A chilly week in Chablis and the Côte d’Or too this week and weekend – I offer you a small gallery of the sights.
But first, a couple of readers have asked some questions and also for some help in deciphering some of the ‘codes’ that I use in my descriptions and reports. These are things that have built up over the years, or are shorthand when taking notes that I don’t always remember to return to ‘long-hand!’ But every now and then it’s worth a little explanation because not everyone has been coming here for years and years 🙂
Agrumes: I had always assumed that agrume was also an English-language word but it seems I may have been mistaken and that it is predominantly found in the Latin tongues. Simply put, it is citrus but it actually covers the whole family of citrus fruits. For this reason, I may sometimes refer to more green-shaded agrumes (lots of lime or lime skin) or orange/mandarin but the effect can also be shaded more to grapefruit or even some complexity of all. The Latin languages have definitions that are more open to ‘interpretation’ than the Germanic-derived ones 🙂 Some white vintages are marked by ‘agrume bitters‘, so without extra info, you can translate that ‘simply’ as a zesty, citrus-skin type of bitterness.
“Do you ever feel that a bit of oak can contribute to the overall ‘quality’ of a wine? Or are you averse to all manifestations of oak?” That’s a great question! We all have our own preferences, and whilst I would always prefer to taste the wine, rather than the containers in which it has been raised (elevage,) some aspects that come from the oak distract me less than others. Oak with a strong toast is much rarer than was once the case – overt vanilla too – which is good for me – I don’t want either of those in my glass. The more creamy accents that can come from the barrel distract me much less and I can say the same – within limits – for those spicy notes that you more often find with reds. I do believe that the barrels contribute to more impressive wines of additional longevity – but a deft hand that can expertly meld the aromas and flavours of the wood would always be my preference. It’s not just the organoleptic (smell-flavour) aspects of the wines that are altered by the barrels though – it is the shape and texture of the wines too… But a strongly oaked wine that I wouldn’t want to drink young (because of that strong aroma or flavour) can still be a very great wine if you have sufficient patience. You need a reviewer that can put ‘the now’ to one side and still be able to say that they think that a particular wine will still be great.
“Do ‘the greens’ that you have found so often in 2020 white Burgundies ever go away or is it a mark that always persists?” To offer a little more focus – I have found these pyrazines in the wines of the Côtes d’Auxere – including Chablis – so some red to go with a lot of white. There were occasional reds in both Beaujolais and the Côte d’Or too – but relatively rare – I did not note these greens in whites from any other region. If the reds of 2004 and 2011 are to be used as benchmarks, then the pyrazine notes that I am sensitive to, are stable. The 2020 Chablis that I have re-tasted in the last two weeks are worse – more overt – than was the case one year ago.
“You cite the common reaction to them as occurring in 80% of tasters – do the remaining 20% have no adverse effects whatsoever & should they all rush out & buy up the 2020 vintage Chablis?” You got that ‘back-to-front’ – it’s only about 10% of tasters that are sensitive – anecdotally, more often, it is women that have this extra sensitivity. The rest can and should rush out to buy what is otherwise a well-constructed, fine vintage for Chablis.
Gothic & WC: WC is a shorthand that I often use interchangeably for whole-clusters or whole-bunches or ‘stems.’ I sometimes refer to the effect of wc on the wine being a little gothic. By that I mean, darker, more structural – indeed a bit austere too – so in this case it means with some herbal aspects and more drying tannin. This was visible in the 2021 wines at a few important domaines – but far from all – some domaines made gorgeously perfumed wines even with 100% use of whole clusters…
Okay a few images from the last 6-7 days, enjoy: