How Does Burgundy Change As It Ages?

How Does Burgundy Change As It Ages?

For some wines, extended aging is a given. Barolo and Bordeaux, for example, require many years to fully come together in the bottle. Burgundy is different. Some of it should be enjoyed after a couple years, while other versions can develop for a half-century. Examples of the latter aren’t harsh and unapproachable when young - as is the case with Barolo - they’re simply unrealized, like Neo before he discovered he’s The One. Old Burgundy carries heavier price-tags than the young stuff, but one isn’t necessarily better than the other. They’re just different. Here’s how.

Young Burgundy

Like all of us, Burgundy is at its most fresh and energetic when young. It’s full of cherry and raspberry notes that smell vibrant and taste tart. The wines are dark and forward, with floral, earthy flavors that bring to mind a walk through the garden department at Home Depot. Generally speaking, region-level wines labeled Bourgogne Rouge or Côte de Nuits-Villages should be consumed young, meaning within 5-10 years of bottling.

Try this: Domaine Bachelet-Monnot, Bourgogne Rouge 2020 $50

Old Burgundy

Red Burgundy with a few decades of age is as nuanced as wine gets. And frankly, its flavors, textures, and depth of detail are hard to summarize in any concise way. But here goes. Over time, the wine’s color lightens, its tannins soften, and the red fruit flavors of its youth fade away. The earthiness goes from freshly-plowed soil to mushroom and truffle, and the wines become increasingly savory, with flavors like leather and smoked meat becoming more pronounced.

It’s important to note that not all Burgundy undergoes this metamorphosis. You can assume that all Grand Cru Burgundy is built for the long-haul, and Premier Cru wines can usually get a couple decades under their belts. Beyond that, look for high-quality producers who keep yields low, and seek out balanced vintages that yielded wines with plenty of acidity. Those include 2015, 2010, 2009, 2005, 1999, 1990, 1988, 1985, 1978.

Try this: Pierre Bourée Fils, Gevrey-Chambertin 1993 $175

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