Yields Matter in 2017
Burgundy grape growers were blessed with very high yields in 2017. Many producers are happy to see their cellar filling up after many years of below average yields.
The overall yields in 2016 Burgundy was around 20% below average, with some regions losing more than 70% of the crop. Many grape growers were put on financial pressure in 2016 due to the low production of 2016. This has lead to many of them leaving more buds than usual and not doing any green harvesting in 2017, hence letting the abundant bunches of grapes grow freely. Perhaps some growers were optimistic and hoped that all their grapes would ripen nicely, but it was not the reality of this vintage.
From a few insider conversations while I was in Burgundy last week, it’s rumoured that some grape growers have yields in excess of 100hl/ha! They will have to declassify the some of their grapes in order to obey the AOC limits.
Lower yields does not always mean better quality (a good example is Jacky Truchot wines). However it is the case for 2017. Lowering the yields by grape thinning is very important to achieve high quality wines in 2017 as it ensures the grapes achieve good ripeness, acidity and concentration (particularly for Pinot Noir).
Assessment of the Wine
The Pinot Noir in 2017 is looking promising though the quality varies significantly. There is a huge variation in the overall quality of the Pinot Noir grapes. Many producers made some fabulous 2017 red Burgundies such as Domaine Duroché and Domaine Fourrier in Gevrey Chambertin. The grapes from them achieved good phenolic ripeness and acid balance, classic in style. There are also some wines I have tasted from barrel that lacked concentration and ripeness. The lesser Pinot Noir from 2017 could be compared to the quality of 2007 or even 1997. Whereas the superior Pinot Noir from 2017 could be as good as 2016. Good to Fine quality.
From the few Chardonnay I have tasted from 2017, they are showing more consistency than the Pinot Noir in 2017. The Chardonnay grapes from 2017 showed good brightness and intensity, fair ripeness and nice focused acidity. The 2017 Cote de Beaune Chardonnay reminds me of white Burgundies from 2012/2013, generous fruits with nice acidity. 2017 should be superior to 2015 in terms of acid profile but it does not have the same tension as 2014. Fine quality.
While it is too early to judge the quality of 2017 at this stage as some wines haven’t even gone through malolactic fermentation, overall 2017 appears to be successful (both quantity and quality). White wines are looking promising with quality close to 2013. While the quality of the Pinot Noir varies significantly, I am certain there will be some great wines coming from this vintage as well as some mediocre wines. To avoid diluted Pinot Noir, I would be wary of buying Bourgogne level wines especially from less meticulous producers.