Pierre Mansour on the shortage of The Society’s White Burgundy

We knew that a frost-hit vintage in Burgundy would have implications for our most popular white wine, so took steps early on to mitigate the inevitable shortage and to source alternatives.

Frost damage in the vineyard – affected branches almost look burnt
Frost damage in the vineyard – affected branches almost look burnt

This time last year we heard the devasting news of a remarkable spring frost that many of our French growers had experienced. It was remarkable because it followed a relatively mild winter, so the vines were quite advanced meaning that the frost caused damage to young buds.

We kept in close contact with our growers and it became evident as the season progressed that the 2021 harvest would yield a very small crop. This was particularly acute for white wines and chardonnay growers in Burgundy were expecting to produce up to as little as half as much wine as a normal year. Chardonnay as a variety buds earlier than other varieties so is particularly susceptible to spring frosts.

This issue is not unique to us: the rest of the industry is facing shortages of, in particular, white Burgundy. The good news is that quality is good but we had a challenge on our hands to ensure we could maintain consistency of supply for Wine Society members. We acted quickly – before harvest – to show our commitment to our growers, in particular to our supplier of the popular Society’s White Burgundy.

The economics of supply and demand

In order to get the best quality in an inconsistent year you have to be at the front of the queue and I’m pleased to say we were. Despite the short vintage we have managed to secure enough Society’s White Burgundy to keep our members’ wine racks stocked. Inevitably the price has increased due to the economics of supply and demand, and despite the best efforts of our supplier, but I can report that the new 2021 blend is delicious – it was awarded Wine Champion status in our in-house blind tastings, I think for the first time in the history of our wine awards.

Sourcing suitable alternatives

Recognising that the inevitable price increase would put our Society’s White Burgundy out of the reach of some members’ pockets, we decided to look for some suitable alternatives. We wanted to be able to offer members some other chardonnays which reflect the flavour and style of our White Burgundy.

Blending Le Stopgap Chardonnay chez Dépagneux
Blending Le Stopgap Chardonnay chez Dépagneux

Marcel Orford-Williams has had this brief in previous frost-hit vintages and immediately set about using his contacts to find a delicious and affordable alternative to The Society’s White Burgundy – look out for the new Le Stopgap Chardonnay 2021 which is our own Vin de France blend from three sources in the Languedoc, including Limoux, and a touch from Burgundy's Mâconnais. It’s great value at £8.50 and we feel sure will appeal to fans of The Society’s White Burgundy.

Worth trying too is Les Gravettes 2020 which comes from the southern Ardèche. Further afield the quality of chardonnay around the world continues to be a strength and what is remarkable is the restraint that winemakers are applying to these. It may seem counter intuitive but there are Australian, Chilean and South African chardonnays being made in a style that is reminiscent of those more usually associated with European origin. These tend to come from vineyards in cooler spots resulting in crisp, fruity wines with oak used carefully if at all – Jacques Mouton ‘Madeleine’ Chardonnay Franschhoek 2021, is an elegant barrel-fermented wine from the Cape, while Bulletin Place Australian Chardonnay 2021 is a bit of a snip at £6.25 a bottle and Silbador Valle Casablanca Chardonnay 2021 is an organically farmed chardonnay from Chile’s famous Casablanca Valley which had a great vintage in 2021 and is just £7.50 a bottle.

If you’d like any more help in selecting alternatives to The Society’s White Burgundy please feel free to contact our Wine Specialists in Member Services on 01438 741177 – select option 2 to be put straight through to one of our advisors.

Pierre Mansour

Director of wine and buyer for Spain

Pierre Mansour

Pierre Mansour joined the buying team in 2003 and was promoted to the position of Head of Buying in 2017 and then Director of Wine in 2019. He is responsible for Spain and Lebanon.

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