Vintage 2020

marko’s harvest diary 03-Sep-20 – (the real) day one

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on September 11, 2020 #vintage 2020

Noellat Day One 1st thing Gathering - Alain Noellat back of head

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day One, Thurs 3rd Sept 2020

Decent sleep in my sole occupier room on basic single bed after the long travelling to get here. I was up and about by 6.30 a.m. not sure what time precisely the ‘action’ would start. On any first day there always seems to be some extra time taken re admin & everyone familiarising themselves with each other, what we’re going to do and how/when.

I was one of the first to gather on the domaine premises forecourt, availing myself of a black coffee from the machine in the large room just left inside the gates (which is the normal dining room without Covid) to go with my brought with me Cadbury’s breakfast bar (other breakfast bars are available !). More folk gradually arrived until the area from domaine building, under the awning covering dining tables, and to the gate was covered by non socially distancing milling folk. I quickly recognised and acknowledged, as they did me, any number of faces from last year – not just the fellow lodgers from the prior evening but family/management, cuverie employees, and locals who would bolster the lodging pickers. I’ll come to mask wearing later in this piece when I cover Covid more generally.

Initially though, what we were all wating for, as happened last year but then in the bottling/storage room to the rear of the garage, was ‘the announcement’. As last year this was largely given by Sophie Noellat but with her brother, winemaker Sebastian, stood alongside in support (see photo) whilst father, Alain, held himself to one side. Being ‘caught out’ last year, then not realising I was allocated to one of several sub teams, I paid somewhat more attention this time (!) albeit a very good deal of what was said passed me by as outside my limited French vocabulary & spoken too quickly ! Sophie is a brilliant person. I can honestly say I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone so constantly cheerful, bubbly, and the rest. ‘Glass half full’ might have been a saying coined for her except her glass seems full all the time ! For me the added bonus is her English is excellent. How she juggles being a mother of two very young boys (oldest just starting primary school), domaine admin with her mother, and winemaking with her brother goodness only knows. Her husband (first name escapes me), another sunny disposition cheery type, is from the Sirugue family (Domaine Robert Sirugue – situate just down the road at the top of the Avenue du Monument). Brother Sebastian is a laid back, quietish, big solid citizen, thoughtful type, except when with his cuverie team when he becomes more ‘one of the lads’. One might be hard pressed to realise he’s the main winemaker – I’ve never seen him in garb other than working trousers and tee shirt.

Main outcome for me from the announcement was to have my name called as a member of sub team Equipe No 1, team leader/porter/mini bus chauffeur Jean-Claude Franchini (‘JCF’), with the rest of the team two ‘mature’ ladies and five other equally mature men. Three of the latter were known to me from last year, if not well, as we were then in different teams. In time though we would prove to be as quick & efficient as any of the three other sub teams, if not the quickest. Big plus that I knew JCF well from rooming together last year. All the 4 teams would have their own rental mini bus, and would dine together with a table plan. We even had allocated seats in the mini buses which we had to ‘stick to’. I could only construe this was for any potential Covid track & trace. In terms of Covid this must have caused the domaine (and others) a great deal of admin angst and cost. I’ve already mentioned lodger room occupancy, eating outside, using our own eco cups, and having a mask allocation. Laminated signs re Covid best practices such as mask wearing, sanitising, hand washing etc are sticky tape attached all over the place i.e to doors, stairwells, walls in front of wash basins, on the windows of the mini buses, on the serving tables at meal times to name the areas I can recall. My room has its own bottle of sanitiser and such are readily available around the domaine premises. Frankly, I cannot see the domaine could do more yet operate half way effectively.

Mask wearing – hum, where to start ! At least we don’t have to wear in the vines whilst picking although one or two individuals seem to have them permanently under their chin !!! Essentially, we are required (must) to wear masks in two scenarios:- 1) when we’re in the mini buses (presumably as we cannot social distance thereto); and 2) at meal times when we approach the servers for our food. The food serving is a change from the norm as historically we’ve had ‘waitress’ service but now we are required to approach serving tables manned by Isabel Noellat and her two helpers whilst wearing our masks & they also wear theirs. It makes sense to also wear masks otherwise when mixing with others e.g the early morning gathering but I wish I could say this was adhered to. It isn’t, but further, there’s a whole range of bizarre mask wearing (or part wearing !!) practices which make little or no sense and make the wearers look ‘daft’. You might note various mask wearing examples from some of my photos 😉. I could name names re inappropriate mask use but had better not as I don’t know who might read this & don’t wish to offend or get into ‘trouble’ !

Ok, enough preamble & Covid – lets get down to action i.e what we’re here for !

What followed for the rest of the day in picking & terroir terms was generally an action replay of 2019 ! From Sophie’s announcement, and gathering in our teams we made through the garage, into the bottling cum store room to the rear, exiting the latter into village vines behind the domaine building which in turn stretch down to the buildings on the RN74 – in our case the rear of the Noellat cuverie. We obtained a pair of the familiar red handled small secateurs (to remain with us throughout the vendange) and bucket from our team leader/porter and, being allocated a row each were ready to start snipping our first grapes. For me an initial rustiness quickly goes and years of ‘practice’ & knowing how bunches attach takes over to ‘get one going’. Steadily picking up the pace I found myself at this early stage stretching out a small gap to the others but paced myself not to get too far ahead as we needed to remain largely aligned with each other across the rows for bucket emptying on ‘pannier’ command from our porteur, or alternatively one of us initiating the bucket emptying process with same call. Grapes looked pretty good from what I’d heard. Usual mix of some vines being more productive than others. Here, none were particularly heavily laden to almost fill a bucket from one vine but I recalled the same from last year i.e the ground, clone(s), vine age. The ground was very, very dry though reflecting the long, hot summer and what little rain had fallen pre vendange had done little to change. We worked steadily downhill, well it’s not really a hill, just a very gentle slope, towards the cuverie rear wall. Our new team pleasingly arrived amongst the first whereupon we ‘downed tools’ for our first casse-croute break – these were to occur every morning around 9.30 a.m. as a rest with food & drink between start & lunch (latter always taken around 12.00).

The Noellat casse-croute break is quite something ! Enormous sandwiches are pre-prepared & wrapped in cling film. These are akin to half a baguette with filling which might be any of jambon, saucisson or pate. A small piece of baguette sits loosely on top which one might choose to fill with one of the various small wrapped processed cheese e.g Babybel which are on offer. Additionally small pieces of chocolate round matters of if one so desires ! The large baguette sandwich provides quite a work out for one’s jaw, teeth & gums ! One row done we shifted positions to start fresh rows going ‘upslope’ back towards the domaine buildings rear. After that I think we might have helped out a lagging team or collectively finished any outstanding rows but such took us to lunch.

Here (lunch) we found Covid had led to each sub team being allocated its own table for the duration with seating plan – laminate on the table to illustrate the same (see photo). We didn’t sit rigorously to the seating plan, for instance I found myself at the head, or base, of the table at the edge of the awning which remained my position for the vendange. Each table would commonly be pre set to include large bottles of Vittel & Badoit water with a bottle of white wine which would be an Aligote or sometimes a 2017 Savigny Village Blanc. I’ve tried to remember to photo each day’s lunch & evening menu laminate but we’d routinely have entrée, mains (fish or meat), cheese, and a dessert (might be an ice cream, yogurt, or cake. Nice piece of salmon today was an excellent start ! The Noellat’s employ their own ex-professional retired chef who I gather has worked c14 vendanges and lives in on the premises. He’s a cheerful guy & does a great job – we’re lucky.

Post lunch our first sortie into our allocated rental mini buses – ours a metallic grey Renault Trafic which looked like it had had a hard life (which would get harder !). As mentioned a seating plan applied and was observed (me on the outside of the first of two rear rows of seats & hence responsible for sliding door opening & closing) as, impressively, was mask wearing. If one forgot one’s mask a ‘subtle’ reminder would emanate from one of the others ! Our first mobile destination was another ‘action replay’ from 2019 i.e. we crossed the village going north, past many well known domaines including DRC, looped around the village cemetery wall and just beyond it disembarked for another section of village cutting. Nothing remarkable here & once done we moved a short distance to a plot fronting the RN74, not quite as far along as the Arlaud plot by the Avenue du Monument I know well. This took us to our day’s finish on a warm, dry, day which marked the vendange.

Back to base I wondered about bucket cleaning. In 2019 teams had been allocated a turn at the end of each day to clean buckets, secateurs and porter back packs. That arrangement seemed to have gone by the wayside for 2020. Instead a voluntary group of the lodgers, to include your’s truly did the business. What was new, and a spiffing idea I’d not come across before but kudos to the originator, was a 700 litre greenish fibreglass rectangular tank which came up to my waist. This was filled with water by hosepipe and as many buckets as possible were put in and left to soak for a short while. Was good how quickly the buckets came clean without much brush action which could be added if required, the pressure of dunking and pulling out seeming enough to remove stickiness and debris. The buckets were then stacked pyramid wise along the wall to dry before the next morning. The porteurs containers Philippe from our team cleaned with the hosepipe whilst we did the buckets. Philippe is an engaging little individual. From Villefranche, Beaujolais he’s one of those with leathery, deeply tanned skin from a working life outdoors, and one of those also with rolled up cigarette almost permanently stuck to his bottom lip. His smoking was readily apparent in the occasional bouts of from deep within coughing. Philippe was one of us particularly ‘challenged’ by mask wearing, not that he didn’t wear his, just it very, very rarely made it upwards beyond his top lip!

Once gear cleaning down to include one’s own gloves, knee pads, footwear etc just enough time for a shower, change then brief period for aperitif socialising (and/or in my case photo downloading, editing, captioning or word typing) before our evening meal. No formal seating plan here as there were only us lodgers, the Noellats and one or two of the cuverie team. We commonly had the same water as lunch, white wine and red – the latter could be any village e.g Fixin, Chambolle or MSD and sometimes a premier cru e.g Savigny Peuillets.

And so to bed ! Day Two to come and our first Grand Cru in two parts – guess ?

marko’s harvest diary 02-Sep-20 – the return of the marko

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on September 09, 2020 #vintage 2020

Noellat Savigny Goudelettes
All the photos from Mark…

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Arrival Day, Weds 2nd Sept 2020

Bonjour tout le monde 😊. C’est moi – at last. Firstly an apology this will have taken several days post the ‘day’ for your delectation. I can’t promise timings might improve but, trust me, I have very little spare time, seems way less than usual which baffles me a bit but later I might give a breakdown of an atypical Marko vendange day – to put off even more anyone thinking about being crazy enough to emulate me. Then there’s the wifi access. Hearteningly my laptop picked up the Noellat wifi from last year as soon as I got into their wine shop (closed for the vendange) – isn’t modern tech wonderful ? To get there, within wifi range, I have to go through the Noellat office as usually occupied by Madame ‘delightful cum charming’ Isabel Noellat. I won’t abuse by entering without permission as has happened once already as there was no one about to ask even though I could have walked through.

Well though, I’ve made it to Vosne in these strange and weird times we’re living in – despite Covid 19, quarantines, threats of government tit for tats on opposing quarantines, some own non virus health issues which might yet be an issue, overnight motorway part closures etc etc.

My 13th vendange ! Unlucky for some ? Could that be an omen ? Or just a coincidence in the year of Covid !

My 22.50 p.m. late night departure from my North West England home en route to Burgundy was smooth after a day of chores, last minute shopping, packing and a largely failed attempt to get my head down for 4/5 hours prior. Double espresso to aid staying awake was my parting shot. All initially smooth with motorway traffic very light, mostly trunking lorries, which aided use of cruise control. I’d bolstered the in car CD selection with a 10 box set of The Robin Trower Band (recently acquired), a box set of all Springsteen’s well known albums, Pink Floyds ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Anthology. Initially though I listened to the UK’s Talksport Radio discussing soccer transfer possibilities, some fan phone in chat, and updates on European Club player moves, the latter dominated by debate on Lionel Messi’s current scenario and, when the radio reception started to get a bit ‘fuzzy’, I switched to the CD in the car’s player – Dire Straits Greatest Hits. That chap Knopfler sure can play !

With Bill initially suggesting to me our paths would not cross this year given our differing harvest timings I’d decided not to bring any wines this time, mindful also a bottle I’d brought last year had ‘disappeared’ (I’m quite sure stolen), but when a late advice from M.Nanson indicated a potential weekend possibility to meet up I added 3 bottles to my luggage – more of those as and when.

My BMW M Sport Touring is a very efficient, comfortable and impressive motorway ‘mile eater’, with this its 4th or 5th trip to Burgundy, All was going swimmingly as we progressed south in the nightime until flashing motorway signs at the lower end of the UK’s M40 indicated the dreaded, during the night, closure at junctions 1-2, where I should be joining the M25 to loop around the south side of London prior to joining the M20 (via the M26) towards the Channel Tunnel/Dover Ferry Port. As a departure from my longstanding Burgundy travel norm this year I’d decided to ‘take’ the Tunnel crossing option. Historically this has had a significant premium cost to the ferry option to cause me to favour the latter but now the gap had closed significantly to a mere £20 (I gather the ferries losing money in 2020 is the cause of their increased prices) such that I decided to choose the tunnel for the first time in more than 20 yrs – potential Covid issues also a consideration with one staying in one’s car on the Tunnel train seemingly ‘safer’.

En France, disembarking the tunnel train so easy/quick, I joined the autoroute network in a misty early a.m. Pas de Calais for a leisurely cruise to Vosne. With no time pressures (we were required to be there as last year by 18.30) I could keep the speed down (unlike many others, wow do some speed !) and stop regularly for odd own packed refreshment & much needed regular exercise. I should maybe explain here I’ve been ‘suffering’ for some months with lower left sided issues akin to a groin strain, trapped nerve, & akin to sciatica but a couple of weeks pre-Burgundy departure I had a ‘light bulb’ moment my problems might be left hip arthritis related. After comparing symptoms with a neighbour who has had a hip replacement, and my 86 yr old Mother who has had 4, I consulted my Doctor who readily agreed to refer me for hip & pelvic x rays – booked for my return from France. Long distance driving & getting in & out of a low slung car didn’t help my issues but eventually, after a very warm day en route, and circa 3 or 4 stops (one for petrol station forecourt windscreen cleaning) I joyously exited the auto route at Nuits St Georges and headed for Vosne. It’s a bit of a challenge solo in a right hand drive car at the peage tolls, needing to get out of the car, all the more difficult for me in my current state but drivers behind me were patient at my limping form and generally smiled at my waving apologies. One older couple who were very nice must have been put off a bit as when I drove away I could see in my rear view mirror that the peage barrier came down on their car’s bonnet. I felt quite guilty but could also see they quickly reversed slightly so hope no harm done !

Very warm & sunny on the Cote. I saw very few signs of in the vine activity between NSG & Vosne which was ‘interesting’. I’d noted similar apparent lack of activity on the Champagne slopes around Epernay which can often be my benchmark but it’s a little harder to see now the Autoroute is further away from the above hills than it used to be. And so to Vosne, turning off the RN74 by Fabrice Vigot’s premises (no signs of life !), into the Rue de la Fontaine. All quiet at circa 14.00 hrs at the Noellat premises as well; very quiet ! I called out for no response before entering the garage premises, above & part of which are our accommodation. All looked as last year other than the obvious and prolific Covid precautions e.g all sorts of notices, bottles of hand sanitiser etc etc. The communal dorm with capacity of 12 only had 6 names posted to its door, one of whom was one of my room mates from last year, Jean-Claude Franchini. The sinks and shower room looked smart and clean, indeed the former looked new. Going down the corridor to the individual rooms the second I came to, confusingly numbered ‘No 4’, had just my name on it !!! Wow, room to myself, when last year I shared with 2 x Jean-Claude’s. In summary of 4/5 rooms only one had two occupants posted, all the others had single occupancy. Quite a significant drop in lodgers from last year – presumably ‘you know what’ related – either by folk choosing not to come and/or the Noellats limiting due to Covid requirements. Whatever, I wasn’t complaining at a room with 3 beds to myself ! Returning to the road front of the property and the frontage I called again to be answered this time by one of the regular ladies who help, in this case the charming, always cheerful, wife of Sebastian Noellat. Warm greetings, at suitable distance, exchanged when she then went and got a ‘sign on’ sheet and some ‘gifts’ for me (which everyone staying or working as a local got later) which consisted of a) a brown envelope with enough disposable masks for 2 a day use during the vendange; and b) a plastic ‘eco type’ cup from the Gevrey 2020 St Vincent Tournante with a black rubberised holder and clip to attach to one’s clothing or similar suitable place. The ‘idea’ for use of this cup was to avoid the use of the likes of shared plastic cups when having a casse-croute break or simple drinks refreshments (many if hot !) in the vines. Neat ! I was also less ‘excitingly’ given a bedding pack of top sheet & blanket to add to the pillow and bottom sheet already on the bed. I was glad I’d ignored arriving nearer to the advised 18.30 (when I did that last year it seemed everyone arrived before me !) , and indeed this time seemed first as it meant I could take my time over unloading & unpacking my gear.

Once I’d done the latter, well satisfied with individual room etc, I sauntered en voiture down to the cuverie, just right off the Avenue du Monument, fronting the RN74 next door to Domaine Guyon’s. Quite a hive of (limited in personnel numbers) activity – quell surprise (or maybe not !). More warm greetings from both Sebastian & Sophie Noellat at the ‘working’ in use triage table out front in the cuverie yard under ‘tent awning’ albeit it was paused between cases throughput so good timing on my part. What followed next I hadn’t bargained for, nor was I really dressed for as still in my travelling clothes ! Sophie asked me if I’d join in the triage – there only seemed 2 other guys present in addition to her & her brother. She explained that the Domaine had started its vendange that morning with their vines in Savigny – village & premier cru. I didn’t ask who was picking the grapes but to me seemed obvious they were using another contract team as last year – which, with slight sinking feeling on my part, didn’t bode well for experiencing the likes of the Vosne 1er crus, the absence of which so disappointed me last year. Hum !

I could hardly refuse the triage request ! I was there to work and, other than roaming around (quite attractive though that was !), I had nothing else to do/planned albeit a shower and rest after my long & through the night drive might have been nice ! It was years since I’d very fleetingly triaged just the once at Arlaud. I might have had a go at Dubreuil-Fontaine, Pernand in 2009 but can’t remember. I guess though its like riding a bike or learning to swim ! If there was any danger me triaging it would likely be a temptation to too slow/thorough! Anyway, suitably armed, off we went with another batch of Savigny grapes, with more soon arriving en camion. I must have been doing things right as I wasn’t advised otherwise (!) but the inevitable happened after 5 minutes when I inadvertently cut the right side top of my thumb – good start (not !). I wasn’t aware initially until just happening to notice blood which flowed for quite a while although the cut wasn’t large or painful ! And so we continued through the afternoon, one case following another, with table stops between. Much as Bill has already noted in his own professional vendange diary posts the grapes were generally clean. I also saw little or no rot – maybe 2 examples which a clued up picker might have triaged in the vines. There were quite a few examples also of ‘frazzled’, burnt, shrivelled grapes. Quite amusing was Sebastian N moving full triaged (fibreglass) cases of grapes to stainless tanks in the smaller of the two cuverie chambers. The issue here was the height the ceiling, the height of the tank, and getting the lifted case in the perfect cum necessary position to allow dumping the grapes into the tank. Initially, watching SN moving the forklift I didn’t notice his guided help ! Behind the tank in question though was a very small, squarish window, just about wide enough for a human head, and almost shoulders to fit through. SN’s partner in teamwork crime here was a young Portuguese guy who has seemingly become a cuverie, possibly mentored, employee (not sure if permanent or temp). Seems wherever SN goes his ‘helper’ (who’s never without his straw hat !) goes too e.g they always arrive together for mealtimes. With much shouted higher/lower, left/right type guidance from above they eventually satisfied themselves, with some watching trepidation on my part, they could release the grapes ! I photo’d some of all this hence maybe Bill will include a picture to accompany words.

I can’t recall how long my impromptu triage continued but at some stage towards late afternoon a halt was called for the day and we returned to the Rue de la Fontaine. By now it seemed pretty much every lodger had arrived or was arriving. All were familiar, no new faces. There was no evident surprise at me being there – almost that was expected. The evening passed convivially, with aperitifs, before we sat down on the property forecourt under another large white ‘tent’/awning joined by the rest of the Noellat family i.e mother & father. It was quite clear our vendange meals were to be en plein air – one could only wonder at the ‘what if’ should it rain ! I’d had a quick peak earlier into the large room we’d had our meals in last year & had noted it was in no way set up for meal or other vendange team use – other than tripping in & out first thing to use the coffee machine.

So endeth arrival day ! Tomorrow my 2nd Noellat vendange would commence in earnest. In my Day One proper notes to come, a day which turned out remarkably like 2019’s, I’ll also cover (get out of the way !) Covid ‘stuff’ – some amusing, mostly serious. MdMdlV

05-Sep-20 – Vézelay & a harvest update from there…

By billn on September 05, 2020 #vintage 2020

Vézelay
Vézelay

Unlike Chablis, where they are about 90% of the way through harvesting, in Vézelay there has been some harvesting but not much – Sophie Woillez of Domaine La Croix Montjoie explained “The maturities are really all over the place – we were expecting such an early harvest but in many cases we’ve had to wait and wait. In Irancy the yields are very low; anywhere between 9 and 30 hl/ha and that’s largely down to the dryness – only 20mm of rain in July and August combined. Probably here we will have some maturity by concentration as much as phenolic maturity, but it seemed that we would gain nothing of interest if we had waited, so we harvested the Irancy this week. We did a little Bourgogne rouge this morning but then stopped as the temperature was rising in the vines. It will be a particular year for sure – in which directions the wines go we will have to wait and see.

A few views of Vézelay today:

28-August-20 – today it rained:

By billn on August 28, 2020 #vintage 2020

Some people were still smiling as they harvested though 🙂

26-August-20 – burgundy harvesting day 7

By billn on August 26, 2020 #vintage 2020

The end?

Sort of, the end…

Today we completed the harvest for about 85% of the domaine, but then there’s a problem; our last two cuvées – Pernand Les Pins Blanc and Pommard Vaumuriens are not ready for picking and they won’t be for a few more days. So it’s good-bye to our picking team. The domaine will now be concentrating on the work in cuverie for the next few days.

Today we started in Corton-Charlemagne, a little over 0.3 hectares on the Pernand side of the hill. The grapes looked beautiful on the vines but the truth is on the triage table where we had to remove some dried/roast grapes – very aromatic on the table though – even wearing a mask! Next was Pernand 1er Sous Fretille. A little larger berry-size, more uniform than the Charlemagne and with less to triage – some hail impacts excepted – excellent quality to this fruit. The Sous Fretille bookended our lunch followed by the last vines for the team – Beaune Montée Rouge – and it’s steep up here! These had a little dried material plus some less ripe to triage – the less ripe due to not making leaf-thinning here to protect the clusters a little more from the sun. Very successful Beaune again, but probably yesterday’s villages and certainly the Reversées set higher standards for the fruit.

We battled quite an influx of ladybugs today, but given the style of the fruit, most were collected below the vibrating table. Those that made it onto the triage table were collected and dispersed under the trees outside the domaine – kind organic 😉

And lunch? I hear you breathlessly asking! Yep, there was wine, probably too much, certainly enough that I didn’t open my bottle – but clearly at no loss!

2013 Samuel Billaud, Chablis Les Preuses
Wax-topped, a good cork here.
Hmm – now that’s a wide and attractive nose – really engaging – adding depth with aeration. Wide, plenty of impact, waves of flavour nicely balanced if not showing either bracing acidity or steely minerality. This is simply a completely delicious wine. The nose certainly from Chablis, the flavours a little less so, but that’s the vintage!
Rebuy – Yes

Jumping a mere 30 years further back:

1983 Raveneau, Chablis 1er Montée de Tonnerre
Only the last 2mm of the cork was lost into the bottle – but it was easily ‘fished out.’
Deeper colour but aromatically not a bit oxidised; complex, mineral, even a touch reductive – very complex indeed – engrossing wine that lacks ‘easy’ aromas – or flavours! This has a proper line of direct Chablis shape, great acidity and much less sweetness than the 2013. I kept coming back to this great bottle, but I can appreciate why many more will gravitate to the easier and more delicious Billaud…
Rebuy – No Chance!

I didn’t open the following wines, so no cork-reports 🙂

2014 Michel Bouzereau, Volnay 1er Les Aussey
Plenty of colour here. The nose is a match for colour – impact, indeed a little monolithic – it needs plenty of airy to start becoming more relaxed and a little more overtly floral. Like the nose, this wine is clearly such a youngster. Return in 5 years – full of material and nicely shaped – but a wine in waiting.
Rebuy – Maybe

2010 Mongeard-Mugneret, Vosne-Romanée 1er Les Orveaux
Much more modest colour than the Volnay. Ooh – now that’s a beauty – the nose airy but complex – almost layered with a proper Vosne-style in combination with high-toned florals. The palate is equally elegant and completely delicious. I would go as far as to say captivating – could it have a bit more concentration for such a reputed place? Probably yes – but a deliciously captivating drink. Bravo!
Rebuy – Yes

25-August-20 – burgundy harvesting day 6

By billn on August 25, 2020 #vintage 2020

Château de Beaune
Just around the corner – the Château de Beaune

A cooler start today – I went back home for a sweatshirt – it’s only 3 minutes each way!

For day 6 of our harvest we started the with Savigny-Vergelesses Blanc – and that was it for the morning, Vergelesses without end! There were occasional hail impacts, similarly occasional bunches with some oïdium, but generally, the fruit for here came as nicely open bunches of medium-sized fruit with very little roast/dried material to remove. The afternoon was all red – villages Beaune from near (behind) the Renault garage on the road from Beaune direction Pommard. The triage here was 99.9% about removing leaves and some desiccated berries, but shock(!) – I encountered my first bunch with some rot – by the end of the day it was still the only bunch this year, so far! Looks like a great year for Beaunes!

And then, of course, there came lunch:

The Hermitage Blanc I’m ill-equipped to describe – the nose was almost clean in a soap-powder way – powerful wine and very tasty but one glass was enough for me.

2001 Tastevinage, Gevrey-Chambertin
Very interesting! The cork came out in one piece, luckily, otherwise I’d have lost an important clue to the producer – because the label provided no clues at all which is unusual for a Tastevinage bottle. The cork clearly stamped with ‘Mes Favourites’ so a wine from Burguet!
Relatively pale coloured. A nose that begins in quite a fresh and appealing way and then just gets better from there, becoming more and more floral with aeration. The palate no more than a middle-weight, indeed hardly that, but fresh and elegant – delicate even. Really a delicious bottle that just got better and better. Lovely wine!
Rebuy – Yes

1995 Daniel Rion, Vosne-Romanée 1er Beaumonts
A cork that yet again came out in dozens of pieces – and for the record, I’ve used a different corkscrew every day.
Also quite a light coloured wine – very similar to the Tastevinage wine. Also an airy nose, but of more width and depth than the Burguet wine, and a subtly different floral character- clearly violets here with a little Vosne-spice. In the mouth, this wine widens and widens as you head into the finish – despite the cork, it’s showing terrifically today with lovely acidity and well-controlled tannic texture. Another winner – we have done very well this week – so far!
Rebuy – Yes

Tomorrow there’s Charlemagne, maybe some more Beaunes and/or even some Pernand-Vergelesses…

24-August-20 – burgundy harvesting day 5

By billn on August 24, 2020 #vintage 2020

Waiting for the grapes...
Waiting for the grapes…

The day that Charles Lachaux of Vosne-Romanée finishes his harvest, we are about 60% of the way through, though Charles has quite different viticulture to most domaines. Many others in the Côte de Nuits are still not looking to start until the middle of next week – or even later! Since yesterday, much of the Côte de Beaune white harvest is underway – administratively, Mondays are always the best time to start!

So today, we started with Bourgogne Côte d’Or Blanc from Chorey (where else?), followed by Chorey Rouge, followed by Bourgogne Côte d’Or Blanc (again), followed by Chorey Rouge (again!) – that took our whole day. I may have forgotten to mention the home domaine’s new innovation for 2020 – a second press for the whites – and it’s bigger too – 35 hl versus the 24 of the old one – and it’s not a replacement – we now have 2! Despite the removal of this important bottleneck, we still had to split the picking/triage today as both presses were full. The first session with the Bourgogne Blanc saw ‘almost’ zero oïdium but quite a few impacts from hail – virtually unreported in July which we will probably also see in the white Pernands over the coming days. The weather was dry and warm after this hail, hence, no rot and easy to triage. The red, as yesterday, the easiest Chorey I’ve triaged at this domaine. This parcel was near to a wood which retained a lot of damp near the vines and so plenty of rot too – the trees nearest the vines were cut down last year – it’s made a massive difference.

But I know that you are all on the edge of your seats, straining to know a little of the analytics of these baby 2020 wines – so here you go:

2020 Beaune 1er Blanc, pH 3.2 with about 1.9 g/l of malic acid and a potential alcohol of 13.15
2020 Beaune 1er Rouge, pH 3.3 with about 1.9 g/l of malic acid and a potential alcohol of 13.45
2020 Savigny Rouge, pH 3.2 with about 1.9 g/l of malic acid and a potential alcohol of 13.40

So not much in the way of tax savings if they are exported to the US!

Lunch saw the restoration of our usual traiteur – he had been on holiday. It wasn’t really to mark the occasion, but it turned out that we had some nice wines:

1990 Pierre Marey et Fils, Corton-Charlemagne
A new ‘old’ domaine for me that no longer exists. I believe that Brigitte Berthelemot may be exploiting most of these Charlemagne vines now. A poor cork that really had us laughing – It had clearly snapped with only a small lean of the corkscrew but going in for the second piece I seemingly did the trick with no need for decanting. But when I attempted to pour the wine, nothing happened – there was a third piece still in the neck – oh how I laughed – grr!
Deeply golden in colour. The nose has impact and sweetness – the faintest suggestion of oxidation yet it remained a lovely invitation – with time in the glass taking on a more smoky note and less of that suggestion of oxidation. In the mouth it was powerful, forward, sweet wine with the merest trace of oxidation on the first sip – frankly, I never thought about it thereafter. Clearly for drinking now – but also really for enjoying now – very attractively balanced despite its obvious concentration.
Rebuy – Maybe

2013 Taupenot-Merme, Morey St.Denis 1er La Roitte
DIAM-sealed – no problems of course.
Medium-plus colour. This nose is high-toned, pure and has an engaging, practically floral, dimension that offsets a little graphite-style minerality. In the mouth I kind of like the edginess here – fine acidity, a little direct and structural but pure too. Far from the ripeness of recent vintages – but who needs that? Though for such an excellent 1er cru I might have expected a little more power – but that’s the vintage. Excellent and very much enjoyed.
Rebuy – Yes

2000 Thomas-Moillard, Romanée St.Vivant
I had to go very carefully, but the cork came out in one piece. Here’s a wine (domaine!) that needs 20 years as a minimum – looks like we might be lucky then!
Deeply coloured – they used to like to extract! The nose is wide and brings the impression of silk – complex too but with a little brett I thought – nobody else seemed to care – that’s French wineries for you! In the mouth though, this really showed the nobility of the terroir if not the winemaking – weight of flavour but immaculately textured and delivering waves of flavour – very long finishing too. The nose left me unfulfilled but everyone else loved this wine – while I returned to the Riotte, they finished this bottle!
Rebuy – Maybe

23-August-20 – burgundy harvesting day 4

By billn on August 23, 2020 #vintage 2020

2020 Savigny 1er Hautes Jarrons
2020 Savigny 1er Hautes Jarrons

I’m a little late posting today – there was some football. Given the result, I suppose that I’d better not speak German in winery tomorrow…

On the positive side of things, according to the team of pickers, the vineyards were much less sticky today!

Today saw lots of fruit from Savigny – Hautes Jarrons and Aux Jarrons – respectively white and red. Then there was red Chorey, a big parcel that we will finish tomorrow. With a few additional questions, I’ve put two and two together and come up with the original source of the domaine’s new vines in Savigny: the ‘négoce‘ from who they acquired the vines was Martenot/Sauvestre – so I asked – are those the old vines from Domaine Maurice Ecard? It seems that they are. This is only a small portion of of the old Ecard estate which they (Sauvestre’s company Béjot) acquired in 2006. Ecard, according to Anthony Hanson’s book, had 7 hectares of 1ers in Savigny – 3 of Serpentières, 2 of Jarrons (Hautes and Aux) and another 2 hectares of Narbantons. Less than 2 of those hectares have come to the home domaine here in Beaune, but they had them for the whole viticultural season in 2020. As one was to hand, I brought a 2005 Serpentières to lunch as a homage 🙂

The Hautes-Jarrons white was a pain to triage – only one of our several bins (each with about 300kg of fruit) had noticeable oïdium – but that was easy to remove as you just throw away the whole bunch! But the rest had a lot of dried/grilled/roast grapes – see the header image – and these took plenty of time to remove. By way of contrast, the Aux Jarrons red, was a pleasure to work with – nicely shaped clusters, modestly sized grapes and the triage table was running at full speed as there was so little to remove – excellent! The Chorey-rouge was much less consistent in ripeness, but again, and certainly compared to previous vintages, was quite an easy triage – some unripe and some roast to remove. 2020 is a vintage, so far, where after multiple tonnes of fruit over 3 days, I have yet to see one bunch of grapes with rot!

Importantly, the home team is getting properly into the stride of its organisation of events – coffee at 10h15 and lunch before 13h30 🙂

One of our team – ex Bernard Loiseau – brought an interesting white Rhône for lunch – just a bit too heavily perfumed/aromatic for me but otherwise delicious. Additionally, we had:

2013 Jomaine, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Perrières
A good cork, easily removed.
It must be my age, but I can hardly remember what happened in Puligny in 2013 – other than that they avoided the Côte de Beaune hail. This has a nicely aromatic and fresh nose – it’s a good invitation. Quite concentrated – rich is often a style for the wines from this producer – but the balance here is good. A tasty wine, though even at the modest prices that this domaine charges I’d still only say very good, rather than great value.
Rebuy – Maybe

2005 JC Boisset, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er, Serpentières
JCB had this and Hautes-Jarrons in 2005. It’s not a stretch to think that maybe they got the grapes from Ecard, who sold the domaine in the following year. As you can see, the cork from this wine was just as awful as the one in their Hautes Jarrons – splitting in half then crumbling on extraction!
Oh – but what a great nose – clean young fruit – lots of freshness and a certain graphite-style to the aromatic minerality. Sweeping, sweetly fresh flavours over the palate. Clearly a winner – despite such youth – and a crowd-pleaser too. Much more approachable today – less autere – that the Jarrons I linked above. Excellent!
Rebuy – Yes (despite the crappy corks!)

22-August-20 – burgundy harvesting day 3

By billn on August 22, 2020 #vintage 2020

time to clean
Time to clean…

At 01h20 this morning came the thunder – followed by around 12 mm of rain – in Beaune anyway.

Seemingly there was plenty in Savigny too, at least if judging by the muddy boots of our pickers today… And talking of Savigny, there were the grapes of new vines in our cuverie today; the domaine has been (both) shopping and planting over the last year – they have 10.7 hectares now with plenty of new vines in Savigny. Tomorrow comes Savigny Les Jarrons, of which the home domaine now has an impressive 1.2 hectares. Today we finished with the (also) new Savigny Narbantons – a much smaller parcel but lovely grapes – our triage effectively only being for leaves and the odd second-set bunch that shouldn’t have been collected. These were attractive bunches of small grapes – this will be an interesting wine to follow. The large parcel of Jarrons was previously exploited by ‘a négoce,’ I neglected to ask the question about the Narbantons.

But I’m getting ahead of myself: We actually started the day with good quality grapes from the last of our Savigny villages parcel before changing to a modestly sized parcel of Bourgogne Côte d’Or – the second vintage for vines planted only in 2016. These vines are sited in the commune of Chorey-lès-Beaune. For such young vines, excellent grapes again. Then came our Chorey blanc – a little more oïdium than the whites I triaged yesterday, though saying one bunch in a hundred was affected would be a major overstatement. On the positive side, hardly any of the dried/roasted grapes to triage that were seen yesterday.

While I’m remembering all my ‘mask-moaning‘ points from yesterday, here’s one I forgot: If there’s something smelly on the triage table, you’ll hardly notice it until all the grapes have passed you by. A good thing for stink-bugs – I accept! – but less good if you have something bacterial on your table. That said, I haven’t smelled anything like that latter point since at least 2016…

At least ‘pre-overnight-rain,’ the effects of the dry summer and the roasting of some grapes are apparent; yesterdays Beaune-Reversées delivered 19 hl/ha – but that’s up from the 16 of last year! The villages Savigny delivered only 30 hl/ha – so about 2/3rds of what the domaine would have been anticipating. It will be interesting to compare these numbers with other vines to be harvested in the following days.

Lunch today came at much more comfortable 13h30. The wines were good too. We started with a 2017 Savigny-Vergelesses Blanc from the domaine, followed by two delicious contributions – the younger of which was mine:

2000 Vougeraie, Vougeot 1er Les Cras
What a great and indeed long (54mm) cork. The wine stain had hardly managed to penetrate more than one of those 54 millimetres! Based on this showing, I’m sad to say that this is the last or perhaps penultimate from my 6-pack.
Medium, semi-mature, colour, but no overt browning. An airy nose, not full-power but beautifully delicate and complex – full of spice and flower suggestions – a beautiful invitation. Open, indeed mouth-filling wine. Not a wine of great impact, but mouth-wateringly complex and balanced flavour – actually a good acidity. No drops of this were left…
Rebuy – Yes

1985 Michel Gaunoux, Pommard 1er Grands Epenots
This cork was a little shorter – less robust too. Despite the last third of the cork breaking-off and seeming to sink deeper into the neck, I somehow managed to rescue it without the need for decanting – hooray!
Well, what another super nose! Airy, floral, almost a complexity of acid cherry – a touch less width but more warm depth to the fruit with just a shade of leather in these deep notes. In the mouth another wine in tip-top condition; A little more structural than the ‘Cras’ – like a recent Epentots at home, I’m sure I might have been guessing Clos de Vougeot, rather than Pommard. With 8 of us sitting down for lunch, this was also consumed very quickly. Really a top wine!
Rebuy – Yes

Burgundy Report

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