Ten Years On: Burgundy 2013 


Every year, while doing the rounds of barrel tastings up and down the Côte d’Or, I like to revisit an older vintage. Last year, I asked winemakers if they could pull out a 2013, white or red, seeing as we often crack open bottles that reach that decade milestone. This is by no means a comprehensive overview of the vintage, but it serves as a litmus test to see how various wines are evolving, whether it is a vintage that might be worth opening now or is best left in a cool, dank cellar.

Two thousand thirteen saw a very challenging growing season. Firstly, there was late, irregular, strung-out flowering so that by the end of May, the growth cycle lagged by over a fortnight or more. In many ways, it was a precursor to the infamous 2021 season, with constant showers making it problematic for embattled vineyard workers to find dry windows to spray. July 23 will stick in the minds of producers for all the wrong reasons. It was a day when hailstorms targeted the belt between Savigny-lès-Beaune and Volnay. July was warmer, which allowed vines to catch up a little, although even this month saw sporadic heavy showers. Mildew constantly lurked on the horizon, attacking bunches as well as leaves. This obliged frequent spraying to protect the vines, though, by this time, the ground in some places was turning into a quagmire. Tractors were so difficult to drive that authorities permitted helicopters to spray where necessary. That’s an option available to but a tiny handful of growers, and in any case, it’s a blunt instrument, especially if your organic or biodynamic vines lay adjacent to someone using chemicals. Thankfully, August brought some respite and was relatively benign. A priori, it was a very late harvest that saw many not entering the vineyard until the first week of October, the latest since 1984. Just to compound their problems, heavy rain on October 5 and 6 meant that botrytis had a late-season field day. To mitigate their losses, harvest teams pressed ahead and picked as much as they could, sorting the fruit as much as possible and chaptalizing to make up for the shortfall in sugar levels. Unsurprisingly, quality varied wildly at the time of their release; some wines were bright, fresh and approachable in contrast with others clearly afflicted by rot and green tannins.  

Revisiting around 75 whites and reds from the 2013 vintage, the turbulent growing season gives cause to its inconsistencies not just between appellations and producers but from wine to wine. On the other hand, it is definitely not a vintage to write off. I rank it slightly above 2008, another troublesome vintage that invites comparisons. Some excellent growers that I often rate highly struggled in 2013. Ten years on, their wines are either going nowhere or should be drunk. Here, I’m thinking of the likes of Bruno Clair in Marsannay and Virgile Lignier-Michelot in Morey-Saint-Denis. However, perusing my scores, the hit rate of what I consider respectable is higher than anticipated. If there was one moment that summed up the 2013s, it was when a sommelier at Chez Bruce poured blind a bottle of 2013 Volnay Taillepieds 1er Cru from Domaine François Buffet to a table of seasoned palates that included a Master of Wine. It was so delicious that I had to double-check that it was, indeed, my contribution: effervescent red berry fruit on the nose, lace-like tannins, the purity of fruit that is almost irreplicable elsewhere. My fellow diners were astonished when the vintage was revealed; none had heard of Buffet before. (Of course, they would if they read my reports!) I was particularly impressed by the wines tasted from Domaine Arlaud in Morey-Saint-Denis, a grower that bucks the trend in off-vintages if given time in bottle. Even the whites, generally deemed to be even more erratic than the reds, had a few gems up their sleeve, such as Domaine du Comtes-Lafon’s Meursault Perrières and Bouchard Père & Fils’s Corton-Charlemagne.

When all is said and done, the 2013s from Burgundy are better than the Bordeaux alumni from the same year. That’s damning with faint praise. But whereas the 2013 Bordeaux come across as enervated and too often under-ripe, their Burgundy counterparts seem to have accepted that they will never be considered a bona fide great vintage and do the best they can against the headwinds. There is a brightness to them, disarming simplicity, joie-de-vivre that makes you forget about the travails that year. I suspect there are more 2013 Burgundy whites and reds that may surpass expectations. Good luck hunting for them.

© 2023, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.

You Might Also Enjoy

Where Art Thou Chablis? - Chablis 2021 & 2022, Neal Martin, September 2023

Moving On Up: Mâconnais 2021 & 2022, Neal Martin, August 2023

Burgundy Focus 4: Ponsot’s Clos de la Roche & Morey Monts Luisants 1934-2019, Neal Martin, May 2023

Vinous Table: Chez Bruce – London, Neal Martin, August 2019