Vintage 2020

(covid-compatible) 21-August-20 – burgundy harvesting day 2

By billn on August 21, 2020 #vintage 2020

2020 Beaune 1er Les Reversées
2020 Beaune 1er Les Reversées


Triage can such an unfulfilling work wearing a mask. How do you taste the grapes(?) How do you blow a spider off your sticky fingers(?) How do you properly understand the French of your triage neighbour through their mask without seeing their lips and facial expressions(?) – okay, there is still their hands and shoulders! Finally, what is the point of the mask when we all sit together – no distancing – at the round table for lunch(?) – and, yes, you guessed it – without masks! Of course, we bring out the masks, once more, directly after finishing lunch. I assume that this is to fulfil the French covid regulations but probably little else.

That’s life – and harvesting – 2020-style!

The home team really worked today – the carrot that was dangled before us, yesterday evening, of an early start and so an early finish came to nought; 07h30 start, coffee eventually at 11h15! Lunch at 15h45. That’s not very French!!! And then there was still the small matter of the remaining grapes to triage after our late lunch. I ended the day with tired feet and knees – I’m sure I haven’t stood in one place for 9 hours for, well, 1 year…

But what about the grapes? I hear you say!

2020 has some very good grapes, that’s for sure, but triage is going to be important in most cases; principally for removing the sun-burned, dried, raisined fruit – in both the pinot and chardonnay – but principally the latter from what I’ve seen on the triage-table so far. There was much talk of oïdium in the summer but I saw none in our reds, and only 4 or 5 affected bunches in our whites – so significantly less than in 2019. Today I triaged grapes from Beaune – red and white premier crus – plus red Savigny villages. Our 2019 Beaune Reversées lives in my memory as the greatest looking parcel of grapes that I ever worked on – since 2004 – the same from 2020 had me reminiscing because of their beautiful shapes and tiny berries, but they weren’t quite as good as in 2019!

The average berry-size is medium to small this year – parcel/clone-dependent – and there is virtually no fauna to be found in the grapes – perhaps they only take shelter in colder weather. 9 hours of grape-work produced around 1 earwig, 3 ladybugs, and half a dozen spiders – nothing! The grapes are clearly sugar-laden and my fingers have taken on some of the tannin colour already. Perhaps less so than in 2019 and 2018 but we clearly have very ripe grapes and a sticky triage table. Ignoring some incorrectly cut second-set bunches, there is virtually no unripe to throw away in the parcels harvested so far.

This reminds me of the positive aspect of harvesting in August – no, not the warmer weather – rather that it’s a bit too early to be greeted by lots and lots of wasps. I’ve never been stung during an August harvest!

Tomorrow it’s easy in the cuverie – we start at 08h15. I think it will be my turn to supply the croissants – assuming we get coffee at a decent time!

Oh! I should mention my contribution to lunch given that it showed so well!
1984 Boyer-Martenot, Meursault 1er Charmes Cuvée André-Paul
Really quite a good cork – I had to be gentle and keep going a little deeper with the corkscrew, but this came out in one piece – just! Bought in a mixed auction lot in Switzerland, maybe 15 years ago. Such a miserable vintage for reds – probably the worst in the last 40 years – but if this is representative, it seems not for whites:
Plenty of colour but not browning. The nose has lots of depth and complexity – sweetness even – but none of that complexity is sherried. In the mouth – hmm – presence, concentration indeed the richness of the cru but with good balancing acidity and plenty of sweetness in this mature but delicious flavour. Really a wine where I was looking to top up my glass. I don’t know how much of the sweetness came from the supermarket in this vintage, but this was balanced and completely delicious. The whole table approved!

20-August-20 – harvesting day 1 (at my home domaine)

By billn on August 20, 2020 #vintage 2020

Echézeaux - 20 Aug 2020
Echézeaux – 20 Aug 2020

Yesterday saw the early harvesters – or more their early parcels – at work across Burgundy; Chablis, Mâconnais and Beaujolais, not just the producers in the Côte de Beaune.

The Côte de Nuits still seems to have much time available; today practically the only team I saw in the vines, so far north of Beaune, was the team of Joseph Drouhin in their Griotte-Chambertin – but they do have plenty of young vines here. Heading south it was only as you approached the hill of Corton where you could see harvesting teams in action – this continued in the flat-lands of Aloxe and a little in Chorey too.

The harvest has been 95% reds so far, but today saw some of the best-known domaines of the Côte de Beaune in the vines – Lafon, for example, harvesting his old vines in Meursault-Perrières.

Asking a few Côte de Nuits producers about how their harvest-timing was looking:
David Rossignol at Rossignol-Trapet: “On Monday we tested the grapes in our various parcels. Generally, we had maturities of 11.8-12° so are planning to start our harvest in 8 days.
Frederic Mugnier: “I’m not planning to start for another week – but that will still be a new record for early harvesting here. There have been some days of high temperatures this year but unlike 2003, a vintage that was marked by its heat, I see 2020 as a vintage that has been marked by its dryness.
Laurent Ponsot: “I am planning to start on the 10th of September – I still have time to take some holidays!

Now that Pierre Damoy is considering an earlier start – 08 September – it looks like we have our ‘bookends’ in terms of first and last starters! It’s clear that the maturity is far from homogenous north of Beaune, as can be seen from incomplete veraison in my pics below from Grands-Echézeaux.

For your interest, Domaine de la Vougeraie have started, today, with their harvesting reports, here.

My home domaine in Beaune began its harvest today with their villages and premier crus in Savigny – reds. They had originally planned to start on the 24th, so the switch to today caught me out with appointments in the Côte de Nuits (hence the quotes, above) but tomorrow I will be ready to get my hands dirty. They also brought in Corton Renardes at 13.4°. So far, the domaine team love the quality but not the quantity – the dry weather has delivered around 30 hl/ha in the vines harvested so far. The domaine was finished recieving grapes already at 2 pm as they decided that it was too warm to harvest in the afternoon. We will do the same tomorrow; pickers in the vines at first light – 06h30 – and all done by lunch, though clearly a 2 pm lunch – not 12! More details on that tomorrow.

harvest trivia: the historical august harvests in Beaune

By billn on August 18, 2020 #vintage 2020

Pommard - harvesting 2019...Looking at the list of the old ‘ban des vendanges‘ – and it goes ‘very old’ – the list goes back to 1370! The (prior) earliest harvest that I can find is the vintage 1556; the allowed starting date that year was the 16th August. Vintage 2003 was a much lazier 19th August! In the data there are 2 dates for the ban – one for Beaune, one for Dijon. I’ve taken the one for Beaune:

Here’s a quick look at the list of ‘August vintages’ as it currently stands:

Taken from records* starting from the year 1370:
(Year – date)
2020 – 14.8
1556 – 16.8
2003 – 19.8
2018 – 20.8
1559 – 24.8
2017 – 25.8
2015 – 26.8
1603 – 27.8
2011 – 27.8
1434 – 28.8
1684 – 28.8
1420 – 29.8
1473 – 29.8
1719 – 29.8
2007 – 29.8
1540 – 30.8
1673 – 30.8
1686 – 30.8
1706 – 31.8
*2007 was the last vintage where a ban des vendanges was called, and it was a largely symbolic 13 August – long before anyone picked, hence, I have not used that date for my list. Note these are the dates that grapes were picked in the Côte de Beaune, and to make still wines…

the côte de beaune harvest is underway…

By billn on August 17, 2020 #vintage 2020

Storm-clouds in Beaune yesterday evening.

All was very quiet in the vines on Sunday – there was 2-3mm of rain in the morning followed by the return of the sun in the afternoon. The evening forecast suggested storms and it was dry but indeed rather dark when we quit Beaune, direction Bern, at 6pm (above).

antoine olivier savigny 1er peuilletsToday has seen the first pickers that I’m aware of* (with images) – right. Picking in the Côte de Beaune, Antoine Olivier is attacking his pinot noir in Savigny-lès-Beaune’s 1er Les Peuillets this morning.
*I later saw that Jean-Michel Chartron had picked his (red!) Puligny 1er Clos des Caillerets on the 14th August. The team of Pierre Glantenay, in Volnay, were, like Antoine Olivier, picking on the 17th.

It’s a vintage where, as Olivier Fichet showed last week, where the pinot seems to be ready before the chardonnay – evidenced by a lack of Ente, Lafon, Lamy, Dancer and Roulot in the vines, at least, so far! I saw David Croix jetting through Beaune on his (non-electric) cycle on Saturday and he confirmed that he would be starting his picking tomorrow. One day later it will be the Hospices de Beaune making their first secateur-action. Benjamin Leroux, on Sunday, was giving less away but said ‘yes, very soon, probably just a few more days.

And my home domaine? The debut of our harvest was planned for next Monday, the 24th, but it’s been brought forward to this Thursday – we attack!!

and the 2020 burgundy harvest is underway…

By billn on August 13, 2020 #vintage 2020


Olivier Fichet (the Mâconnais one) started harvesting yesterday – the 12th August is, of-course, a modern-day record – Olivier started his 2003 harvest on the 20th August. It’s one of their parcels of pinot too – machine harvested in this case…

2020 – the state of play…

By billn on August 04, 2020 #vintage 2020

Veraison 04 Aug Fixin Clos des Perrières
Veraison 04 Aug Fixin Clos des Perrières

Of-course, it’s normal.

There was a bit of emotion with the tempest of hail that hit Nuits on Saturday, so it’s always better to wait 3 or 4 days before considering the full effect. And the effect seems to have been limited. The storm itself – thankfully – seems to have been centred on the town of Nuits itself. Some vines have been hit, but it’s predominantly a few puncture wounds to leaves and the occasional berry that has some impact damage on the southern side of Nuits. It was reported that the damage was all the way to Premeaux, but that wasn’t the case, the hail stopped quite close to the housing of Nuits – I’ve no info on damage to the north of Nuits but most villages actually remained dry.

And July? The average temperatures have been within a degree of a ‘normal’ July but there has been an almost record low of rain and many more hours of sunshine than the average. The sun has certainly managed to shrivel some of the directly exposed grapes, but unlike those few hailed berries around Nuitswhich have the time to dry completely, the sunburned grapes rarely fall to the ground so need more work to triage. The final treatments have already been made, so whilst growers might like a little more rain, they will happily so ‘no’ if it entails a storm. The projected harvest date remains one of the earliest on record and will be a function of both individual viticulture and attitude!

In Beaujolais, the harvest date is projected to be a little later than in 2003, but still the second earliest since data recording was properly established in 1992. Much further to the north – the sauvignons of Saint-Bris need another couple of weeks to be anywhere close to showing their maturity, but in general, like the rest of Burgundy, all is clean in the vineyards and the yields look modestly generous.

Some vines from today in Nuits 1er Les Procés:

hail – for those who haven’t seen it…

By billn on August 01, 2020 #vintage 2020

It’s better to wait for a proper picture – but today’s ‘red warnings‘ of hail in the Côte d’Or were not for nothing:

visits week 30 2020

By billn on July 24, 2020 #travels in burgundy 2020#vintage 2020

week 30 2020 puligny vignerons

My thanks to the vignerons who hosted me this week – all important producers of Puligny-Montrachet – if not all based in Puligny!

Versus last week, the water leak in the Beaune apartment is fixed – but more work is required – though I’m not sure when as it looks like there will be a small ‘vigneron vacation‘ pause in my visits.

veraison – two sides of the road…

By billn on July 24, 2020 #vintage 2020

Veraison is everywhere in the pinot – almost!

In Gevrey-Chambertin, it depends on which side of the Route des Grands Crus you look. Here are some images from yesterday afternoon and you can see that the lower side of the road – Charmes, Griotte & Chapelle-Chambertin – here there is lots of colour, but on the other side of the road – Latricières, Chambertin, Bèze, Ruchottes – you have to really search for a little colour – these latter vineyards are, for the most part, still ‘green:’

Burgundy Report

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