Discovering Burgundy's Latest Vintage: 2010

16 April 2011
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee


Francois Millet, winemaker of Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, describes 2010 as a vivacious, energetic vintage. Millet is one of the most poetic winemakers in Burgundy, describing each barrel in terms of ‘he’ or ‘she’ and explaining vintages in vivid metaphors. “The 2010 vintage gives you synergy between the vineyard, climate and the wine,” says Millet. “2009 does not have the same synergy and it was a break just as the 2011 will be a break. Not every vintage has such forceful energy [like the 2008 and the 2010 vintages].”


It is clear that among the last four vintages, including the 2011, Millet finds the 2008 and 2010s most fascinating. “ The 2008 vintage is the light of the fall and it gives you the feeling of regret that the summer is finished,” describes Millet. “The 2010 is the light of the summer solstice. The light is diffused, more subtle, nuanced and less intense. The 2010 is about the summer with more happy energy.” In comparison, Millet describes the 2011 vintage as a jelly fruit, a “4 o’clock snack to relax”.


After a week in Burgundy tasting over 500 wines from the 2010 vintage last November, I can’t picture the summer solstice in all the wines tasted, but I do agree that the best 2010s have wonderful acid tension with nuanced and detailed flavour profiles. Among the top properties, this vintage displays lacy details and such fineness that wines like Vogüé’s Musigny dance on the tongue with amazing lightness yet with great intensity and persistence.


Clos de Tart’s resident manager and winemaker, Slyvain Pithiot, says 2010 was a challenging vintage. “The summer was not good at all – wet and very cool,” describes Pithiot. “Due to the bad flowering in the spring, the grape bunches and berry size were small. It is because of this accident of nature during flowering and veraison that the vintage was a success.” The low yield as a factor of 2010’s success was a phrase I heard over and over again from a dozen other producers.


Given the cool growing conditions, harvest was late for many properties, especially those waiting for full phenolic or tannin ripeness. At Clos de Tart where 2,000 cases of the Grand Cru monopole is made, harvest did not start until October 6th. Many properties harvested end of September with some being caught in the rainstorm which affected most of Burgundy on September 24th. It is incredible that given the cool wet weather condition, the wines I tasted from top domaines had such purity and precision.


Initially, many winemakers were unsure about the quality of the 2010s. The wines from this vintage, like the 2008 and to some extent 2001, had very high malic acid levels. It wasn’t until after fermentation that the quality started to surface. Winemaker of Domaine d’Eugenie, Michel Mallard, called 2010 a “vigneron’s vintage” that demanded intervention. From the beginning, the weather posed challenges – warm early spring followed by poor flowering and a cool and wet summer. Decisions from how mould and disease issues were handled to the date of harvest and handling of the grapes were critical points in how the final wine would turn out. While most of the producers give nature credit for the quality of the 2005 and 2009 red Burgundies, the 2008 and the 2010s more winemaker’s vintages. “It was a difficult vintage and we are surprised by how good the wines are,” Sylvain Pithiot remarked.


At Domaine Leflaive where Anne Claude Leflaive crafts some of the most sought-after white wines, the answer was similar. “2010 was a difficult year,” she said. “But we like difficult vintages. We get to utilise our skills and our wines are consistent because we are biodynamic.” I loved the tension and the energy in Leflaive’s 2010 whites. Being biodynamic, I always find her wines contain more tension and vigor but this is especially marked in the 2010s, especially her Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet and the more humble, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillons.


At Domaine d’Eugenie, the small, high quality domaine run by the meticulous Frederick Engerer of Chateau Latour, the wines had great tension as well as depth. I preferred the 2010 vintage as well as the 2008 of their wines over the much heralded and more expensive 2009 vintage. Similarly, when I tasted the 2009s alongside the 2010s at Domaine Taupenot-Merme, I preferred the 2010s for nearly every wine. Both the reds and the whites from 2010 have wonderful clarity of flavour and definition – it is a Burgundy lovers’ vintage.


Looking back at my wine notes from this recent trip, I am smitten with the 2010 vintage. For wine students, this is the textbook classic Burgundy vintage to discover. Find out what the flavour differences between a Chambolle Musigny versus a Gevrey Chambertin or a Nuits Saint Georges. Even within more specific areas, this vintage clearly details the differences between a Batard-Montrachet and a Chevalier-Montrachet or the difference between a Bonnes Mares and a Musigny. These wines speak to you in a clear voice, revealing their strong personalities and core strength backed by firm acidity. These wines are certainly destined for my cellar.


Some great 2010 Burgundies for your cellar


Recommended 2010 reds:


Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Romanee-Conti

A very sensual wine that conjures up images of silk and lace. The nose is intensely perfumed, complex and ethereal. On the palate the flavours unfold gently yet persistently right through to the finish. Layers of flavour include delicate red flowers, yang mei/waxberries, nutmeg and cloves. This wine brings to life the phrase, “iron fist in a silk glove” – combining intensity and concentration with impressive grace and finesse. Very long length in the finish. This is a gorgeous wine with a long life ahead of it. (97)


Armand Rousseau – Gevrey Chambertin 1er cru Clos St Jacques

Tasted from a new barrel sample, this wine is intensely perfumed with hints of roses, raspberries, sweet spices and herbs. The intense flavours are supported by firm tannins and substantial depth on the palate. The vines from this vineyard is between 50 to 90 years old. Rousseau owns one-third of the area with 2.2 hectares. (95)


Domaine Dujac – Chambertin Grand Cru

Chambertin is always powerful but at Dujac, the delicacy of the grapes from this vineyard site is allowed to emerge. The floral and sweet spice flavours are alluring on the nose and the palate reveals great intensity and depth with velvety tannins and firm acidity. This is an intense wine with great potential to age. An elegant and expressive Chambertin. (96)


Domaine Ponsot – Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru

Unlike other domaines, Laurent Ponsot says 2010 was not an unusually small yield. 25 hectolitres per hectare is an average yield at Ponsot and 2010 fell right within this range. The Chambertin Clos de Beze offers delicate floral and ripe mixed berries on the nose but the palate offers much greater depth and intensity with spices and savoury notes coming through. This is a gorgeous, elegant wine with amazing finesse and great concentration. (95)


Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue – Musigny Grand Cru

This Musigny sang from the barrel. The nose was delicate with an array of floral notes, spices, pomegranate and lively minerality. The flavours are pure and precise with delicacy as well as persistence. The palate has layers of flavours that combine intensity with freshness and finesse. This is a complex wine with a very long finish and the potential to age for decades. (96)


Recommended 2010 whites:


Domaine de Montille – Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Le Cailleret

This is a lean, focused, tightly wound Puligny-Montrachet with graphite, mineral notes in the finish. Hints of nectarines and apricots appear on the palate but they are subtle, dominated by the savoury, mineral flavours that carry through in the finish. A sophisticated, detailed wine with long length. (94)


Arnaud Ente – Meursault La Seve du Clos

This Meursault comes from 120 year old vines and only 600 litres are made every year. The vines were planted just before phylloxera. The aromatics are complex and seductive with floral, jasmine and toasted nut flavours. The expression is gentle yet persistent and the subtle flavours change every minute in the glass. Very long finish. (95)


Domaine Jean Marc Roulot – Meursault Tillets

I love this intense, concentrated Meursault from vines planted in 1973. The nose offers toasted hazelnuts, hints of butter and sweet egg tart notes. The palate is equally enticing with crisp acidity providing the backbone and lift. Very long finish. This vineyard has thinner soils and lots of chalk, which provides good reflection and heat from the sun. Amazing complexity and depth in this wine.(95)


Pierre Yves Colin-Morey – Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres

Very ripe, complex expression in this wine with hints of baked egg tart and toasted sesame seeds. The flavours are intense but it is the lively acidity and minerally finish that charms the palate. This is a detailed, elegant Perrieres. (94)


Domaine Leflaive – Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru

Leflaive made gorgeous wines in 2010 and Anne Claude Leflaive’s ability to combine the energy from this vintage with lifted flavours resulted in incredible wines. The Chevalier-Montrachet has a glorious perfume of honeysuckle, ripe nectarines and mangosteens. The intensity carries through on the palate with layers that change and unfold softly on the palate. This wine is captivating, with seemingly endless facets that keep you going back and finding something more in the wine. (98)