Vintage 2024

The ‘almost the end of May’ 2024 vintage update

By billn on May 29, 2024 #vintage 2024

The weather, the weather – there’s not much else to talk about in 2024.

The year began mild, became cool and remains tempestuous. At best, the lower-lying vineyards are soggy but many, even at the end of May, are water-logged. The concern is growing about mildew…

The frost is, now, all but a fleeting memory; hardest hit was the Chatillonnais – but nobody mentions it as the region is known (almost) only as a source of grapes for crémant – here, the temperatures dropped to -5°C. Of course, if there is frost, Chablis always seems to be affected. In the Côte de Beaune, Maranges and some of Monthelie and the Hautes Côtes de Beaune suffered. Elsewhere, from the Mâconnais to Dijon, any damage was limited – it certainly couldn’t be described as a yield-limiting factor.

The rain continues to bear down on all the vineyards – making treatments to combat mildew barely possible. Some domaines are reporting – already before flowering – that they may lose a majority of their Bourgognes. Since 2007, the potential for mildew is currently similar to 2016 – which was saved by a great second half of the summer – and just a little behind the mildew levels reported in the 2012 and 2013 vintages.

And what of flowering? There are one or two outliners that I’ve seen images of, but it seems like next week (so just into June) will see the onset. This currently puts the potential harvest timing about average since 2007 – ie about 22-23 days earlier than the latest and, equally, later than the earliest.

Of course, this phase of tempestuous, turbulent, weather still brings a heightened risk of hail. Chablis, in addition to its frost damage, already lost significant yield in 1,000 hectares of vines to the 1st May hail – from a total of 6,000 hectares. Luckily (so far !!) both St.Bris and Irancy have avoided both frost and hail – my fingers remain crossed…

Two or three times a week the meteoexpress weather channel in the linked Instagram post, above, shows parts of France with heavy hail, an additional reminder – if any were needed – was the thunder and lightning in Chablis on Monday the 20th May afternoon – weather that seemed to follow me all the way back to Beaune via Dijon. At 8pm in Dijon, there were many leaves on the ground – or pieces of leaves! It was only when I consulted the meteoexpress feed in Instagram that I saw what happened in Dijon a couple of hours before I arrived – see the Instagram above. I understand that only the most extreme north of the Côte de Nuits vines were touched – not too viciously but it’s still too early to quantify the effect – in the sector of Marsanay’s Grasses Têtes.

Rainfall – so far the average this year is 380mm, which is around one-third more than the average of the 5 previous years.

A selection of May 2024 photos…

Chablis the 2024 hail update:

By billn on May 08, 2024 #vintage 2024

Chablis - Monday 6 2024
Chablis – Monday 6 2024

As I was there this week, I managed to ask a few questions.

I’m sure that the growers were more downbeat a week ago but ‘what’s done is done’ is the attitude today. But to recap:

On the evening of May 1st, a sequence of hail storms worked their way through northern France, including the Auxerois regions of Chablis/Irancy/St.Bris & Tonnerre, etcetera. In Chablis, the storms arrived in 3 waves – they came right through the middle of Chablis and although both right and left bank vineyards were hit, some areas were spared. It was the third wave of hail that did the most damage.

20 village communes make up the Chablis appellation, the most hail-affected were Chablis itself, Fontenay-près-Chablis, La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne, Lignorelles, Ligny-le-Châtel, Maligny and Villy – so a third of those villages. Reports put about 1,000 hectares of Chablis’ 6,000 hectares as being badly affected – ie to the extent of losing much of the growth on the vine but with more limited damage to the wood of the vine, so pruning for next year may not be too difficult. Some areas already forecast total losses but it won’t be possible to properly estimate this year’s losses until the fruit-set after flowering – so in another 4-6 weeks. I can, however, leave you with some quotes:

Adrien Gautherin, Domaine Raoul Gautherin: “I was in the US and came back just in time for the hail! I’m well, certainly more well than the vines right now… But what’s lost is lost – we prune late so our growth was later so we lost slightly less – it’s bad but it’s far too early to quantify…

Margaux Laroche, Domaine d’Henri: “Well, we had already lost 2 hectares to the frost and I think that we’ve mainly lost 6 hectares to the hail – and that’s from 21 hectares! We are typically buying the produce of another 6 hectares but we don’t know how much of that will remain – so, conservatively, I think we have lost – already – 40% of the vintage.

Virginie Naudet, Domaine Moreau-Naudet: “Vaillons is ‘broken.’ 5 of our 11 hectares are in a really bad shape – including Valmur but we will wait for the sun when, hopefully, the vegetation will return.

Jerôme Flous, Billaud-Simon/Faiveley: “This year we’ve already had frost and hail; the hail was very bad in some places – the grand crus for instance – but fortunately not our Clos, also not in neighbouring Montée de Tonnerre or our Mont de Milieu but the hail hit plenty of other 1ers – so it wasn’t everywhere. We shall have to wait and see what we’ve lost – but it’s clear that we’ve lost a lot…

Given the relatively localised nature of the storms, a well-spread-out domaine may have lost 50%, others may have lost nearly everything or nearly nothing – such is hail…

Hail in Chablis…

By billn on May 02, 2024 #vintage 2024

Yesterday, just a few hours after my 2024 vintage update, Chablis was hit by hail.
Although I’ll be there on Monday, I’m asking around if it was localised or my widespread.
I’ll keep you posted…
Bill

Examples:

2024 – the short (growth) pause…

By billn on May 01, 2024 #vintage 2024

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Corbeaux - 25 April 2024
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Corbeaux – 25 April 2024

The worry of frost is currently over across the whole of greater Burgundy, so what’s the status?

Frost in the Côte d’Or – update:
From the weather stations that are dotted around the Côtes, the minimum observed temperatures were –5°C in the Châtillonnais sector and almost -2°C in the lower part of Nuits St.Georges (the ‘station’ of Les Bouffales) and these were over the night of April 18 to 19.

During the last week, the average daily temperatures did not exceed 10°C – this week it is warmer. This cool spell combined with the cold nights has considerably slowed the growth of the vines.

So, no surprise, it is the Châtillonnais that has been most affected together with some southern sectors – like the chardonnay (mainly) in Maranges. I heard of some very affected areas in the valley that runs up from Monthelie to Nolay – optically high losses here and one vigneron bemoaning that his organic vines with ground cover look to have taken a hit of approaching 80%, whereas the herbicide-treated vines of a neighbour look 100% okay !!

There is talk of much damage in some parts of the Hautes-Côtes – but not others – I await a little more transparency here.

The rest of the Côtes, has some localised damage but it seems nothing that will have an obvious impact on the yields – but it remains possible that fewer flowers will be produced – so we will have to watch and wait for that.

Frost in Chablis:
Obviously, there will have been some yield-reducing challenges from the frost. I’m there on Monday, so will have some first-hand observations for you next week.

Frost in Beaujolais:
What frost? I was there last week (on Wednesday) and growers reported no frost at that stage – but Wednesday-Friday were forecast to dip down to 0°C in the nights – I have neither heard nor seen anything since, so assume, for now, no damage.

Rain !
It hardly stops !!

In April we had a proper month of April showers – indeed, more than showers! Lyon, last weekend, had almost 100mm of rain in one day – so much of (nearby) Beaujolais was, again, very well watered.

In the Côte d’Or, the weather station of Gevrey-Chambertin had already 99mm of rain collected by the 28 April. Volnay, by comparison, 50mm.

At the moment, it doesn’t look like, this summer, the Beaunois will be stopped from washing their cars to save water !!

So what of the vines?
After the hot – nearly 30°C weekend that followed Easter (13-14 April) the vine growth was well ahead of the norms and certainly matched the precocity of the 2020 vintage. The frost and the cool couple of weeks that followed have retarded the vigour of the vines and their stage of growth is currently classed as ‘average’ with a projected harvest just a couple of days ahead of last year’s 2023 campaign – but it remains very early days in terms of forecasting…

The main issue with the level of rain is that growers who have prepared areas for replanting, haven’t actually been able to get into the vineyards to plant! Many remain in consultation with their plant providers – the nurseries – as to whether they may end up being too late to plant…

I’m back to Beaune tomorrow. For now, a few photos from last week:

2024 today – subtitled, the cold and the rain !!

By billn on April 22, 2024 #vintage 2024

22 April 2024 - flowers forming...
Monday 22 April 2024 – Pinot flowers forming in villages Chassagne…

I think that now is a good time to turn our attention to the 2024 vintage.

Vintages ending in a 4 have not had the greatest run of publicity; 2014 is an unheralded vintage but was actually an excellent-plus vintage for whites and a more ‘classic’ vintage for reds – people only seem to remember the reds though!

Pre-2014, we have a litany of poor (red!) vintages – 2004, 1994, 1984 & 1974 – we have to go back to 1964 to find a vintage with a decent reputation – though possibly the implied quality of that vintage has been augmented by failing memory !!

Back to 2024:

Although there were cold spells, and even a small dusting of snow to finish the year of 2023, the generality of the 2023-2024 winter was that it was another mild one.

With further mild weather in February and March (+3.6°C and +1.5°C respectively compared to average*) the vegetative cycle – ie the sap flowing back into the shoots from the roots – resumed ‘early.’ Early from a historical perspective but with ‘average’ timing in the context of most vintages since 2015. In some early-ripening areas, the first green leaves of chardonnay were visible before the end of March, though that coincided with some cooler weather that slowed the growth – a little.
*Figures from Beaune’s BIVB

At the same time, we can’t neglect the considerable amount of rain that has visited the region.

With seemingly 3 out of every 4 vintages now lacking rain in the summer, and continued discussions of the depth of the ‘water table,’ for now, 2024 is not like that. It’s fair to say that until mid-April this year, given the amount of standing water, the low-lying, flatter vineyards were good only for ducks. And it was much worse in Chablis, with the village of La Chapelle de Vaupelteigne twice cut off, the houses and cellars full of water. The second high-tide of water affecting also the centre of Chablis – the restaurant of Au Fils du Zinc also underwater (Instagram image below). The water-reserves of the vineyard areas seem to have been amply replenished – though in the quickly draining, sandy, granitic soils of the Beaujolais Crus, only 3-4 hot weeks can leave that as memory…

A rough rule of thumb is 800-1,000mm of rain per year – by the end of March, the region had already recorded 800mm since October – and since the 1st April, the Côte d’Or has received an average of more than 50mm more !!

So now to the roller-coaster of weather in April.

Images of April:

Easter was in early April this year and it coincided with warm weather – not as warm, though, as the end of that Easter week where temperatures hovered only a little under 30°C – for the uninitiated, that was nearly 85° Fahrenheit!

When warm weather and lots of rain coincide the vine-growth can be very fast – also the worry about mildew – growers were already talking about the possibility before the second leaves were visible !! The warmth and easy availability of water have led to, at this stage, one of the most precocious vintages – most of the vines now have three to six leaves showing per bud and the first flower buds are starting to show – at least, that was until it all turned cold at the end of last week.

Versus average temperatures, April has thus far delivered the most extreme variations of the vintage – so far – extremes of more than 10°C higher AND 10°C lower than the historic monthly (daily) averages.

Clos des Grands Vignes
The Clos des Grands Vignes in Premeaux

So we now have to talk about frost.

In the most recent vintages, frost has visited the vineyards at roughly the same time – 04-06 April – and lasted a few days longer in Chablis.

This year during 04-06 April there seemed to be no preparation to fight frost in the vines – the thought of frost seemed very far away considering the ‘Ice Saints’ day(s) (the Saint Glace*, 11-13 May after which there should be no more frosts) being still a distant 6 weeks away.
*According to European observations of the late Middle Ages, around the dates of the feasts of Saint Mamert, Saint Pancrace and Saint Servais, traditionally celebrated on 11, 12 and 13 May each year. Once this period had passed, statistically, frost occurs very rarely during or after the ice saints, though frosts are not impossible after these dates.

This confidence that there would be no frosts changed 1 week ago. Snow visited where I live (560m altitude) on Thursday 18 April, followed by weather forecasts with multiple nights getting close to zero degrees in Burgundy – at least the winemakers were no-longer worried about mildew!

This morning in Chablis, the water sprays and many windmills were deployed (below) – I have already seen images of frost-wilted leaves from Chitry – where of course, there are no water-sprays and candles are not economically viable. Plus some ‘moderate’ damage reported by Stéphanie Colinot in her Irancy vines.

A windmill has sat for many weeks in the middle of Louis-Michel Liger-Belair’s Nuits Clos des Grands Vignes – it has now been joined by many others – not least a couple in Freddy Mugnier’s Nuits Clos de la Marechale – also in Premeaux. In Morey and Gevrey both candles and warming cables have been deployed in the vines – there are even more candles and windmills in the Côte de Beaune. Florence Heresztyn tells me that her pinots are okay but she has plenty of damage in her local (Gevrey-Chambertin) chardonnay – as yet, the extent is not quantifiable.

So far, very few domaines have deployed frost-fighting measures – predominantly those with higher altitude appellations such as Olivier Lamy in St.Aubin. Vincent Latour in Meursault told me on Friday “I’ll keep my fingers crossed, they say about zero degrees but with plenty of wind so we might lose a bud here and there but hopefully not more.

All is quiet on the Beaujolais front – so far. The temperatures have been 1-2° warmer than the Côte d’Or – but still sometimes touching 1°C…

Over the next few days, I’ll be visiting both Beaujolais and Chablis – so I’ll keep you posted. But for now, outside of Chablis, candle-lighting seems to have been more for the self-confidence of the wine-growers – a prophylactic more than an absolute necessity.

Catching up #3 – A Chablis Encore & the Burgundy water-table…

By billn on March 22, 2024 #degustation#travel pics#travels in burgundy 2024#vintage 2024

In January, I really didn’t have enough time in 3 weeks to visit all the Chablis domaines – or at least all the ones in my current list as it now extends to over 100 domaines! So I was back in ‘the north’ in March – with another trip planned for May!

In May, I’ll be mixing it up with a few visits in Irancy too.

La Chapelle de Vaupelteigne - March 2024
The view to La Chapelle de Vaupelteigne

On the Sunday I was in the Côte d’Or and I have to say that the flatter vineyards in the Côte de Beaune looked ready for ducks – there were a lot of vine ‘feet’ under water. Whilst the water in Chablis’ river Serein looked high on Monday, I still wasn’t prepared for the road closures on Tuesday as the river burst its banks to fill many of the flood-plains in the area. The rain hadn’t been so heavy in Chablis, rather in the surrounding Morvan countryside – as much as 70-80 miles away – and it takes about 3 days for the floodwaters to rise in Chablis.

Chablis itself wasn’t too badly affected but the village of La Chapelle de Vaupelteigne (above) was under water – only partly accessible for me by taking a route descending the hillside from Beine.

The weather calmed – indeed this week we have sunshine in Beaune – it’s a nice change! For now, Burgundians can’t right now complain about a lack of water – it’s double what was seen at the same stage in 2022 and 2023 – but instead they can complain that it’s 22°C in the afternoon 🙂

T-shirts already !

By billn on January 26, 2024 #travels in burgundy 2024#vintage 2024

Chablis views this week…

The weather has been very topsy-turvy in Chablis for the last 10 days – you could go as far as to say bizarre!

Last week I arrived to a hoarfrost – all the trees were white – but there was no snow. Tuesday morning when I did a short jog, it was -8°C. Tuesday evening when I did a long jog – it was warmer but still minus and there were snowflakes in the air. Wednesday lunchtime it was 15°C but Thursday morning we were back to -4°C !!

This week we seem to have settled around 13-14°C daytime temperatures and a lot of the buildings haven’t yet recovered from last week’s cold – so it’s often warmer outside. Yesterday was rainy – so nothing to see – today for an hour we had sunshine – and what did I see in l’Homme Mort? People pruning in t-shirts…

We have become accustomed to seeing that in recent years for a few days in February – but it’s not yet even February – pff!

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