2008 Vintage Overview

2008 Vintage Overview


I nicknamed 2008 as the second Sarkozy summer (see 2007): it was another cool and frequently damp season during which the ground never warmed up, and with significant disease pressure to trouble the growers. Yet it still proved possible to make good wine.

The weather After a cold but mostly dry winter, the spring got off to a slow start. April was an old-fashioned month, with something of everything but none of the heat of 12 months earlier. This made a brief appearance in the first ten days of May after which the weather turned grey, gloomy, cool and occasionally wet. When this went on well into June fears of another poor summer began to mount, along with the risk of mildew. The vines also showed signs of chlorosis and the flowering, which happened through the second and third weeks of June (suggesting late September for the harvest), was strung out, with some of the plentiful bunches suffering from coulure or millerandage.

Then, on June 24, after a couple of heavy, humid and hot days, the wind turned more to the north-west and delivered a week of beautiful sunshine, warm and dry without excessive heat: the sort of weather that never appeared through the middle of the 2007 summer. July was promising – again an improvement on 2007 – until a hailstorm at nearly the end of the month (Saturday 26th) that damaged vineyards in Volnay, Pommard, Meursault, Beaune and especially Savigny.

There were some hot days in the first half of August, unfortunately including a hailstorm in the Mâconnais on the 7th; but then a pattern of repeated westerly fronts set in, with frequent showers and temperatures mostly below the seasonal average. A deluge on the 12th was not, fortunately, accompanied by hail. By the middle of the month it was cold enough to start having fires at home in the evening. Fortunately, the last week cheered up considerably, with a succession of hot, sunny days.

The long-term forecast had promised a fine, dry September, but it did not materialize for the first half of the month. Rain on Thursday 11th, continuing sporadically for the next two days caused deep gloom, especially in the Côte de Beaune and further south. Imagine the relief when Sunday 14th dawned bright, cool and clear – at long last the wind had turned from the west to the north or north-east.

This new weather pattern stayed in place, thank goodness, for the following fortnight and saved the harvest. A few people started picking on Sunday 21st, with the main bunch beginning around Thursday 25th. It was not easy, with hail, oïdium, mildew, rot and unripe grapes to contend with, but those who had done their work in the vineyard well and were properly equipped at harvest were reasonably content – temperatures were around or above 12°C.

The cool, drying wind dropped on Sunday 28th, a marvellous, warm, late summer’s day, as indeed was the following Monday. But the next day, the wind returned to the westerly airflow that had dominated the summer and things became cool and gloomy late in the week. Better weather returned for the following week, when the most hardened of determined late-pickers completed their harvest.

First impressions Unquestionably this had been a really difficult season for the vignerons. In many instances yields were way down, either because of the flowering or through the various diseases of oïdium, mildew and rot. One or two producers effectively lost almost their entire crop. But these days every halfway-decent producer has at least one sorting table and the strength of mind to use it.

Wines of both colours, though, showed promise. The whites were intriguing in that they had a richness of fruit, especially in their primary aromatics, combined with a noted acidity behind.

Optimistic producers were thus inclined to say that ’08 combined the best of ’06 and ’07. The wines were definitely attractive but I did not sense the inherent balance necessary for long-term ageing. The reds were harder to pin down, because here it really depended on how the vineyards came through the tribulations of the growing season. I could see no obvious pattern – be it geographical along the Côte, or indeed up and down the hillside in any given village – to success or failure. Everything depended on getting the vineyard management right.


The wines in bottle I was a little less enthusiastic at the outset about this vintage though it found a number of supporters. The colours were typically quite pronounced from the word go and though there was often intense fruit at the front and powerful acidity behind, there was too often a hole in the middle between the two. This character derived from the fact that the grapes were effectively wind dried more than sun ripened. The question was, would the wines fall apart, which I rather feared, or would the separate characteristics knit in the middle. Ten plus years down the road, there have fortunately been enough examples of the latter to justify the more optimistic commentators. Even so the defining acidity dos not offer a mineral feel. For the most part, the 2008 whites should probably be drunk soon.

As with the whites, I was less of a fan of 2008 reds than many of my peers at the outset. Those who were upbeat spoke of the pure pinot character of the vintage (especially in comparison to the heavier style of the 2009s when they appeared on the scene). I had walked through the vines shortly before the harvest and seen the mildew and oïdium which were relatively rife.

The showing at the Ten Years On tasting was somewhat variable, with a handful of superb wines, a few which had clearly not worked, with various intermediate ratings. Only a few had significant flesh on the bones, others could be a little shrill. Most had retained a bright colour (a sign of their low pH) and very few were tiring.


Tasting Notes

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Click to read tasting notes on wines from 2008


Tasting Reports

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Click to view – 2008: Ten Years On

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