Why Big Red Diary?

Random Ruminations

  • Prices
  • It’s a gas
  • P
  • Flavescence
  • 2014: What next…

Well, it’s the talk of the town; onwards and upwards is the only way – or so it currently seems. Burgundy, just like Bordeaux has seen boom and bust pricing over many generations – we current enjoy, or rather, the merchants currently enjoy, a boom. Will it last forever due to newly developing markets etcetera(?) There’s no sure answer to that one, though (of-course) the afore-said merchants say it will. The Hospices de Beaune auction, once the bell-weather of market pricing, has, for a while, shown little correlation with real market pricing, it has become something of an aberration, driven by charity (in theory) and self-promotion in practice – but at least the hospitals around the town benefit.

goldAlready this time last year, there were plenty of scare stories about 2012 pricing – and of-course the price of some hail-damaged communes’ wines increased, but in general life was pretty stable if you’re not completely label-focused. Yet, no-less than Louis-Fabrice Latour announced, just a few weeks ago, that the £10 bottle of Burgundy would die in 2014. Of-course it is the price-tripling of many well-known, well-respected producer’s wines, in less than 10 years, that is more eye-opening – and even village wines have not been spared. Of-course that’s only if the merchants allow you to buy a bottle. There has certainly been some interesting skewing of the traditional buyer-seller relationship over the last 10 years – though in the end it is the age-old equation of supply and demand! It would be insensitive to say that I didn’t used give a second thought to opening a bottle of grand cru, but times change and more and more bottles are being traded or hoarded like gold…

Personally, I like to think of this as an opportunity; a chance seek out new producers and new negoce, to visit new villages we’ve never visited before, to boldly go… You get the picture 😉

It’s a gas…

Or, rather, the wines are getting too gassy.

Now I’m pretty sure that we don’t want too much SO2 in our wines – it can end up smelling like sweaty cabbages (sulfites), or as free SO2, it can simply spoil your enjoyment of a wine’s aroma – and that’s more than half the fun for me. But like oak, or egg-shaped fermenting tanks, fashions can tend to extremes and I really think that we are beginning to experience an extreme level of CO2 in many, many young wines. Those wines need vigorous shaking (‘the Fourrier shake’) and/or double decanting to even (slowly) taste like Burgundy.

The current generation of producers may (or may not) point to their fathers’ or grandfathers’ reluctance to decant, but that was when Burgundy tasted like Burgundy, now, until the bottle is almost exhausted it often tastes more like a carbonated beverage – why would you do that with a ‘commodity’ that regularly costs Euros 50-100 a time? (I’m being modest, remember, fewer grand crus…) Keep your ears pricked when you hear ‘only racked before bottling, low sulfur‘ and prepare your decanter!


bugI haven’t really been pushing this theme (around here) too much in 2013, as, Diary and Forum excepted, Burgundy Report was left fallow for most of the year. I did get involved in one or two internet discussions but I was easy meat for those who can’t or won’t listen – whether their orientation derives from the physiological or the fiscal – i.e. they sell wine. Anyway, I ducked out of those discussions. But as you will see from a significant part of the reporting here, some wines from 2011 showed it a year ago, but on average, the proportion of stinkers is way higher right now. If this taint continues to manifest itself in a similar manner to 2004, we are still a long way from its peak incidence…

Initially it seemed a good idea to rate the wines from P1 to P10, but given our own personal variability (even we who smell it in an instant) then it seems better just to say ‘P’ and leave it at that. I should say ‘chapeau!’ to Antonio Galloni for being the first professional reviewer to say – ‘yes, here it is in the 2011s’. As you might note from my giant round-up, those 94 point scores on frankly repugnant (to me) wines, make me shudder.

I continue to receive questions from those new to the subject, questions that are all answered here. Only to add that my experience of the 2011 vintage where the fruit was massively cleaner than in 2004 but there were also many more bugs, has only hardened my adherence to this theory. That’s enough bugs for now.

Well, almost…


This was the big story of 2013, right up until the time that hail stripped the fruit from Côte de Beaune vineyards. Suddenly we all wrapped-up in those more immediate and tangible issues. But Flavescence has not gone away. It certainly hasn’t gone away for Emmanuel Giboulot who was put before the courts for not spraying insecticide against the leaf-hoppers that carry the disease vector (a phytoplasma) – though it is worth noting that his vines didn’t (as far as anyone can tell) have any of these leaf-hoppers anyway.

The basic position of the authorities is that if all the vines are sprayed, then there are no pockets of insects that will suddenly re-infect their neighbours. I understand Emmanuel’s basic position, I also understand that if I was a neighbour of his, and I sprayed, but then 2 years later I had to rip out diseased vines because my neighbour hadn’t sprayed – I’d be pretty pissed about that. So life is not easy.

That said, in the classic way of many French regulations, they only know you haven’t sprayed if, in some way, you choose to tell them. Because the checking procedure is only the requirement to prove that you bought the insecticide, i.e. you show the invoice for the pesticide that you bought! Nobody actually checks to see if you actually used it. So, it seems that Emmanuel chose to publicly make this stand…

2014: What next

Okay, finally an apology for the lack of reports in 2013. It wasn’t possible to devote the writing time to Burgundy Report – there were more pressing matters. I cancelled some trips to the Côtes, indeed, I was there for only half the number of days versus 2010-2012. But if I wasn’t writing, I was still researching! 😉

Given the year that I’ve had, I’ve finally decided to jump from the corporate ship and concentrate on wine. I have a new book theme for 2014 (hopefully on-sale before 2014 is out), and strongly considering making my future reports to be subscription-based, though all the reference section, Forum and Diary from this site would (naturally!) remain free to air, and even be maintained! Of-course I would have to ‘up my game’. This 2013 report, in terms of its depth should be achievable at least 4 times per year. I don’t do scoring and I won’t do scoring – I do reportage, and put new and interesting names before your eyes. I’ll publish a prospectus in January – let’s see if anyone will pay 😉

Of-course (self, self, self…) 2013 wasn’t just difficult for me:

Done. Have a fine end to 2013, and an even better 2014. Cheers!

2 responses to “Random Ruminations”

  1. henryd1

    On the subject of pyrayzines in the 2011 red burgundies, more or less every wine I’ve had from this vintage has been undrinkable (even from reputable producers and in decent appellations). I had a Dujac Morey St Denis that was completely undrinkable, served by a representative of the domain, who seemed to think there was no problem with it… And they’re just as expensive as the 2010s, if not more so. Crazy.

  2. the EG affair…

    […] adding to what I wrote last year, and what else may be attributed to me, here’s what I published elsewhere last […]

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