The Clos de Vougeot about 17h00 today.
There’s a wave of new starters in the vines today and interestingly, a number of producers are noting that they are harvesting vineyards on exactly the same day as in 2015 – that will be a good comparison in the future.
In the Côte de Beaune, there are many starting their first harvests in Beaune, Pommard and Volnay – but the whites are not yet over; Dominique Lafon was picking his Montrachet this morning and Jean-Marc Roulot won’t finish his harvest until Thursday. Olivier Lamy makes today his last day of harvesting whilst Patrick Essa of Domaine Bouisson-Charles, usually a later picker, is just starting in his Meursault 1er Crus today and Fabien Moreau also started his campaign in Chablis! I note, with distaste, there were also a couple of machines harvesting in Beaune Vignes-Franches – again!
Today I took the road north, as far as the Clos de Vougeot. Perhaps a dozen different teams were active on the Corton hillside, one in Chorey too but afterwards very little. The Nuits 1ers of Premeaux all the way into Nuits were empty – just an occasional person in the vines – most likely monitoring sugars. Likewise north of Nuits I saw only one team, it looked like in Aux Thorey, but from there it was clear – just two teams in the bottom of Vosne (villages Vosne-Romanée) near the Route Nationale. Of-course no-one in the Clos de Vougeot is ready to pick; I met Sylvain Pataille there – who consults at the Château de la Tour – he explained that in the Clos they can wait at least another week as the weather is set fair. For his own domaine Sylvain will start tomorrow with whites.
On the other side of the D974 (route nationale) to the Clos, there was action. There is a relatively newly planted and quite extensive parcel here called En Bollery, owned by JC Boisset and delivering fruit for their crémant producer, Louis Bouillot. The total parcel covers 7.37 hectares (4.82 of pinot and 2.45 is chardonnay) but just 4 hectares are in production this year. Amazing after the (unacceptable!) machines in Beaune Vignes-Franches and Meursault-Charmes to see that grapes destined for crémant must all be hand-picked. With that in mind, and because crémant is so often forgotten (but is around 15% of all burgundy production!) I popped into Louis Bouillot and pulled winemaker Frédéric Brand away from his tanks and presses to get an idea of their operation this year:
The Louis Bouillot harvest started on the 21st with the first musts coming from the Beaujolais area. Since last Wednesday they have been picking near the Clos de Vougeot (En Bollery above), Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin – today they started in Savigny-lès-Beaune too. Their harvest will consist of, roughly, 30% pinot, 20% gamay and the rest chardonnay – some musts are already fermenting, and with an average of 75 tonnes of grapes per day arriving at the cuverie in Nuits St.Georges, it’s no surprise with all that volume of fermenting juice that all the tanks are aspirated out of the roof, because that’s a lot of CO2. I hope that the birds on the roof are not too sleepy!
LB make about 15,000 hectolitres (that’s about 2 million bottles) and Frédéric has 50 tanks of juice, each with different colour labels for the different colour grapes – and big tanks – 280 hectolitre tanks! The fermentations are at low temperature – 16-18°C – the aim to keep the finesse and florals. Frédéric thinks that it looks like a good vintage; “But there are two parts to vintage; before and after the rain. After the rain the sugars were perfect for crémant, before that they were borderline high, but so-far we already have more tension than in either 2015 or 2016. The grapes are coming in very clean but the rain has made the grapes more fragile so we have to keep vigilant.”
Four colours of fermenting juice…
So-far Frédéric has 70% of his musts already delivered, but as of today, only 20% of the grapes have been cut – “It’s almost a wave of ripening from the south to the north.” And they really will finish with grapes that come from the Chablis region! Frédéric also pointed out that the colour was coming out of the red grapes so easily this year that no extra time on the skins will be needed – “There will be plenty of rosé in 2017.” Also, starting with this vintage they are evaluating many more parcels, vinifying them separately – “To try to decrypt the terroirs!” They have separated at least 10 different ones at the moment, including the En Bollery parcel – which has its own ‘baby’ press – it takes a mere 2,000 kg of grapes!