2009 Vintage Overview

2009 Vintage Overview


The hype which greeted the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux carried over to a lesser extent to Burgundy. Not necessarily by the producers or other Burgundy professionals themselves, but there was a sense of expectation in the marketplace. However, it did not take long for the counter-current of opinion to be felt among those who deem the vintage to be too rich, too ripe and likely to flatter to deceive. I remain a believer in the long term potential of the reds and consider the best whites, those picked at the right time, to be sensational wines,

The weather The summer of 2009 had a very different feel to it compared to its two immediate predecessors. It was not without problems – notably hail in May and some poor weather in July – but at least the ground heated up properly this year, which it had signally failed to do during the drab summers of 2007 and 2008.

There was very little wind on Palm Sunday, perhaps just a very light north-easter, which normally gives slightly cool but dry sunny weather. Then came the first piece of bad news on Ascension Day, May 21, with hail in Morey and Gevrey, especially in the grands crus

The flowering took place in warm, sunny conditions – though it was sometimes very windy – in late May and into the very start of June, setting a likely harvest date of September 10th. Fine weather in June with occasional heat spikes turned much more variable in July with some heavy storms, most notably on July 13th and 14th when over 100mm of rain fell. This made life difficult for the vignerons as they could not get into the vineyards, but it caused no real damage.

The weather continued unsettled, with alternating hot and cool days, and further storms on July 22nd and 23rd. There were occasional signs of mildew and even rot, but these were very localised. Otherwise the vines were looking good and the grapes healthy, with véraison around the end of the month, when the weather improved, albeit without really heating up.

August, however, was glorious, developing into a small heatwave towards the middle of the month before the weather broke with a welcome storm (rain and thunder rather than anything worse) on the morning of Friday 21st. Apart from a brief incursion from the tail end of Hurricane Bill (25th, 26th) the weather stayed fine for the rest of the month and growers could hardly contain their optimism.

The change of the moon suggested more unsettled conditions but, apart from a drab first week of September, it looked as if the fine weather had returned for the duration of the harvest.

The promised north-east wind (le vent de Rameaux) appeared from September 10, but bizarrely it brought clouds with it – the bad weather that had gone round Scotland, north of the anticyclone over England, came back down the North Sea and into France. The weather turned grey and cool during the week of Monday 14th, but with no more than a touch of drizzle and that mostly in the Côte de Beaune, where the vintage was more or less over. Picking started in the Mâconnais from around September 2nd, in the Côte de Beaune from the 5th and a few days later in the Côte de Nuits. It continued in Chablis and the Auxerrois through the middle of the month, in glorious sunshine.

First impressions This year there was hardly any work to do on the sorting tables. Nor was there a lot of discussion about the subtleties of the vintage since everybody had the same story to tell, the same smiles on their faces. It proved to be a large crop, though drier summer conditions in the Mâconnais reduced yields as there was precious little juice in the bunches.

The red wines attracted much more interest from the start. These are rich, opulent wines, with good tannin levels by analysis – but so covered by fruit that they do not show on the palate. Acidity levels are on the low side, while some producers whose grapes tended towards the over-ripe may have chosen to compensate by adding acidity. Indeed, much depended on the choice of picking date, with those who chose to act early having made the right decision this year.

The wines in bottle The wines are plump and attractive, probably appealing more to red wine drinkers in general than to passionate Burgundy lovers, who may prefer the fresher notes of the vintages on either side. There is indeed a school of thought which is beginning to disparage 2009, perhaps unfairly. Once the immediate plump fruit has fallen away a very solid, tannic structure will be found beneath. The real question is whether or not, 25 years down the road, this structure will give way to a further intense core of fruit waiting to be revealed. Except where the grapes were picked too ripe, I believe this will be the case.

The white wines have received a less good press, with many commentators and consumers being worried about low acidity. Here, even more than with the red wines, the picking date was crucial. There are certainly a fair number of unbalanced, rather heavy wines about. However the producers who were watching the evolution of ripeness carefully, and who therefore decided to pick early, have made truly excellent wines which will age very well. An in-depth tasting of 140-plus premiers crus in June 2012 yielded generally positive results, excepting where over-ripe notes were evident. The best wines came from those lower on the slopes, where the deeper clay soils seem to have survived the relatively hot second half of the summer better than the shallow stony soils higher up the hill. The wines of Chablis are powerful but perhaps not entirely typical.

At our 10 Year On tasting in 2019, the whites were largely successful, and fairly consistent in quality. Most were attractive to drink now, and in no imminent danger of falling over. On the other hand, there were few exceptional wines and no particular sense of tension. My experience with drinking bottles of 2009 whites at 10 to 12 years old though has been extremely good, especially from Meursault. In fact, I believe this has become a truly great vintage – where the grapes were picked early enough.

The reds were extremely interesting. This was probably the youngest overall showing of a vintage from this tasting over the last 20 years. Tannins are definitely present but were very rarely out of proportion to the fruit content. One negative from the tasting was the number of wines with a bacterial element, always more of a risk in a warm vintage with high sugar levels and lower acidity. To what extent this is a problem depends on how much of a purist you are – many of the wines slightly affected would pass off without a problem in public on most occasions. Only a small handful of wines in the tasting could be considered as spoiled by an overdose of Brettanomyces.


Tasting Notes

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Click to read tasting notes on wines from 2009


Tasting Reports

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Click to view – Ten Year on Tasting: 2009 Vintage


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