Top Ten Tips for Surviving 2012 Burgundy

Well, the offers for 2012 Burgundies are just getting started, and they’re not pretty to look at, with prices 20% higher than 2011 and drastically reduced quantities. We are seeing allocations that are no better than half of what we obtained for the 2011s. How will a Burgundy lover survive the year?  Here are ten tips:

1.  Buy lower down the chain.  2012 is a very, very good vintage, the best since 2005 (yes, I put it slightly ahead of 2010). In great vintages, you can think of village wines being equivalent in quality to normal-year premier crus, and the premier crus being equivalent in equality to normal-year Grand Crus. From the good producers that we work with, the lower-level 2012s that I’ve tried have been absolutely delicious (try this Marsannay from Trapet). And although they were produced in much smaller quantities than in a normal year, they will be much much easier to source then the top wines. You’ll also save a bundle of money with this approach.

2.  Buy outside the Magic Circle.  All the world’s collectors want wine from the same 20 or so top producers. Many of these collectors will pay almost any price to secure their allocation of, say, Armand Rousseau Chambertin. This has the effect of pushing up prices for those wines dramatically, well out of proportion to their quality relative to the many producers who stand just outside of that Magic Circle. No, the top wines from Domaine Trapet or Bruno Clair won’t be easy to get, but they’ll be far easier to secure than more famous names, and the prices will be much much lower.

3.  Consider the Cote Chalonnaise. This would be good advice in any vintage, but here’s a minor secret that makes it especially good sense this year: the Cote Chalonnaise did not suffer from the same yield issues as the Cote d’Or. Quantities in places like Mercurey, Givry, Bouzeron, and Rully are quite normal. These villages always represent excellent value for Burgundy lovers, in both red and white; in 2012 they may be the only places that made enough wine to satisfy demand!

4.  Chablis for your Chardonnay.  Chablis yields weren’t quite at normal levels, but they certainly weren’t as far off as in the Cote d’Or, and so they should be much easier to source. And with Grand Cru wines from all but the very top producers still at under $100, this is the best value in Chardonnay anywhere in the world.

5.  Backfill!  We continue to buy 2008s, 2009s, and even 2010s from our wholesale suppliers. All three vintages are excellent and they have the advantage of some built-in bottle age. In addition, we have been offering out to subscribers on our Burgundy list plenty of wine from local private collectors from even earlier vintages, including from top names in Burgundy like Roumier, Mugneret-Gibourg, and even Jacky Truchot! Please email me if you want to get on the list.

6.  Search every corner of the Cote.  Burgundy farming and wine-making is much much better than it was 20 years ago. It is now possible to get excellent, ageworthy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from many of the Cote d’Or’s less talked-about villages. Maranges, Santenay, St. Aubin, and St. Romain, for example, all produce great wines. Even slightly-off-the radar villages like Pernand-Vergelesses, Marsannay, and Savigny-les-Beaune will be far easier to source–and far cheaper–than from the more famous villages.

7.  Consider the other colors.  Chassagne-Montrachet produces delightful red wine. Pernand-Vergelesses and Savigny-les-Beaune make delicious whites. Santenay is more famous for its red wines, but look how close it is to Chassagne-Montrachet!  Look outside the box, folks, and you will find value (and availability!).

8.  Beaujolais is Burgundy too.  It may not be Pinot Noir but it’s technically part of Burgundy. More importantly, it’s delicious, and the great ones age into graceful, mature wines that fit in beautifully with a line-up of top, aged Burgundy. In blind tastings, Jacques Lardiere used to sneak in old bottles of Moulin-a-Vent as a ringer among his Bonne-Mares and Chapelle-Chambertin, and no one would have any sense that something was amiss. Yes, Beaujolais production was also down considerably in 2012, but they’re still much easier to find than Cote d’Or equivalents. We still have, for example, Fleurie from Coudert, and Cote de Brouilly from Chateau Thivin.

9.  Why not the Northern Rhone?  In this town, at least, lovers of Burgundy have become almost as fervent in their quest for traditionally-styled northern Rhones. The wines have a similar texture and body, a sensuousness, a focus on fine aromatics, and an aging curve that seem to please the same palates that like Burgundy. Although it’s a small wine-producing area and there’s not tons of wine, there are far fewer people chasing the wines. As a result, you can still pick up beautiful, traditionally-styled wines from the likes of Levet, Faurie, and Jasmin–including from the great 2010 vintage!

10.  Diversify.  I love Burgundy, but some of the most magical wines I’ve drank in the last few months have been from other regions of the world. Italy, for one, is having a very good moment right now. Brunello has recovered from Brunellogate. In Piedmont the modernists and traditionalists have largely settled their differences, and far more producers are making clean, terroir-focused wines of true Piedmontese character and extremely high quality. And this will be the year that the top 2010s–a phenomenal vintage across Italy–from those two regions start to come on to the market. Maybe this is a good year to content yourself with a little less Burgundy and make room for something else!

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