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AN EXTRAORDINARY WHITE BURGUNDY FROM ‘LITTLE-KNOWN YET SUPERB PRODUCER’!

“When I tasted this 2014 Vincent Prunier Saint-Aubin Premier Cru, it was everything that I look for in a wonderful white burgundy.  So, I had to try and obtain as much as I could get (which was only ten cases).  It reminded of one of my favorite producers, Pierre Yvez Colin Morey, but for an ‘easier on the wallet’ price.  If you are a white burgundy lover, like myself, then this is a wine for you!  Great aromatics of green apple, minerals, balanced with pleasant reduction notes of toast and freshly popped popcorn.  The texture is clean, fresh with nice weight in the mid-palate, and a mineral, crisp, refreshing, long finish.  Enjoy!” -Jim Knight, The Wine House

“Among growers, a little-known yet superb producer is young Vincent Prunier in Auxey-Duresses. Many Burgundy villages see multiple estates sharing a common last name. Pruniers abound in Auxey, and at least half a dozen estates share the name. So first names count. Vincent Prunier works in a small winery behind his modest home. His winemaking is ideal: fresh, pure, free of extraneous oakiness and concentrated. Supplies are limited, but because he's largely unheralded, prices are reasonable.” -Matt Kramer, Los Angeles Times

“For lovers of classic white Burgundies, 2014 is clearly a vintage to buy. Not only is quality unusually consistent, but the 2015s will be even more expensive and, as much as I like the best wines, they will probably be of less interest to connoisseurs. The 2016s may be more expensive still, as the potential size of the crop was sharply cut by the disastrous frost and hail this spring. Grape growers had to work as hard as ever in the vines this summer, but for less of a pay-off in quantity. And the ultimate quality of the 2016s is unlikely to be as consistent as that of the ‘14s—or even the ‘15s.”
-Stephen Tanzer, Vinous
2014 Vincent Prunier Saint-Aubin "Sur le Sentier du Clou" 1er Cru
$49.99
Lowest Price in the Country!

Jim Knight’s Tasting Notes: Great aromatics of green apple and minerals, balanced with pleasant reduction notes of toast and freshly popped popcorn. A pleasant texture on the palate that is clean and fresh with a nice weight in the mid-palate and a mineral, crisp, refreshing long finish.

THE 2014 WHITE BURGUNDIES: WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
By Stephen Tanzer, Vinous

From the outset, most winemakers on the Côte de Beaune placed the 2014 vintage in the same style category as 2012, 2010 and 2008—fresh, mineral-driven wines with the density and backbone to reward aging. Since I first tasted the young ‘14s from barrel in the late spring of 2015, they have mostly gained in depth and clarity. If producers have changed their opinions on this crop of wines now that they are in the bottle, it’s only for the better.

As a general rule, the 2014s are not quite as taut as the ‘10s. They are fruitier than the 2012s, with a more pleasing early equilibrium; and they are generally riper and richer than the ‘08s. They may have the best balance of all of these years, although I still give a slight edge to the 2010s for their penetration and backbone. On my tour of the Côte de Beaune at the beginning of June, only two or three winemakers out of more than 40 told me they preferred their 2015s to their 2014s, although it’s important to note that the higher-octane, more flamboyantly ripe ‘15s may still profit from their last months of élevage.

The 2014s benefit from mostly moderate levels of alcohol and although the best wines boast superb density this is essentially a medium-bodied vintage for white Burgundy. The wines don’t have the opulence or weight on the palate of the richer 2015s yet they are more tactile and intensely flavored, more savory and gripping on the finish, and they are rarely blurred by alcoholic warmth. With their firm acidity and absence of overripe character, they display wonderful transparency to soil.

Best of all, only a small minority of these wines are painfully austere in the early going. Many of them will give early pleasure to impatient white Burgundy lovers who prefer to drink these wines during their first five years or so of their life—including those who do not have proper cellar conditions or have nagging fears about the possibility of premature oxidation.

The 2014 Growing Season

As I reported last year, a generally warm, dry first half of the 2014 calendar year made for a very early start to the vegetative cycle. The flowering was likewise early, and mostly even, under warm, dry conditions at the end of May and beginning of June, setting the stage for a precocious harvest. Still, some signs of hydric stress in the driest sites were already apparent by mid-June. A period of heat in late June was broken the hard way: with a violent hailstorm on June 28 that caused severe damage to vines in Beaune, Pommard, Volnay and Meursault but also affected some vineyards in Puligny-Montrachet. Although the hailstorms came early enough in the season not to affect the quality of the grape skins, old vines as well as vines that were still recovering from hail in the previous three vintages in some instances had difficulties ripening their fruit later in the summer.

Then came an extended period of mediocre weather, including sporadic rainfall through July and early August. The cooler- and wetter-than-normal July conditions alleviated hydric stress but nonetheless slowed down the ripening process. Leaf thinning was successful in warding off rot but vines in some vineyards were vulnerable to sunburn during a heat spike in mid-July. August remained cool and wet; the ripening stalled and the veraison was stretched out.

Happily, favorable anticyclone conditions became established in late August and carried pretty much through the end of the harvest. Some growers even reported drought stress during this period, with a prevailing wind from the north exacerbating the dry conditions, but it was too late in the summer for sunburn to be an issue. Other estates described weather conditions as nearly ideal in September, maintaining that although the days were quite warm, the nights were cool enough to preserve malic acidity in the grapes. Grape skins thickened as juice was lost during the last days before the harvest. And hang time was longer than average in 2014, allowing for more thorough ripeness without surmaturité.

In the end, the grapes were mostly small and thick-skinned but not shriveled, and they retained sound levels of acidity. They barely needed sorting. The Drosophila suzukii (a type of vinegar fly that can cause acid rot in the grapes) show little interest in white grapes, so the problems that plagued some Pinot Noir vineyards in 2014 were not an issue for Chardonnay. The first harvesters, mostly those in Meursault, started as early as September 9 (especially on those parcels where crop levels had been sharply cut back by hail), while others waited up to another five or six days to start. The harvest took place under mostly warm conditions. There were a few showery periods (particularly on the night of September 18), and then more substantial rain fell on September 24, but most estates were finished with their Chardonnay by then. Yields were about average except in vineyards that had been affected by the late-June hailstorm, where production was down by 40% or more.

The Raw Materials in 2014

Acidity levels in the grapes were generally healthy, with a favorable balance between tartaric and malic, but there was also good sweetness to the fruit. The thick-skinned grapes had lost a percentage of their water in the final weeks before the harvest, which helped to concentrate sugars and flavors.

While those who harvested early to preserve freshness typically picked with potential alcohol in the 12% to 12.8% range and then chaptalized moderately, those who waited for more ripeness frequently had higher grape sugars and chaptalized lightly or not at all. There were few extreme octane numbers reported in 2014 and little sign of overripe aromas. Growers who had been out of the path of the hail mostly described 2014 as an easy year in the vineyards and in the cellar. They had good but not excessive crop levels that are ideal for Chardonnay in Burgundy (very low yields for Chardonnay on the Côte de Beaune are frequently associated with extreme weather events and, more often than not, result in one type of imbalance or another in the finished wines; on the other hand, outstanding Pinots rarely come from full yields).

The Style and Quality of the ’14s

As a vintage, the 2014 whites display a striking natural balance of fruit, flesh and acidity. They rarely come across as sharp because they possess strong buffering material. Some wines show noticeable extract richness or even a bit of phenolic chewiness, no doubt largely due to the thickness of the grape skins and the high skin-to-juice ratio that characterized this vintage, but the dusty, tactile finishes of the ‘14s are far more likely to reflect strong mineral extract than high alcohol or tannins.

Two thousand fourteen was not normally a vintage that needed the fattening influence of lees stirring, although some winemakers used batonnage to counter what they thought was high acidity in their wines. (Many wines were late to finish their malolactic fermentations, and some of these wines really only began to reveal themselves during the autumn of 2015.) The wines were concentrated, expressive and balanced from the start, revealing wonderful transparency to soil and an often salty minerality. They show lovely freshness and purity of fruit—more citrus and white stone fruits than yellow fruits or tropical elements—but they’re about much more than simply fruit. More than any white Burgundy vintage since 2010, they offer captivating treble notes of flowers, spice oils, white pepper, fresh herbs and crushed stone.

The wines that fall short in 2014 typically are either a bit too soft or too lean. Some wines show a creaminess of texture but do not appear to have the spine of acidity and minerality to give them real grip and staying power. Other wines are a bit short on ripeness: they do not have the stuffing to support their lemony acidity and thus can come across as a bit shrill or tart. (Wines whose ripeness was less uniform as a result of the effects of the hailstorm on the foliage, can also show a dry edge.)

In my additional tastings of several dozen 2014s at home this summer, where I had the advantage of being able to follow the wines after they were uncorked, I was struck by how many wines seemed deceptively open-knit, creamy and sweet when first poured, only to tighten up and display more lemony cut and stony mineral spine with 24 to 48 hours in the recorked bottle. I take this as a very positive sign for the evolution and potential longevity of these wines. And the best wines of the vintage are truly exhilarating in the way they cleanse the palate and leave the taste buds quivering.

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