During a recent trip through France, I was able to sit down with Burgundy’s Olivier Bernstein, as well as his consultant Claude Gros, and taste through a small verticle of his 2018s, 2019s, and 2020s.
While originally working in business and consulting for numerous companies, Bernstein started making wine in the Roussillon early in the 2000s before relocating to Burgundy in 2007. Bernstein’s meteoric rise in Burgundy is nothing short of exceptional, and today he releases seven different Grand Crus, as well as a brilliant Premier Cru, all from the northern part of the Côte d’Or. How an outsider arrives in Burgundy and within a decade has access to multi-Grand Cru vineyards is hard to believe, but it’s Bernstein’s belief in his ability to increase quality, as well as the price, that has made it all possible. Olivier pays growers all in advance, which allows him complete control of the farming and picking decisions. The winemaking is relatively consistent across the board, and the wines see a touch of stems (depending on the vineyard) and a mix of new and used barrels. The real magic here appears to be great vineyards, attention to detail in the farming, and sound winemaking.
This tasting focused on the 2018s, 2019s, and 2020s, all of which can be considered warmer (if not hot) vintages.
The 2018s, which come from a scorching hot, dry growing season, are tight and focused, with tons of tannins and structure. Berstein commented that he harvested earlier in 2018, and despite the growing season, the wines possess incredible purity and balance, as well as concentration. These are truly brilliant wines, but they’re not for those looking for instant gratification, since they are going to demand cellaring.
In contrast, the 2019s have much more flesh and opulence, as well as approachability, and certainly offer incredible charm even today. From a dry, warmer growing season, they have an incredible sense of vibrancy and purity, and these are ripe yet balanced and incredibly complete wines. Despite the up-front appeal, I have no doubt these will have a solid evolution and age-ability given their balance and purity.
Lastly, the 2020s come from another scorching hot, extreme vintage, and while they are perhaps the ripest in the lineup, they nevertheless show incredible purity and precision. Unlike the 2019s, which are easy to appreciate and understand, these are young, powerful wines that need bottle age to fully come together.
As I hope these reviews show, Berstein is playing at a very high level, and these are absolutely thrilling Burgundies that readers would love to have in the cellar. Unfortunately, the quantities are minuscule, and yes, they are expensive.