a bit of science

Beans – with Domaine Bruno Clair

By billn on April 13, 2023 #a bit of science#travels in burgundy 2023

This week (Tuesday) we took a nice walk around Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey St.Denis – 10km – only at the very end did I see some vines with the tell-tale signs of herbicide – a shame – but certainly a better result than in Puligny-Montrachet!

Fava beans in Chambertin Clos de Bèze - Bruno Clair - 2023Much more interesting were a bunch of areas we saw that looked like giant vegetable patches – the vines almost completely obscured by bean plants (right). I ‘guessed’ (actually with the help of Google Lens!) broad beans – and yes it turns out that they are better known in some other places as fava beans – and very aromatic they were too!

In this case, it was a large parcel of vines in Chambertin Clos de Bèze – and the vines belong to Domaine Bruno Clair* – so I asked what they were up to. It was Edouard Clair (brother of Arthur – and son of Bruno & Isabelle) who kindly sent me this answer:

“In the majority, yes, these are fava beans. We also sowed annual clover and rye – rye only in vines that support it.

We are going to roll flat these plant covers over the next weeks – 100% for the legumes and mid-May for the mixtures with rye.

Our objectives are multiple:

– to add organic matter to the soil
– to provide nitrogen thanks to the legumes
– to cover the ground over the winter & spring which makes it possible to minimize and/or delay the growth of weeds
– after rolling, we will try to keep the straw on the ground, which allows it to be “refreshed” in the summer
– to create porosity in the soil thanks to the ‘galleries’ made by the roots – which will remain after the death of these cover-crops (obviously you must not plough the inter-row in the summer)
– from this we hope for some soil decompaction thanks to those roots
– and to stimulate the diversity of aerial fauna – ‘the rhizosphere…’

That’s it for the summary!”

Thank-you Edouard!

*I note that, amongst others, Pierre Vincent of Domaine Leflaive in Puligny is also a big fan of planting beans in the vines!

more robots…

By billn on October 25, 2020 #a bit of science

I previously introduced the BAKUS here. Two years later, maybe you might start seeing them in the ‘wild.’ In this case, in the vineyards of Louis Moreau in Chablis:

text of the day – a biodynamic critique…

By billn on June 14, 2020 #a bit of science#warning - opinion!

The problem with biodynamics: myths, quacks and pseudoscience
Linked here

A post (above) that’s worth spending a little time over.

I try to avoid discussing Steiner, the man, for exactly the reasons that this author has enunciated. I do believe that there are some aspects of (let me shorten it to) ‘BD’ that, perhaps, science has yet to catch up with, but I wholeheartedly concede that the general critique levelled by Joshua is incontrovertible.

There were great wines before biodynamics – even in the ‘chemical era’ of the 1960s-1990s – though far fewer than today. I believe that organic approaches to viticulture have improved sustainable grape production radically. How much of that is down to BD is a moot point, certainly far, far, less than the recent benevolence of the climate and wine pricing that allows producers to experiment and not always aim for the highest allowed yields.

The ‘DRC Fallacy’ is something of a given, as one should note that not all great farmers are great winemakers – and vice-versa – the great names (labels) happen to combine both aspects. Save for certain ‘hard to explain’ rituals (including burials!) BD is essentially very close to organic farming. For that reason alone, I’m quite happy that more and more people are taking note. That’s possibly my philosophical side speaking but from the perspective of intellectual rigour…


By billn on April 22, 2020 #a bit of science#warning - opinion!

This is an excellent read – thanks – a ‘hat-tip’ – to @bkpinot

I would only quibble with this:

“The only mention in English that I am aware of through the 70’s was Michael Broadbent’s mistaken use of it as a term for dirty or unpleasantly earthy wine.”

I would say not mistaken. Many old winemakers (ie older than 70) in Burgundy reference the term (terroir), in their youth, as implying rusticity — a ‘peasant’ wine, ‘unruly’ wine — ‘earthy’ indeed, more so than referencing site specifics. As much as anything, with the rise of marketing, you will find the rise of the current usage of that word. The meaning/context of words often changes over generations — just look at ‘gay…’

are malos bad?

By billn on April 16, 2020 #a bit of science#warning - opinion!

Like this, another interesting ‘malo’ article this week – similarly themed too, casting malolactic fermentation as a bad-guy. But Burgundy won’t take it to heart!

the great grape launderette…

By billn on February 05, 2020 #a bit of science#ladypyrazines#vineyard pestilence#warning - opinion!

bugI’m reminded of more than one conversion I had with the former winemaker in Morey St.Denis, David Clark. His 2004s and 2011s were not immune to the pyrazines of those vintages, and in the absence of other theories that convinced, he seemed pretty comfortable with the idea that the ladybirds/bugs might be the responsible party.

David was (probably still is) an incurable the inventor/engineer, proposing that maybe the solution was to wash the grapes before they hit the fermentation tanks – he was pretty sure that the environment of the cuverie would harbour enough yeast strains to get the fermentations done, assuming that those populations on the grapes themselves might be washed away. Some other winemakers seemed less convinced of that latter point – but given not many ladybugs since 2011 – it’s a thought that has faded.

I note that in some vintages, Bouchard Père et Fils has ‘sort-of‘ their own grape washing approach; letting the first part of the first press wash away as it contains all the dirt accumulated on the grapes. But an automatic wash for the grapes it isn’t.

Enter the most recent vintages chez Château Thivin; an Italian friend of Claude Geoffray has been using such a washing system for grapes that go into their local bubbles. Claude decided to give it a try. The grapes are hit by high-pressure water before travelling over a vibrating table to remove the larger drops, then a high-pressure air-flow to dry the grapes. “It doesn’t just get rid of the insects,” says Claude, “In the most recent vintages there has been no rain, so the accumulated treatments of the summer are undoubtedly still present on the grapes – copper, sulfur, etcetera.

Claude confirms that his recent fermentations have been fine – ‘normal‘ – whereas most producers in the last vintages describe fragility in their fermentations, and a couple have even suggested to me that it could be the accumulation of copper still on the grapes that bears some responsibility. Claude is still waiting the analyses of the chemical levels in his ‘wash-water,’ but it’s fair to say he’s been very happy with the results; “It was clear that many of the grapes had an accumulation of something from the vintages that didn’t taste nice before washing – after they were fine.

For the moment, Claude and the team at Châateau Thivin may be the only winemakers using this tool in France – but with results like this, it seems a modest investment in quality – even without ladybugs!

‘understanding’ minerality…

By billn on October 04, 2019 #a bit of science#other sites

From their excellent ‘Science’ series, here is a well-written and information-packed, but not too long(!) read. Enjoy:


icymi: a good, and growing, wine-science library…

By billn on May 17, 2019 #a bit of science#in case you missed it

The sulfur chemistry article is new – yesterday. I’m finding this a good resourse of well-presented, relatively accessible, wine science articles:

Burgundy Report

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