Warning – Opinion!

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!

Mutually Assured (scoring) Destruction (shorthand – 99 points!)

By billn on February 08, 2015 #warning - opinion!

Fullscreen capture 08022015 141717
Copyright Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Atkin, Pierre Vincent? I’ve no idea either 😉

As a numerical shorthand, scoring wines has some place when faced with a large list of potentials for your glass. I have never been an advocate of the seemingly self-important, faux-accurate scoring implied by the 100 points system but I accede to this utility.

I do sometimes score – but my 0-2 points system, plus the ‘3 for your favourite’ – a system I use in my blind reports when there are multiple tasters, but that’s something everybody can understand: 0=don’t like, 1=like, 2=would buy, plus your overall favourite =3. But 99 points?

Call me an inadequate taster, but without some initial calibration, the first wine could just as easily for me be 90 points or 91 – well actually not – the problem is that the goal-posts move almost annually. A great wine is always a great wine – those high-lighted by Tim (in Pierre’s ‘happy-post’) are indeed great wines – BUT – 2013 is a very good vintage, but it’s not an outstanding vintage. Those wines in an outstanding vintage should be more than 1 point better, but unfortunately he’s already run out of room…

Are these 99 point wines almost on a par with the greatest ever made? – by definition wines of 100 point perfection – of-course they are not, even if they are very fine indeed, hence, the scores are false! It’s hardly Tim’s fault; with obvious hard work he has slowly transformed from an ‘opinionated’ to ‘a knowledgable’ to (more importantly) an ‘insightful’ writer about burgundy’s wines, but he’s opted to be part of a system of appreciating scores – ‘score-creep’ that’s mandated by only the highest scores being useful for sales or the self-promotion of domaines, i.e. only those who gave the highest scores later seeing their names propagated. From what I’ve seen, this is now endemic for ‘southern-hemisphere’ critics but it is now very obvious in ‘old-world’ critique too. Just compare Burghound’s scores for the 1999 vintage with the same for 2004 (the latter being the least successful vintage since 1994) – his average score in 2004 was higher! Burghound started, to my reading of the situation, perfectly scoring versus the template of what good, very-good, excellent wines should be – let’s say 85, 88 and 90. The trouble for him was that other reviewers went higher. I believe that Burghound was quickly forced to go higher – just my 2 cents of opinion – but it’s symptomatic of the problem as I choose to see it.

I see it often but it’s worth underlining – there are no regional ‘bourgognes’ worth 95 points – actually (in theory!) it is an exceptional grand cru that reaches this zenith – perhaps a dozen young wines in a great vintage might merit 96+ but even the very best – let’s say only for the sake of argument, Romanée-Conti – reaches perfection, and then only in the rarest of vintages and with considerable bottle age. I’m prepared to believe that a few of the (real) 602 bottles of 1945 RC could have be so-described. But 99 points for a wine that’s not yet bottled? I think we all know the answer to that one…

For the record, I also highlighted Pierre’s Bonnes-Mares as a ‘do not miss’ wine in my report, but on that day, it was much more dynamic that the Musigny…

Just for the record, let us try to remember what the 100 point scoring was once supposed to reflect:
Fullscreen capture 08022015 150212

herbicide – off-colour and off-limit…

By billn on January 11, 2015 #travels in burgundy 2015#warning - opinion!


You know I like to pepper these pages with pretty pictures taken along the road, but some of today’s pictures leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Actually, the fact that I find this more than a little disgusting, reflects well on the progress that has been made by vigneron/producers in the Côte d’Or. The palour of herbicide, today, stands obvious and sore against a backdrop of green grass, rock and perfectly ploughed furrows. It is exactly because it is becoming so rare in the Côte d’Or that it produces ever-more extreme emotion in me when I encounter it. You can double the shock when you know that the focus of my ire was 8-10, 100m rows, of Bâtard-Montrachet…

It is nothing more than laziness when you consider BM starts at about €120 per bottle.

I also saw another parcel below Puligny-Montrachet 1er La Garenne – I think Nosroyes, villages – treated in exactly the same way. I didn’t make a thorough study, but noting only two obvious parcels should be considered a thing of great progress. Who knows, maybe it was even the same producer…

It’s not fully about ‘who’ – that would be too easy to publish – rather that it becomes a more and more shameful thing to do – even villages Chablis at €12 a bottle is slowly turning against such practices. The Golden Slopes, of-course, have no tenable excuses. I also tweeted this, and almost regret properly positioning the parcel as opposite the Montrachet of Prieur (so those in the know would be extra sure) because lazy reading has caused people (so far) to assume I’m talking about Prieur, or the parcel of Montrachet next to Prieur – Thénard. Just for the record, neither have Bâtard – people should read properly before lynching…

There were also nice things today, including a very stupid but ultimately successful ascent of the road from Santenay-le-Haut/St.Jean up to the ‘Mountain of the 3 crosses’ and back down the other side into Maranges – in the car! 😉

disappointing ‘wine-writers’

By billn on October 20, 2014 #warning - opinion!

The caveat here, is that I’m talking about some ‘generalist’ wine-writers who occasionally dip their toe into a region, tasting at a few well-manicured addresses, probably sponsored by some ‘body’ or other, and back that up by tasting a bunch of grand crus that start at €100 a bottle. I’ve not been involved in a similar roughing of Twitter feathers before, but these two troll-esque tweets (from writers with over 40k of twitter followers) annoyed me just as much as previous Decanter (harvest) stories that seemed, at the same time, sensationalist yet lacking any real depth of comment or apparent knowledge:
Well, that’s my perjorative, clearly biased opinion based on what I read, anyway 😉

I assumed the first was tongue in cheek – and I like to have a laugh – but prodding showed that this was indeed Will’s thinking despite initially teasing-out that he was talking about ‘only the very best!’ His views seemed to harden and widen in the ‘conversation’ that followed. Hopefully he goes out and visits in more depth than I fear will be the case. As for Jamie – sorry, but that comment does not come up to his usual standards. There is much more to this if you wish to follow the conversations in the links above. Unfortunately, Twitter becomes unwieldy and close to useless once more than a couple of people are ‘involved’ in a conversation…

I pondered writing this, mainly because it seemed too self-serving, but the fact is, you need specialists if you want to know what to buy. Jancis’s site is going that way with multiple contributors, but already you have Roy Hersh for Port, Chris Kissack for Bordeaux and Loire, Burghound, maybe Neal Martin, maybe me for Burgundy – but for god’s sake, don’t read magazine/newspaper style columns hoping get useful info. World of Fine Wine is an exception, but has such lead-times you could never describe it as a guide for buying.

My basic premise is: Yes indeed Burgundy has become expensive for a certain niche producer list, put another way ‘no shit Sherlock.’ But a journalist can’t just say ‘I’m telling it like it is’ without actually showing some groundwork on which their opinions are formed. Actually, I’d be much more amenable if they simply said ‘In my opinion, Burgundy has a vanishing level of relevance because of xxxx, yyyy and zzzz‘ substantiating their words…

But we all know the phrase about ‘opinions’ – mine too! 😉

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