Entries from 2023

1999 JF Mugnier – just the Chambolle…

By billn on September 06, 2023 #degustation

1999 JF Mugnier Chambolle-MusignyHaving been quite impressed with my recent Petits Monts I thought I might test another of my 1999 problem children 😉

With such easy availability back in 2001/2002 – at least where I lived – I bought quite a bit from chez Mugnier in those years. Musigny was also no problem way back when – I may open a 1998 at Christmas-time… But I digress!

I bought half a dozen bottles and 12-pack of half bottles of this 1999. The bottles were delicious, if structural, when young. The longer they were kept, the less attractive they became. For whatever reason, all of my 75cls were drunk a long time ago but fewer of the 37.5s – so let’s look at one of those:

1999 JF Mugnier, Chambolle-Musigny
Half-bottle. The cork takes plenty of effort to budge – but surprises me by coming out in one piece – bravo! And this quercus-suber bark smells quite sweet.
The colour is modest for this vintage – only a medium red and with a faint haze too – perhaps I hadn’t been gentle enough with the bottle! The nose has some encouraging signs but it’s a note of brett that grows more quickly and takes over the centre stage: a beefy, bretty impression that I might say comes with the territory if the wine was another 15-20 years older – but not today. In the mouth, the stark austerity of this wine’s early teens is much less overt – it’s clearly better – but there’s still a slightly hard minerality to the middle and finishing flavours, though here the flavours are clean and I don’t note any meaty bretty influence. There’s also almost enough sweetness to carry the wine. Actually, the fluidity, intensity and texture are big positives with this wine but to be honest, at this age, I’m still pleased that it’s only a half-bottle – as there’s less for me to drink! This remains one of my least successful 1999 purchases – except for those first 3 bottles, 20 years ago…
Rebuy – No

2023 Harvesting…

By billn on September 06, 2023 #vintage 2023

Well, nearly!

Some are already at it but my first harvest day will be Saturday.

I did a bit of a tour of the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits yesterday. 99% of the activity was in the Côte de Beaune, and 90% of that was whites.

The white hillsides had harvesters in just about all locations but it was just a few domaines here and there – not all domaines. There was a small amount of red harvesting to be seen – I’m assuming for the grapes of the precocious young vines. I remember in a recent hot vintage – 2020 – that Chartron in Puligny had started their harvest with their red Puligny 1er Les Caillerets – this year it’s the more classic ‘chardonnay first’ style of vintage and their red Caillerets is still waiting to be picked.

A lot of Montrachet is still waiting to be picked but much of Chevalier-Montrachet – despite being higher on the slope – has already been picked. And some of the vines – like those of Bouchard Père – are continuous but their Chevalier is picked, their Montrachet not. Likewise, the neighbouring Montrachet of DRC was also waiting to be picked. Reds are slowly coming into focus though: d’Angerville started yesterday, David Croix and Thibaud Clerget started today – Guillaume d’Angerville noting that his teams are starting early and finishing at midday due to the heat of the day – just now it’s about 33-35°C each day with not much change in this pattern of weather before Monday/Tuesday, next week. The team at Lafon are almost finished!

It’s clear that there are plenty of white grapes on the vines of the Côte d’Or – as we will see – also the reds.

Whilst the red grapes in the Côte de Beaune look pretty good – I had the impression that the grapes in the Côte de Nuits – a random sample – looked to have more challenges, ie more variable ripeness, a little rot behind some of the grapes and, seemingly, ever-more raisined berries too. Like in the Côte de Beaune, plenty of grapes though. This included the great grand crus of Richebourg and Romanéée St.Vivant. I already mentioned the generous amount of grapes – and some of the bunches are impressively large too – but in Romanée St.Vivant there was evidence of plenty of green harvesting – probably done in July. I think a necessary step for anyone looking for a decent level of ripeness. Whilst some vines remain green and vigorous, I observed a lot of very dry vines – in both Côtes – vines that already look like it’s the end of October when the grapes have long been picked – this surprises me given the relatively consistent amounts of rain this year.

Early indications are that the acidity in the grapes is low but the amount of potassium in the grapes is also low this year – ‘So what we have, we should be able to keep!

For those with an interest, the harvest is getting underway in Beaujolais and the Mâconnais but all is seemingly quiet for now in Chablis.

weekend wines, week 34 2023

By billn on August 29, 2023 #degustation

weekend wines, week 34 2023

Well, that’s settled – my harvest in Beaune starts on Thursday 8th September. Now back to the wines 😉

2014 Dubreuil-Fontaine, Corton-Charlemagne
A fine looking natural cork from Trescases
Oops – but that’s a deep colour – plenty of brown here. The nose is obviously oxidative, slightly caramel too – I have the impression of a ‘very natural’ cider in my glass. A sip tells me it’s obviously oxidised but has a great mineral spine – such a shame. I put my glass in the fridge for a couple of hours – as it’s 35°C in the garden – as I’m sure it will freshen up and probably still be modestly drinkable. I was wrong – no improvement. What a shame. I fully appreciate and applaud why Christine Dubreuil changed part of her range of whites to DIAM seals…
Rebuy – No

1999 Veronique Drouhin, Vosne-Romanée 1er Petits-Monts
This used to be a wine could easily source – I bought two 6-packs from Denis Perret in Beaune – pre-ordered. I do remember them being quite expensive though – the price of a same vintage René Engel grand cru – how things have changed. The first bottles (more than 15 years ago) were fine but with time this wine became thin and uninteresting – time for it to sleep. This the first bottle from my second 6-pack – a good length of unbranded (by the supplier) cork.
Plenty of colour. This nose is direct, linear – you get my drift – but has a silky complexity and intensity. Much better than I remember from more than 10 years ago! In the mouth it’s redolent of the nose – direct, forceful and intense – and with a very impressive middle to finishing flavour. Still with some baby-wine austerity! 1999s continue to surprise me with their quality, yet after nearly 25 years, their unreadiness! This is the first of this purchase (bottle 7!) where I genuinely see the proximity of these vines to Richebourg. Potentially a great 1er – even from Vosne – but I would still be waiting another 4-5 years!
Rebuy – Yes

2021 Gautheron, Chablis Emeraude
My Charlemagne replacement – already many notes for this – I must put something else in the fridge 🙂

2019 Raphael Chopin, Beaujolais-Lantignié La Savoye
Lots of colour. Fresh, crunchy dark fruit – even a little extra floral interest with more air. Chunky, crunchy dark fruit flavour – but never heavy. I love the combination of energy but still intensity – again – never too much. Simply delicious – I only have a couple more – a shame!
Rebuy – Yes

Burgundy 2023 harvest – ready, get set, and some have gone!

By billn on August 28, 2023 #vintage 2023

Burgundy this Monday-Tuesday, has a very different feeling to last Monday-Tuesday.

Last week, the Côtes d’Or, Chalonnaise & Mâconnais – Beaujolais too – were doing their best to enjoy temperatures of 36-38°C. Chablis was a slightly less sticky 33° – or-so. This week, they are getting-by with about 20°C after lots of rain with nights hardly in double-digit temperatures.

Last Tuesday, I discussed the harvest and matters arising with Jacques Devauges of the Clos des Lambrays. He was of the opinion that he may start his teams on the 9th September – mirroring what Antoine Gouges had ‘thought out loud’ earlier the same day. I mentioned to Jacques that although the pinot looked to be in good shape, the vines seemed to have wildly varying yields – from only 2-3 bunches per vine to more like 15! “That’s the essence of the vintage and the most important thing to avoid! You can see in the Clos that we have already thinned out the fruit – you may still see some vines with only a few bunches but you won’t find any with an excess of bunches – that excess is already lying on the ground. It’s clearly nonsense if a domaine claims an average yield of 35 hl/ha when half of their vines are producing nearly double – how will those grapes ripen?

Of course, Jacques is completely correct. And since I spoke to him, it’s even a little more complicated: Some maturities were already pushing 12° last week but with much rain in the last days – and it’s probably not stopping until Wednesday – the sugars in the grapes will have been diluted. Half a dozen domaines canvassed today still have no (exact!) idea when they will start to harvest.

As mentioned, those domaines that have avoided the worst of the hail – twice in parts of the Chalonnaise and three times in parts of Beaujolais – still have some healthy-looking grapes and time is on their side – except; the grapes in Chablis have been really suffering from rot – it had largely dried up before the rains – but now? Now it will be a concern for all the other regions too.

BUT! Of course, it’s the usual names, but at least half a dozen domaines have already started harvesting some of their whites; from Lamy to Leroy (d’Auvenay) there are already tanks of must settling, and even some latent wines are already in their barrels. It’s easy to criticise – and some always do – but these domaines have low yields and ‘different’ viticulture to the majority of their neighbours – and if their grapes say go – then go they must!

I’m expecting to start my harvest in Beaune around the 4th-5th of September, but like in many places, we are not yet certain!

A little light reading… ICYMI

By billn on August 24, 2023 #in case you missed it

It’s a while since I posted an ICYMI – years! – but the desert of interesting new articles has recently been punctuated by a few that are of interest – in no small way aided and made more entertaining by the comments of such arch provocateurs as Guffens and Essa – look out for that sly fox’s (Patrick Essa) comments in one of Benjamin Lewin’s articles!

Enjoy 🙂

weekend wines, week 33 2023

By billn on August 22, 2023 #degustation

wines - week 33, 2023

Time moves so fast – another 20 weeks and it’ll be 2024! But first a brief look back at some opened bottles:

Tripoz, Cremant ‘Nature
I’ve always been a fan of this cuvée, slightly deeper coloured than the average, a nose of some power but not overtly missing its sulfur. In the mouth a wine of large scale and tasty flavour energy. A bit more expensive than your average crement, but worth it!
Rebuy – Yes

2021 Gautheron, Chablis 1er Montmains VV
Already my third for this dozen – you don’t need yet another note – except to say that I should start drinking some other wines 🙂
Rebuy – Yes

2005 Camille Giroud, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Les Peuillets
What a wonderful, deep, nose – there was obviously some dark oak used here – in that respect it also reminds me of CG’s 2005 Gevrey En Champs. Fecund is a word that comes centre stage for this ‘perfume.’ In the mouth, this is remarkably lacking in austerity for an older Savigny – the wonderful vintage taking over with concentration, proper structure, depth of fine flavour. Simply a great Savigny – 2005 strikes again!
Rebuy – Yes

2009 Camille Giroud, Corton Clos du Roi
An infuriating cork! With not much effort from the corkscrew, this cork decides to break in half in the neck. The remaining half was impossible to extract in one piece, indeed eventually falling into the wine. A decanter was required. Maybe because of the decanter, the whole wine was drunk in one sitting – by two of us! The nose was good but a little subdued – the real grand cru element was the width, persistence and energy of the flavour. 2009 was never my favourite vintage and, for now, it still isn’t – too easy and ripe – but this wine has promise – the cork excepted!
Rebuy – Not yet

On the touristic trail from Beaune to Chablis…

By billn on August 19, 2023 #travels in burgundy 2023

Château Commarin

Beaune to Chablis on the Autoroute requires only about 1 hour and 20 minutes – you may be surprised to hear me say this but, between Beaune and Chablis, there’s much to do and see that doesn’t include wine! So why not use a whole day to take in the sights?

I revisited a few places last week, many of which I hadn’t visited since pre-covid times – remember those?! Anyway, let me make a few suggestions and observations for you – which are organised sequentially as you head north from Beaune.

1. Hotel, Abbaye de Bussière
Once a ‘destination’ hotel and still a wonderful collection of buildings and gardens in the valley of the Ouches river. Once? Well, the hotel changed hands and the upkeep seems to be difficult for the new team – the service too. Keeping the prices up doesn’t seem to have been difficult though – €600 for a room for the night or €23 for two cokes and a coffee – but for what you get at the moment, the prices are absolutely not justified. That their restaurant seemingly managed to retain their 1 Michelin star seems unbelievable to this casual visitor!

2. Châteauneuf-en-Auxerrois
Only about 10km from the Abbaye but given the Hotel’s current state, it’s more likely that you will have taken the A6 Autoroute from Beaune in the direction of Paris & Chablis. It’s actually the first exit from the A6 after you leave Beaune – 37km – and that’s a long way if you were going to Beaune and missed the exit at Savigny! – everybody does it once 🙂

One named the Château de Toisey-la-Berchère, the Châteauneuf sits proudly on the hillside above the Autoroute – like a medieval castle with turrets and flags. It requires taking a few small and steep roads – but Google Maps is your friend – to a quaint village where the castle is situated. The village is one of those places where your mind can wander and you find yourself contemplating buying one of these old houses – it’s a summer dream – because you would of course die in the winter months – many kms of steep snowy roads would be required to visit a supermarket!

The (now) unoccupied castle itself has undergone some renovation and is worth paying the few euros required to gain entrance. Here you will also find wedding photos of the previous owner – Comte Georges de Vogüé – yes, that Comte Georges de Vogüé! He gave away the castle to the state in 1936.

3. Château Commarin
Not a long drive from the Châteauneuf is the fine-looking, twin-winged, moated, Château Commarin. Also a good place to stop and drink a coffee, beer, cola etcetera – maybe to take ice cream too! This is another place where it’s worth paying a few euros to get a look inside the château and walk the gardens – gardens patrolled by pigs who live to munch on the lawn’s dandelions. There’s a rather green-coloured but full moat surrounding the buildings, though it’s fed from behind by a freshwater stream. And what do you know – another house owned by the de Vogüés! In this case, it’s a different branch of the family, some of whom are still resident. It turns out that this important French surname is used by at least 1,000 de Vogüés today.

I offer an optional next stage for those of you with a burning hunger:

4. Restaurant Côte d’Or in Saulieu
Two Michelin stars, sometimes called Le Relais Bernard Loiseau. You will need to book ahead! I only ate here the once but is was beautifully executed food and with top service. If you do stop for a long lunch you may be calmed by the knowledge that they have rooms – so you have the possibility to continue your journey onwards to Chablis the following day!

5. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain
45 minutes in the car from Saulieu or about the same from Commarin. Flavigny is famous for the small white pastilles/sweets that it produces – principally aniseed but with many other flavourings too. We didn’t visit this year but our experience was ‘different’ on a hot June day in 2022. The ‘sweet factory’ is housed in some old ecclesiastical building and looks quite cool – you can tour the factory for free. First, we wandered around the village; an interesting walk that on this day was spoiled by thousands and thousands of ‘house flies’ sunning themselves on steps and house walls – we soon decided to visit the factory. The factory itself was a good visit with lots to sample and, of course, buy! Given the heat, I was happy to find that they had a cafe – an open place with some trees – but – it was like a killing zone under and around the trees here – dead and dying bees everywhere. I could only assume that they were being poisoned by the strenth of the aniseed smell! You can probably see why we havn’t been back…

6. Abbaye de Fontenay
Of all these stops on the road to Chablis, this is the closest to a must-visit. Not on the scale of Cluny but more complete and so beautifully landscaped that it’s hard to believe that in the early 1900s, this collection of buildings began a new life as a paper factory. Eventually, a Frenchman with far more money than time available to him bought everything and set about restoring all the, by now, blackened buildings. A beautiful, restful, contemplative place. I highly recommend it. The only black mark is that their ‘café’ is simply a room with two vending machines!

You are now already most of the way to Chablis but there’s another worthy visit before you arrive:

7. Noyers-sur-Serein
Like in Chablis, we are in the department of the Yonne here – not the Côte d’Or. This is a wonderful stop to see the beautiful old houses of the village – perhaps one of the best preserved medieval villages in France(?) It’s a place where the summer dreams return 😉 Before the 25 minute drive to Chablis.


New Burgundy Report online…

By billn on August 18, 2023 #reports

April 2023It’s taken a while – but now I’ve only 40 more domaines to write up before the start of the harvest 🙂

The new report is online here.

I hope you enjoy it – and also here’s to all your weekends – it’s going to be a hot one where I live!


Not a good day in Beaujolais…

By billn on August 14, 2023 #vintage 2023

Yesterday brought hail to Beaujolais. You can look through Jerome’s images above. This is already the third time that Beaujolais has experienced hail – (almost) always in different places…

You can also see from Jerome’s comments, that the hail followed a narrow but long corridor. As is often the case, the storms start in or around the combe of Beaujeu, this time following a line through the top of Lantigné, Emeringes, through the higher part of Regnié then onwards above Morgon through Chiroubles and the rear hills of Fleurie. Chenas was hit a little but on the lower slopes of Moulin-à-Vent, there was only rain.

I asked a few vigneron(ne)s:

Richard Rottiers (Moulin à Vent):The high parts of Beaujolais were touched but where I am in Romanèche it was only water!
Paul Henri Thillardon (Chenas): “We lost 20% of the harvest a month ago but not yesterday!”
Anne-Sophie Dubois (Fleurie): “Indeed there was a storm with hail. The impacts are not very numerous but the vine has almost finished veraison. Open berries are now susceptible to rot. The problem is here. As usual, the weather will, or will not, clean up the situation.”
Grégoire Hoppenot (Fleurie): “It seems that there is heavy damage on the ridges from Lantignié to Emeringes. In particular the high parts of Regnié, St Joseph, Chiroubles and the top of Fleurie. I don’t know the limits.”
Domaine Desvignes (Morgon): “No damage to the parcels that I looked at – so no hail for us this time.”
Laurent Martray (Côte de Brouilly): “Apparently no damage for me – I don’t know about the other areas…”

So, it seems that the Beaujolais Crus have fared well versus the hyphen-Beaujolais villages. The 10-day forecast seems mainly thunderstorm free in the Beaujolais, the same can’t be said of Chablis or the Côte d’Or, nor the Côte Chalonnaise or Mâconnais – I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!

Burgundy Report

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