1994 Vintage Overview

1994 Vintage Overview


This was the year that Jancis Robinson was making her television documentary series on the major grape types, and wherever she went in France the rain was teeming down on the pickers, in startling contrast to the Barossa or the foothills of the Andes. 1994 was a modest vintage in burgundy and the wines should have been drunk up.

The weather The previous autumn and winter had been exceptionally wet, but the summer got off to a respectable start with a reasonable flowering and, apart from a major hailstorm in Puligny-Montrachet and part of Meursault on June 20th, the prognosis was good. August was dry and September began well; but heavy rain set in from September 10th. The Ban de Vendanges was declared on the 16th, with most growers picking from the following Monday, but the rain, alas, did not let up. The grapes were ripe, but sodden. The weather improved slightly at the end of the month, when the reds of the Côte de Nuits were picked, but by then the grapes were fragile.

First impressions Whereas the September rain in 1993 blocked the ripening process but retained the acidity, in 1994 the grapes were already nearly ripe when it started to rain. Instead, the water seemed to dilute the acidity but not the sugar, so the white wines came out soft, plump and appealing. They looked likely to be delicious young but not suited for the long term.

The plus-point for the red wines was an attractive, fragrant style of fruit; it was also a year in which the premier and grand cru vineyards, on their well-draining slopes, were more successful than the village wines. The negatives were lightish colours and, in the less-successful wines, a dryness on the middle palate.

Amazingly, at the Hospices de Beaune auction in November, prices rose by 40 per cent for the white wines, 51 per cent for the reds and 53 per cent overall (this is mathematically possible; it turns on the proportions of red wines to white being very different in 1993 and 1994). However this could be attributed to (a) a recovery after the previous year’s dramatic price collapse, and (b) a thank-you to André Porcheret, back in charge of the Hospices and responsible (along with a brand new cuverie) for a far better range of wines than previously.

The wines in bottle There were no real surprises, as perfectly enjoyable wines reached maturity relatively quickly and have now faded. The whites were largely uninspiring at the Coates/Wasserman Ten Years On tasting; there were still some attractive reds, especially at grand cru level, but nothing that suggested further ageing would be beneficial, and nor has there been since.


Tasting Notes

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Click to read tasting notes on wines from 1994


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