Burgundy 2022 Overview

2 opening lines sprang to mind when I sat down to write my overview of the Burgundy 2022 vintage:-

  1. A Politician, a Judge, An Archbishop and Rupert Murdoch walked into a bar…   
    Or maybe,
  2. A Highwire artist doing ballet whilst walking a tightrope.

Comedy apart, both the above cases concern balance. The Constitution of most major Western states requires the perfect balance of power between Government, The Law Courts, Church and lastly The People – that’s you, me, our neighbours and includes, importantly, the media. (Thankyou Google!)

For the Highwire artist, balance is the critical element between success and doing yourself serious damage!

In wine there is a similar critical balance between acidity, fruit, minerality, PH and ripeness needed to make a vintage exceptional.

Such was the case with the rather lovely 2022 vintage in Burgundy. The word balance cropped up time and time again when discussing the background to the 2022 growing season and harvest and the resulting wines, which in many cases were still slumbering in barrel when we made our annual visit to the cellars of our family domaines in a wet November week in 2023.

The 2022 growing season started early, following a cold and dry winter, which brought comparisons with both 2019 and 2013, with green shoots appearing in early April, almost two weeks ahead of the last ten-year average. Such early budding awakened fears of frost, a fear which seemed realised when temperatures dropped in the first week of April to between -1°C and -6°C for 4 consecutive nights. What saved the onset of the deadly black frost was both the lack of humidity in the air and the quick response of those affected vignerons, fearful of the catastrophic frosts of 2021, who lit fires, used heating cables and powered wind turbines to ease frost danger in key vineyards. In some cases, frost damage did occur, concentrated in the Beaune, Meursault and some Chassagne mid-slope appellations.

Following this frost scare, Spring 2022 continued peacefully, with mild temperatures and some rainfall. Flowering started in late May, with the rain causing some fears of mildew, but work on canopy management as well as the onset of drier, windier weather eased this particular concern. A large-scale period of thunderstorms between 21st and 25th June brought rain as well as localised hail with areas of the Maconnais particularly affected, but thereafter the weather turned warm and dry. Mid July brought a mini-heatwave throughout the region, with temperatures rising rapidly to 35-38°C and on 3 days the mercury stood at 41°C. Such intense heat caused some hydric stress amongst the vines, especially the younger plants, but generally the clay soils and welcome rainfall in late June eased the vignerons concerns over stress, albeit with many noting reduced crop, smaller berries and some localized sunburn. In the vineyards, yield reductions of around 15-20% were being factored in. A storm on 21st July brought welcome relief from both heat and stress when 20mm of water fell in only a few hours. Veraison, the change of colour for the Pinot Noir and Gamay, passed smoothly, with colour appearing in the Cote d’Or around 22nd of July. Likewise, acidity seemed to be holding up well and the phenolic levels in the grape skins and pips were deemed more than satisfactory.

The vignerons were beginning to have high hopes of a great vintage!

August started warm and dry, and temperatures rose for a few days with the vineyards showing more signs of slowing grape development, berry shrivel and water stress, but another small period of rain after the 15th again eased concerns and fingers were uncrossed. Overall, the vintage was set for an early yet peaceful start. Whilst sugars rose in the grapes, the vital acidity deemed crucial for a good vintage were checked and again these seemed to be maintaining high levels.

Picking started early in Meursault with the first Chardonnay grapes harvested` on the 20th August, and the harvest continued unabated by bad weather or heat until the 17th September in the Hautes Cotes and Chablis. This was a long harvest by recent standards, with many vignerons and winemakers bringing in ripe, well-balanced grapes on schedule and within the phenolic ripeness, acidity and sugar levels that they planned for. Sorting tables were used, but little was discarded compared to previous vintages.

In summary – the 2022 vintage in Burgundy is a very, very good one for both colours, borderline exceptional in my view. Despite early scares of frost and mildew, the vineyards of the Cote d’Or, Chalonnaise, Chablis and the Hautes Cotes coped well with the heat and drought conditions which affected the region in the summer months, in part due to the small amounts of rain that eased hydric stress fears, albeit at the cost of minor yield reductions.

The white wines are delicious, the ripe fruit balanced by a quenching, citric acidity and lovely minerality. The high points were Puligny, Chassagne and Meursault, as one would expect, but we saw a rise in quality and flavour profiles from the likes of the Hautes Cotes and Chalonnais white wines. Perhaps the clay soils and higher altitudes are playing into their favour in such warm years. Again and again, it was the acidity that lifted the wines, both red and white, and the word ‘balance’ was a perpetual underscore in our notes.

Likewise, Chablis was exceptional in 2022 ,exhibiting remarkable balance, a lovely searing acidity perfectly dovetailing with ripe creamy apple and mineral-led fruit.

As for the red wines, it is a similar outcome as for the whites, if not a midges hair width ahead. A warm year, with settled weather, good flowering and periodic showers of rain that kept the fruiting and ripening on course helped to produce a very good harvest. Cooler nights during the hot periods of July and August retained freshness once the Pinot Noir and Gamay had turned colour, and little disease meant yields were at a point that even a tough Burgundian could offer a smile.

Indeed 2022 is a vintage that will be making those lucky enough to squirrel a few cases away smile for many years to come.

I recommend this Vintage to the House!

Neil Goldie