar and phenolic maturity.” This scenario leaves 20 inches (50cm) between the vines, which is just enough for the wheels of the tractor. Brechard started this approach in 2022, with half his parcel of Sous le Dos d’Ane to make a comparison. “The berries were larger, as the sun doesn’t hit the berries directly. The juice was fresher and tasted more elegant and complex.”

At Bouchard Père & Fils, they spray a dilute solution of clay on the grapes from June to the beginning of August to protect them from sunburn, while at Génot-Boulanger, Guillaume Lavollée sprays with algae. In 2022, there was very little sunburn, which was not the case in 2019 and 2020.

Soil management can also be effective in hot and dry summers. Jean-Philippe Bret is concerned by damage caused by direct sunlight falling on the soil. The higher canopy helps, but he also sows cover crops of clover, peas, and wheat (good for soil structure) and plows only directly beneath the vines. He banks up the soil around the roots both to protect them and to help retain moisture, crucial in recent dry summers. Bouchard Père & Fils, Guillaume Lavollée, and Jean-Marc Vincent also put their faith in cover crops. Sowed after harvest and plowed in April so as not to compete with the vines, cover crops increase humidity and improve the fertility of the soil. “Vigor is important in the vine, to fight disease and resist the heat,” remarks Lavollée.

At Domaine Latour-Giraud in Meursault, Jean-Pierre Latour attributes his low pHs (his Perrières and Genevrières had among the lowest I recorded in 2022) to a compost of cow manure and grass, with which he nourishes the vine in the winter. “This stops the vine taking too much potassium from the soil, especially in a dry vintage, which affects the pH.”

Heitz-Lochardet relies on a deep pile (8 inches [20cm]) of wood chips in Perrières and Chevalier. “During the year, the wood decomposes, increasing the microbiological activity and keeping the humidity in the soil so that the vines don’t stress. Even poor soils such as Vireuils yielded a full crop in 2022.” It lasts for three years and costs €500 per hectare for the chipping and labor. It sounds effective, but I wonder if and how it may change the chemistry of the soil.

2022 Burgundy analysis

Whites

Generally, 2022 whites taste a good deal fresher than the analysis would suggest. The acidity is quite low and pHs higher than average. The pH after MLF is around 3.3 to 3.45.

Malic acidity was low, burned away by the sun, in the ballpark of 1.4g/l, with tartaric acidity at approximately 4g/l (4.4g/l at the higher end). The pHs didn’t change much after malolactic.

“The pHs were high at 3.4 to 3.5, and the lab said we should adjust them,” recalls Matthieu Collardot in Puligny. He held his nerve, however—admirable for a young winemaker. “We trust the terroir and did not acidify.” Undoubtedly, some producers will have added acidity, although I believe that few of those I visited have done so. In a choice to adjust sugar or acidity, it’s certainly better to do the former. The alcohol level is generally between 12% and 12.5%, with some just shy of 13%.

The vines that suffered hydric stress were likely to have stopped photosynthesizing. As these vines were largely on the slopes, it is the premiers crus that were most affected. Some producers added sugar. I feel this stems from an outdated view that white Burgundy from one of the three principal villages should have 13% ABV for a village appellation and 13.5% ABV for a premier cru, particularly if that village is Meursault.

The occasional wine had higher alcohol. Generally, this occurs where yields were particularly low and concentrated—for example, from vines suffering from court noué which is widespread. Vincent Giradin has a Meursault Tillets with 14% ABV.

Reds

Some producers recorded quite classic levels of malic acidity and pH. At De Vogüé, the malic was 1.6–2.1 and the pHs quite normal, which Jean Lupatelli attributes to their old vines. The highest pH post-malolactic was Bonnes-Mares at 3.45.

For the majority, however, the acidity was quite low and the pHs high. Webber says, “I was astonished there was some malic. In red, 1 to 1.5g/l. The pH is higher than usual at 3.6 to 3.8, with alcohol of 13.5 to 14%.” Ben Leroux says some reds had just 1g/l of malic. Grands crus tend to have higher-than-average pH. At Mugneret-Gibourg, Clos Vougeot and Ruchottes were 3.75. While at Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur, where a riper style is deliberately pursued, the pHs were 3.85. Christophe Roumier reported pHs around 3.65.

PH was high in 2018 and 2019, but it’s not the only parameter for aging—or indeed of style. As Jean-Nicolas Méo observes, “Vintages with low pH don’t necessarily taste acidic and the reverse is also true.” Guillaume Tardy in Vosne-Romanée, who has parcels from Fixin to Nuits-St-Georges, with pHs up to 3.55, remarks, “The feeling of freshness is higher.” While at Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, François Duvivier is pleased with the energy of the wines at a pH of 3.6. He acidified a touch at the beginning of fermentation where he felt the pH was too high.

At Faiveley, where the pH was around 3.8, Jérôme Flous told me, “It is as if the lab made a mistake, as the wines don’t taste like that. In a few places—just five cuvées—they were 3.85, and I adjusted with tartaric acidity after fermentation to protect the wine.” Some acidified a touch at the beginning of fermentation, while others preferred to do nothing.

Faiveley recorded some of the highest pHs in the Côte de Nuits, especially between Chambolle and Gevrey, where the season conspired with the historical legacy of potassium in the soil—probably because these were wealthier villages where producers could afford more potassium back in the day when it was used to fertilize the soil to produce more and riper grapes. “Gevrey is the worst culprit, while in Marsannay the pHs are always very low,” explains Flous. “In 2022, the Côte de Beaune pHs were lower than those in the Côte de Nuits. Mercurey was much lower, at 3.3 to 3.4.”

So, what’s the relevance of pH and why should you be interested? In the past, reds were typically harvested with a pH around 3.3 and would increase to 3.4 after malo. Higher pHs are accompanied by specific concerns in the winery as the wine becomes more vulnerable to unwanted yeasts and bacteria—acetic bacteria and Brett, for example. In 2018, there were issues with acetic bacteria leading to higher levels of volatile acidity, and Brett contamination is on the rise in Burgundy.

At Faiveley, they conduct a meticulous analysis for Brett contamination after malo in their own lab. “We have to do this more and more, because pHs are rising in Burgundy,” says Flous. “The lees will help protect the wine, so we want to leave them on lees, but if they reach over 500y/ml, we rack. Also, the cellars in Burgundy are warmer and warmer, and with high pHs and long aging, you have to manage this very carefully.”

Michel Mallard at Domaine Eugenie remarks, “Burgundy is expensive. We sell Echézeaux at a high price per bottle, so it has to be perfect. In 2022, with high pHs at 3.75, we like to settle carefully to take only fine lees for aging. There are some who will take risks with sulfur, but not here.”

Ben Leroux observes, “For the aging, we can give the wines freedom, but we are keeping an eye on them. We have to understand the risk and be disciplined. S02 is a nonsense at pH 3.7. The antiseptic property doesn’t work.” (The antioxidant does). He is much more rigorous in taking samples from barrels for tasting and he carries out meticulous analysis for Brett during élevage.

Leroux and the other top-end domaine-négociants are equipped with their own labs, but not everyone has that technical know-how and facility, so rising pHs are of some concern for Burgundy.

With every cloud, however, there’s a silver lining. As Anne Gros observes, “Our pH in 2022 is around 3.6, and higher in 2023 at 3.7. In the past, the average was 3.5, but afterwards, for the harmony of the wine, it is not bad, as it helps the tannin to be softer and more integrated.”

Quite enough about pH; alcohol is not high in 2022, ranging from 12.5% to 13.5%, with the occasional grand cru hitting 14%. (Here and there people chaptalized reds by 0.2g/l or so). It’s fair to say, not only do the wines taste fresher than might be expected of a hot season, but the alcohol is lower.

How might this be explained? Are the vines adapting to the warmer seasons or are they simply shutting down—a less extreme but similar scenario to 2020—with the result that the acidity did not fall as far, or the sugar levels accumulate as quickly, as might have been expected. Jacques Devauges at Clos des Lambrays remarks, “I was concerned by the drought. We had 1.3 inches (33mm) in July and August, and this delayed the picking date to September 1. The vines blocked, but a little rain at the end of August helped to get the phenolic maturity.”

Jacques Devauges of Domaine des Lambrays
Jacques Devauges of Domaine des Lambrays. ““I was concerned by the drought. We had 1.3 inches (33mm) in July and August, and this delayed the picking date to September 1. The vines blocked, but a little rain at the end of August helped to get the phenolic maturity.” Photography by Jon Wyand.

Mark Haisma observes, “It’s nonsense that the vines are adapting to the hot climate. They just go through the natural process of survival… transpiration slowing down… stomata closing. A combination of hot weather and the vine searching for water where there is none. Heat coupled with hydric stress, therefore there is no photosynthesis.” This would certainly explain the situation where vines were visibly stressed, but this seemed to happen only in the driest sites, while the majority of vines received sufficient water to continue functioning in 2022. Stéphane Follin-Arbelet, Directeur Général of Châteaux de Meursault et de Marsannay, who oversees acres 166 acres (67ha), reports that almost all plots remained free of drought symptoms and there were no blockages anywhere in grape ripening.

At Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Nicolas Rossignol argues that vines are adapting, helped by many years of working the soil with a biodynamic approach, and explains that Gevrey’s clay and humus come together to help the flow of water. “2022 was much drier than 2003, and yet the grapes were full of juice and the pHs were 3.55 to 3.6.”

Clearly, there is no simple explanation, but the major difference, in comparison with the conditions of 2020, was the rain. With pretty much no rain from May to August, 2020 was exceptionally dry and the grapes remained small with very little juice—high in sugar and acidity—while 2022 banked a water reserve in June and received just sufficient rain in August. Consequently, there was more juice in the grape.

2022 Burgundy in the winery

In hot vintages, it is especially important to think about transporting the grapes. Traditionally, in Burgundy fruit is picked into harvest hods, which are tipped into the back of trailers. These days, small cases are often used and are moved directly to the winery.

Fernand Pillot was concerned about transporting grapes from Pommard to the winery in Chassagne. He purchased 900 cases, each holding 30lb (14kg) of grapes, “to keep the berries intact. Anything picked in the afternoon is put in a cold room to lower the temperature overnight to 55 ºF (13ºC). It’s more work. Nine hundred cases need washing, but we are happy with the results.”

In this section, I tend to concentrate on reds, as there are so many winemaking options, however this year I have spent more time on the whites. Hotter summers make it more difficult to produce fine whites and less challenging to produce good reds. There is an insatiable thirst for white wine globally, and from nowhere more than Burgundy.

Making red wine is based on sensitivity and intuition, while successful white winemaking hinges on precision and accuracy. There are fewer, but more significant, choices to be made.

Recent vintages—picked in August—are much warmer than classic late-September harvests. Typically, white-wine-producers press the grapes and cool the juice overnight as it settles, but are adopting measures to manage the warmer ambient temperature. Some, among them Louis Latour, are using dry ice in the press, while Jean-Michel Chartron has a temperature-controlled press pan where the juice can be cooled to between 50 and 54ºF (10–12ºC) during the press cycle.

The vast majority use a pneumatic press, but there is a revival of the mechanical press, in which the pressure is direct, using metal plates, rather than by the gentle inflation of a balloon. There is no better place to understand the effects than at Lamy-Caillat in Chassagne. Sébastien Caillat presses for six or seven hours, during which he increases the pressure by feeling, rather than choosing a press program. “I like to believe that by scratching the berries, I can extract much more acidity. And by extracting more phenolics, the wines will have more freshness and balance. I have no proof, but this is my feeling.” His wines have grippy phenolics, quite different from a fresh-faced, fruity style.

Caillat is using a new small Vaslin press for Lamy-Pillot’s Montrachet. It was specially commissioned with plates that will not rust… which was a problem in the past. He recalls the 1996 vintage, the first year in which he used a pneumatic press for Montrachet. His father-in-law tasted the juice and told him to put it back in the press with the skins and press a second time, since the phenolics were too low. They had problems of pre-mox that year, and Caillat is sure the soft press was responsible.

Many producers are now pressing longer and harder. “Ten years ago, I wanted very clean juice,” says Jean-Baptiste Bouzereau. “Now I use foulage and I press harder, but to extract from the skin, not the seeds. I wanted more lees in 2022.”

Approaches to débourbage (settling the juice) are also changing. It was typical to make a strict cold settling for 24 hours, to have clean and fruity juice. Now it’s becoming more common practice to make a very light débourbage overnight, sometimes at ambient temperature. Some producers transfer the turbid juice immediately to barrel. “When it’s clean, I do no débourbage,” says Jean-Marc Vincent, who had 1,000 NTUs (a measure of turbidity) in his juice in 2022.

The turbidity—the solids from the press, and most importantly the phenolic compounds from the skins—is now considered by many to be instrumental in the aging process. But it’s fundamental that the phenols most sensitive to oxygen are removed by a degree of oxidation—usually under the press. This is achieved by adding little or no sulfur and letting the juice go somewhat brown. Some producers who had issues with premox in the past will go one step further and carefully separate and oxidize the end of the press.

The old crusher-destemmers had the advantage of extracting phenols that then had time to oxidize. They were widespread in the 1970s, when they were used to crush and pack the maximum volume of fruit into the press. Elements of this old-school, rough-and-ready approach are being adapted and used today. It can be particularly useful in ripe vintages, when some phenolic bite can boost the sensation of freshness. Crushing can also be achieved with dedicated foulage machines. It’s not just about the quantity of solids, but the quality. Jean-Marc Roulot explains that the foulage machine gives better solids by allowing him to extract the majority of them at a very low pressure.

Eric Germain, winemaker for Vincent Girardin, is a good example of someone using a combination of these approaches. “We have a crusher-destemmer and it’s not a question of space. We finish pressing at a high pressure and do not separate the end of the press. In 2022, we did a very gentle setting, so we had 600 to 700 NTUs, as we wanted a lot of lees this vintage.”

Frédéric Webber, however, chose not to keep the end of the press in 2022, despite its enticing aromatic profile. “The end of the press was very aromatic but ultimately it had too much potassium and so I declassified it. The challenge of this hot vintage to keep the acidity.” Jean-Marc Vincent also declassified the end of the press, as the pH was too high.

After settling, the juice is pumped away from the grubby gray and unpleasantly smelling heavy solids (the bourbes) at the bottom of the tank. These were typically discarded until relatively recently, but over the past decade many more producers send them to be filtered by a specialist company. Afterwards they can be used for topping the barrels during aging to replace the wine which has evaporated.

Etienne de Brechard at Domaine Chapelle de Blagny describes his father-in-law’s shock when he first suggested doing this. Brechard went ahead anyway, and the value of the extra juice actually paid for all the spray treatments at the 6-acre (2.5ha) domaine for a year. Not only is it practical and financially expedient to use them, the filtered bourbes are concentrated and rich and can increase the complexity in the final wine. Top producers—from Raveneau in Chablis, to Fontaine-Gagnard in Chassagne—have used them routinely for years. It seems aptly to reflect the nothing-wasted, “nose-to-tail” approach of Burgundian cuisine.

Yeast

This year I decided to check whether producers were using indigenous or cultured yeast for white wines. Indigenous yeast are considered by many to be integral to the concept of terroir. Yeasts brought in on the grapes help to express the identity of the vineyard and add to those inhabiting the winery, which hold the “memory” of past vintages.

There are, however, plenty of white-winemakers who prefer the certainty of cultured yeast. As Jean-Michel Chartron says, “White-winemaking needs to be precise and controlled.” This was a sentiment echoed by Guillaume Lavollée, among others. As pHs are on the increase in Burgundy, a fast start and a reliable fermentation of whites is a serious consideration. As the self-deprecating Etienne de Brechard remarks, “I don’t understand yeast, so I would rather add a neutral yeast.” Most producers who have made trials with cultured yeast seems to prefer using them, but there are yeasts and yeasts.

One producer dismissed the BIVB yeasts as “Creamy, bready, and not for me!” But Jean-Louis Chavy in Puligny finds them useful. “We began using [cultured] yeasts several years ago when I had a stuck fermentation. We have a choice of aromas from different yeasts. BIVB yeast VL1 makes the wine straighter and more mineral, which is useful in hot vintages. BIVB Bourgogne Blanc gives a more rounded and gras wine.” In Puligny Les Charmes—a village parcel next to Meursault—Chavy pursues a more Meursault character by using the Bourgogne Blanc yeast.

It’s quite possible for those using cultured yeast to refrain from using sulfur at the press. Sulfur is used at this point to deter deviant yeasts from starting the fermentation, which is not a risk when the fermentation starts with cultured yeast. 2022 was slow to finish fermentation, which was not a problem when using cultured yeast or when a pied de cuve (starter culture) was prepared. It was a year in which malolactic often started before the fermentation was over, maybe because the pH was high. In any event, it didn’t change the acidity much.

It’s important the juice isn’t too clean when indigenous yeast are used. As Jean-Pierre Latour remarks, “We use indigenous yeast and we want to do some bâtonnage, so we need sufficient lees, and the lees were really nice in 2022.”

It is worth adding that fewer producers of red Burgundy use cultured yeast than do those of white.

Maturing and finishing

The malolactic was rapid, often starting before the fermentation had finished. Tricky in some respects, but an early malo is an advantage, as Jean-Michel Chartron points out. “When the MLF does not start immediately, you can’t add sulfur and you lose a little freshness.”

Many of the producers I visited are pulling back a little on new oak this year. It can only be a good thing. New oak, warm vintages, and Chardonnay is not an attractive combination. At Chartron, all premier cru Puligny will have 25% new, a reduction from the more usual 33%. These days, across the Côte de Beaune, between 10% and 25% is typical for whites, but it’s not just the proportion of new barrels—there is also a marked shift from traditional 228-liter pièces, to larger formats ranging from 350 to 500 liters. They are more reductive; with less wood surface to wine, they keep the wine fresher. Bruno Colin has used 350-liter barrels for whites for many years, but now also for red. “I think 350 liters is better for freshness than barriques.” 350s are still quite practical for moving around, but a few producers, including Jean-Marc Vincent, use 500-liter barrels. I used a 600-liter barrel when I made Meursault, which of course cannot be moved, so is not very practical. Ben Leroux has foudres, between 450 liters and 600 liters. As he points out, higher levels of alcohol extract more from the oak. He avoids new pièces for red and white; using the white in new barrels for topping up.

There is a change in toasting levels, too, with many preferring a light toast or steamed blond wood. Oak is being employed to contribute sappy freshness rather than the creamy, sweet characters that come from caramelizing the sugars in the oak during toasting. Matthieu Collardot in Puligny, who is using 350-liter barrels, asks his cooper for “super-long and light toast,” which, he says “brings a bit of tension and helps focus the wine.”

And I am always coming across coopers new to me in Burgundy. Armand Heitz likes Gauthier Frères in the Loire. “The barrels keep freshness. They give a floral and eucalyptus character.”

Most producers I visit age their premier cru whites—and often village wines, too—for two winters. Bruno Colin’s new winery, located in the center of Chassagne, has enabled him to extend the aging of even the lesser white wines for a second winter. Unlike those from Chablis, the 2022 whites from the Côte de Beaune will not be bottled any earlier than usual. There are a few exceptions where freshness is in jeopardy in some delicate cuvées. Eric Germain will bottle Vincent Girardin’s Meursault Les Genevrières earlier than usual to catch the freshness.

To make white wines feel straighter and purer, it’s effective to transfer the wine from barrel to stainless-steel vat before or after the new harvest. For 2022, which is generously fruity and sometimes a bit exotic, this will give greater focus. At Domaine Yves Boyer-Martenot, Vincent Boyer prefers a combination of concrete eggs and foudres for the second part of the aging. “The eggs give a greater area of lees contact with wine. They are good for more extended aging, to give tension and streamline the wine,” says Boyer. “And the eggs are less risky than steel vats with lids.” He also uses some foudres, which “bring some complexity and largeness, but never more than one third.”

Traditionally, the lees were stirred during aging, but bâtonnage promotes a creamy texture. Understandably, it has fallen out of fashion in hotter vintages, for it amplifies the weighty impression of alcohol and concentration. I am not sure to what extent the lees are kept in suspension by convection, as some suggest, during that second part of aging on fine lees. More likely, the shape just offers a greater surface area of wine to lees. (I tasted Domaine Yves Boyer-Martenot whites in June and again in October, after they had been moved into concrete in August, and already they were having a positive tightening effect.)

If the wine is actually fermented in eggs, however, and left there for the malolactic, the movement of the lees is likely to give a creamy effect. Thibault Marion uses eggs for fermenting Pouilly-Vinzelles, to add body and richness, but not more than 25%.

In Maranges, Domaine Chevrot have bought more 10 to 15hl foudres. “They keep the lees in suspension and the light bitterness is typical,” remark Pablo Chevrot. The sample I tasted from the foudres were buttery with a slight bitterness.

There are plenty of producers experimenting with vessels other than oak in Burgundy. In Santenay, William Waterkeyn is using stainless-steel barrels for the second half of aging at Domaine Jessiaume. Most fashionable—in the wake of the small 2021 harvest—seem to be glass globes. Domaine Thomas-Collardot aged part of its Puligny Hameau de Blagny 2022 in a 228-liter wine globe. This tasted creamy, rich, and nutty, as though it had received bâtonnage; while the part in 350-liter oak felt much fresher. Admittedly, the latter had added sulfur, while the globe had not. (You have to be careful using sulfur in glass, as the situation is very reductive.) It is clearly too simplistic, however, to say that wine aged in glass will be fresher than wine aged in oak. It maybe fruitier, but creamier.

Just to wrap up with the lees-aging of the whites, Ben Leroux points out the potential beneficial effect on the chemistry. “The pH for whites can decrease as much as 0.2. Racking full lees in closed tanks makes this magic happen. Just playing on the lees. But you must have good lees. We had good lees in 2022. It was easy.”

Finally, there is the finishing process, which will sharpen the focus of this ripe vintage. It’s very typical on the Côte d’Or to fine whites, usually with casein, to refine the edges of the palate, making the wine both silkier and more precise. Dominique Lafon says, “Whites should be silky, not grippy.” Casein is also useful to reduce an impression of too much oak. Jean-Pierre Latour at Latour-Giraud used casein in 2022 to remove the more tropical notes of his Bourgogne. Eric German remarks, “I love to use fining. We need to keep the bitterness for aging, then soften that bitterness with casein.” In common with most producers of white wine, he follows this with light filtration.

Sulfur

Fining and filtration are useful and acceptable techniques to finish a white wine, as is the use of sulfur, despite the more recent negative connotations for the consumer—partly engendered by labeling laws that present sulfur as something harmful. For many consumers, a “natural” wine is a wine made without added sulfur.

There is a general movement in Burgundy to reduce sulfur, both total and free, but used judiciously in winemaking and bottling it is extremely useful as an antiseptic and antioxidant. To make a completely sulfur-free wine is risky and the results are often poor. Most Burgundy producers I visit aim to have 80–100ppm (mg/l) of total sulfur, although some are still nearer 120–140ppm. The aging process is longer, and the total SO2 higher, in the Côte d’Or than in Chablis (and indeed for most white wine across the globe), where total sulfur of 60–80ppm is more easily achievable and commonplace. The longer and more oxidative the aging process, the higher the total sulfur is likely to be. New oak barriques are more oxidative than larger and older oak.

Once free sulfur has combined, more must be added to keep the wine protected. It takes several seemingly small but incremental changes to minimize the additions and bring the total sulfur level down. These include refraining from sulfur until after the MLF. Jean-Michel Chartron uses 50ppm after the MLF. “It will combine more slowly than smaller, more frequent additions.” Racking under CO2 rather than protecting with sulfur is another option.

Vincent Boyer adds sulfur following the moon cycle and hopes by adding it at low tide it will not combine so quickly. “My goal is to reduce total sulfur to between 60 and 70ppm, and in 2022 it will be less.” Jean-Marc Vincent is already achieving this with total sulfur of between 50 and 60ppm in white, and between 40 and 50ppm in red. He doesn’t add any sulfur until April or even June, given the lees are sufficiently reductive. He admits, however, “It’s difficult to go lower than this.”

Pablo Chevrot remarks that in 2022, the MLF started before the end the sugar. This can stress the yeast, which can then struggle to finish fermentation. “At that point even someone who does not like to use much SO2 will add a touch. He used 30mg/l (ie 6g for a barrel). “What I don’t want is a yeasty print on the wine. If you add a touch of sulfur, they will start fermenting as soon as it gets warm again.”

At bottling, the majority of producers will have between 25 and 35ppm free sulfur, although many still use around 40ppm—among them Carillon and Jean-Louis Chavy. As much as 10ppm can be combined in the three months post-bottling. Given that bottles of white Burgundy travel around the world, it is sensible to bottle with at least 35ppm free sulfur to prevent an oxidized wine arriving in Canada, for example, where the journey can consume at least half that. Where Diam closures are used, 25 ppm should do the job, depending on the category of Diam. A good reason to use Diam closures.

A little lift from some CO2 is quite useful in a hot vintage, for both whites and light reds. It’s typical to bottle whites in Burgundy with around 900mg/l. Bruno Colin, who will bottle with 25–30ppm free sulfur and 900mg/l CO2, remarks, “better to have more CO2 and less sulfur.”

Among those playing with very low-sulfur (15ppm free and total 25ppm) or no-sulfur wines is Bernard Bouvier, who produces a no-sulfur Aligoté at Domaine René Bouvier in Gevrey. With an entry-level wine with naturally low pH and a short maturation (bottled in August), perhaps it’s possible to be more experimental. It is attractive, with a savory, nutty style, less fruit-driven, but how it will fare as it moves to the customer is another matter.

We all want our food to be as natural as possible, but it’s important to recognize that wine is vulnerable to oxygen and that sulfur itself is a natural product. Even the most cautious biodynamic producers use some. Jean-Philippe Bret uses 20mg/l at bottling for his Cuvée Zen wines.

2022 Burgundy—Reds

2022 Burgundy harvest
Harvest in Meursault. In 2022, as many hands as possible were required in the vineyard. Photography by Shutterstock.

Not much sorting was necessary in 2022, but there were dried berries to be eliminated. It was an entirely different matter in 2023, with many hands and hours required on the sorting tables. In 2022, those hands were needed in the vineyard, with as many pickers employed as possible.

Optical sorting machines, which used to be rare in the Côte d’Or but are less so now, as more can afford them, may appear an overkill in a vintage as clean as 2022, but Vincent Giradin, Château de Marsannay, and Perrot-Minot put them to good use. As Christophe remarks, “Now we can be much more detailed in the triage. It’s not used so often now to take out rotten grapes, but those that are too ripe or dry.”

Harvesting conditions have also changed—no longer is the ambient temperature cool. In the Côte de Beaune’s “white-wine” villages, many producers also make red. In this case, Pinot Noir is likely to be harvested in the afternoon and refrigerated where possible. Larger producers such as Bouchard Père & Fils and Vincent Girardin have the space to refrigerate boxes of grapes overnight, but it’s remarkable how many producers have, or are building, new, more spacious wineries offering the opportunity to pursue a more technical approach. Wineries are sprouting across the industrial estates of the Côte d’Or. Fancy cooling facilities are great, but renting and kitting out a shipping container with air con will do.

Many producers sought a cold, prefermentation maceration in 2022. It’s more complicated making red wine without temperature-controlled vats. In his garage in Chambolle, François Millet has no such luxury. Fermentation started quite quickly, but he was not concerned that the temperature might rise too high (it reached 86ºF [30ºC]), because his cuvées are small, between one and three barrels. For small cuvées, temperature is more of an issue in a cold vintage. “In 2021, the fermentations would reach only 25ºC [77ºF] on their own, so we had to find a way to warm them up.” In hotter vintages, it’s larger cuvées that need cooling down, not to race through fermentation far too quickly, because fruit can arrive in the winery at 86ºF in the late afternoon. Many will cool it down to between 54 and 62ºF (12–17ºC), but at Domaine Georges Noëllat, Maxime Cheurlin cools all his cuvées to between 43 and 46ºF (6–8ºC)—“a maximum 18 ºF [10ºC] lower than the temperature at pick up [so he can only be picking when it is cool] for a long, cold soak of nine to ten days.”

What of whole-bunch fermentation? Well, its popularity continues unabated. I find that in the Côte de Beaune, however, it can easily dominate the aromatics in 2022, and green notes can overpower the fruity palate, which was not the case in 2018 or 2019. Not all stems were adequately lignified during the short season. Heitz-Lochardet used 100 percent in 2022—too much for me, but others may like the results.

I feel that some producers making Pommard—generally those from outside the village—are reacting to the hot, sunny vintages by including too many whole bunches combined with too much extraction. Pommard has sufficient natural freshness without increasing the impression. It helps to identify specific appellations rather than taking a blanket approach. Fernand and Laurent Pillot judicially and successfully used some whole-bunch on Rugiens and Charmots.

Eric Germain candidly admits that in 2015 and 2019 he used too much whole-bunch. “We do not have the power in the Côte de Beaune terroir to use 100 percent, but some works.” Tasting Vincent Giradin 2022s, I felt 40 percent in Santenots made quite a marked impression, while 50 percent in Clos des Chênes worked a treat.

I don’t want to sound overly negative about whole-bunch. Used judiciously, it lifted reds from “hotter” terroirs, which had very ripe fruit in 2022—among them, Beaune Cras and Volnay Caillerets. It was particularly useful in ripe Beaune for a sense of freshness—although if the wine lacks substance, this quickly goes awry—whereas it’s not something that was necessary in Pernand-Vergelesses, and few seem to use it here, although Rapet does, and to good effect, with very light extraction.

Webber, who uses plenty of whole-bunch at Bouchard, points out the issues with high-pH vintages. “Whole-bunch is a very difficult decision. We risk increasing the pH in a warmer vintage, but I know that with a good terroir, we can take the risk.” He used between 30% and 40% in the Côte de Beaune wines and between 50% and 60% in Côte de Nuits wines, “for the freshness and aromatics from the stems.”

After tasting many 2022s, I am convinced that whole-bunch is more effective in the Côte de Nuits. Quite likely because the harvest was later in the Côte de Nuits, as it generally tends to be, and the stems riper. The whole-bunch works together with, rather than to balance, the structure in Côte de Nuits wines, while providing a herby aromatic profile and minty freshness—not only in the more firmly structured wines of Gevrey, but even in the most refined Chambolle.

Christophe Roumier uses a high proportion of whole-bunch with great flair. His wine has a fresh, culinary herb scent on the finish—an aromatic waft—while the textures are all silk and satin. At De Vogüé, Jean Lupatelli has introduced 50% whole-bunche, while in François Millet’s day, all the fruit was destemmed. “I like whole-bunch for the fine aromatic profile and fine tannin structure,” explains Lupatelli.

Whereas Pommard is quickly aggravated by whole-bunch, Chambolle accepts it with grace. Perrot-Minot’s precise and pure wines contain some whole-bunch, and they are as finely cut as Burgundy comes. Really, the best use of whole-bunch is when you don’t notice it. Mark Haisma achieves this, as does Pascal Marchand. For many years I was disturbed by the whole-bunch in Clos des Lambrays, but the 2022 is by far the best example of this wine. Jacques Devauges has made it work.

Every vintage requires careful extraction, and 2022 was no exception. As Ben Leroux remarks, “Climate change brings new challenges. We need to change our way of making wine. We can’t plunge three times a day.” Webber was among those who remarked on the thickness of the Pinot skins in 2022, which he compares with 2018, “although the skin and seed maturity was higher in 2022.” Just as many said the skins were normal. I assume this reflects how dry the sites were and if there was any rain before harvest.

Unsurprisingly, those with thick-skinned grapes spoke of more careful extraction. François Millet, who found a high skin-to-juice ratio, spoke of gently pouring buckets of fermenting juice over the cap. “It is a floral vintage,” says Millet. We were tasting his Gevrey Croix des Champs. “If you are too aggressive, you will not get floral notes. It will be too harsh.” This floral aromatic quality in Gevrey, which has nothing to do with whole-bunch, is both unexpected and charming.

At Bouchard, Webber decreased the vatting to 14 days. “I didn’t want a long fermentation with alcohol,” he explains. (Alcohol acts as a solvent, extracting tannins from the skin.) “I broke the berries, so we finished the fermentation in tank.” Perrot-Minot used very few punch-downs in 2022. At Rossignol-Trapet in Gevrey, Nicolas refrained from any. “We used no pigeage in 2022 or in 2023. It was not necessary to extract too much.” And he pressed at a low pressure—just 0.3 bar.

I hadn’t expected to taste tough tannin in this vintage, but there is actually a fragility to it—in the Côte de Beaune, in particular—which is easily upset. These days, everyone describes their method as “infusion”—a word so overused that it’s become meaningless… and anyway, it’s wine, not tea. In Santenay, Jean-Marc Vincent’s reds are very nicely textured, and he used 70% whole-bunch. Ultimately, it’s not what you do, but how you do it… whole-bunch, remontage, pigeage. And those who have a light touch and sensitivity to their terroir can produce lovely wine from the most challenging conditions. At the top of the slope just below the wood, the Volnay village parcel of Ez Blanches is a dry site where the vine stresses, but Domaine des Terres de Velle produced a lively, bitter-cherry wine, with light and crunchy tannins, by extracting very little—and succeeding in getting the balance just right.

2022 is not a vintage in which to use much new oak. Colder vintages can accept more, but I would much rather taste fruit than oak, whatever the vintage. I certainly tasted some red wines that were too oaky. The generous 2022 vintage followed three smaller vintages—2019, 2020, and 2021—and consequently, there were too few barrels of the right age in many wineries, forcing a greater purchase of new barrels or the risk of buying second-hand. A grand cru with its salt should, of course, have the intensity to marry with 100% new oak… but even for grand cru, I feel that less is more.

Much depends on the cooper and the toast, of course. I find that Rousseau and, in particular, François Frères, can be very strong. But many producers, Faiveley among them, swear by François Frères for the freshness and length its barrels bring as the wine ages in bottle. I have experimented myself, and it’s true that François Frères contributes a tannic freshness that is well-suited to wines for longer aging, but I am always happier to see a winery using more than one cooper, particularly when the cooper’s stamp is assertive on young wine. It’s encouraging to see producers moving from the big names to experiment with small, artisan coopers. At Domaine Jean Tardy, Guillaume uses Thibaut Montgillard, who worked for Cavin and then Meyrieux in Villers-la-Faye but started his own cooperage in 2016. I like Tremeaux in Beaune, which I see more often with every vintage. Blond wood or very low toast works well in warmer vintages, boosting the sense of freshness. Among the larger coopers, Cavin leaves less of an imprint than most.

Some are now moving to larger oak barrels for reds as well as for whites. Ben Leroux has moved to using more 450-liter barrels for reds, and traditional 228-liter pièces are ameliorated with a white fermentation before being used for reds.

Moving red wine to tank just before or after the subsequent harvest to continue its élevage for the final months in tank can be an effective way of pulling back the influence of too much new oak. It is also a practical and financially expedient solution where space or money is limited. Producers including Mark Haisma, Bernard Bouvier, and Sylvie Esmonin are among those who move their wines from barrel to tank. In warmer vintages, it has the added advantage of focusing the wines.

“Using stainless steel for the second part of the élevage can be equally effective for reds as for whites. It depends on the vintage,” says Guillaume Lavollée, “but in warm vintages, we keep more freshness in stainless steel for reds as well as for whites—a white-wine technique we have brought to the reds. We like the way it keeps the crisp fruit for the reds, which can become a bit dry in barrel.”

Some are bottling red wines earlier in 2022 because the wines are so expressive. It makes sense, as the harvest and the malolactic were early. And not only for “lesser” wines. Comte Georges de Vogüé will bottle its grands crus by the end of the year. Producers are concerned that their wine will lose some fruit if left longer in barrel, while nothing may be gained. After the very small production in 2021, it is good to have some wine on the market—and we can all at least hope that with two generous vintages, 2022 and 2023, prices may stabilize.

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