Vintage 2021

The colours of Autumn…

By billn on October 12, 2021 #travels in burgundy 2021#vintage 2021

Santenay - 12-Oct-2021
Santenay, late afternoon today…

The colours of Autumn are coming – here is a little Santenay and Chassagne (Morgeot) from today. The colours of the pinot a little more vivid and partly golden in the area around Volnay and Pommard – but not bad here either!

week 39: the last harvesting days, @louvre_lens & some wines

By billn on October 04, 2021 #degustation#travel pics#travels in burgundy 2021#vintage 2021

week 39 wines...We’ve just returned from a (necessary) week in the UK – so my harvesting this year was cut a little short – that said – my home team in Beaune still managed to finish in September, just!

The major part of the harvest was completed on Saturday (25th) and their Paulée followed on the Sunday. Their last parcel to be picked is always some vines high in Pommard – Les Vaumuriens – often 3-4 days after the rest of the harvest due to the altitude of these vines – but this year they were picked not for full maturity, rather they were picked to avoid the heavy rains that were forecast at the end of the week – 12.5° was not a bad result though and capped 10 days of harvesting for the team.

Apart from our Charlemagne that brought in 30 hl/ha, most of the rest were between 15-25 hl/ha. The Charlemagne was saved by 3 nights of using candles to counter the worst of the frost – at a cost of ~€5,000 per hectare per night – and the domaine owning just over 1/3rd of a hectare here – so that was at a cost of €5,000. Given a price of over €100 a bottle for this grand cru, that’s less than 5 cases of wine so a cost that could easily be absorbed but you can see how quickly that becomes uneconomical as the bottle price reduces.

The team were making their first ‘decuvage’ today and whilst it’s clearly a vintage where the triage was paramount, they are happy that it was done well as the latent wines taste good with no detectable taints.

Below, I include the notes of a few wines that were, mainly, drunk in the UK.

On the way back to Burgundy from the UK we decided to stop at the Louvre-Lens Museum. It more than breaks up the journey, it’s a super location – free to enter but, should you wish, you can make a donation – with a packed restaurant too which, next time, I’d like to try. The next stop was for a few plates of tapas in Chablis’ Why Not – here a bottle of Tribut from the list – more on that below. Finally, to Beaune to sleep and take in the very rainy Sunday!

1998 Guy Castagnier, Clos de la Roche
Not bright and clean but still an inspiring nose – on of purity of fruit and a decadence that implored me to drink – so I did. Deeply flavoured, beautifully fresh – just a little muddled in the long finishing flavours today. Probably to start drinking up but still with plenty of pleasure.
Rebuy – Yes

1996 Leroy SA, Bourgogne
Less depth of colour vs the Castagnier – but clean and bright – actually not so old looking. Complex, a little spice – racy red fruit too – another good aroma. In the mouth, I find unexpected concentration and depth of flavour. This is very, very good. Of course, simpler than the grand cru but with great personality and flavour. Great Bourgogne – bravo – luckily a few more remain at home!
Rebuy – Yes

2019 JC Fagot, Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles-Vignes
An impressive provenance – which I’m not allowed to reveal – that’s why JC had only one barrel – but it’s a beauty. Richly aromatic – ripe but pure – a certain impression of salinity too. In the mouth, the salinity is replaced with a slightly minty attitude to equally rich flavour – not a bruiser by any means though. Beautifully constructed wine – simply excellent.
Rebuy – Yes

2016 Laurent Tribut, Chablis
Ordered from the wine-list – and I’m a bit disappointed by this one – I suppose it serves me right for not being sufficiently adventurous as I’ve had a few of these and they have all been great. This wine, however, has a slightly apple-y hint of oxidation to it. Direct from the fridge (I took the rest home) you will barely notice until the wine starts to warm in the glass after which it’s as clear as day. Sub-standard vs all my previous great bottles.
Rebuy – No – though previous bottles were great.

2018 Château Rougeon, Bourgogne Passetoutgrains La Chapelle
Predominantly (72%) Gamay
What a simply delicious wine – from top to toe – aromatically interesting, beautifully textured, long and deliciously flavoured too. Great Passetoutgrains – bravo!
Rebuy – Yes

Some images from the week:

Hospices de Beaune 2021 vintage summary…

By billn on September 28, 2021 #vintage 2021

From Albert Bichot and the Hospices de Beaune – a harvest and vintage weather summary from this year:

And some images from their harvest here.

24-Sept-2021 – My Beaune harvest, day 6

By billn on September 25, 2021 #vintage 2021

Morning coffee in Beaune...Not such a warm start – but blue sky for the morning coffee – and it’s going to reach 23°C today, possibly 26°C tomorrow.

That’s the good news; the forecast for tomorrow (Saturday) has softened a little – there’s now only a 50% chance of storms in the early evening – but Sunday is looking like a 90% chance of storms. Next week looks changeable too. Because of this, a number of domaines that had planned to start picking at the weekend have brought their harvest forward – starting on Thursday – Arlaud is just one, for instance. There’s plenty of action today in the great places of the Côte de Nuits; Chambertin, Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot and Romanée St.Vivant. Not just great vineyards in the Côte de Nuits – Bouchard Père were picking Montrachet today.

Some in the Côte de Nuits have even finished today – Charles Lachaux, for instance – but with his low yields it’s no surprise that he sees maturity some days before his neighbours.

Almost at the same level as those grand crus(!) our home domaine began to harvest their more than 1-hectare parcel of Beaune villages but first came their whites in Pernand Sous Frétille and Corton-Charlemagne.

Both of the starting whites had lovely grapes but the obvious difference between the two was the volume; 14 hl/ha in the Pernand and 30 hl/ha in the Corton-Charlemagne – the latter benefiting from the use of candles for two nights during the frost of April – though there was, of course, an associated cost for the candles! The red needed plenty of attention on the triage table but it was worth it.

In general, the grapes have benefitted from the recent rain – so far – they seem to have lost no maturity but this rain has diluted (reduced) the amount of acidity – many domaines reporting a pleasing balance to the musts. Unfortunately, today’s my last day as early tomorrow I must head to the UK. The home Beaune domaine are hoping to complete (almost) their harvest over the weekend. Their last plot, high in Pommard’s Vaumuriens always needs a few days longer to reach ripeness – it’s currently only showing a potential of 10.4° – I might be back in time to help with that…

But, let’s not forget, there was wine with lunch – or was it the other way around?!

2017 Jules Desjourneys, Mâcon-Prissé
Powerful, balanced, almost muscular – but how delicious is this? That’s a great Mâconnais!
Rebuy – Yes

2018 Françoise André, Beaune 1er Belissand Blanc
The only white from this vineyard. Together with the red from a couple of days ago we are certainly the only drinkers of this pair – in the world – this week!
Softer, silky but really very attractive aromas of fruit, stones – and hardly any oak. In the mouth, this is silky and elegant and much more easily approachable than the Mâcon-Prissé today. Delicious, excellent wine.
Rebuy – Yes

1974 DRC, La Tâche
Served blind, my comrade making a right mess of removing the cork – I’m not saying I would have done better but the tools weren’t in my hands 🙂
Pale colour – but what a nose! Not powerful but layered and oh so complex. Likewise in the mouth a wine whose delicious flavour radiates out from a small start – but with such impeccable balance. We’re supposed to be guessing – I plump for 1969 and Vosne. Having been told it’s just a little younger and my (poor cork remover) colleague has his suggestion of 1971 rejected, my guess is a wine from a great vineyard in a ‘small’ vintage. It turns out to be La Tâche – we are not worthy – but I’m happy with my guesses – I’m also happy there’s no wine to follow that I can get totally wrong 🙂
Rebuy – No Chance Dream wine…

The Hospices de Beaune together with Sotheby’s

By billn on September 24, 2021 #the market#vintage 2021

Hospivces de Beaune & Sothebys 2021On Tuesday I took 90 minutes out of my harvesting duties to check in on the joint press conference of the Hospices de Beaune and Sotheby’s.

You may recall that last year the 160th wine auction of the Hospices was cancelled at the very last moment. Those running the show has said for days that there was no concern about cancellation but there it was. The sale took place in even more restricted circumstances, later in December, the 13th. I privately heard that Christie’s were pretty unhappy about the whole thing as they had offered to guarantee that the whole thing took place with no issues but online. Perhaps it was a change in the dynamic of the relationship between Christie’s and the management of the Hospices because just 4 months later came the announcement of the tie-up with Sotheby’s. This is a 5-year contract.

That’s enough speculation from me, now for some of the interesting notes from this week’s press event:

Today, the 21st September 2021 is the ‘Auction Day minus 60!

For the 161st auction of the wines of the Hospices de Beaune, Sotheby’s have a new five-year contract following Hospices change from partnering with Christie’s.

Sotheby’s had $98 million in wine sales in 2020 and their first half of 2021 is trending higher – in the direction of 120 million for the year. This is also the year that Sotheby’s begin with french wine sales ie sales in France itself – they previously sold only in New York, London, Hong Kong and occasionally in Geneva – this press event is seemingly the announcement for that strategic move. A much more interesting statistic was that in 2014, Burgundy accounted for 26% of Sotheby’s wine sales – in 2020 this had increased to 50% by value!

And a few notes from Ludivine about the vintage 2021:

The frost wasn’t the first real ‘act’ of the weather in 2021 – that was the heat at the end of March which brought 26-28°C in the vines. This was the cause of the early growth of the vines which exacerbated the effect of the frost at the start of April. This stopped any development of the vegetation for nearly 6 weeks. By the 19-20th of May we could properly see what buds had resisted the frost. The vintage condition waxed and waned between what was best for rot or what was best for oïdium! Fortunately, the flowering came in warm and dry conditions, almost too warm! Pouilly-Fuissé and Volnay-Santenots have been the first picked vineyards on the 17th… I’m destemming 100% – the skins can be fragile and oxidise fast so I’m using plenty of CO2 to protect the unfermented grapes and must. When to start the harvest is usually a compromise between, maturity, cleanliness and the weather – for a number of years these have been comfortable to very comfortable indicators – this year its clearly about the compromises! We are back to our roots!

22-Sept-2021 – My Beaune harvest, day 4 and the subject of grape security!

By billn on September 24, 2021 #vintage 2021


2021 Savigny 1er Les Vergelesses…

Today we started with the last of the Chorey – still plenty of work but with less to triage than the Bourgogne of the day before.

Then came white and red Savigny Les Vergelesses – this chardonnay, by far, the best grapes of the campaign; not the smallest grapes that you could wish for but very clean and also with very little oïdium – just a shame about the (nearly!) 14 hl/ha. This is the worst yield of any of the whites at our domaine as it was the vineyard that was hardest hit by the frost – by comparison, the domaine’s Corton-Charlemagne looks quite good but candles were lit here on the nights of frost. In a way we are lucky – many of the domaines around Meursault are looking at yields of 5-10 hl/ha.

The red Vergelesses that came in the afternoon was also rather good – but with some rot to triage though less than we’ve seen in all the other reds so far.

Now what about Security?
After recent short vintages where grapes went missing from the vines in the night, the syndicate of Nuits St.Georges producers are paying for security guards to keep an eye on the vineyards between 21h00 and 06h00 each night – just to make sure that grape thieves don’t make their presence felt. It seems like a good idea and the cost is relative peanuts compared to the loss of several rows of fruit – or more!

Oh yes! And there was lunch!

2003 François d’Allaines, Beaune 1er Les Reversées Blanc
Just too oxidised – there’s nothing left here for me – only to say that I might not have guessed 2003 as the balance seemed fine…
Rebuy – No

2010 Château Poujeaux
Forward, strong but still very aromatic. Mouth-filling but open and probably ready to start drinking. The most Beaune-styled of Bordeaux?

2018 Aurelie Berthod, Beaune 1er Belissand
Ooh – such an inviting nose – ripe, confiture yet never heavy – this is a proper invitation. In the mouth, this follows the Moulis with a problem – fuller, fruitier and with fine balance. Great, great early drinking here!
Rebuy – Yes

21-Sept-2021 – My Beaune harvest, day 3

By billn on September 24, 2021 #vintage 2021

Harvest 21-Sept-2021

Hooray – it was sunny.

Bourgogne Rouge today – from a parcel that’s within Chorey but not classified as such – I’m not sure why there’s this difference, perhaps because it wasn’t planted in the 1970s…

Mid-morning I took a quick break to visit the Press Conference for the Hospices de Beaune wine auction in November – together, for the first time, with Sotheby’s. I’ll report on that separately.

Then in the afternoon came plenty of Chorey – of modest to okay quality. Watch out for some oxidative rot is the word on the street – generally, not just in Chorey! – but I saw it only from a couple of bunches that were removed – this rot is less ‘mousey’ (furry) and redder with the characteristic acidic smell.

All in all – an easy day, despite the required concentration at the triage table, but notable was the lunchtime wine – I brought along a Leroy – actually my last one, I think. Since last year the domaine here has some Savigny Narbantons, so in honour of that I brought along a 99 from Lalou:

1999 Leroy, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Narbantons
There had been a little seepage – but that’s common with Leroys due to their very high fills – but it had been in the same cellar as all my other 99s which are completely fine and still with twirling capsules. A super and quite long cork – 54mm I suppose. The red paint from the capsule (no wax in this vintage / UK martket) coming away on my hands. Some age to the colour but what a great nose from the get-go; perfumed, whole-clusters and sweetness – blind you wouldn’t question it if somebody that told it was from Vosne – you would simply thank them – but no, it’s from Savigny! Complex, well-concentrated and with a sweetness of fruit that belies the location of the vines. Very great Burgundy!
Rebuy – Yes The en-primeur price was a mere £40 in 2001. But in context, that was also the price of Engel’s Grands-Echézeaux – which I also bought 😉

20-Sept-2021 – My Beaune harvest, day 2

By billn on September 20, 2021 #vintage 2021

a lonesome grapeAnd yes, I actually did some work today 🙂

No harvesting on Sunday due to rain – if anything, the rain was heavier at 5am today than anything over the weekend, finally petering out in the late afternoon. The decision not to harvest on Sunday was a good one for me though – I felt bad enough this morning that I turned down both the casse-croute and wine with lunch (shock) but later in the afternoon I was really starting to feel more myself, so I’m pretty sure that wine will be on the cards tomorrow!

We began our day with our first chardonnay of this campaign – the 1er cru of Savigny Hautes Jarrons. I didn’t do the sums so I’ll have to let you know tomorrow what the actual yields were – but there wasn’t a lot. Triage was required – more for rot than oïdium – though still a little of the latter. Over the years, (old man mode – this is my 18th consecutive harvest) I’ve seen grapes that were much harder to triage than these, so we can expect the wines to be reasonably classic, perhaps showing a bit more vintage character than the recent, more uniformly ripe vintages – time will tell.

Two modest red appellations filled the post-lunch period; villages Savigny – the last of the parcel that was started on Saturday – plus Bourgogne. Like the white, both needed some serious attention to triage – many, if not most, clusters hiding some rot. The Bourgogne needed more work but that’s not surprising, because it’s only the second vintage from these young vines and so the grape clusters were a little closer to the more humid ground (ground-cover and weeds) than older vines.

So far, it’s clear to me that, for the first time since 2016 and 2014 in some places, and 2013 more generally, we have a vintage where triage will be rather crucial to the final quality of the wines.

And tomorrow, we should have the return of the sunshine too!

18-Sept-2021 – My Beaune harvest, day 1

By billn on September 18, 2021 #vintage 2021

2021 Savigny VillagesWell, ‘my’ is a bit of an overstatement – I’ll get to that later.

The day started with blue sky and sunshine though, versus the last vintage, you have to start an hour later in the vines as it’s nearly one month later harvesting in 2021.

Today my home domaine brought in only reds: Corton, Savigny Aux Jarrons and some more villages Savigny (right). The grapes generally looked not bad – what there were of them – about 22 hl/ha for the 1er cru and closer to 15 hl/ha in the Corton – ouch! You can see from the image (right) that the triage is less than cursory this year after 2-3 vintages where we were only removing dried grapes.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t triaging myself – I arrived in Beaune yesterday evening in good shape and even went for a jog before bed. In the night I couldn’t sleep – hardly at all – and by morning, how can I put it, I had some stomach problems! I’ve been knocked out the whole day – just two quick visits to the domaine to see how things were running.

And tomorrow? I may have some more recovery time – lots of rain is forecast overnight and for the morning too – so if we are harvesting, it’s only likely to be in the afternoon. Let’s see.

Burgundy Report

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