Vintage 2018

2018 harvest – 3 september

By billn on September 03, 2018 #vintage 2018

Our harvest day number 7…

What a way to start our day – Corton-Charlemagne – from a super plot of 0.35 ha, on the hill in the real Charlemagne sector. Acquired by the owners on 1993. A pleasure to watch on the triage table – some beurot in this (pinot gris) and just a few leaves and grilled berries to remove. It looked great…

Did I mention that there was a little more Chorey rouge? Well there was, but we finished it before lunch – at last! Though there’s still a little (relatively rare) white to come.

Lunch: 1978 Bouchard Père, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Pucelles
With the slightest touch, the cork disappears into the bottle – oops! So decanted!
A deep golden colour. The nose (fortunately) is clean, deep and round – and it keeps getting better with air too – always the best sign! Volume, depth of texture, long, slow-moving waves of off-sweet mineral flavour – excellent – a great bottle, and so robust!

Villages Beaune, Les Bons Feuvres comes in after lunch. There is a little under-ripe to triage, but only that. Interestingly the stems were much riper than than most – some were almost red. We will be staying with this tomorrow too as it’s quite a large parcel – approaching one hectare. The finish-line is in sight for us now though, we should be finished sometime on Wednesday! The domaine’s Pommard Vaumauriens, having been hailed twice, will need another couple of weeks as it’s a long way from ripeness…

The have been a couple of questions for recent posts that I’ll address here :

  • Acidity in whites: Is relatively modest – this vintage was never going to be like 2014 – but the amount of tartaric is relatively high, so pHs won’t reduce much during malolactic fermentations, as the sun burnt off much of the malic acidity.
  • Yields: I will restrict my comments to Côte de Beaune for now, and to those vines that were not hit by hail – the yields are very good, and below the limits for the appellations – but not very far below. Growers are very happy to have both volume and quality. Hail damage will have caused very wide discrepancies – some parts of southern Nuits have lost most of their fruit – it’s too early to say how much. Likewise it’s too early to gauge HOW well endowed some of the those Côte de Nuits vines were…

And outside of the Côte d’Or?
It’s one of those years where everything is happening at the same time – usually Beaujolais starts before Beaune, Chablis is a bit more variable – but Beaujolais is now well underway – only the early pickers were out last week. Chablis is a little later this year – Long-Depaquit started their harvest today, and assuming that they are not already finished, I hope I’ll be allowed in to take some pics on Thursday!

2018 harvest – 2 september

By billn on September 03, 2018 #vintage 2018

Our harvest day number 6…

With visitors for the weekend, I managed to cajoule a half-day holiday from the domaine on Sunday, returning after lunch for more Chorey rouge – well the domaine does have more than 2 hectares! Nothing more/additional to report there. But I have a few photos…

Walking around Beaune on Sunday morning we happened upon the team of Le Grappin (right) – dancing around their triage table – unsurprising given how good their Santenay 1er cru grapes looked!

Before attacking a couple of 1998 Musigny(!) with Marko de Morey in the evening – who was to start his Morey St.Denis harvest the next day – I managed to jog my way through Pommard and Volnay, and back to Beaune. For the second time in the last few days the vendangeurs of Bitouzet-Prieur and Pierrick Bouley were letting their hair down for the evening – the smile on Pierrick’s face was enough to profess contentment with volume and quality, whereas Francois Bitouzet was much more concerned that I ought to be running faster!

2018 harvest – 1 september

By billn on September 01, 2018 #vintage 2018

Pernand Le Pin – being pressed.

Our harvest day number 5…

Green and gold:
That’s how the triage table began this morning – villages Pernand – from relatively high up. At certain times the grapes on the table had me thinking of David Beckham – or rather his nickname – golden balls…

In recent times, relatively often have been the vintages where some proprietors claim that the grapes were so good that triage wasn’t necessary – of-course we who trie know better! But, this year, save for the extraction of leaves, and of-course not for vineyards touched by hail, I see a case for describing our 2018 triage as superfluous. There is a certain piece of mind that comes with triage, even this year, but for a number of vines, so little have we removed that I don’t expect a material difference to the wines.

Exceptional is a descriptor that has become overused to the extent that everything is now exceptional – like 93-95 point villages wines – but I can easily say that every other vintage that I’ve triaged since 2004 has not been like this one! Of-course the amount that you have to throw away is not the whole story, even the analytics are only the framework of the wines to, they don’t tell you about their texture, manner of delivery of flavour, or the wines’ complexity even if they may hint at the character – for that we will taste in another 12 months…

The rest of our day was Chorey-lès-Beaune rouge – the domaine has over 2 hectares – so it will be most of tomorrow too! The first deliveries needed a more ‘classical’ triage – much more unripe and a suggestion of rot here and there – this part of the vineyard is shaded by trees and is always wet – every year it’s problematic. Subsequent deliveries were more in the vernacular that has been set by other vineyards – still some rare bunches with rot, but virtually no unripe fruit. Apparently the soils are ‘worked’ here – but timing is everything! There is so much clay in the soil that the vineyards are impossible to enter when it’s very wet, or ploughing is ineffective when it’s very dry as the clay becomes concrete-like!

As noted yesterday, many, many more people were picking today as it was the 1st of September – a few images below of pickers in Beaune vines…

2008 Maison Saint-Nicolas, Volnay 1er Taillepieds
I don’t know this label – an hommage to Nicolas Potel maybe(?) He’d already left the Maison of his own name at this time…
Modest colour. Really a good nose of depth, complexity and flowers – not so wide. Fresh but with weight and width. A young palate but still a moreish wine. Tasty…

2018 harvest – 31 august

By billn on August 31, 2018 #vintage 2018

Our harvest day 4…

We started the day with Bourgogne Blanc (right); the vines are in Chorey-lès-Beaune (0.30ha) planted at the same time as yesterday’s Beaune Belissand, so this is also their first harvest. Overall, starting a little nicer too – less oïdium, though in the end, perhaps about the same. The domaine is still trying to think of a cuvée name – I joked Gouttes d’Or (my blind wine of the day) with a big golden bunch in my hand – they were a little too enthusiastic with that joke suggestion – I had to council that it probably wasn’t allowed!

Our blanc was followed by three reds – 80% was Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Aux Vergelesses, the rest was two small parcels in Pernand – Caradeuses and Fichots. Great grapes – the word exceptional has become debased, devalued and practically meaningless – much like 93 and 94 points for wines – but harvesting since 2004, I have honestly never seen such (clean) quality of grapes – from a triage perspective, if there hadn’t been leaves to remove, there would have been no triage to be done – I noted only 5 clusters of grapes in the whole day with classic rot in the middle, much less than 2005 (for instance). The Caradeuses was a little less uniformly black but with redder, more lignified stems, the Fichots was roughly intermediate. Paint me impressed!

A lot of people will be starting their harvesting tomorrow – not because the grapes are better than today, but because of French administration. Pay for harvesters is calculated per month, so if harvesters work one day in August and six in September, that’s twice as much paperwork as just making 7 days in September – pff….!

1979 Philippe Thevenot, Meursault 1er Goutte d’Or
My last one of these, and perhaps the best of these. Modestly gold. A fine, clean nose of lanolin and truffle-steeped lemon. Intense, wide, concentrated, indeed layered delicious old wine. A hit! Bravo!
Rebuy – No Chance

2018 harvest – 29 august

By billn on August 29, 2018 #vintage 2018

Our second day…

Just red today, and if ever boredom can rear its head at the triage table, well that’s today – mainly because it was a little over 1 hectare of Savigny-lès-Beaune red – villages – and it took the whole day to pick and triage.

I have to say – great grapes though!

For the appellation, seriously great grapes. What is particular about the reds (so far) is that maladies and off flavours and smells seem completely absent,* just like the relative lack of fauna in the grapes too. One thing is missing though, to an extent, and that’s acidity. Of-course there is acidity in the grapes but it’s largely tartaric, our traveling consulting oenologue regaling us with tales of cuvées he’s tested this year with practically zero malic acid – I wonder how those malolactic fermentations will run then 😉
*NB: So far I’ve triaged no grapes with hail damage.

We will have to wait a little for more meaningful analytics, I’ll be very interested to see some info on the total phenolics – colour is already showing in our Corton-Renards, though perhaps slower than in 2017 – but – my fingers are taking on colour almost as fast as they did in 2017, so let’s see.

A number of domaines didn’t harvest today due to the forecast for storms, maybe even hail – the hail canons were lit today, just in case! In the end, Beaune saw just a few spots of rain around 10h30 and a heavier downpour at 16h00 – no hail reported!

A luncheon wine:

1997 Nicolas Potel, Volnay
Still a quite young colour. A round nose that just gets better and better in the glass, becoming more floral – excellent. Like it always has been, this wine remains concentrated and something of a mid-palate bruiser, there’s structure but depth of flavour too. With aeration it rounds a little, but it’s still something of a brute. Whilst it has a certain charm it definitely lacks elegance – and I like a little elegance in my Volnay. I think I’ve been saying for almost 20 years now, that this wine remains something of a baby – no change here – perhaps it’s time to stop apologising for it and accept that I don’t like it all that much…
Rebuy – No

2018 harvest – 28 august

By billn on August 28, 2018 #vintage 2018

Yes, it’s still August, and some people have already been doing it for a week!

Our Beaune team ‘only’ have vines in the Côte de Beaune – but that includes grand crus! Today, our first day of the 2018 campaign, was nearly 80% white, but 1er cru white. The remaining 20% of pinot wasn’t to be sniffed at though, as it was grand cru…

The team started in the vines at 07h30 – you can’t start much earlier as you will be in the dark – the first grapes arriving back in Beaune at about 09h00. The grapes looked really fine – only cursary triage required – practically zero rot, rare dried berries and just a little with sunburn, later bins showing occasional bunches with oïdium. Talking of later bunches, with each subsequent delivery, you could really feel the temperature of the grapes increasing – we almost touched 30°C in Beaune in the late afternoon, though the day had started below 10°C. Tomorrow there are storms in the forecast – and depending on which forecast you read, there may, or may not, be hail.

Large, medium, small…

Returning to the chardonnay, the berry size was average to a little smaller than average – certainly smaller than the grapes of 2017. When compared to the last few years also much moree golden than green colored. Let’s see how the analytics look, the grapes were certainly very tasty. The blockage in our system was very clear today – only having one press on a mainly white day; 7 bins of fruit – a little over 2 tonnes – standing waiting while the first pressing finishes and then the press has to be emptied. Today we need 3 presses…

Medium, small, large

Our red was Corton-Renardes – the grapes were, frankly, superb. Beautiful shape to the clusters, the best parts of the (0.25 ha) delivering the smallest berries I’ve seen since 2010 – and virtually nothing to triage, save leaves and a few dried berries. I’ve never seen such a small quantity of under-ripe and verjus (since 2004!) – either we have the best pickers in the world or 2018 has massive potential. About 20% whole clusters found their way into this cuvée!

More accurately, 2018 Corton-Renardes has massive potential. The levels of maturity are all over the place, some parts of Pommard actually don’t have 100% veraison yet! There is the possibility that this will be quite a long and drawn-out harvesting campaign – assuming the domaines have the picking teams available when the grapes are ready. Talking of teams; our domaine went to an agency to assemble the last 10 pickers that were needed, and having seen the forecasts for hot weather our leader mentioned to the agency that people ought to be prepared with hats (et-cetera) for the heat. The agency’s response was ‘Oh, don’t worry about them. If it’s 30°C, they will probably still be a little cold – they are all from Eritrea!

Despite the vineyard warmth there is little fauna in our deliveries, mainly some repatriated ants! Maybe tomorrow we will have some idea of the analytics – but as previously noted, given the variability in the vines, they will be specific to these parcels and not for generalising…

home harvest day -1

By billn on August 27, 2018 #vintage 2018

Back to Beaune, and it’s a lot warmer here than it was in Bern! There has been a little rain in both the Côte d’Or and Chablis over the weekend, which will help with grape maturity.

Over the weekend, and today, there were more producers jumping into the vines to pick, and it wasn’t just Côte de Beaune whites; Domaine de la Vougeraie were already underway on Friday, they usually publish some daily bulletins, but so-far, there’s nothing online – I assume it’s imminent! Their brother/sister operation of JC Boisset began today in Volnay-Santenots.

On Saturday, the team at Clos des Lambrays began their assault – but not with their Puligny (which Boris Champy described as still a little heterogeneous), rather with their Morey premier cru. Today was to be their first day of picking in the Clos itself. Just to underline the inconsistency of maturity, Louis Bouillot only started their crémant harvest today in the Côte de Nuits.

Of-course some of the usual subjects have been underway in Meursault, Dominique Lafon opening his account with Gouttes d’Or on Saturday, where according to @justjasper, he was joined by Arnaud Ente. Yesterday Olivier Lamy was bringing in St.Aubin Derrière Chez Eduard and Criots Bâtard-Montrachet.

Tomorrow, my home domaine in Beaune will begin – secateurs time!

the 2018 harvesters – so far…

By billn on August 21, 2018 #vintage 2018

I initially thought that he was the first – he’s certainly in the vanguard – but although Benoit Ente of Puligny-Montrachet started picking the first of his 2018 whites today, he was beaten by his brother Arnaud who started yesterday. The siblings are not alone; Chandon de Briailles – hardly an early picker – picked Corton-Charlemagne today ‘that was perfectly ripe.

Doimaine Hubert Lamy plan to cut their first grapes tomorrow…

According to various sources, the ripeness is quite variable right now – including Véronique Drouhin – who, like my own harvest home-domaine (all Côte de Beaune vines) begins her picking next week – it will be a Tuesday the 28th start for me – but most of the Côte de Nuits is still waiting. David Croix confirms that the maturity is variable but tells me “Well, Corton reds are ripe and ready while most of the rest suffers from the drought. I haven’t decided yet when we will start.

It’s reported that there is a general backdrop – just like last year – of difficulty finding harvesters, France Bleu noting last week that there were still 1,600 open positions. Interesting to note in the reportage, that if you pay an agency to bring 25 pickers, you will be paying them €4,000 per hectare. Reasons provided for the shortage of pickers/porters seem to be a combination of new laws about providing accommodation, low unemployment and not just an early start to the vintage, but also an early start to the academic year for students. One can only imagine how much more difficult it might have been if the harvest was in a cold and wet period in October!

Anyway Domaine Boyer-Martenot took to Twitter today to try to fill their harvest team – and it worked:

general maturity update – part 2

By billn on August 13, 2018 #vintage 2018

I asked Mathew Mangenot of Domaines Albert Bichot for his rather wider view than my tour on Friday allowed:

Chablis and especially Mâcon were in a situation of drought at the end of July, causing a delay in the initiation of véraison – they had just a small amount of rain amount in July, a few mm versus 60 to 80 in the Cote de Nuits.

The extreme heat of the 10 first days of August didn’t help the maturation process, but on the other side, helped to keep everything sound from a sanitary aspect.

The recent rain has really made everything easier, and the sugar accumulation has started, keeping away the phenomenon of concentration. I don’t currently expect that acidity levels will be very high – due to the extreme heat – except if concentration comes back with lack of water.

Cote de Nuits (and Cote de Beaune) look fine due to rain in July. Some more rain will be needed to achieve maturation in good conditions.

À très bientôt!

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