Deciphering Burgundy wines

AP: Asian Palate JM: Jasper Morris


AP: The 09 vintage is regarded as a fantastic one for Burgundy. Can you describe how it differs from the 2005 for both reds and whites?


JM: 2009 is indeed another fabulous vintage, though it is quite different in style to 2005, with less tannic structure. At harvest, the feeling was similar in quality and style to 1999, another year where a large crop was able to ripen fully during a fine warm summer. Tasting the wines there is more of a parallel with 1990, but maybe we should look as far back as 1959, a beautifully ripe vintage that delivered stellar quality for both red and white wines for the best comparison.


The whites have a great deal of character. They began to show their true qualities only after the summer, when a mineral backbone appeared in support of the graceful, ripe fruit. We were reminded of 1992, completely delicious wines designed for the medium rather than the long term.


AP: What are major changes going on in the vineyards of top Burgundy producers besides the ongoing trend toward organic/biodynamic methods?


JM: The single most important development has been the moving away from herbicides towards ploughing between the rows – not in itself enough to count as organic but it is heading in the right direction and aerates the soil.


Growers have been concerned to manage their viticulture to enhance the ripening progress but with global warming they are getting the right sugar levels easily enough. Now they need to make sure not to get too much too quickly.


AP: What are the key concerns in terms of winemaking for Burgundy producers today? Key marketing concerns?


JM: There is a lot more discussion about including stems in the red winemaking. The late Henri Jayer was very much opposed to this, but since his demise and taking into account greater ripeness in recent years, quite a few growers have moved towards whole bunch vinification.


Marketing concerns – At the top end, producers are concerned to handle entry into (for them) new markets such as China correctly. Burgundy wines are selling well in general round the world, except for the lowest appellations and these are likely to remain difficult.


AP: Can you give examples and descriptions of specific wines that you consider are the epitome of what top class Burgundy at its peak are all about?


JM: Great Burgundy needs around 10 years to start showing its class. 2002 and 1999 are just starting to come into their own while maintaining their youthful fruit: Vosne Romanée les Malconsorts 2002 from Sylvain Cathiard at Christmas took half an hour in the glass before suddenly some really fabulous perfumed red fruit aromas burst into action. However Burgundy can age for much longer than this, as a magical Volnay Clos des Chênes 1945 from Michel Lafarge drunk a few days later showed how glorious graceful mature pinot can be.


AP: What other regions rival Burgundy for world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay? Any specific producers you have come across?


JM: Nowhere else is there such a concentration of quality vineyards but there are exciting pockets for pinot in New Zealand, (especially Central Otago, North Canterbury, Marlborough and Martinborough), a few locations in Australia, the cooler parts of the west coast of the USA (Oregon, Carneros, Russian river, Central Coast) and some parts of continental Europe, especially in Germany and Austria.



Jasper Morris MW
Buying Director, Berry Bros & Rudd


Jasper Morris MW Buyer Jasper Morris founded Morris & Verdin, highly respected specialist wine importers, in 1981. Despite running a growing business he found time to gain his Master of Wine Qualification in 1985. When BB&R acquired the company in 2003 one of the notable assets was Jasper himself, now appointed Berrys’ Buying Director. His expert knowledge of Burgundy, California and New Zealand has already made an impact on our list and we are delighted to include many new, exciting producers within. Jasper lives in Burgundy and is the author ofInside Burgundy, an essential guide to the vineyards and the people of one of the world’s premier wine regions.