Warning – Opinion!

Value in Burgundy?

By billn on July 09, 2020 #warning - opinion!

Nick Jackson MW made a suggestion for producers per village. I found some great suggestions but also some reliance on négoce wines and relatively high priced producers too:

There’s definitely a homogeneity of pricing in Vosne, Meursault, Puligny & Chassagne that’s hard to avoid, but by going some way off the ‘beaten track‘ of producers I came up with a counter-suggestion – but what do you think? Remember I’m trying to capture ‘value’ so great quality and a good price.

PS I tried to associate producers with the village in question but be based in the same village. I made a mistake with Fougeray de Beauclair – they are based in Marsannay, not Fixin – but I had anyway included them for their Fixin Clos Marion!

text of the day – a biodynamic critique…

By billn on June 14, 2020 #a bit of science#warning - opinion!

The problem with biodynamics: myths, quacks and pseudoscience
Linked here

A post (above) that’s worth spending a little time over.

I try to avoid discussing Steiner, the man, for exactly the reasons that this author has enunciated. I do believe that there are some aspects of (let me shorten it to) ‘BD’ that, perhaps, science has yet to catch up with, but I wholeheartedly concede that the general critique levelled by Joshua is incontrovertible.

There were great wines before biodynamics – even in the ‘chemical era’ of the 1960s-1990s – though far fewer than today. I believe that organic approaches to viticulture have improved sustainable grape production radically. How much of that is down to BD is a moot point, certainly far, far, less than the recent benevolence of the climate and wine pricing that allows producers to experiment and not always aim for the highest allowed yields.

The ‘DRC Fallacy’ is something of a given, as one should note that not all great farmers are great winemakers – and vice-versa – the great names (labels) happen to combine both aspects. Save for certain ‘hard to explain’ rituals (including burials!) BD is essentially very close to organic farming. For that reason alone, I’m quite happy that more and more people are taking note. That’s possibly my philosophical side speaking but from the perspective of intellectual rigour…

restaurants & the elephant in the room…

By billn on May 13, 2020 #the market#warning - opinion!

It’s true of course – how could it be any different? Without restaurants – either ordering or potentially closing for good – the wine-producers of all regions have currently lost a significant part of their client-base. At this point, only Burgundy seems to be openly discussing this and that’s why they have the headline.

Major retail channels are not making up for lost sales.” Again, of course. The orders that have been placed by hotels and restaurants, less than 2 months ago, will not have been re-allocated yet, it’s too soon.

Nobody knows how the restaurant scene will look 2 years down the line, but typically it is the older, more coveted, domaines that have higher exposure to the restaurant trade. The ‘slack’ of unsold/un-ordered wine could easily be taken up by the consumer channels for these sought-after domaines – just look at how buoyant the online sales are during ‘lockdown’ – but it’s the unpaid bills from restaurants that won’t reopen, or who need to ‘re-finance’ – that’s the much bigger elephant in the room…

echézeaux – or grands-echézeaux – what are the differences?

By billn on April 30, 2020 #warning - opinion!

grands echezeaux
In another place, I gave my answer to the differences, or positioning, of these two AOPs. Here are my thoughts – but what do you think?

You can see all of these spellings on labels, the most common is that last one, so that’s what I’ll use: Échezeaux, Échézeaux, Echezeaux or Echézeaux.

    Grands? Well, one is indeed bigger than the other – but the reverse of the naming:

  • Grands-Echézeaux, 9.14 hectares, on modestly sloping limestone ground – practically flat versus Echézeaux – north of Vosne in Flagey-Echézeaux
  • Echézeaux, 36.26 hectares, on a limestone and marl terroir – multiple slopes, dips, altitudes, full-sun and part shaded – also north of Vosne in Flagey-Echézeaux

Grands-Echézeaux does usually seem to be the ‘grander’ wine when you taste after Echézeaux, but older producers suggest that the prefix ‘Grand’ is not used as a form of one-upmanship versus Echézeaux, rather that it describes the much longer rows of vines than seen in the more ‘parcellated’ Echézeaux – so they say…

Of-course the structural character of Grands-Echézeaux is very different to Echézeaux and I see this as probably due to its proximity to the Clos de Vougeot – the wall of the Clos often seeming an arbitrary separation between the two – it’s probably not unreasonable then that DRC hold that their Grands-Echézeaux is perhaps the longest-lived of all their wines. That said, their Echézeaux is not a bad keeper either – I remember Jasper Morris kindly giving me a sip of the DRC ’59 Echézeaux from a bottle that he’d enjoyed at lunch in BB&R that day with Burghound (in roughly 2008) which was robust and young – their BB&R own-bottled ’57 Bonnes-Mares was the more drinkable/open of those two that day(!)

In young Grands-Echézeaux, when not drowned out by oak (a common problem), I very often find an almond aroma that I never find in Echézeaux, and an Echézeaux is, to me, more classically ‘Vosne-like’ than Grands-Echézeaux – again, perhaps, due to Grands-Echézeaux’s proximity to the Clos. It’s easy to consider Echézeaux a second-rank grand cru in the context of Vosne-Romanée (yes, I know, it’s in Flagey…) but a single tour of a dozen or more young Echézeaux often has me in raptures – or, indeed 28 of them! Considering the size of the vineyard, Echézeaux shows much more consistency in quality (if not style) than other large grand crus such as Clos de Vougeot or Corton.

Styles can confound everything – of course! Lots of whole-clusters – or not. Tons of new oak – or not. Elegant or powerful – etcetera… I’ve tasted every year since 2000, and I do think that the DRC Echézeaux has been consistently in the top half-dozen Echézeaux every year since at least 2005 – but that simply means that I like their stylistic choices – though it can be a close-run thing with other domaines…

I’m ashamed to say that I never bought any of his Grands-Echézeaux, so can’t comment on those, but for those lucky enough to still have some, I think Nicky Potel got extra-special juice from ‘somewhere’ in 1997 – his Echézeaux is one of the wines of the vintage – and it’s now starting to blossom fabulously – it’s currently much more interesting than his 1999…

somewhereness

By billn on April 22, 2020 #a bit of science#warning - opinion!

This is an excellent read – thanks – a ‘hat-tip’ – to @bkpinot

I would only quibble with this:

“The only mention in English that I am aware of through the 70’s was Michael Broadbent’s mistaken use of it as a term for dirty or unpleasantly earthy wine.”

I would say not mistaken. Many old winemakers (ie older than 70) in Burgundy reference the term (terroir), in their youth, as implying rusticity — a ‘peasant’ wine, ‘unruly’ wine — ‘earthy’ indeed, more so than referencing site specifics. As much as anything, with the rise of marketing, you will find the rise of the current usage of that word. The meaning/context of words often changes over generations — just look at ‘gay…’

the hot and cold of it…

By billn on April 17, 2020 #annual laurels#warning - opinion!

A new page of data for you to pour over…

“It’s a shame that we lack data for 1945, and even more so, 1947, but what’s striking is that the majority of the hottest days on record are still from 2003 – 1947 would likely have offered competition! All of the top 10 hottest vintages are post-2000 with six of the seven hottest vintages all post-2011 – 2003 being the seventh! Even 2014, which I consider to be the last of the classic red vintages – ie not super-sweet – is the 5th hottest year in our list!”

are malos bad?

By billn on April 16, 2020 #a bit of science#warning - opinion!

Like this, another interesting ‘malo’ article this week – similarly themed too, casting malolactic fermentation as a bad-guy. But Burgundy won’t take it to heart!

staying healthy – but now it also gets complicated…

By billn on March 16, 2020 #degustation#travels in burgundy 2020#warning - opinion!

Much is down to chance, but you can also try to be sensible.

Last week in Burgundy, the Grands Jours de Bourgogne was sensibly cancelled. 600-1,200 people per venue, pressing to get near to their favourite vigneron(ne)s, pouring, slurping, making the wine as intimate as possible with all the wet parts inside their mouths/palates – then probably worst of all, in an explosion of vapour, body-fluids and wine, spitting into the large communal spittoons. It’s not just for the peacock in them that many in the trade wear red trousers! So it was clearly the right decision.

Of course, in what should have been a bumper week for trade, Beaune was dead. Plenty of parking – and the restaurants less than one-third full – the hotels less full than that.

To the side of the Grands Jours are also many other gatherings of vigneron(ne)s and private tastings, many of which that hadn’t been cancelled. I took a view as to what was, more or less, sensible to attend – this is, after-all, my job – it’s the only one I have! The Wednesday gathering of les Tontons-Trinqueurs in Nuits St.Georges didn’t quite meet my threshold – approaching 300 visitors and nearly 40 vigneron(ne)s there were simply too many people – such a shame as it’s a great group of producers. I appreciate that my threshold may be more or less stringent than yours – but as a diabetic, this was my choice. Later that same day was the tasting of the Punition Collective – another worthy group of producers – 24 of them, but only 13 from greater-Burgundy. I arrived early, didn’t taste 2018s that I had already tasted in the last 3 months, and was out in about 90 minutes before there was a bigger crowd – over 150 said that they would come to taste – by the time that I left, there were about 50 tasters. Of course, there were people that would greet only with a bump of elbows, but many were still in full-kiss-mode!

The next day I’d a private appointment – no-problem – or perhaps not – we were three, and one had been at the Tonton-Trinqueurs! In the afternoon there was a superb tasting by a bunch of Beaujolais producers; Thillardon, Desvignes, both Suniers, Ann-Sophie Dubois, Pauline Passot, Richard Rottiers, Claire Chasselay and others – on the open square next to Beaune’s Table du Square. I got there early – I was actually the first! I tasted just about everything that I hadn’t tasted in February – we were in the open-air and really there were very few visitors before 5pm – we had started at 3pm. Again a mix of elbow-bumping, handshakes and kisses…

My last appointment of the day was at the cuverie of Andrew Neilsen of Le Grappin – an interesting group of ‘smaller‘ producers. This tasting started at 4pm – I arrived at 5:15pm – I took one look – and the one photo above – and then left. Social-distancing? Not a chance! Way too many people in a very small place – nope – sorry but nope.

I had one last visit on Friday before I took the road back to Switzerland, one on one, and just one elbow-bump. That was surely okay! I was less happy with the sandwich that I bought at the bakery next to Le Grand Frais in Beaune before leaving – or should I assume bare hands putting sandwiches into a paper-bag to be fine? It was, anyway, probably also made with bare hands! But 3 days later I’m still fit 😉

Now it gets complicated though. With its cultural and geographical proximity to Italy, Switzerland doesn’t have one of the best covid-19 records, and countries that surround the Helvetic Confederation are now ‘closing’ their borders – that includes France. I had 28 different visits and tastings planned for this month’s March report – but so far I’ve achieved only 5. I have 9 more planned for next week, but it looks like I can’t travel to France next week – even if I, and my list of growers, are all fit. I have to hope that my subscribers are patient – it could be a long next 4-6 months.

Still, it could be personally worse; I could work for an airline or a restaurant – or even be sick!

the inevitability: grands jours de bourgogne cancelled

By billn on March 02, 2020 #the market#warning - opinion!

Grands Jours de Bourgogne 2020

Given the backdrop of coronavirus infections, I think that for almost 2 weeks now, there has been a creeping inevitability that the Grands Jours de Bourgogne would have to be cancelled or postponed. The once every two years gathering in Burgundy for tasters and wine ‘professionals’ would have to fall into line with not just the politics of the moment, but also reality; what could be worse than 1,000 people meeting together in one large space – how about only 100, but all spitting into ‘communal’ spittoons? – The red trousers won’t save you there!

Large sporting events, the Geneva Motorshow and local festivals have all been cancelled in the last 10 days. Then, at the end of last week ProWein was cancelled (postponed?) and VinItaly in April must be a large doubt. In the end, it really seemed inevitable!

Of course, it’s a shame for anyone who may lose money over this – if you have flights or hotels that seem reluctant to reimburse – but I think that’s a better outcome than reacting insufficiently well to treatment in a hospital!

I’m personally down by 14 different tastings – so I’ll have less for my March Report – but I am still planning to make the trip for my appointments at the end of March – private appointments are no different to visiting your local supermarket – today, anyway. Still, I’m yet to see a successful ‘spitter’ wearing a mask!

Dear customers, dear partners,
As you know, the Covid-19 epidemic currently affecting our planet has taken on a new dimension in Europe and more locally in France.
The last known elements as well as our exchanges with local authorities enabled us to make an informed and responsible decision.

We are no longer able to offer the expected health and safety conditions to our visitors and exhibitors. It is therefore with a heavy heart that we inform you that the Grands Jours de Bourgogne 2020 event, initially scheduled for March 9 to 13 will not take place.

We are aware of the impact of this decision on the agendas and activities of each of you but our priority is and will always remain the health of every one.

We thank you for your confidence and hope to see you soon on other events honoring Bourgogne wines.
Sincerely Yours,
The executive board of the Grands Jours de Bourgogne

Burgundy Report

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