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 🙂

Catching up #1 – Beaujolais Reporting

By billn on March 16, 2024 #beaujolais#reports#travel pics#travels in burgundy 2024

So a couple of days of typing this week, post week number 4 in Chablis – but for now, let’s just talk about up-and-coming Beaujolais reporting.

Like in Chablis, there will be another week of visits in Beaujolais, as three weeks just doesn’t cut it in either place anymore – I’ve over 100 domaines to visit in both regions. But more visits means less time to type – such is life.

So I don’t want subscribers to wait around too long for reports just because I’m doing more. So I plan to split February’s monthly (Beaujolais) report into about 3 weekly issues until all is complete – then there is less tumbleweed on the site. As soon as at least 20 of the 80 visits are publishable, I’ll do that and let everyone know on the WhatsApp group (top right of this page) – and of course, with a post here.

Only to say, that at this stage of the wines’ lives – I think the greatest quality/value to be found in 2022 comes in Beaujolais – only a teaser 🙂

Cité des Climats et Vins – Beaune

By billn on June 18, 2023 #travel

Cité-BeauneI previously visited the new outpost of the trilogy of Cités des Climats et Vins in Chablis – where I praised the human scale and architecture of the operation. I was unsure if I would be so positive towards this large erection on Beaune’s outskirts, but my first impressions did, indeed, tend towards the positive…

I visited for the opening ceremony on Friday 16th June – there were many people – aptly, many vigneron(ne)s. In fact, so many people that I chose not to follow the crowds through the exhibition halls – something for me to take in on another day.

Many were the worthy speeches outside the building, even the key of Beaune was presented to Benoît de Charette, president of the Cité des Climats project – this key described as ‘the key to paradise, not the key to the mayor‘s office,‘ said Alain Suguenot – the mayor! The speeches started with a large throng of listeners – but as the minutes passed the crowd thinned – not due to any perceived dryness of the discussion but rather the dryness and heat of the direct sun – places in the shadows quickly becoming a premium.

The modernity of the building itself, in my opinion, jars with the long history of the region but, as you will see, has some positive aspects: Not least its situation in the Parc de Chartreuse as it is now called – once a lost corner of land between Beaune and the Autoroute – and you can always visit one without the other.

Parts of the park looked a little sad on this hot sunny day – many of the plantings had turned brown due to lack of rain – but the views from the building can hardly be bettered. Particularly from high up. From the windows of the 4th floor, you have a broad vista, starting from the south with village of Volnay perched on the hillside, to the hills of Pommard to (directly ahead) the unfolding three hills of Beaune and then Pernand and Corton to the north – even the hills of the Hautes Côtes in the distance. A view worth drinking in – maybe with a lightly chilled Beaune blanc! In particular, it was interesting to walk down the ‘cork-screw’ (or is it the worm of an ancient wine press?) which wraps the exterior of the building – for it is a real walkway.

Liking the architecture – or not – is a personal decision, but for Beaune itself, this is clearly new a monument. I’ll let you know, in due course, my thoughts on the exhibition spaces…

For all the three locations – Chablis, Beaune and Mâcon – the latter where I’m yet to visit – the plan is for these locations to host about 180,000 visitors per year. There’s nothing wrong with having ambition!

Cité des Climats & Vin Bourgogne – Chablis

By billn on May 24, 2023 #degustation#picture gallery#travel pics#travels in burgundy 2023

In the presence of three presidents (no-less!) two from Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne – the BIVB’s François Labet and Laurent Delaunay – plus the president of the Association Cité des Climats et Vins de Bourgogne, Benoît de Charette – last week, I had a tour of the soon to open facility in Chablis – one of three such places opening to the public in the next month.

Whilst I’ll reserve judgement on the soon-to-open equivalent building in Mâcon – I’ve yet to see it with my own eyes – this place in the heart of old Chablis seems to be on a very personal scale, fitting well in its surroundings. I’m not the biggest fan of the architecture and scale of what has been built in Beaune but I will reserve my full judgement on that until I’ve seen what’s on the inside – like a bottle of wine – the truth will be on the inside!

This venue in Chablis is (by comparison) compact but full of an almost open-ended opportunity to tour the history – geological and social – of this centre of winemaking – burgundy winemaking. With a small wearable you can choose your language and subject matter as you head down the rabbit-holes of information from the next earpiece – though if your a covid (or germ) -phobic, you may want to take some sanitiser for the earphones that may have cupped a hundred other ears! Released yesterday, there will be ‘programme of cultural events‘ (in all locations) too – so enjoy!

The work on the building’s façade was not quite complete when I visited Chablis but it will be finished before the mid-June official opening!

A few images:

tada – and onto the 2022 harvest…

By billn on August 21, 2022 #travel pics#vintage 2022

a tower or two...

Just back from our holiday of touring in Normandy and Brittany – a lighthouse tower or two above.

But, of course, you want to know about the harvest!

Grapes have already been picked – since the 17th of August but for crémant and also in Beaujolais too – red ones as below – but, for the moment, we are still waiting in the rest of the Côte d’Or, the southern côtes of Chalonnaise and Mâconnais and, of course, Chablis.

In Chablis, one month ago, they were thinking that they would start around the 25th of August but many domaines are waiting for Monday the 29th. Likewise, many had been projecting a mid-August start for the whites of the Côte d’Or – underlined by the butchers in Meursault! The butchers? Yes, they are also traiteurs (caterers) and were already booked by several domaines to start delivering food from Monday the 15th – but the 15th came and went.

As one vigneron of Beaune explained to me before my holidays; “You learn at wine school that the vines put their energy into growth and then into maturing the grapes – not both. We would have expected the growth to have stopped by the end of July and so the vines’ energy would then have been focused on maturing their grapes but it hasn’t worked out that way – the vines are still growing (end July), we are still having to cut the extra growth of the vines. It’s probably because of that that our veraison is so variable. Anyway I’d initially planned to be picking my reds towards the end of August but I’ve pushed everything back a week, maybe 10 days and certainly into September…

I spotted 2 well-known vigneron(ne)s of Volnay in Beaune’s market on Saturday (Lafarge & Roblet-Monot) and both were suggesting that another 6 days would be enough – so Monday 29th August.

My own home domaine in Beaune had also been planning to be in the vines by now but given the slow advancement in maturity, only began their maturity tests in the last few days – the current projection is to start on Friday the 27th or Tuesday the 30th of August – they will decide tomorrow.

Ready for blast-off then! It’s certainly going to be an interesting one – another in the, seemingly, never-ending series of hotter vintages but a hot vintage with by far the most rain in recent years – there was more at the end of last week. Couple that with the expectation of quite a large crop and we have the making of a vintage that could properly differentiate itself from other recent offerings – let’s see!

Au revoir Puligny – hello Männlichen

By billn on October 15, 2021 #travel#travel pics

Lauterbrunnen Valley
Looking down on the Lauterbrunnen valley – the higher, frosty, houses are Wengen – it was -4°C at 2,200m.

I was under orders – ‘you’re not spending your birthday in Beaune’ – so I did as I was told, like always! 🙂

After finishing up in Puligny on Wednesday I hit the road for Bern. Thursday I hit the mountains – a nice 18km ‘run’ (some parts are just too steep to run!) with an interlude at 10km of goulash soup then back down to Wengen just in time to see the annual beauty pageant – of cows. My birthday evening consisted of Wienerschnitzel and just a glass of crément (d’Alsace!) as I was driving – but you can assume that the weekend is bringing some more considered glasses of wine 🙂

Where to Stay and Eat in Burgundy in 2021(?)

By billn on October 05, 2021 #travel

This doesn’t come from me – and I only know two of the places on this list – the Abbaye de la Bussière and ‘Le Terroir’ in Santenay. The latter I like, the former I like a lot, so maybe I should look into the others. Make of these recommendations what you will…

Where to Stay and Eat in Burgundy in 2021

week 39: the last harvesting days, @louvre_lens & some wines

By billn on October 04, 2021 #degustation#travel pics#travels in burgundy 2021#vintage 2021

week 39 wines...We’ve just returned from a (necessary) week in the UK – so my harvesting this year was cut a little short – that said – my home team in Beaune still managed to finish in September, just!

The major part of the harvest was completed on Saturday (25th) and their Paulée followed on the Sunday. Their last parcel to be picked is always some vines high in Pommard – Les Vaumuriens – often 3-4 days after the rest of the harvest due to the altitude of these vines – but this year they were picked not for full maturity, rather they were picked to avoid the heavy rains that were forecast at the end of the week – 12.5° was not a bad result though and capped 10 days of harvesting for the team.

Apart from our Charlemagne that brought in 30 hl/ha, most of the rest were between 15-25 hl/ha. The Charlemagne was saved by 3 nights of using candles to counter the worst of the frost – at a cost of ~€5,000 per hectare per night – and the domaine owning just over 1/3rd of a hectare here – so that was at a cost of €5,000. Given a price of over €100 a bottle for this grand cru, that’s less than 5 cases of wine so a cost that could easily be absorbed but you can see how quickly that becomes uneconomical as the bottle price reduces.

The team were making their first ‘decuvage’ today and whilst it’s clearly a vintage where the triage was paramount, they are happy that it was done well as the latent wines taste good with no detectable taints.

Below, I include the notes of a few wines that were, mainly, drunk in the UK.

On the way back to Burgundy from the UK we decided to stop at the Louvre-Lens Museum. It more than breaks up the journey, it’s a super location – free to enter but, should you wish, you can make a donation – with a packed restaurant too which, next time, I’d like to try. The next stop was for a few plates of tapas in Chablis’ Why Not – here a bottle of Tribut from the list – more on that below. Finally, to Beaune to sleep and take in the very rainy Sunday!

1998 Guy Castagnier, Clos de la Roche
Not bright and clean but still an inspiring nose – on of purity of fruit and a decadence that implored me to drink – so I did. Deeply flavoured, beautifully fresh – just a little muddled in the long finishing flavours today. Probably to start drinking up but still with plenty of pleasure.
Rebuy – Yes

1996 Leroy SA, Bourgogne
Less depth of colour vs the Castagnier – but clean and bright – actually not so old looking. Complex, a little spice – racy red fruit too – another good aroma. In the mouth, I find unexpected concentration and depth of flavour. This is very, very good. Of course, simpler than the grand cru but with great personality and flavour. Great Bourgogne – bravo – luckily a few more remain at home!
Rebuy – Yes

2019 JC Fagot, Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles-Vignes
An impressive provenance – which I’m not allowed to reveal – that’s why JC had only one barrel – but it’s a beauty. Richly aromatic – ripe but pure – a certain impression of salinity too. In the mouth, the salinity is replaced with a slightly minty attitude to equally rich flavour – not a bruiser by any means though. Beautifully constructed wine – simply excellent.
Rebuy – Yes

2016 Laurent Tribut, Chablis
Ordered from the wine-list – and I’m a bit disappointed by this one – I suppose it serves me right for not being sufficiently adventurous as I’ve had a few of these and they have all been great. This wine, however, has a slightly apple-y hint of oxidation to it. Direct from the fridge (I took the rest home) you will barely notice until the wine starts to warm in the glass after which it’s as clear as day. Sub-standard vs all my previous great bottles.
Rebuy – No – though previous bottles were great.

2018 Château Rougeon, Bourgogne Passetoutgrains La Chapelle
Predominantly (72%) Gamay
What a simply delicious wine – from top to toe – aromatically interesting, beautifully textured, long and deliciously flavoured too. Great Passetoutgrains – bravo!
Rebuy – Yes

Some images from the week:

a weeknd without wine – well, almost!

By billn on July 12, 2021 #travel#travel pics

Sunrise in Sedrun
Sunrise in Sedrun, Graubünden (Switzerland) – an early breakfast was required…

There actually was some wine on Saturday evening – to celebrate still being alive – something from Sardinia – it seemed the most interesting on the hotel’s list. For the previous 5 days not a drop had been drunk, though with visits in the Côte d’Or, plenty had been ejected to the spittoon that week.

You will probably know that I’m a keen runner, one that has mainly taken to the trails in the last years as this surface seems less aggressive on a sensitive hamstring of mine. Last year I decided to try my first mountain course though typically aggravated said hamstring about 10 days before the race, so couldn’t take part. One year later, last weekend, it was time to try again. Of course, I aggravated my hamstring again just 4-5 days before the race this time but not enough to put paid to the trip – I could anyway use it as an excuse for not trying too hard – runners are well known for preparing their excuses ahead of time 🙂

To collect our race numbers and to be allowed into the start area we had to show our vaccination infos – easy in Switzerland as it’s one of the first countries to have rolled out the covid app with vaccination info on your phone – a QR-code. That box ticked, we were allowed into the athlete’s area without a mask – a novelty in public these days.

Concerning the race, I think the technical term (today) is WTF!

The bald stats – 16.4km – though my GPS said that I did 16.8 – with 1,250 metres of climbing up to 2,500 metres altitude, numbers that seemed abstractly no problem. I did the baby race, not the marathon (that enjoyed double the amount of climbing) and I’d assumed about 8-9 minutes per kilometre for each 200m gain of altitude and then the rest of the course would be downhill – so easy – or(?)! Pff! – more like 12-13 minutes per kilometre and one was 15 minutes – the last major uphill one, fortunately – as it is simply impossible to run or find sufficient space for overtaking – the latter is only possible through the kindness of those in front of you, by making space for you. Early on, I thought I would have to properly stop and take a rest but somehow came through. I was a little faster than those around me on the downhill and only landed on my arse once – fortunately, in this particular place, there was only wet mud/grass rather than the moonscape of rocks higher up the hill. Thank god for Goretex shoes – but my socks will never be white again 🙂

The result was still my slowest 10-mile race ever, yet surprisingly, one that delivered one of my highest finishing positions for years too. Mountain running requires a level of resoluteness that I’ve never needed when racing on the roads. The place and the people, indeed the event, I loved but my initial instinct was ‘never again‘ – I didn’t notice any of the views from 2,500 metres – I certainly only saw the place for my next footstep on the harum-scarum downhill!

So, never again? As my better half explained – ‘Yes, that’s what most women say when they give birth to their first child – but most will do it again.‘ And you know(?) I can already see how altering my training can bring me an improvement of at least 1 minute per kilometre… 😉

Sunday when we got home we drank a little Chablis from one of the J.Moreau samples from Thursday – no surprise that it was less good despite being left stoppered in the fridge – 72 hours open clearly being of no advantage!

Burgundy Report

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