WineThe Collection

Sarah Marsh MW reviews white Burgundy 2010

They don't have the investment potential of the reds, and they weren't hyped to the skies, but 2010's white Burgundies are fine, fresh and ageworthy - and drinking beautifully

Words by Sarah Marsh MW

White Burgundy
The Collection

A decade ago, before excessive pricing soured the Burgundy market, it was Bordeaux that hogged the headlines. As a result, one could have been forgiven for thinking that the fine French summer of 2010 benefited only the southwest of the country. In fact, from Chablis to Chassagne, mother nature shone right across France’s central belt.

At the very outset, Burgundy 2010 was a delight from barrel: in freshness and energy, it had the hallmark of a cooler vintage. Coming after the opulent, crowdpleasing 2009s, the lucid Pinots were loved by purists, probably to the detriment of the elegant whites, which, like the region as a whole, were somewhat overlooked.

Nine years on though, those whites are equally lovely, and the vintage is mellowing gracefully. The bright citrus and floral characters are melting into almonds, buttered toast and fresh hay, with many of the better premiers crus hovering on the cusp of youth and the more complex nuances of maturity.

These wines don’t have the fat of 2009 or the viscosity of 2012. Thanks to a small crop, they are intense, and they promise to age well. They are slim without being lean. In their youth they were energetic and fresh, and while most remain so, some have a certain flatness. I feel it is temporary. White Burgundy often goes though a dip at five to six years; 2010 didn’t, so maybe it’s happening now.

There are notes of botrytis in the mandarin and honeyed characters, most likely due to an electric storm on 12 September that quickly ‘turned’ the riper fruit in warmer, more forward sites, often premier cru. Some grands crus – notably Bâtard – were also affected. The effect was sporadic, but it’s more apparent today than it was soon after vintage. The telltale orange blossom aroma is attractive, but a chunky or heavy palate is not. Both exist. In true Burgundian fashion, you must cross-reference domaine, terroir and vintage in 2010. Herein lies the fun – and the frustration.

Meursault was most affected, hence quality and style are uneven. Some wines lack energy and definition. Genevrières is the most difficult to perfect among the top three premiers crus, and while attractive, the wines can lack a certain precision. (Perrières is more reliable.) The second-division premiers crus can be a little heavy. Village wines are usually the most interesting on the Côte, but in 2010 you are safer with Puligny. Start drinking your Meursault, and monitor progress.

Chassagne from barrel was energetic and floral (and often spicy), and it remains so today. In this tasting we had a variety of premier cru terroir – from the richer, deeper soil of Morgeot, to La Romanée at the top of the slope – and all showed true typicité: accessible but with plenty of staying power. A good Morgeot, such as Domaine Bernard Moreau, and undoubtedly Caillerets, will go another 10 years plus. Bruno Colin’s En Remilly was a highlight.

Puligny is the most mineral and savoury of the villages in 2010, with some spot-on ‘smaller’ wines. The premiers crus had length and intensity. There is no lack of potential here, but these wines need three to five years. Even once open, they demand time. I kept an open bottle of Domaine Jacques Carillon Les Perrières for 36 hours, after which this very closed wine began to sing, developing a long, sweetly citrus and mineral line. St-Aubin and village wines are ready now.

While it is early days for the grands crus, they were amenable and will evolve over another 10–15 years. It’s a lovely vintage for Corton Charlemagne, where even today there is a decent price:quality ratio from many producers. For good value, head for Pernand-Vergelesses.

With the exception of a few domaines – Arnaud Ente, Coche-Dury and Comte Lafon – there’s precious little investment value in white Burgundy. Instead, nine years on is a good time to start drinking them – and thankfully there was no evidence whatsoever of premature oxidation.