2009 and 2010 Vintages in Burgundy Produce Win-Win Choices From Home of Pinot Noir

Tasting notes from a recent visit to the famous French wine region

Which wine you choose to drink should always be a matter of personal preference, but wine experts generally agree that, after a century of New World challenges, "Burgundy" is still the answer to the question, "Where are the best pinot noirs in the world produced?" But Burgundy still gives us many choices, ranging from the heavenly grands crus wines of the Côte d’Or vineyards to the down-to-earth, very-affordable, easy-drinking, everyday wines of the Mâconnaise, Hâutes-Côtes de Nuits, Hâutes-Côtes de Beaune, and Côte Chalonnaise.

Additionally, there is the matter of vintage preference — what did the season and the weather give the winemaker, and what did she or he do with it? We have such a choice in the 2009 vintage — which is currently available — and the 2010 vintage, which will be coming to a wine store near you over the next several months. Generally speaking, the 2009 vintage was big and fruity and somewhat tannic, while the 2010s are less fruity but are fragrant, lean, and well-structured — excellent food wines.

Last week, I was able to go beyond a "sideways" glance at the fabled region, tasting both vintages face-to-face with a wide array of winemakers in Burgundy during the annual Grands Jours trade festival.

"The 2010 vintage may be more consistent than the 2009," Jean-Nicolas Méo, owner and winemaker at Méo-Camuzet, told a handful of visitors tasting in his cellar in Vosne-Romanée, just a few doors up the hill from where his mentor and longtime Burgundy guru, the late Henri Jayer, lived. "In 2010, it was also a much smaller vintage, in our case about 40 percent less than 2009," Méo said, "But then 2009 was itself much bigger than the normal vintage."

Arnaud Boué of Antonin Rodet agreed as I sipped a sample of his 2010 mercurey during a tasting in the old Chalonnaise town of the same name. "We did not get the volume we wanted in 2010, but we did get the quality," he says.

"We picked early in 2009," said Marie-Andrée Mugneret, who makes wine at the family estate, Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg, including from vines in the famous Clos Vougeot vineyard, where she pointed out the new buds which will burst open soon to start the 2012 season, "but then when you work with pinot noir, early can be better."

If the 2010 was leaner, perfume-y and structurally sound, the 2009s kicked things up a notch in intensity. Here’s how Méo describes his 2009 Vosne-Romanée "Les Chaumes" — "Warmer, tannic, more alcohol, very voluptuous, more imposing, more seductive."

A year ago in New York, I talked with winemaker Veronique Drouhin of family-owned Joseph Drouhin about her 2009 vintage wines. "You can’t not like the ‘09s," she said at the time, and we agreed when I saw her in Burgundy last week that the same judgment still holds true. By contrast, the 2010s may not be as flashy (or fleshy), but they will nevertheless still be able to hold their own as stalwart dinner companions to wine lovers around the world for years to come.