I sampled wine direct from the barrel for the first time in Autumn 1997 – in the village of Chardonnay – and even bought some recently bottled 1996s for my up-coming Christmas lunch, but for the next three years, I managed to average only 2 visits per year.
After moving to Switzerland for my job in 2000, I was able to travel to the region much more often as it was just 2h40 away in the car – if I was good – more like 2h30 if I was bad!
I eventually set up this website in 2002 – it was a hobby, to expand on some of the contributions I made to various online forums and to write the stories that I would have loved to read but couldn’t find – either in print or online – so I thought ‘Why not just do it myself?‘
Over the years, travelling to Burgundy on a more regular basis simply seemed natural, and every year since 2004 I was enthusiastically ‘doing‘ the harvest because I really believed (and I still do!) that having each vintage’s grapes in my hands brings an added dimension to my positioning of those vintages – I would never have put 2 and 2 together to come up with this, without it. Let’s not forget that producers talk about the grapes being 95% of the vintage quality. Of-course, any potential value that accrues from that is quickly discounted by those writers that don’t do it – yet the producers hold it in the same high regard as do I, plus it’s a great, mutual, point of contact when meeting with them!
Without any active marketing, the Burgundy Report quickly grew to a daily audience of about 2,000 visitors per day – though of-course there are now Twitter and Instagram feeds and hundreds of other/newer online resources – it was a stable audience for a few years. Those last (free) Burgundy Reports, when published, regularly achieved more than 10,000 visitors in their first day of publication! Of-course the site’s stats went down about 50% once, in 2014, those reports converted to ‘subscription’, but the number of viewers is once-more increasing due to the ‘free stuff’ – more on that below.
At the start of 2012 the publishers of (undoubtedly) the finest wine magazine in the world, The World of Fine Wine, published ‘The Finest Wines of Burgundy‘ – written by yours truly – which turned out to be the biggest selling publication in their series! Of-course it already needs a spring-clean update, but I remain incredibly proud of that finished article. It also seems that the team at World of Fine Wine were vindicated in ‘taking a risk’ when commissioning their author!
Beginning in 2014, after choosing to decline ‘the package‘ for a business relocation from Switzerland to Germany, I took an apartment in Beaune, deciding to concentrate on my Burgundy Reports and, to help pay the bills, I also began wine tours for enthusiastic visitors to Chablis, Beaujolais and the Côte d’Or. I’ve met some great people with whom I keep in regular touch! BUT I am principally a chronicler of, rather than a guide to, Burgundy, so limit the number of days per month where tours are available – a maximum of 3 days per month. Since then, I became an occasional contributor to publications such as wine-searcher.com and the Hong Kong-based magazine Le Pan – which is now already dead – but that’s hopefully not my fault! For only a few months I became the Burgundy correspondent for the UK magazine Decanter – they were very happy with my first article on the négociants of Beaune but changed their policy, just before publication, to require scores out of 100 for all the wines that were tasted. I suggested that they could add scores themselves, as it was something that I choose not to do, and so they did. That was when we parted.
About Burgundy Report
The previously free, 3x per year Burgundy Reports, stopped at the end of 2013, replaced by the subscription Burgundy Report – so that I could continue to eat! The subscription report is, of-course, today’s de-facto Burgundy Report, and is published 11 times per year because there’s nobody to visit in August! However, Burgundy Report is, I believe, special, because eventually, all the reports are free to read: I dislike people (producers mainly) giving up their time for something that will, forever, stay behind a pay-wall, and that’s because burgundy is for sharing. So the subscription reports eventually become free for everyone, but only once they are 2 years old. It is, of-course, important to keep subscribers interests to the fore, so that 2-year head-start, means that they get the inside-line on vintages, new producers and hopefully many other items of interest!
The Burgundy Reports from September to February cover the new vintage harvest followed by; Côte d’Or whites, Côte d’Or reds, ‘Grand Maisons,’ Chablis and Beaujolais. This is really the core content, an intensive period with an average of 50 domaines per month being visited to assess the new vintage – from north to south – though not in that order! March to July is a more ‘freestyle’ and less intense period (fewer words!) with verticals, horizontals, vineyard or even village profiles – anything can happen!
Bill Nanson – isn’t that the guy that just likes everything? – I make no apologies for actually liking wine – wines from Burgundy anyway. And take note that the list of producers I visit when reviewing the vintage grows organically – from blind tastings, new discoveries that I like, plus the odd nod and a wink from good producers – so it’s hardly an average look at average producers. I have no interest in writing hatchet jobs so try to avoid domaines where I think I will be unenthusiastic. First and foremost I search out great producers whose wines I expect to enjoy! Which is not the same as to say that I can’t point out where there are problems…
NB: I am independent of the merchanting/selling of wine. I have, necessarily, many contacts, but write as I see fit, not how they might prefer. I derive all my income from writing and tour-guiding. There are also no complicating revenues from advertising – I did try it a few years ago, but a) felt that it had the potential to jar with the independence of Burgundy Report, and anyway b) it made the site look untidy 🙂 Also note, I’ve never been ashamed to accept lunch with a winemaker, even when they are paying, it is simply part of the culture of getting to know the people. I do not believe that it has ever affected my notes – and anyway, it typically follows a tasting – so the notes are already written at that stage!
A new level of (site) professionalism arrived in May 2019 – the latest version of the site, at last, properly viewable on mobile devices. I think longevity is something of a rarity for an online presence, but having already completed my first 18 years, I’m looking forward to seeing 20 and then 30!
Cheers, Bill Nanson
1 July 2020