Entries from 2020

a ‘value’ weekend…

By billn on October 05, 2020 #degustation

Value wines

‘Wider Burgundy’ offers tremendous value when compared to the over-pricing of many wines from better-known villages in the Côte d’Or. Over the last week, these have been thoroughly enjoyed:

2017 William Fèvre, Chablis
As, together with the 2018, my ‘house white’ this year, I won’t bore you by rearranging the same words used to describe this wine before. Save to say for drinking now or keeping 15 or more years if that’s your wish – simply a great, villages, domaine wine.
Rebuy – Yes

Heading south:

2018 Aegerter, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Blanc Les Corvées
Such an open and floral nose – that’s a great invitation. Wider and more panoramic than the drive of the Chablis, a little plumper too – though never fat – and that’s because there’s a lovely, still slightly mineral energy that runs through this wine. Completely delicious.
Rebuy – Yes

Only a little further south:

2016 Bourgogne-Devaux, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune Rouge La Dalignère
Lots of colour. A forward red fruit aroma that has a modest vanilla accent. Silken texture, mouth-filling, ripe and layered flavour. Like the nose, there’s a subtle accent of oak-vanilla – which I hadn’t noted on previous bottles. All the same, delicious, excellent wine.
Rebuy – Yes

Much further south:

2017 Domaine Girin, Beaujolais Séduction
A fine vintage for the base classification. From one of the best producers, it doesn’t get better than this from the perspective of value:
Deeply coloured. A nose thats almost as darkly, juicily-fruited as the plate. A waterfall of juicy fruit – almost a hint of kirsch but mainly plump dark cherries. It cost about €5 at the domaine, it’s worth easily more than double that. Bravo!
Rebuy – Yes

2020 harvest update – it continues!

By billn on October 03, 2020 #vintage 2020

Just when you thought it was safe to go out – despite the heavy rain in the Côte d’Or on Friday – it seems that some vignerons have taken a chance to harvest the second-set or verjus grapes in their plots. Such things are typically left for the birds as they don’t get the time to sufficiently ripen – but when you have the earliest harvest on record behind you, there is more chance. Of-course, the biggest pain is rolling out (once more) your beautifully cleaned and polished triage and vibrating tables plus the ‘giraffe’ etcetera…

I know that they are not the only ones, but yesterday I happened upon the team of Maxime Cheurlin of Domaine Georges Noellat; despite the rain they had harvested an impressive number of cases of really fine looking grapes from their plots in Chambolle Feuselottes and Grands-Echézeaux – perhaps a Bourgogne Grands-Feuselottes in the making 🙂

Really not a lot of triage needed for these grapes – I’ve seen far, far worse in ‘normal’ vintage times. Maxime told me “If there was ever a vintage to try this, then 2020 is that vintage. I don’t know what this wine will turn out like, but I’m really interested to find out, as the raw materials look lovely.

my most recent visits – thanks to them…

By billn on October 01, 2020 #degustation

Tranche 1 rdv

Not all the usual faces – okay some, but they smiled 😁

Aiming for a balance between the bright new things and the things you either can’t afford or can’t get hold of 🙂

My first tranche of appointments, including a little terroir insight, though mainly the 2019 vintage for the October report. I was bouncing around the villages a little this week – next week I’ll try to keep it much more focused for both you and the Subaru – 435,000 km!

Alphabetically – though not the same order as the images – they are chronological:

Lauriane André & Jerôme Despres
Thomas & Brigitte Berthelemot
Marthe Henri Boillot
Alexandre Brault
Sébastien Caillat
Lucie Coutoux
Jane Eyre
Philippe Jomain
Fiona & Michael Ragg
Jérémy Recchione
Catharina Sadde
Pierre Vincent

today – the southern côtes…

By billn on September 30, 2020 #travels in burgundy 2020

Meursault 30 sept 2020
Above, Meursault this afternoon

Since last week, my Vintage 2019 tasting season is well underway: I already tasted 2019s at a dozen-or-so domaines over the summer but now it’s full steam ahead.

Despite some visits in Vosne, Chambolle and Aloxe, I’m really working on whites, travelling my way from south to north – starting with Santenay to Puligny, transitioning to M&M from mid-October (Meursault but also Mâconnais!) and thereafter the tastings start turning redder and redder!

There is some modest colour change in the vines, small patches of yellow or red, but vines have merely a lighter green about them rather than the really autumnal colours of gold and dark red. With 10 days of colder and much wetter weather in the forecast, it’s possible that it will cause the leaves to drop and we will miss the colour scheme of Autumn completely this year – sometimes it’s like that.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed for an Indian Summer though.

Clay and rocks – that’s Burgundy…

By billn on September 29, 2020 #travels in burgundy 2020

There was rain at the weekend, though today was dry. Tomorrow should be nice but then rain, rain and more rain for the foreseeable weather forecast.

The argilo-calcaire was to the fore today. We can expect the clay to become ever-stickier – maybe that’s enough ‘off-road’ for this week – ‘clean’ off-road anyway 🙂

All Puligny, today:

the covid-compatible stormclouds over Burgundy…

By billn on September 24, 2020 #diary dates#events

The storm clouds gather. Beaune yesterday
The storm clouds gather: Beaune yesterday…

It’s already a couple of weeks since we lost the 2021 St.Vincent, planned for Puligny-Montrachet, Blagny and Corpeau.

In our new reality it seems to be mainly the larger, event-style, tastings that are currently being cancelled. One major maison has cancelled it’s usual sit-down/tutored new vintage tasting and another, even larger event will not now take place – the Roi Chambertin. For the former, I have already been able to arrange a private visit but the Roi will be a loss to my calendar – it will also be an opportunity too.

An opportunity? Well, yes.

I wouldn’t have joined the tasting this year if they’d stuck to the usual format – over 120 bottles (in duplicate) in a cellar with over 100 tasters – in covid-time, no thanks. The opportunity for me will be to visit more Gevrey domaines in person – something that in recent years I had relatively restricted to domaines who didn’t show their wines at the Roi.

Of-course there are a few sought-after domaines that are also suggesting that tastings of their 2019s may be possible in Q1 next year but not in 2020 – or even not at all. Let’s see how that pans out too – there are always more domaines available than are possible to visit in the time available but some ‘losses’ seem inevitable this year, though for the moment I see only a modestly diminishing availability for my usual tastings.

There are other big events that are affected too: The wine auction of the Hospices de Beaune will have a much smaller tasting schedule – the buyers have to be included, of-course, but there will certainly be fewer spaces for journalists and other interested parties – including in the sale itself where they are planning alternate seating – occupied and not occupied. Outside of the sale-room, Beaune’s half-marathon (the same weekend) is currently still planned to happen, but with 3,000 participants versus the usual limit of 5,000. Then 2 days later there is the Paulée de Meursault; normally a gathering of over 700 souls in a place more comfortable for about 400! This year they plan just 250 places. Masks are mandatory for those serving their wines to the occupants of other tables – but if I know the people celebrating this event, maybe that detail will be forgotten after – hmm – maybe 15 minutes(?)

Nobody said that it would be easy, and of course, there are places that are much worse off. Indeed some of these truncated events may also be cancelled at short notice. Luckily for the region, what they are potentially losing in not getting their message out has been partially compensated for in 2020, mainly by the Brits – who are drinking more than ever of their stuff. Apparently they bought early and extra to get them through brexit, but given covid, they drank all that, so now need to replenish early 🙂

Okay that’s enough about Pouilly-Fuissé, what about the 1er Crus of Marsannay?

By billn on September 23, 2020 #in case you missed it


Pouilly-Fuissé has been in the news in the last weeks because the INAO have recently agreed to an upgrade of status – to 1er Cru – for 194 hectares of vines starting from the 2020 vintage. What all of those articles fail to note, is that the French Ministry of Agriculture has not yet signed-off this change. Whilst it’s unlikely that the minister in charge will forget, without a timely signature, the wines of 2020 still won’t be allowed to wear a 1er Cru label. But as I said, enough about Pouilly-Fuissé!

There are many locations across Burgundy that are looking to polish their image with an eye-catching 1er Cru or Grand Cru makeover; amongst them are Nuits St.Georges, Saint-Véran, Pouilly-Loché/Pouilly-Vinzelles and of course Marsannay too.

None of these are short processes, each taking at least 10 years. Probably the Nuits St.Georges attempt to raise the vineyard of Les St.Georges to Grand Cru may be the most well-known but it’s also an application that has hardly moved in terms of status for a couple of years now. Where there has been some progress is in Marsannay and Saint-Véran – the most visible progress, however, is in Marsannay:

AOC Marsannay only pulled itself into a regional appellation in 1965 (Bourgogne-Marsannay), taking the next step by becoming a communal (or village) appellation in 1987. The lateness of that first date is a reflection of what was planted throughout the vineyards of Marsannay during the 1930s – the time of AOC – and that was gamay!

Compared to many other Burgundian villages – certainly villages that produce predominantly red wine – Marsanny is rather well-to-do – just look at how big their church is – comparable to Pommard but much bigger than Volnay or Monthélie. This reflects the wealth that was generated by being in the catchment area of Dijon and so being the primary supplier of wine to the population of that city. The variety was gamay and it could be cropped higher than pinot noir and still produce something serviceable. Of course, there was pinot noir planted here too, but it was only after 1945 that the major conversion to planting pinot began.

We are probably at least another 3 years away from seeing actual Marsannay 1er Crus, but some changes have already been enacted: About 80 hectares of vines that could previously produce only Bourgogne or Marsannay Rosé will now also be allowed to produce Marsannay Blanc and/or Rouge – like the rest of the appellation – there remains some hectares that may only produce AOC Marsannay Rosé. This reclassification was confirmed in March 2020 and retrospectively includes the 2019 vintage. The first real change to labeling – also applicable to the 2019 vintage – will be the change of name for Bourgogne Le Chapître – it will jump to a village AOC – so Marsannay Le Chapître.

In terms of Le Chapître, I think this a fitting recompense for wines that have always shown a certain class!

The reimagining of Beaujolais

By billn on September 22, 2020 #books, maps, magazines & films

Beaujolais - esprit de partage
Beaujolais – l’esprit de partage

For quite some time now, the marketing of the Chablis region had its own visual identity; this/these in informative ‘little black books‘ the style and content of which I particularly enjoy.

Now is the time of Beaujolais.

Whilst some of the data-based presentation – 2 départements, 2 grape varieties, etcetera – smacks of the approach of Chablis, the actual presentation / visual identity couldn’t be more different or more lively. Whilst it’s always nicer to have the real book(let) in your hands, I offer you the chance of not having to live too vicariously – below you can see the pdfs:

In French*
In English*

*NB: These are not small downloads – there’s over 100 pages per – but they are well worth your time!

pierre labet’s 2005 beaune 1er coucherias

By billn on September 22, 2020 #degustation

2005 Pierre Labet, Beaune 1er Choucherias
I remember, 2-3 years ago, this wine being so impressive. Like this wine, my memory has faded, it has actually been 7 years – and for this particular bottle, despite a robust and okay looking cork, time has not helped…
The nose from the very start shouts old and bretty – you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s at least 30 years old, not 15. I find none of the aromatic interest of before. The palate has fared a little better – layered, concentrated and complex – but never losing the bretty undertones. Such a shame. Aeration lessens the brett a little, but overnighting in the fridge exacerbates the problem – spiced brown sauce the resulting aroma – HP or Hammonds – if that means anything to you. Not what I want in my glass.
Rebuy – No – not this particular bottle, anyway…

Burgundy Report

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