Burgundy Vintage Report 2013


The 2013 vintage was harrowing for Burgundy. With mostly poor weather mounting worry along the Côte d’Or during the last four vintages, it’s not just the vines that are feeling stress. But after painstaking work in the vineyard, winemakers have provided superior pleasure in the glass. Read on and you will understand. 
Precipitation was twice the norm in April and May, and storms swept through during June’s flowering. This created a wet and muddy vintage. Crops were naturally limited due to coulure (gaps in the vine where no berries have formed) and millerandage (small, seedless berries amid a few normal berries.). Some vignerons used backpack atomizers to treat the soggy vineyards; other resorted to helicopters to avoid compacting the soils.

The vintage was also chilly and late, from start to finish. Budbreak was four weeks later than in 2012. May was 5.5 degrees F colder than usual. Harvesting began late in September in the Côte de Beaune and early October in the Côte de Nuits. Winemakers cited years like 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1984 as the last times they began picking so late. Burgundy’s rule of thumb is 100 days between flowering and harvesting. In 2013, it was 110. 
At least July was warm. In fact, a few days were roasting hot, with temperatures reaching 95-99 degrees F. These drastic temperatures brought yet another devastating hailstorm to the Côte de Beaune, sweeping south from Savigny-lès-Beaune to Volnay. Some vineyards hit by this July 23rd maelstrom weren’t even harvested. Luckier vineyards only lost 20-40% of their crop.
But sunshine is more important than temperature, especially for Burgundy’s signature red grape, Pinot Noir. With a bit of good weather, ripening was easy with the naturally low yields. Though Burgundy saw 10% less sunshine on average, according to Bouchard Père & Fils, the season’s length assured good ripeness.
Still, rains threatened harvest. So did an almost tropical-like humidity, which quickly brought on grey rot. Within a few days, however, temperatures plummeted. This delayed botrytis onset for those with the wits or need for additional ripeness to hold out.
Wine Characteristics
Some winemakers worried as the grapes entered their cellars. Many experimented with different techniques to compensate either for the possibility of less-than-premium ripeness or dry tannins in reds. 
It turns out the wines had all they needed – in both colors. The wines show vigor and, at least in the top tiers, very good purity. The wines also show their terroirs over their growing season. This kind of terroir transparency makes Burgundy lovers swoon.
Alcohol levels are very reasonable, even if most were chaptalized (the process of adding sugar to unfermented grape must in order to increase the alcohol content after some fermentation.) Take note: chaptalization is far from sinful! Done judiciously, it prolongs fermentations to add complexity, possibly improving ageability. It also balances mouthfeel, adding roundness to even out crisp acidity in the 2013s.
The reds show impressive color because of the small berries. In most cases, acidity rather than tannins supports the reds. The tannins are almost creamy they are so beautifully ripe.
In the white category, while some wines may show exotic notes akin to Alsace and Sauternes, I found very little botrytis in the 2013 vintage. Also of note, the hard phenolic edge that was fairly common in the 2012s is absent from this vintage.
Crackling acidity and solid integration will allow these wines to age well. Cheers!

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: DUDELEE
    541137 30

    Difficult to read, if you're not a wine expert. "Crops were naturally limited due to coulure (gaps...etc.)" - isn't that inherent to ANY plant and climate? "...backpack atomizers to treat the soggy vineyards" - sounds like they were SPRAYING the soggy vineyards? "...drastic temperatures brought yet another devastating hailstorm" - drastic temperatures CAUSE hailstorms? What are "dry tannins"? - aren't all tannins DRY? Maybe this just shows my ignorance!

    Jan 08, 2015 at 9:46 AM

  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 93,449

    Hi Dudele,

    To respond to your points:
    -Yes, coulure always limits yields. The point is that yields were limited naturally rather than people having to go in to do the work.
    -Vineyards often need to be sprayed after rain to avoid disease, and by using humans or helicopters rather than tractors, winemakers can avoid compacting the soils.
    -It seems you are simply rewriting what I wrote.
    -Tannins have different characteristics depending on the grape, the season and the vinifcation and aging techniques. Pinot Noir tannins are usually silky and supple, not unpleasantly drying.

    Jan 08, 2015 at 11:10 AM

  • I needed a few things explained too Dudele. Thanks Christy.

    Jan 08, 2015 at 12:28 PM

  • Snooth User: DUDELEE
    541137 30

    Hi, Christy.
    Thanks for clearing my queries. I didn't realize that wet vineyards are sprayed to prevent disease, or that you meant natural culling (probably the same word derivation as coulure?) of the grapes, as opposed to doing it by hand. I also appreciate now that there are different characteristics of tannins, and that they don't always have to be considered "dry".

    Jan 08, 2015 at 12:46 PM

  • Hi Christy,

    You said "Burgundy’s rule of thumb is 110 days between flowering and harvesting. In 2013, it was 110." Did you mean that the rule of thumb was 100 days and in 2013 it was 110?

    Jan 08, 2015 at 3:25 PM

  • Snooth User: Brian Mack
    108176 30

    Nicely concise report, was there in 2013, looking forward to tasting the vintage. Cheers indeed!

    Jan 08, 2015 at 5:44 PM

  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 93,449

    Hi, yes, indeed! I hadn't spotted that. It's been corrected. Thanks.

    Jan 08, 2015 at 6:15 PM

  • Your writing is technically accurate, colorfully written,
    and flows like the best of Burgundy. I have to say it
    "tastes" good. Thank you an d best for 2015.

    Jan 08, 2015 at 9:31 PM

  • It seems like bad vintages make good wine and good vintages make good wine too.

    If chaptilizing is acceptable when the grapes are under ripe then why is water not when they're over ripe?

    Jan 08, 2015 at 9:48 PM

  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 93,449

    Thanks, Sidintokyo-1!

    George, you have a very good point. (Just one thing - "watering" isn't legal in Burgundy...and it's not a problem there either). In other areas where this is practiced, it can bring a wine into balance. Purists don't believe in it, and I definitely agree it is better NOT to add or subtract anything. But above all, I prefer to drink balanced wine.

    Jan 09, 2015 at 8:43 AM

  • Snooth User: Controse
    1417184 16

    This article reads like it was written for vintners not wine lovers.

    Jan 11, 2015 at 1:44 PM

  • Thanks Christy. I popped the link to actually see what your opinion was about the 13 Burgs. I learned a few new terms too, which I appreciate, and thought you did a nice job with parentheticals for the explanations/definitions. I'm constantly amazed at the ability of vintners to produce what they do every year, no matter how severe the weather.

    Jan 15, 2015 at 8:34 PM

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