Why Big Red Diary?

v et d berthaut, 1982 fixin…

I visited Amélie Berthaut in Fixin today and tasted her very lovely 2013s. I mentioned that I’d some 92s from the domaine that I bought at auction and they tasted rather good. At the end of our tasting she disappeared into the cellar and came back with a tissue-wrapped bottle – “You did say 1982 didn’t you?” she inquired. “Oh well, I’ve got this now!” Wax topped, labelled and with only about 1cm of level-loss, this most perfect of provenance wines looked as good as any 30+ year-old wine could. We had a quick taste and Amélie wasn’t impressed – I said it would almost certainly improve with air, so she said “Take it with you and let me know…” Well, it seemed rude not to!

1982 Vincent et Denis Berthaut, Fixin
Opened ~18h15 – almost no colour on pouring, but it looks fine in the glass. The nose starts a little cheesy but it’s rounder and riper in the mouth than I expected. Driven back to the apartment and put in the fridge at about 19h15 without the cork. Removed at 22h00 and poured at 22h30: The wine’s still cold but the cheesiness of earlier is gone, to be replaced by slightly blurred red fruit and something more ‘brown!’ It’s not super-inviting, but still, no Epoisses! In the mouth it’s a lovely bright attack but the acidity has a slightly balsamic/metallic impression/flavour. Take a chance and swallow and there’s good intensity to the slightly sweet finish. Wait one more hour with the wine in the glass and the nose is a little bit cleaner and has more depth – the brown note is now almost brown sugar. In the mouth the acidity still has a sharp-ish edge but is clearly a little more drinkable – twist my arm, and I might even say tasty! This is a bottle that’s ‘hanging on,’ one that was almost certainly better 10 years ago, maybe 15 – but the next bottle may be gorgeous, who knows…
Rebuy – No Chance!

of memorable wines from slighted vintages…

I thought it was about time that I added my wines of the year – so far – so see the updated ‘A-List’ to the right of this page. I’ve noted that 93s are starting to become not just potentially brilliant, but downright brilliant, the 96s are becoming rather rewarding too. My enjoyment of 95s remains variable. Oh, and many of those critically slighted vintages (where was Pierre Antoine Rovani two weeks ago) offer supreme pleasure right now – in the right hands of-course! See exhibits 1993, 1998 and 2000…

Of-course there was no more space in the ‘widget-thing’ on right-hand side of this page, so the A-List of 2006 is gone to make space for 2014 – oh well – and what was once obviously the year ‘tab’ has shrunk to a hard-to-understand single digit. Oh well, again! Normally I don’t include ‘impossible to obtain’ wines in this list, but some are there to amplify the vintage point made above.

Three of the wines on this list are from the hailed-on, rained-on, dinner of the Elegance de Volnay, 2 weeks ago. I’d brought with me 93 Lafon Volnay Santenots de Milieu, only to later find that Dominique Lafon was sitting at my table – oops! – What happens if it’s not nice or corked, or, or… I briefly discussed with my invitee that I decided to serve it blind – just in-case it was rubbish! I found a (clean!) sock and poured! When I returned to the table (after touring the other tables with my quickly emptying bottle) Dominique shot me a wicked smile and said “I find it a bit simple!” Of-course my invitee had told him! I needn’t have worried, because we also ended up with 98 from bottle and magnum, the 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007 of this wine passing our table – of-course, amongst many others. The 98 ‘Milieu’ was brilliant but I still had a slight preference for my 93 – until the 98 in magnum arrived – this was the best – a wine that, on the night, was only bettered (maybe) by the 2000 Roumier Bonnes-Mores – a wine of sleek muscle and brilliant dynamism – bottled brilliance! I also cannot go without mentioning our starting wine – the 2009 Meursault Clos de la Barre (mag), poured by Dominique himself. My tour of 2009 whites from barrel had placed this domaine in #1 spot. This wine was everything that I can remember – perfection…

OOPS! Sorry, I forgot. We’re not supposed to like 2009 whites ether, are we(?)!!!

Despite the weather, the wines engendered so many smiles and so much cameraderie…

back in old beaune town…

WP_20140614_003Back in old Beaune town – it seems like ages I was away – hmm – 8 days!

The road to Beaune was shared yesterday evening with the service vehicles of the Tour de France – at least as far as Besançon. They were all much faster than me – even with a dozen bicycles on their roofs – I suppose somebody has to observe the speed limits ;-)

Here in the Côte d’Or the first half of July has been wetter and cooler, virtually since the big storm of the 28th, but this morning we’re already in the mid 20°s at 09h00 and the forecast is for 30°+ by Thursday. It’s a beautiful blue sky too.

On this post-Bastille Day I think I’ll ease myself in with a coffee on the place Carnot and then formulate my plan of whom to annoy!

hail and volnay 2013…

One of the best articles I’ve read in a while, on Jancis’s site, written by Mark Haisma. I really should try to visit Mark!

As you will note from the tweet of Jancis above, she’s worried about 2013 Volnays and urging caution. This is only a small part of the article, but to my mind, this article is the perfect example of why you won’t have a problem with 2013 Volnay if you buy from respected names. My reasoning?

  1. Triage should have been relatively easy because there was less to triage – though there was rot to remove too!
  2. The best domaines are very serious about their triage.
  3. And like Mark, above, if it’s not right, they won’t put their label on it!

Now if you buy from a négoce that you don’t know, then of-course, caveat emptor…

bart’s 2008 chambolle veroilles


I often have difficulty with young wines from Bart – too much CO2 or too much toasty oak. Here’s a wine that is slowly coming round to my palate – but it still needs a couple of years I think.

2008 Domaine Bart, Chambolle-Musigny Les Veroilles
A little more than medium colour. There’s still a little rubbery oak here – not very much Chambolle aroma – except for the last drops in the glass, which show a lovely acid-redcurrant note. After two hours it gives a slightly more toffeed expression. The texture is quite nice and the flavours play across the tongue in a very nice way – understated freshness for the vintage plus a faint oak flavour in the finish. Where this wine shows real interest is in its concentrated mid-palate fruit flavour. Nothing much of Chambolle to see yet, but maybe in a couple more years…
Rebuy – Maybe

2 bourgognes, 5 for germany (so far…)

The dream has gone for Brasil – I’m not even sure I’ll stay up to watch the second half of the football – but I’ve two bottles open, so… ;-)

2011 de Villaine, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise La Digoine
Good colour. Hmm – not such a good nose – pyrazine and a round, diffuse, herby warmth. Good texture and quite good concentration. There’s a little pyrazine in the flavour too though the finish is quite good. Honestly, I’ve no interest in taking a second glass. Day 2 (overnight in the fridge) and I can’t detect anything nasty – indeed it smells and tastes rather pretty…
Rebuy – No

2009 Buisson-Charles, Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Also a good, deep colour. The nose has plenty of ripeness but develops a freshness of cooked summer fruit. This is rather concentrated and the texture is a good-deal silkier than the 2011. Nice mid-palate and finishing freshness. A very good Bourgogne.
Rebuy – Yes

split loyalties…


I had split loyalties in front of the TV on Friday evening. But with a little consideration – would I drink Pilsner or wine? – actually I found the choice quite easy!

Given the result, it seems my support was not enough!

For info, the Collet Crémant de Bourgogne was very tasty, as usual. The Mikulski even tastier. The Jobard had a bit more mid-palate depth and seemed the more mineral. I would say that both showed a similar quality-level, but today the Mikulski is much tastier!

muggy, warm chassagne…

First visit in Chassagne-Montrachet this morning, 09h00.

Overnight there’s been a little rain – dirty rain – my car is filthy. It’s muggy and warm and storms are once-more forecast – many, many fingers are crossed!

A short tour of the vines shows that Chassagne was very lucky last weekend – very little of the potential crop was spoiled by the hail – probably no more than 5%. Their fingers remain firmly crossed, remembering that they lost almost 70% in 2012 to hail and other maladies…

Chassagne, today:

i can see you…!

Spotted – or rather first heard! – in Meursault Perrières today.

I’ve been touring the vines – some in reasonable condition, some are very sad – pockets of vines in Pommard and Beaune seem particularly hard hit, some have more grapes left than leaves! It’s early enough (the hail) that split and damaged grapes will have plenty of time to dry out and drop off, but the rest will need new leaves to do the necessary photosynthesis…

Plus a few views from this morning:

burgundy report – extra!

The May issue is online for subscribers. Lots of new faces in this issue – and some old ones ;-)…

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sober, sombre reflection…

To take stock, it’s always better to take a step back – emotions can be raw in the first minutes / hours after such an attack.

My experience of the hail on Saturday was in the Place Carnot in Beaune. It started at 17h10 with heavy rain – then for 3-4 minutes there was hail too – big enough pellets to hurt, but modestly sized – say 1+cm in diameter. Of-course, it turned-out that was only the first wave. Fifteen minutes later it hit again, but this time the first notice was the hail, not rain, and this time the projectiles were the size of a 2 Euro coin – they can also damage your body as you can see below – the clusters on many vines had no chance.

It was a broad and prolonged attack – this year from Chagny all the way to Gevrey-Chambertin – but, once-more, it was that area from Meursault to Savigny that was most cruelly affected. The much vaunted ‘hail defence’ system was lit in Volnay 3 hours prior to the well-forecast storm-front, it was no defence in this case. To-date, the Mâconnais, Chalonnaise and Chablis rest largely untouched.

I received the following email from a grower, in Volnay, yesterday evening:

I found my email written July 23, 2013: Today, I can make a “copy and paste” because yesterday, June 28 2014, was once-more devastated by hail:

Just a little word of collective thanks for all the many people who bring us comfort by email or phone. And yes, this is the shit, we were again hit by hail on Saturday 28 June at 17:00. The most damaged vines are those of Pommard: Epenots, Rugiens, Clos Micault between 50 and 80%, Pézerolles 80-100%. In Volnay we are damaged between 40 and 80% – that’s my current estimate.

It is hard to take because we had this situation in 2001, 2004, 2012 and 2013. It is all the more disheartening because we had worked well, the vines were beautiful and indicated a normal harvest. All the green work was completed and the team was ready for the holidays.

We will reign-in all investments and business travel – everything that is not strictly necessary for our Domaine. As I am “an old fart” (a joke between my dad and me), I have no debt to repay or more cumbersome investments. So the goal is to preserve the financial equilibrium of the operation and eventually the dynamism.

Thank you all for your moral support and the awareness that we are surrounded by family, friends and clients.

Indeed, until the weather-front made its attack, the vines and clusters looked picture-perfect. Some growers were openly opining on the maximum that they would be allowed to declare at harvest – roughly 50 hl/ha for villages – very few will now need to make the calculations. The southern part of the Côte de Beaune was a little less damaged, likewise the Côte de Nuits – but there were also hailstones of 2-4cm diameter in Vosne-Romanée – the Clos de Vougeot and Romanée St.Vivant lost up to 25%, maybe more in Echézeaux. Much of the rest of Vosne lost more like 15%. We also shouldn’t forget; the hail hit in June, July AND August in 2012…

Three hours after the hail hit, was the ‘Elegance de Volnay’ dinner and celebration of the appellation. It began in subdued fashion, but in the end, the vignerons began pouring their bottles saying “Drink now – we might not have any wine in a couple of years…”

Another view from Scott Paul and Amanda Regan.

With thanks to Thomas Bouley, Vincent Latour, Anne Parent and Nicolas Rossignol for the following images:

how far are you going?

Fullscreen capture 27062014 084736
Santiago de Compostela.

Beaune still really is the crossroads of Europe it seems. In the hotel today I met a couple who were clearly on a walking tour – today they were walking ~4 hours to Chagny. But actually their final destination was a good deal further away – the Santiago de Compostela – in Spain!

Oh, and that’s not the closest part of Spain either!

Historically, Beaune was an important stopping-off point in many a pilgrimage and it seems that for some people, little has changed. The owner of my hotel has a special stamp for these people’s notebooks/routebooks to register that they were in Beaune. People start from as far away as Bonn or Strasbourg, she says. But normally they don’t do it in a single journey – they often choose to do three weeks per year, re-starting where they left-off the previous year. She did mention one man who left Beaune and was back 6 months later – he had been there and back in that time – but he still had a long way to go, in order to get home!

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