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March 29, 2024 | Vintages | Elden Selections

Understanding Wine Vintages and The Pending 2022 Burgundy Release

Burgundy Wine of varying vintages

How To Understand Different Wine Vintages

The term "vintage" is often used in relation to wine and many other things too, but it’s not always well­understood. Does it simply mean old, or does it refer to good quality, or the best of something? In its own way, it can mean all of these things. Essentially, for a wine the term “vintage” refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. This is a crucial marker, because it can impact the wine's taste, quality, aging potential, collectability, and value.

Wines that lack a vintage date are usually blends of several years and, while they are generally consistent and of fair quality, they are not likely to be the best or most memorable you'll ever taste. You may notice that some non­vintage wines are labelled as N.V., especially fortified or sparkling wines.

When pairing wines with food, keep in mind that vintage wines should be enjoyed with carefully chosen food combinations, that will truly bring out the best qualities of their vintage.

Hospices de Beaune in varying vintages

Why Wine Vintages Matters – Especially in Burgundy

The vintage of a wine is particularly important in the Burgundy region, where the terroir and weather have a significant impact on the final product. Extreme weather conditions such as excessive heat, rain, drought or frost can cause problems and affect both the quality and quantity of the wine produced.

In our region of Bourgogne, the wines are mainly single varietals. This means that every plot of land gives each vintage its unique personality and characteristics. Grape varieties grown in Bourgogne, such as Pinot Noir, are particularly sensitive to weather conditions that can affect acidity levels and therefore the taste of the wine.

Too much sun can cause grapes to dry out and become raisins on the vine, resulting in bitter wines that are sometimes referred to as 'flabby'. On the other hand, a season that is too wet or cold can result in unripe grapes that are prone to disease or rot. In the Chablis region to the north, hailstorms and frosts can be devastating, which is why you might see small fires, candles, or oil burners lit overnight to keep the temperature up.

Vineyard in Burgundy, France

Vintage vs Vintner

In some years, unfavorable weather conditions may force winemakers to modify the date they harvest the grapes. They may also need to rely on their years of experience to minimize the impact of a poor harvest.

However, the winemaker isn't completely at the mercy of nature and can use a range of techniques to compensate for any unfavorable weather conditions. This might include using different types of yeast during fermentation, or adjusting the alcohol or color levels as necessary. Nonetheless, an exceptional winemaker will always aim to enhance or adjust the wine rather than completely transform it.

Mouton Burgundy wines from 2022

From Dennis’s Notebook: How Burgundy Vintage Wine from 2022 Is Shaping Up

Here’s Dennis Sherman’s view of how the harvest went in 2022, and what the aging potential of that year’s wines is looking like:

“After three successive high-­quality but low­-quantity vintages, winemakers in Burgundy were able to refill their cellars with an excellent 2022 harvest. This is not to say that it was an easy ride. Once again, frost, heat and drought put stress on the growing season, but timing is everything, and the extreme weather did much less damage than in previous years.

Winters have been wet and mild for years now. The winter of 2021-­22 was not, with less than average rainfall and seasonal temperatures. Under these ‘normal’ conditions, we would expect budburst in the first half of April. But summer-­like conditions at the end of March forced the vines, especially Chardonnay, to bud early, and we went into frost season with tender green buds exposed. There were two nights in the coming week below zero, but damage was limited.

Spring conditions set in in mid­-April, but Summer followed soon thereafter, dry with spiky heat waves. The vines went wild. Winemakers fought to keep the growth under control. And the fight continued until flowering, which happened a couple of weeks early in mid­May.

The warm, dry conditions led to nearly­perfect flowering. We saw for the first time the potential of a great crop, with lots of beautiful, full, well­formed grape bunches; and an early harvest, with fruit setting well ahead of schedule.

But the drought held, and the fear was that this beautiful fruit would shrivel on the vine. Finally, at the end of June, the rain came. Summer storms bring with them the risk of hail, so all eyes were on the sky as the storms were sometimes violent causing significant (but limited) hail damage. The rains were intermittent, but regular for the next weeks. The cumulative rainfall would not be enough to see the crop through to harvest, however.

The heat waves continued through the rains, and so the risk of fungal disease, usually associated with wet conditions, dried up. But temperatures spiked and dry conditions set in again. The grapes ripened in a full­blown heat wave. Winemakers had to keep a close eye on sugar levels, as the risk was that ripeness could gallop away at the last minute.

And then, just about the time when it looked like an over­ripe mid­August harvest was imminent, it rained again. The producers were able to let that water absorb into the fruit, increasing the volume of juice that was ultimately harvested in the first week of September.

2022 wines, both white and red, are showing real depth and ripeness. And while there was once again very little malic acid, the tartaric acid holds the balance and structure together. Early tastings in the barrel show enormous charm and vitality. Very promising.

I remember in late October 2022, when I walked out of the first of the Hospices de Beaune professional tastings bursting with three little epiphanies. The first, that the Hospices de Beaune has reclaimed its rightful place as a barometer of the new vintage in Burgundy. The second, that the excitation (a Beach Boys’ term, but appropriate here) about Burgundy 2022 is palpable. And most importantly, that 2022 shows Burgundy can retain its identity in the face of global warming trends.

There were few wines in the whole Hospices de Beaune 2022 offering that I would not have been happy to propose on the Elden Selections wine shop at

And then, again, in March, the same thing happened at the Hospices de Nuit auction sale. We came away from those tastings saying that every wine in the whole auction was worthy of our attention.

You get the point. We knew very early on that 2022 is consistently promising.”

Wine Tasting at Domaine de Cromey

Did you know: To find wines of a particular vintage on by Elden Selections, just type the vintage into the search bar at the top of the page. You can also read more articles about life at the Domaine de Cromey here, our home in Burgundy where you can book your next Burgundy vacation. And don’t forget to have a look at our Burgundy Wine Club, open for membership now!


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