2018 is a solar vintage. The Burgundy growing season was graced with a third more sunlight hours than 2003 – the warmest-ever year – but without the extreme spikes in temperature. This, coupled with the fact that there was twice as much rain in March as usual, led to an abundant fruit set, one of the longest harvests on record and a prodigious vintage.
White wines are generally rich and deep fruited. While they don’t have quite the same definition and tension as 2017 or 2014, the 2018s will be ready to drink earlier, and the best have sufficient structure and length to balance their weight and generosity. Winemaker Philippe Colin, based in Chassagne-Montrachet, points out that high yields are good for Chardonnay, and certainly the top whites like his Chevalier Montrachet are exceptional, warranting space in any serious wine lover’s cellar. Avoid chunky, broad-shouldered efforts and focus on the best Grand Cru sites with older vines and good water retention, including Leflaive, Comte Lafon, Coche-Dury and Roulot.
For reds, the warmth of the vintage ensured ripe, sweet fruit covering plush, juicy tannins. The option of when to pick has led to a variety of expressions. Those domaines that picked very late have ended up with very viscous wines with alcohol levels above 14.5 per cent. Others who played it safe and picked very early, for fear of dropping acidity, have wines that are a little underpowered and overly herbaceous. Neither are bad, but they perhaps do not reflect the full potential of the vintage. Those who got it right include Romain Taupenot – whose Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Bel Air has a great balance between freshness and depth, power and vibrancy – and Pierre Duroché, whose 2018 wines, such as Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaut Saint Jacques, show trademark purity, energy and deftness.
It is clearly a tremendous year for Gevrey-Chambertin generally. Across different growers and sites, the wines have a plush, deeply perfumed swagger – none more so than at Loïc Dugat-Py, whose Mazi-Chambertin is suffusing, sublime and with a persistence I could still taste half an hour after drinking.
From other blue-chip villages of the Côte d’Or there is a lot to love. Philippe Pacalet, for example, has made some of his most thrilling wines yet, including a majestic Ruchottes Chambertin. Meanwhile, the top wines from Vosne Romanée – such as Dujac’s Romanée Saint Vivant, Comte Liger-Belair’s La Romanée and Sylvain Cathiard’s 1er Cru Malconsorts – will be well worth seeking out. And in Morey-Saint-Denis, both Clos des Lambrays and Clos de Tart 2018 are monumental.
In the south, the most compelling wines are from Pommard and Corton, where a tendency towards power over finesse is countered by seductive fruit and satin-smooth tannins. De Montille has made extremely impressive wines – particularly the Pommard Premier Cru Pezerolles and Corton Clos du Roi – and Comte Armand’s Clos des Epeneaux is magnificent.
Certainly, those who approached last year’s 2017 Burgundy campaign with a degree of reservation to “keep their powder dry” for 2018 can now confidently prepare to charge, all guns blazing.
Tom Harrow is a fine-wine commentator, consultant and presenter. His Grand Crew Classé is the ultimate invitation-only club for fine-wine enthusiasts, with exclusive access to rare bottles and events around the world. Follow him on Twitter: @winechapUK.