Warning – Opinion!

do you smell corks?

By billn on August 24, 2017 #degustation#warning - opinion!

My advice, is that advice, like exercise, is not absolute – it’s about what works for you.

I’ve more than once read articles from (let’s call them) opinion-formers, who state quite categorically that cork sniffing has absolutely no use, and is, charitably(!) nothing more than an affectation – I beg to differ.

It’s not 100% certain, but my reckoning it’s 95% certain that when I open a bottle and sniff the wet-end of the cork, if it smells of TCA, then my wine will be corked. Simple!

Yesterday’s Lafon probably increased these odds to 95.01%. The cork came out whole and in good shape – but it didn’t smell ‘correct’ – I was sure there was TCA. The wine in my glass, straight from the fridge – as it’s still summer – had some beautiful red fruit on the nose, but also an accent of something – something unwanted – in the background. As the wine in the glass slowly came to room temperature, the fruit became ever-better, but that background note, comparatively, grew more. The wine was corked – moderately – but corked. I could drink half a glass, cold, but still whilst wrinkling my nose – unsure. But there was a threshold where the cork-taint became clear – then it was over. Sometimes what’s in glass is unclear, but usually the cork doesn’t lie.

So, don’t do what others would have you do, do what works for you…

As an aside; rightfully I should be even more annoyed with a corked wine that I’ve had in my cellar for 20 years than a recent purchase – right? But it doesn’t seem to work that way – each one is a similar loss. Okay, I’ve never (yet!) opened a corked Romanée-Conti…

a new label – bourgogne côte d’or – and why it matters…

By billn on August 22, 2017 #the market#warning - opinion!

There are many ‘Bourgogne’ labels, but the new one – Bourgogne Côte d’Or – is much more specific in two respects; 1) Geography and 2) what’s in the bottle – it can only be pinot noir or chardonnay.

Harpers were the first (that I’m aware of) to break the news that the long discussed label of Bourgogne Côte d’Or is finally approved. You can read most of the details of what will be allowed, in that link.

But what does that mean for you and me? Well, it should be a very good thing; it won’t make a bit of difference to the Bourgogne Pinot Noirs that you have been buying, nor will it change things much at well-known domaines – though they may, if they feel the need, take this new label – see the comment from Philippe Charlopin in the linked article.

Now it is instinctive to think that a Bourgogne Rouge comes from ‘Burgundy’ and that it is made from pinot noir. You would be forgiven for also assuming that ‘Burgundy’ means that the grapes come from the Côte d’Or – and for growers in the Côte d’Or this is overwhelmingly so – but for the bulk of Bourgognes this is overwhelmingly not so – this is where it will make a big difference – it will bring extra clarity.

What the hell am I talking about?

The Maisons, typically of the Côte d’Or have, for a long time, been playing a tough game with their neighbours in Beaujolais, trying to restrict their southern cousins’ use of the Bourgogne label. Those cousins would, after all, be competition. But at the same time, behind the scenes, those same maisons have been some of the largest buyers of Beaujolais wine – gamay wine – for their vast quantities of Bourgogne Rouge. It’s no secret but it’s also, for obvious reasons, not something that they publicise, i.e. that Bourgogne Rouge can contain up to 15% gamay from Beaujolais – so it shouldn’t ever be a surprise when your cheap Bourgogne smells like Beaujolais! Actually, this gamay can come from anywhere in Yonne/Côte d’Or/Chalonnais/Mâconnais/Beaujolais – some 50,000 hectares of vines are eligible – but Beaujolais is usually the king of cheap. By comparison, the ~1,000 hectares that are ‘allowed’ for this new Bourgogne Côte d’Or label sound much less generous!

It’s exactly the same for the whites, of-course; Bourgogne Blanc often contains wine from the Chalonnaise or the Mâconnais – without restriction.

So what you might have instinctively expected to find in your Bourgogne Rouge or Bouregogne Blanc, you will actually find in the Bourgogne Côte d’Or – though it’s fair to say that this ‘progress’ for the consumer has taken a very long time to come!

The take-home message is to keep buying the great stuff that you always have, but don’t be surprised if the label changes in the next vintages. But if you want an extra saftey-belt for your Bourgogne buying habit, then the Bourgogne Côte d’Or label will be the one for you – but it will of-course be more expensive than wines ‘cut’ with grapes from cheaper ‘sources…’

hong kong drinks it in…

By billn on February 28, 2017 #the market#warning - opinion!


“Hong Kong is now Burgundy’s fifth biggest market in terms of revenue and the 13th largest in terms of volume”

i.e. its not really the cheap stuff that they are buying!

Hong Kong is, it seems, doing a great job of mopping up top production from the Côte d’Or. It’s a relatively new market that has been less sensitive to price (probably because they largely never bought at 25% of the current pricing!) than more traditional markets. The open question, is whether they will still buy in less star-studded vintages(?) But for now, the producers and merchants make hay while the sun shines…

enforcing the status quo?

By billn on February 27, 2017 #beaujolais#the market#warning - opinion!


I would say that here it is the ‘revitalising the region‘ comment that is up for interpretation – at least if we look at at past actions. Louis Latour, and I have to say Drouhin too, seem to approach the Beaujolais region purely as a source of ‘entry level wines.‘ Which (perhaps simplistically) could be viewed as trying to enforce the current status quo of the market. I would contrast that with the work of Bouchard Père at Château Poncié, or rather more successful, the work of Louis Jadot at Château des Jacques.

Beaujolais is only going to reap some reward for its action (where deserved) if those people who are deserving can monetise their efforts. Like Jadot, Lafarge-Vial and Thibault Liger-Belair are ‘externals’ who are successfully monetising good work, but for as long as major producers label a region only as the ‘entry level’ then that makes life difficult for all producers of a region, regardless of the quality that they can deliver.

Note: I was the very first writer to taste Louis Latour’s Pierre Dorée wine when bottled – last summer when visiting and profiling their Henry Fessy domaine/négoce/wines – and very good it is too. Here I only comment on my perception of the actual positioning of wine from Beaujolais by certain Burgundian ‘majors.’

“can I refill it and put the cork back?”

By billn on September 12, 2016 #the market#warning - opinion!


I guess I’m going to have to see this one*. I guess I’m still not the only one trying to workout how the auctioneers; Acker, Bagheera, Spectrum and previous Christies management – and they are probably not alone – could make so much money from this – without sanction…

*By the way, Ponsot said that 80% of all pre-1980 wines from a handful of Burgundy producers, at auction, was fake – not 80% of ALL Burgundy wines at auction!

burgundy – no weather change?

By billn on September 07, 2016 #warning - opinion!


Well, that would be yes and no.

French meteorologists recently, through the BIVB, made presentations to the local wine producers. They showed some interesting data-sets that both confirmed and disproved some of what people were thinking re changing weather patterns. I offer a very quick summary of what was presented – second-hand – from someone who was at the presentation:

In recent years, the seasons have certainly shown some changes in terms of the average temperatures – currently, only Autumn is about the same average temperature as before – all the other seasons have clearly shown a shift to warmer average temperatures.

We have short memories when it comes to hail, communication is now instant, but before, we only heard of hail in wine magazines weeks after the fact. Whist taking France as a whole, it is clear that there have been exceptional hail events in 2016, but statistically there is no significant change in the incidence of such hail – Volnay for instance has previously been hit 3 years in a row. I think we need to keep a watching brief on that one!

I’m certainly not the only one that has the impression of more rain storms or a change in their frequencies, but the weather forecasters have gone back and checked their historic data for the amounts of rain; first per month, then per week and then per day et-cetera, and within statistical error – a surprise to everyone – it’s unchained.

Now who would have thought it!

brexit – c’est compliqué

By billn on June 24, 2016 #warning - opinion!

the-sun-front-page-09.03.16-1Well, it’s decided!

Speaking as a Brit who has lived outside the UK for over 16 years now, who gets by in German at home, and ‘almost’ gets by in French in my second (third?) home, it would come as no surprise that, on balance, I was more of a ‘remain’ than a ‘Brexit’ – but it’s more complicated than that…

France seems an out-liner for the (old!) future of the EU, mired in Bureaucracy; most official ‘things’ having to be signed in triplicate in the home of the ‘C’est la France – c’est compliqué!’ I didn’t like that, nor did I like the massive un-elected facet of much of the apparent workings of the EU – but they were counter-balanced by an inclusiveness that I liked very much. It is strange that the people fighting against that are not just (some) politicians, but also the terrorists that would have us separated/segregated and hiding behind our front doors.

The campaign left a very bad taste though; dirty, pseudo racist messages from an Arthur Daley lookalike – but significantly less trustworthy. What to think of an apathetic Labour ‘leadership’ – in the end it was their lack of dynamism towards their own constituency that decided the vote. How in the future to trust the people who delivered such a cynical and downright lying (miss-leading is too small a word – however it looks when written) campaign. There were always going to be short-term and potentially long-term consequences. And what of those poor ‘non-English’ regions that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU?

I always felt there was a chance that ‘things’ could be better for the UK in 5-10 years, post-Brexit, maybe also for the EU, if they are sufficiently shocked from their fat complacency – but the two have to retain strong ties – isolation can cause withering and death. But now is the time for everyone to do what is best for all those that took the time to vote, whichever way they voted…

Okay, that’s enough politics for this year – enjoy your weekend wherever you may be…!

Is there a future for this, or other forum(s)?

By billn on October 01, 2015 #site updates#the market#warning - opinion!

WARNING – for me, at least, a long-ish post. And because many people will not follow this discussion if it stays on the Burgundy Report forum, I’m also posting it in my Diary 😉

I guess, as background, some of my experience may be mirrored by others, but…

I stopped with the forum of erobertparker when the junta closed it down – it was mainly closed due to critique, and much of it both unrepeatable and unnecessary, despite the general undertow of brown-nosing – but it was the best ‘meeting place’ I’ve ever known on the web. I paid a small subscription to go back and delete as many of my previous posts as I could (my freely given content) but much had already been archived – one could say stolen…

I started this forum by popular – well at least a dozen people(!) – demand, people who needed a new place ‘to go’. It took some work to set up, and then much more work to weed out and eventually stop the spam. But it seems, to say the very least now, to be in a persistent vegetative state…

I had a dalliance with wineberserkers, but often the tenor of discussion was (is) unpleasant – never to me – but plenty of shilling and self-importance was carried over from erp. I only go there today if somebody specifically points me to a link, or a bunch of people come to Burgundy Report because of a discussion there.

What I have noticed is that a couple of Burgundy-related groups (two, only because the moderators of the first had a fall-out!) on Facebook now have thousands of members and whilst as always it’s a small core of posters, wines and even sometimes tasting-notes, abound. There’s definitely a core of ‘look at me with my Leroy’ posters, who have not that much to say, but I like that it’s a different demographic – many more from China/HK/Singapore et-cetera than the ‘traditional’ fora. Plus, Facebook seems to have an ever finer focus – first, Burgundy Geeks group, then come individual village groups like Vosne-Romanée – I expect it might take longer for somebody to set up a group devoted to Monthèlie!

So, is Facebook the forum for the next years? In the current circumstances, I don’t see much possibility of this particular forum surviving 2016.

But that’s up to you of-course 😉

one (special) day in the climats…

By billn on July 10, 2015 #the market#warning - opinion!


Yesterday was a celebration of the successful entry of ‘Burgundy’ into the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. If you have seen some/most of the coverage since this was announced on Saturday, you will have mainly noted that Champagne, also a new ‘inscription’ has taken the headlines, and that only the last paragraph mentions Burgundy.

Truth be told, it’s really a sub-set of Burgundy, one that we Anglo-Saxon’s refer to as the Côte d’Or, but the locals will quietly correct you and say that the inscription is actually for the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits – and in this instance, the definition used was Chenove to Maranges – inclusive. And the ‘grounds’ for inscription?

  • To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.
  • To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

Beginning in 2007, it’s been a long road to achieve this local enhancement of ‘status’ – if it was ever required – and make no mistake it has been both resource intensive and requiring strong leadership. Clearly Aubert de Villaine was the symbol of the bid concept, but not merely a symbol, he was a driver and tireless promoter; his goal now achieved, don’t be surprised if Guillaume d’Angerville takes over what will inevitably now become a more symbolic rôle. One major positive of the successful UNESCO bid will be the greater attention to the fabric of the vineyards themselves – many have ramshackle walls and boundaries, sometimes shored-up with ugly daubs of concrete – I think (and hope) that maintenance will now be more ‘considered’ – after-all, ignoring weather traumas, the inflow of cash into the cellars of Burgundy has never been higher…

I had a special day of visits yesterday, arranged by the BIVB, to the most emblematic corners of Burgundy (sorry, I mean the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits!) – fundamental showcases of the cultural fabric of the region – and in much more bearable temperatures too; let’s say 28°C. We finished with a press conference and a garden picnic with a band and then fireworks in the grounds of the Château de Meursault – about 3,000 other people joined in the celebration too!

A day to remember!

Burgundy Report

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