Warning – Opinion!

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

the great grape launderette…

By billn on February 05, 2020 #a bit of science#ladypyrazines#vineyard pestilence#warning - opinion!

bugI’m reminded of more than one conversion I had with the former winemaker in Morey St.Denis, David Clark. His 2004s and 2011s were not immune to the pyrazines of those vintages, and in the absence of other theories that convinced, he seemed pretty comfortable with the idea that the ladybirds/bugs might be the responsible party.

David was (probably still is) an incurable the inventor/engineer, proposing that maybe the solution was to wash the grapes before they hit the fermentation tanks – he was pretty sure that the environment of the cuverie would harbour enough yeast strains to get the fermentations done, assuming that those populations on the grapes themselves might be washed away. Some other winemakers seemed less convinced of that latter point – but given not many ladybugs since 2011 – it’s a thought that has faded.

I note that in some vintages, Bouchard Père et Fils has ‘sort-of‘ their own grape washing approach; letting the first part of the first press wash away as it contains all the dirt accumulated on the grapes. But an automatic wash for the grapes it isn’t.

Enter the most recent vintages chez Château Thivin; an Italian friend of Claude Geoffray has been using such a washing system for grapes that go into their local bubbles. Claude decided to give it a try. The grapes are hit by high-pressure water before travelling over a vibrating table to remove the larger drops, then a high-pressure air-flow to dry the grapes. “It doesn’t just get rid of the insects,” says Claude, “In the most recent vintages there has been no rain, so the accumulated treatments of the summer are undoubtedly still present on the grapes – copper, sulfur, etcetera.

Claude confirms that his recent fermentations have been fine – ‘normal‘ – whereas most producers in the last vintages describe fragility in their fermentations, and a couple have even suggested to me that it could be the accumulation of copper still on the grapes that bears some responsibility. Claude is still waiting the analyses of the chemical levels in his ‘wash-water,’ but it’s fair to say he’s been very happy with the results; “It was clear that many of the grapes had an accumulation of something from the vintages that didn’t taste nice before washing – after they were fine.

For the moment, Claude and the team at Châateau Thivin may be the only winemakers using this tool in France – but with results like this, it seems a modest investment in quality – even without ladybugs!

Burgundy vs the INAO

By billn on January 29, 2020 #in case you missed it#warning - opinion!


Click above for the current response from Beaune

The interwebs in the last days have been full of images (below) against a major proposed change by the INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la QualitĂŠ) and I had many conversations with winegrowers in Chablis about it last week too. This is only a tiny example, but I tasted a number of Bourgogne CĂ´te d’Auxerre, Tonnerre and Epineuil last week – the warmer vintages really having given these wines an impressive lease of life – yet here we are with a proposal that will revert them to – well, what exactly?

Their current designations are of regional wines (i.e. Bourgognes) with geographical precisions – there are 14 of these geographical Bourgognes1 including the new Bourgogne CĂ´te d’Or label – so how many may be junked?

So much for loyal and constant use… This will run and run!

But what the INAO taketh with one hand they giveth with the other – the proposals would allow swathes of Beaujolais to be classed as ‘Bourgogne’ – clearly taking the pith here as gamay is not Bourgogne, only CĂ´teaux Bourgogne… 😉

1The 14 ‘Geographical Bourgognes’ are: Bourgogne Chitry, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois, Bourgogne Côte d’Or, Bourgogne Côte Saint Jacques, Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Bourgogne Épineuil, Bourgogne Hautes Côte de Beaune, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Bourgogne La Chapelle Notre Dame, Bourgogne Le Chapitre, Bourgogne Montre-cul (or Montrecul or En Montre-Cul) and Bourgogne Tonnerre.

an opinon piece for christmas day…

By billn on December 25, 2019 #4 subscribers#warning - opinion!

But doesn’t everybody love 2018 red burgundy? For subscribers, of-course. I decided not to add tinsel!…

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offer of the day – 2017 Millemann(?)

By billn on October 14, 2019 #the market#warning - opinion!

It’s always nice to see merchants offering the wines of up-and-coming new names – and only 2 wines at that – Corton-Charlemagne and Chambertin. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the pricing – 360 and 550 swiss francs, respectively – from the “exceptional 2017 vintage!

I understand your ‘gulp’ at those prices, but given the current price of grapes – that’s only about a 50% margin, for the Chambertin, anyway! At these prices you are forgiven for demanding more info about the producers; “StĂŠphanie and Pierre Millemann, well known in the winemaking world for their work as consultants in oenology and viticulture” – but not by me, alas. “The career path of this couple a long journey towards excellence,” well at these prices I hope that they are close to the end of that journey! Better still, “the bottle was chosen for its technical characteristics. It guarantees a straight neck over a sufficient length…” Super!

Whilst I (fortunately) don’t see it on the front label of the image supplied by the merchant, the merchant’s text describes the Chambertin as Chambertin Vieilles-Vignes. As I see it, at the top of the appellation, a wine is Chambertin or it is not Chambertin, the addition of extra qualifiers is something to frown upon if you are looking for the best!

this points nonsense is exactly that, nonsense – but don’t blame the wine…

By billn on June 25, 2019 #degustation#warning - opinion!

Or should I simply say ridiculous?

Let me get two things out of the way to start with:

  1. 2017 is a great vintage for white burgundy
  2. I also loved and highly recommended this wine in my December 2018 report for subscribers:
    2017 Ladoix
    A relatively new contract since 2015. It needed some work to sell to regular clients but now is starting to go very well. 30% new oak again.
    A vibrant nose – fresh, mineral and cut with citrus – yes! More density, more depth – ooh this great! Mineral, concentrated and beautifully pure – I could drink this every day – bravo!

But 98 points for a village? On the positive side, whoever reviewed this wine can indeed spot a great wine in its segment, but on the other hand, they render any scoring system completely meaningless – or perhaps, as Clive Coates once said, “Scores are in context!“…

cĂ´te d’or – the truth!

By billn on April 15, 2019 #warning - opinion!

Or today’s truth anyway 🙂

I have often previously written that I was personally of the view that name CĂ´te d’Or was derived from ‘east-facing’ – mainly given the number of old maps inscribed with cĂ´te d’orient – this, as opposed to the view that the name was derived from golden slope – something which lasts no-more than a couple of weeks – and not every year. Well, this month, the BIVB have weighed in with their own, currently, definitive version:

“Did you know?

Two uses and two origins for a single name!

Winegrowers chose the name of the Bourgogne Côte d’Or appellation as a reference to the orientation of the winegrowing hillsides. The Côte d’Or in this case represents a contraction of “Côte d’Orient”, meaning oriented to the east. A symbol of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, this favorable aspect goes a long way to explain the excellence of its wines, which benefit from the warming rays of the rising sun.

The CĂ´te-d’Or dĂŠpartement (with a hyphen), for its part, was named by the National Assembly in the 19th century for a much more bucolic reason. The name refers to the magnificent golden color that cloaks the vines just after the harvests.”

Or maybe they are just referring to the new appellation of Bourgogne CĂ´te d’Or – watch this space…

today’s walk: volnay->monthelie->auxey->meursault->volnay…

By billn on April 10, 2019 #travels in burgundy 2019#warning - opinion!

The rain that was forecast for practically all of this week – didn’t really materialise until this evening – at least in Beaune anyway! So today we managed a good, and dry, walk – picnicking in Meursault, before heading back via Plures, Santenots, Caillerets and Champans, to our car in Volnay. Then a quick run around Beaune before the heavens opened – oh and our apero!

Less herbicide treated vineyards to see today – except for Santenots and the ‘villages’ bottom of the hill – there’s very little in Volnay, a little more-so in Monthèlie, and at-least by the route that we took – not much treated this way in Meursault. 20 years ago I could understand the use of glyphosate – the wines whilst not cheap, weren’t expensive either. Today these are all expensive wines, and there’s no excuse…
 

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