records are made to be broken!

By billn on November 17, 2019 #events#the market

It was roughly 19h45 when I quit the salesroom of the 159th Hospices de Beaune wine auction – the sale didn’t actually finish until about 21h15 as there remained the small matter of almost 100 more lots to get through, but the writing was on the wall – records are made to be broken.

As a starting point, there was less wine for sale in 2019 versus 2018 – this was simply a question of the lower 2019 yields – 589 barrels of 2019 going under the hammer, down from 828 in 2018, including 118 barrels of white wine and 471 of red. A lower volume, but the early word on the quality of the 2019 vintage was positive, however, tasting was complicated. Those who tasted earlier in the week loved the wines, but those who tasted from Thursday onwards, when the weather turned much colder, were met with tight, often dissociated wines – would that change the minds of potential purchasers?

It seemed not.

The dynamics of the sale are interesting to watch – the major buyers often starting the bidding, but with much discipline, rarely offering even €100 more for a barrel when outbid. Except for poor old Frederic Drouhin, where discipline goes out of the window for certain lots; Drouhin traditionally buy all of the Beaune 1er Cuvée Maurice Drouhin – though plenty in the room still bid against him – so his barrel prices slowly crept up to over €11,000 for a barrel – probably it’s a game!

And the barrel prices? The first wine in the sale is traditionally the Beaune 1er Dames Hospitalières and it really strated the ball rolling in strong fashion – €13,000 a barrel. Outside of ‘show lots’ – such as the President’s Barrel of Corton for €260,000! – the prices were still often double the 2019 bulk prices. Despite the low volumes, reds were selling for nearly 8 percent more than in 2018 and the whites going for a ripping 18 percent more (with 100 lots still to go). So with the volume down by nearly 30%, I didn’t really expect the total from last year to be challenged – but it was looking closer than I expected. Prices have, on the whole, risen every year since 2016, though many 2019 prices still lag behind the exuberance of 2015.

I asked one of the most important purchasers (volume-wise) of the sale, Alberic Bichot, if he was happy with the prices tonight, to which he answered, “I’m very happy for the hospital!

And the weekend itself? The usual fare, an untold number of defenceless garlics were killed, merely to sit on plates with snails…

some old wines…

By billn on May 20, 2019 #degustation#events

clos des perrières

Meursault 1er Clos des Perrières – 2017-1928
A day in Beaune today – despite the grey skies, it was one of those special days in Beaune. A privilege to taste wines back to 1928 – ostensibly white wine – but good enough that Lalou Bize-Leroy was coming back for extra sips. So many highlights!

Of course all will be in my May report – but first, it’s time to finish April’s!

monday, so it must be the clos de vougeot

By billn on March 11, 2019 #degustation#events

Well, it could have been April given the variability of the weather – except that it was colder – the heavy bursts of rain often contained hail but they were punctuated by a beautiful blue sky. I saw 0.5°C as the lowest temperature on my early-morning trek over the Jura from Switzerland. One cloudburst of small hailstones had the effect of depositing 4-5cm of what looked like snow onto the autoroute – cars pirouetted, lorries jacknifed – not many people have winter tyres in France!

The 4-wheel drive, winter-booted Scooby danced through it all – but still had to beware of what others might do! Anyway today was the Trilogie en Côte de Nuits and my destination was the Clos de Vougeot to taste 2017 wines from 3 villages – Morey, Chambolle and Vosne – though there was also ‘Mini Me’ in the form of a small contribution from Vougeot too – I did have the impression that there wasn’t a lot of Chambolle on display. The first of these ‘Trilogies’ I attended was in a small cellar in Vosne to taste 2007s – some producers really haven’t improved since then – yes I’m looking at you Gros Frère et Soeur!

The rain was lashing when I arrived in Vougeot, and, of-course, cars were parked (abandoned!) everywhere – so a long hike with an umbrella was my choice. 1,000 people had registered for the tasting, so in circumstances like this you cannot taste everything – my choice was to taste all the Vosne-Suchots, Chambolle-Charmes, Echézeaux and Clos de la Roche that I could find in the room – there were surprisingly few of the 1er crus! Fortunately, a small, tasty, buffet lunch was included – necessary as, following my very early departure from Switzerland, my low sugar levels demanded action in the late morning.

Lots of old-faces to renew acquaintances and some good wines too – notes will follow-up in the reports section!


By billn on January 27, 2019 #events

Let’s be honest – for over a week, the weather forecast was not good for Vézelay’s 2019 version of the St.Vincent – first minus degrees and snow – which would have been preferable to the closer (to the day) forecast of rain, wind and 7°C. Given such circumstances, we chose an easy breakfast at 9am – still in Chablis – before committing to a plan of action.

Tada! – Saturday morning – dry, and now the forecast was no rain until 7pm! That would work!

We packed the car then went our cheery way – deciding to make a stop in Avallon en-route: I’d expected more, despite it being market day, I think I was expecting a little more charm – though the area around the old walls/remparts looked quite interesting. Maybe we will return in the Summer – maybe.

Classed as ‘press’ we had our own car-park ‘in’ Vézelay – a seemingly long, improbable, single-track to a campsite – though described in my paperwork as an Auberge – a very muddy campsite despite no rain – I pity those that would use the same spot on Sunday! Whilst dry there was some low cloud – the town of Vézelay was nowhere to be seen in this, so we had no idea if we had a 10 or a 30 minute walk ahead of us – it turned out to be only 10 – hooray!

Vézelay is such a cool town – winter or summer – lots of people, lots of snails, lots of barbecue andouillette, and of-course lots of Vézelay wine – and cuvée for the St.Vincent was delicious – no indication of the producer on the label, but the cork said Domaine de la Croix de Montjoie.

They were expecting 30-40,000 people over the weekend – and I expect the Sunday may have been very wet, but like last year, on Saturday, we stayed dry. Vézealy was the perfect venue for the St.Vincent.

Next year the St.Vincent will be visiting Gevrey-Chambertin – 25+26 January 2020.

And for next year, St.Vincent number 76:

do you want to taste all the grand crus of burgundy – for €2,500?

By billn on January 20, 2019 #events

That’s ‘only €75’ per grand cru, but it must include Montrachet, Romanée-Conti, La Tâche et-cetera…
From the BIVB:

Top wines in 2019: Indulge yourself with Bourgogne’s 33 Grands Crus

There are 33 Bourgogne Grands Crus wines. Some are the stuff of legend, such as Romanée Conti or Bâtard-Montrachet. Others are more accessible, like Chablis Grand Cru or Clos de Vougeot. But all have one thing in common: They represent the essence of the Climats of Bourgogne and symbolize 2,000 years of winemaking history.

Now you can share in this priceless heritage. The Ecole des vins de Bourgogne is offering a single training session per year to explore these 33 outstanding appellations, including the rarest of them.

“The Ultimate Bourgogne Wine Tasting: The 33 Grands Crus” is run in English by two experts, one in tasting, the other in geology.
The program includes reading the landscape in the field, estate visits, and commented tasting sessions, which together will provide a unique insight into these celebrated wines. These three days combine learning with pleasure.

And as an additional treat, participants will be invited to the exclusive Paulée of the Musique & Vins Festival on Friday 28 June at the Château de Meursault!

Dates: 27 to 29 June 2019 (plus an introductory evening on 26 June).
Limited to 15 places
Price: 2,500 euros

Registration and program: on line.

Romanée-Saint-Vivant – 20 years on

By billn on September 18, 2018 #events

I’m planning a tasting of 16 different labels of RSV from the 1999 vintage – in Bern, in Spring 2019. All the bottles were bought by me between 2001 and 2002…

Clearly it won’t be a cheap tasting, but get in touch if you’re interested to join – 10 places available – anyone who brings a magnum of the Leroy can get in for free though!

Waiting will be:

L’ArlotClavelier et FilsLouis JadotNicolas Potel
Robert ArnouxJoseph DrouhinLouis LatourAntonin Rodet
Sylvain CathiardGriveletMoillard-GrivotRomanée-Conti

exhibition: le pinard des poilus

By billn on July 25, 2018 #events

There’s a new exhibition coming up in the Clos de Vougeot, from Saturday 15 September 2018 until Sunday 31 March 2019 – Le Pinard des Poilus

Commemorating the end of the 1914-1918 world war. This exhibition brings together the Château plus UNESCO, author Christophe Lucand and the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.

The inauguration of the exhibition will be held on Wednesday 12 September from 6.30 pm in the former dormitory of the Monks of the Château. Here you will have a preview of the exhibition plus a discussion moderated by Christophe Lucand, a historian, and author of the book “Pinard des Poilus” – what a coincidence! The central theme is wine during wartime.

The preview is open to the public and is also free – but entry is only by pre-reservation due to a limited number of places – and note, the presentation is likely only in French.

If you wish to join this evening, you can confirm by phone +33 3 80 61 07 12 or by email here.

midsummer beaune….

By billn on June 23, 2018 #events

We arrived in Beaune about 9pm on Thursday – I say ‘in’ but that’s not technically correct – virtually all the entrances to the centre of Beaune were blocked. A little local knowledge, followed by reversing 300 metres up a one-way street finally got us to our usual parking place. Why? Well it’s midsummer’s night in Beaune and there are bands galore – at least until 11pm – the bars largely going to 11h30-12h00 – even those that normally close at 10pm.

And the ‘bands?’ Let’s just say that there was was something fort everyone! From traditional LaLa singers, to French pseudo-Muse, to Southern Boogie, to not so Deep Purple and eventually the best school disco ever. That’s midsummer Beaune.

It was clearly a very hard night, because Friday and Saturday seemed much quieter than usual!

henri jayer – the last hurrah?

By billn on April 16, 2018 #events#other sites#the market

Auction catalogue screenshot 12 April 2018

On June 17 2018, there will be an auction of burgundy wines that has very little (recent) equal. It will take place in Geneva under the auspices of Baghera Wines.

Whilst incredulous of a number of lots in this auction house’s first couple of auctions – how could they possibly be legitimate? – the catalogues were certainly sumptuous, fabulous things – keepsakes. The auction in June has, however, a provenance that seems irrefutable:

“855 bottles and 209 magnums! That’s how many bottles there were in Domaine Henri Jayer’s cellar. A handful of people knew of the treasures that were lying dormant at the Domaine, even though many bottles had been opened and shared these past few years. The anecdote about one last Richebourg 1959 opened by the family last Christmas shows how much Henri Jayer’s descendants enjoy tasting their father and grandfather’s wine.”
Baghera Wines

Whilst I like Burgundy Report to be inclusive, indeed egalitarian, sometimes you cannot escape from the rarest of the rare – and today that’s unquestionably Henri Jayer. Domaines Romanée-Conti and Leroy command similar prices, but their supplies are replenished with a new vintage each year – but for the wines of Henri Jayer that’s not the case – and it’s no joke that more wines bearing his label have already been drunk, than he ever produced – and yet ever-more come to the market.

Henri, born in 1922, died in 2006. I never met him, though I have (allegedly) had his wine in my glass twice – once it was an awful, bretty abomination and probably not genuine, the other time it hinted at the sublime and was maybe genuine – both were villages wines of the 1980s, drunk in the early 2000s.

Jayer was the vigneron(ne)s’ vigneron, working his vines for upwards of 60 years and his influence on the region is as strong as that from today’s benchmarks like the aforementioned Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Domaine Leroy – but he took a different path – decrying the use of whole clusters, choosing to destem all his grapes. Even when faced with great wines made with their stems, he remained resolute in his conviction. His wines remain highly sought-after, the problem is that his labels are also the most falsified and fabricated that you could imagine.

History is sometimes told with rose-tinted spectacles; it is said that Jayer was one of the first to reject fertilisers and reduce yields, but he began cultivation in the war years – there were no chemicals available so yields were inevitably low, though it’s true that, later, he never resorted to chemistry even when could – he used only his hands and his horse for his hard labour. And much hard labour was indeed required for his most famous of crus – Vosne-Romanée 1er Cros Parentoux – so small at 1.01 hectares that it is completely ignored in René Engel’s book Vosne-Romanée despite its position on the border of Richebourg and Petits Monts. When Jayer began his work, the whole of this unplanted plot was owned by Madame Noirot-Camuzet. Rented by Jayer, planting, dynamiting and even growing vegetables in the plot, he became not just the largest owner, after the family sold him 0.72 hectares in 1957, he continued to farm the vines retained by the Camuzet family. So Cros Parentoux, for so long bottled only as a villages wine, became for a time his monopole – though it was only in in 1978, that Jayer marketed Cros Parentoux for the first time under his own label.

In 1995, having officially retired, Jayer passed the management of 0.43 hectares of Cros to his nephew, Emmanuel Rouget, but he retained the balance of these vines as he ‘hobby vinified’ until the end of 2001 – from 2002 all of his vines were entrusted to Rouget.

The ‘Cros’ is by a long way the most populous wine in this sale and whilst, at first, it’s amazing that so many bottles remained at the domaine, given my recent experience of moving 800 bottles of my own wine, such a number can fit in a relatively small space, indeed could almost be lost in a, once, functioning cuverie. Once more the catalogue is a wonderful thing and full of detail – where else will you learn and see pictures of Jayer with his trusty horse Pilote and read the commentaries of Aubert de Villaine and Emmanuel Rouget?

We might not be able to afford such bottles, but we can always learn from them

[EDIT]: Here’s the PressRelease-Bagherawines-ENG-20180417

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