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  1. Tasting Notes
December 19, 2023

A year in tasting: Burgundy

A selection of some of the notable bottles of Burgundy our writers have encountered over the past 12 months.

By David Williams

Over the past year, The World of Fine Wine has published hundreds of our writers’ notes and scores on the wines of Burgundy. Here we pick out some of the most notable and admired bottles that appeared in print and online in 2023.

A year in tasting: Champagne

2021 Burgundy: When the gods stopped smiling

Conditions for the 2021 Burgundy vintage were undoubtedly challenging. But while it may not go down as a great year, the best producers were nonetheless able to make small quantities of fresh, elegant, and harmonious wine from a full range of climats, said Sarah Marsh MW as she introduced The World of Fine Wine’s extensive en primeur coverage back in January.

In 2021 the gods stopped smiling on Burgundy and sent pests and disease to wreak havoc in the vineyards, after smiting with an icy bolt. A hard winter frost nipped the vintage in the bud. This was a blessing in disguise, for the cool conditions would not have ripened a full crop. The results are better than anticipated, but it is not a vintage that made itself. Quality was determined by hard endeavor in the vineyard and winery. In recent vintages it was difficult to make a bad wine. In 2021 it was a challenge to make a good one.”

Chablis

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchots

From an east-facing parcel, right at the top of the vineyard, and the oldest vines of the domaine. Delicate and refined. Pure and super-intense, with a sea-breeze, lively, lacy, airy quality. Pure and singing vibrancy on the shimmering finish. Love it. 2028–40. 95

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Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos

Full, bold, and savory, without the glossy richness of 2020. It has a cooler, somewhat more austere face, but with less density in 2021, this powerful wine is more approachable. 2028–40. 95

Côte de Nuits

Domaine Denis Mortet  Le Chambertin Grand Cru

This is the first time the wine has not been matured in 100% new oak; two thirds this year. Silky and discreet, pure and intense. Great presence and definition, with a truly superb finish. Spine-chilling. 2030–40. 99–100

Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Le Musigny Grand Cru

Finesse, precision, and impressive intensity. Great depth combined with superb elegance. Super concise. 2030–40. 99–100

Côte de Beaune

Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Premier Cru Perrières

Straight, tight, dense, and channeled. Burnished steel. Super-intense. Precise. Fabulous finish. 2026–40. 97

Domaine des Comtes Lafon Le Montrachet

And another step up again. Stately. It exudes such presence. Goes on and on. 2028–40. 99–100

2020 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: An impossible calibration

Back in February, Michael Schuster wondered how to rate the sublime ripeness, definition, intensity, beauty, and transparency of the latest releases from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, as wondrous as the very grand 2019s but in an utterly different way.

“As a back-to-back pair of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti vintages, 2020 and 2019 are as wonderful as each other in quality, but about as different in style and character as you can imagine. My scores are all but identical to those for the 2019s, but what they represent as a vinous experience, is utterly different, so contrasting are the proportions, the structure, the characteristics of the two years.”

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2020 Romanée-Conti Grand Cru

(29hl/ha; 500 dozen; average2010–17: 432; highest since 2009:657 in 2014; 13.5% ABV)

Dark red; its teeming yet delicate scents have a glass-charging character of a quite different order … close your eyes and you drift in a reverie of absorption drinking in its exquisitely nuanced black-cherry fruit and mineral impressions. It’s giddying, heady, exhilarating. The palate is typically 2020-quick, but this very fresh acidity is flatteringly cushioned by the depth and sweetness of its fruit, beautifully delineated, the balance of an immaculate strawberry, juicily sweet, lip-smacking in its sharpness, exalted by its particular fruit-fragrance. Teasing, exquisite. But all this as vinosity, of course.

And as so often, Romanée-Conti is in a class and kind of its own within the group: less fat than La Tâche, less fruit-stacked than Richebourg, more tenacious, racily present, mouthcoating than either, with a sheer volume of perfume that is utterly singular. The 2020 is quintessential RC, in a classical register, astonishing in its freshness from this very warm, very dry year. Less rich, more diaphanous, discreet than the 2019, but every bit as ravishing. A wine to make you wonder. Extraordinary that a mouthful of wine can transport you in the way that this does. It would enrapture you tomorrow, as it has a privileged few today. But in a decade and a half it will double your delight … and much more. 2035–55+. 99–100

2021 and 2020 Comte Liger-Belair: Different in character but equally remarkable

Comte Liger-Belair during the harvest.
Comte Liger-Belair during the harvest. Photography by Jon Wyand.

The Comte Liger-Belair en primeur tastings, this year and last, came too late for the World of Fine Wine Burgundy presentation schedule, but a tasting of the 2021s in London in April made it possible for Michael Schuster to present these two contrasting but equally exciting vintages together.

According to Schuster, “[2020] is a magnificent year across the board for Comte Liger-Belair, one that had me noting, as I tasted: ‘Every wine is a star at its level.’ And, looking for a vintage comparison, it made me think of a sort of latter-day, better defined, super-1990. The image, anyway, of the best 1990s. Wines with a profusion of flavor, a flatteringly rich fleshiness of texture, but a marked minerality, defining freshness, and sense of origin, too. Bounty and class combined. And enhanced by the polished perfection of Comte Liger-Belair’s viticulture and winemaking today.

“The 2021s here don’t have the substance or structure of their respective 2020s (I didn’t taste the 2019s because of Covid), and if they don’t have quite the ‘star’ quality of the previous year, they are wines that combine purity, transparency, delicacy, and intensity, and, at the top end, great beauty. You will see that I score the two vintages qualitatively very closely but, as usual, the style and character that the notes recount are very different for the two years. The freshly sweet juiciness and easy harmony of the 2021s will reward enormously from early on, but their real class and completeness will emerge with time. Because, for all their likely early appeal, they have the requisites to age beautifully, too.”

2021 La Romanée Grand Cru Monopole (Vat Sample)

Deepish mid purple, the darkest wine in the line up; the density and presence of the Clos de Vougeot to smell, but with much more subtlety, presence, temptation to linger—haunting! Rich, medium-full wine, freshly defined in acidity, gently firm but fine-grained in tannin, a relatively structured constitution in the vintage, indeed with some of the structural presence of the Vougeot. Deep, dense, and sweetly ripe in its fruit core, close-grained, complex, notably tight in the group, with great, class, complexity, perfume, and persistence. A grandeur, a magnificence, of a different style and presence to the Echézeaux. Wonderfully tenacious wine, which will need time in a way the other 2021s won’t. Superb, long-term La Romanée, utterly complete, and by some measure the most long-term and backward of this line-up. 2036–60+. | 97–98

2020 La Romanée Grand Cru Monopole (Barrel Sample)

Deep purple; relatively closed to smell, rather like the Clos de Vougeot, but clearly dense, complex, glass-filling, floral-fragrant, persistent, and minerally—this youthful nose alone calling on one to linger long; deep, rich, and generously proportioned, freshly defined, finely and firmly tannic, wonderfully packed yet elegantly contained Vosne proportions; profound on the palate, mouthcoating, sweet, abundantly scented, and teeming with endless, effortless, gentle inner energy. A sublime expression of top Burgundy, so long to enjoy, and with tremendous length to finish. That a liquid you explore in your mouth can so quicken the senses and be the source of such wonder, should remain an astonishment to even the most experienced wine lover. To appreciate on bended knee. In 20 years’ time. A tribute to both site and winemaking. So that putting a bald, figured score here—even the one I have to give—just seems a bit silly. Wine doesn’t get any better than this! 2035–60+. | 100

2019 Burgundy: Sunny side up

Esprit Leflaive
Maison Leflaive in Puligny. Photography courtesy of Domaine Leflaive.

In WFW82, Jasper Morris MW introduced a tasting shared with a dozen tasters from the UK wine trade (including Neil Beckett, Matthew Hemming MW, and Linden Wilkie), at the annual Burgfest, which convenes in Burgundy to re-taste recent vintages in-depth in bottle. The vintage in question was the second in the 2018–2020 trio of dry, hot vintages in Burgundy, different from those either side, which produced healthy, ripe grapes and heady, sunny wines, with few negative telltale signs of the drought and heat, but pointers, by turns concerning and encouraging, into the changing performance of individual producers, villages, and vineyards.

2019 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet 

Matthew Hemming MW: This is limey and reductive but with so much underlying substance and density. Spicy, crystaline, pure, and poised. As it gets more air, the point at which the wine takes off moves forward, so it’s no longer on the mid-palate but from almost before it hits your lips. This is aerial, electric, and just pops all over! Saline, long. | 99

2019 J Grivot Richebourg 

Linden Wilkie: Mid-ruby; a fine nose, youthful, but already with great refinement; lovely fruit, dripping with super-detailed flavor; something gently mossy and cool, immaculate, with real poise; such equilibrium, complexity, and length. There’s quite a bit of very fine oak to resolve, but the wine—transparent as it is—does feel like it has the quiet concentration to do it. It may need a long time in the cellar, but it is all here. Thrilling wine. | 99

2022 Franck Chavy Brouilly: A wine of carnival and riot from France’s Janus region

And finally, also in WFW82, Andrew Jefford finished a year of One Bottle columns with a Rabelaisian Beaujolais. 

“The wine was deep purplered and opaque. Aromas calved from the glass: powerfully fruit-laden, of course, but with citrus-peel perfumes, too—and spotless, wholly undeviant. When you tumble into red wines of carnival and riot like this, Rabelais and his Gargantua motto come to mind: ‘Live joyfully!’ Monk, doctor, theological scholar, humanist, curator of obscenities, and compiler of colossally irreverent, wine-sodden word-riffs written almost 500 years ago, Rabelais could, I felt, have been sniffing Chavy’s Brouilly with me. ‘Ah, the bouquet of wine: how much more smiling, whiling, beguiling it is, much more paradisiacal and delightful than that of oil!’ Well, indeed. This was the sort of scent after which sipping becomes obligatory. ‘I moisten. I humidify. I drink lest I die.’

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