2001 whites are a lot better than the weather which begat them. A miserable, wet spring, with frost damage in Chablis, dragged out Chardonnay flowering. Wildly fluctuating conditions characterised the summer months with Chablis and the Mâconnais being notably wetter than the Côte de Beaune. Hail on 2nd August devastated Bouzeron and sliced through the southern Côte de Beaune, catching Meursault. Ripening accelerated through a generally hot, sunny August but stalled again in poor September weather which featured below average temperatures and a whopping 60-hour sunshine deficit. Inevitably, the cycle of harvest which Burgundy had seen since the mid 90s was broken. Little Chardonnay was picked before 20th September in the Mâconnais or the Côte d’Or. The Chablis ban was set for 1st October, dry weather finally returning the the Yonne from the 7th. High malic acid content gave the young wines an initial spikiness, obscuring the character and style of the vintage until after malolactic fermentation, itself often delayed by the heavy sulphuring of musts undertaken to combat the botrytis which was increasingly active after the 17th-19th September rain. But much of the rot was ‘noble’ rather than ‘grey’, boosting sugars by water evaporation and juice concentration, and this undoubtedly helped explain the respectable 12%+ sugar levels of the year. The persuasive combination of low yields, fair acidity and good sugar ripeness underpins the vintage’s best wines. These are to be found not just on the Côte de Beaune (where Puligny and Chassagne edge the weather-challenged Meursault) but also in the Mâconnais where the best strategy was undoubtedly to wait for maturity, which came well after the mid-month ban. Despite hail in the north (Rully/Mercurey) the Chalonnais generally produced ripe, healthy Chardonnay with little rot. Expect most 2001 whites to drink from 2005.
Much like 1991, this red Burgundy vintage was initially overlooked by commentators and consumers despite producing wines with purity, grip and high terroir definition. Blame the dull September weather, the critical razzmatazz surrounding 1999 and 2002, or simply the fact that the world’s shocked gaze was riveted elsewhere on 9/11. The fact remains that 2001s, with their intense aromatics, concentrated fruit and lack of harshness are quintessential red Burgundy.
A cool, wet spring and slow flowering, dragged out in dry, initially cool June conditions, meant uneven ripeness and staggered harvest dates. Crop size depended on location, being generally low on the Côte de Beaune but somewhat higher on the Côte de Nuits. Extensive millerandage (stunted berry formation) marked the Gevrey sector, greatly reducing crop load, directly contributing, no doubt, to the concentration and phenolic ripeness which made this area such a sweet spot in 2001. July and August recorded slightly above normal sunshine and temperatures and accelerated maturity. On 2nd August a ferocious hail storm hit the Chalonnais and the environs of Volnay, devastating its upper-slope premiers crus. September was dull – posting a 60-hour sunshine deficit – cool and dry. Grapes reached full physiological maturity at lower than usual sugar levels (11.5% to 12.5% potential alcohol), given the deficient light and heat, but the notably smooth tannins gave the wines unexpected gloss. The cool weather also meant firm acidity and consequently good phenolic extraction, clean lees and delayed malolactic fermentation, all very positive points contributing to the high potential quality of 2001s. Further south, 2001 was a difficult red wine year. The northern Chalonnais struggled with hail damage while many Beaujolais crus are marked by austere flavours and prominent tannins.
Buyers seeking classic wines should zero in on the northern Côte de Nuits. Drink villages AOCs from 2006 and bigger wines from 2010.