basking in the sun as if nothing had happened… the 2021 frost…

By billn on April 08, 2021 #vintage 2021

Late yesterday afternoon, before driving back to Beaune, I took a jog through the Petit Chablis above Les Clos, tracing the route to Fontenay, then the road back to, and through, the grand crus to my car. The lizards were out, basking in the sun as if nothing had happened…

Actually, just before I started my run and was changing at the back of my car, a traditional white van of the vineyards drove past and its driver looked to see who on earth would be wearing shorts – in my defence it was sunny and the temperature was back up to 15°C! Bemusement turned to recognition, so he reversed, parked and we had a short chat. It was Vincent Dauvissat. He was wearing the look of someone who’d had almost no sleep in the last 48 hours – and of course, he probably hadn’t – all red-eyed and tired. I offered my condolences about the weather and we chatted – I suggested that it was looking like 2016 all over again – Vincent shook his head and said “Oh no, I think it’s much worse than that…

We should consider that the frosts of 2016 were not forecast – at least, not in the Côte d’Or. This week’s frosts have been signposted for the best part of two weeks so there was ample time for preparation but nature can be harsh and farming is not all straw hats, suntans and sitting on tractors. But let’s start at the beginning – at least my beginning…

Frost fighting - Aloxe-Corton
The view towards Aloxe-Corton, early 06 April 2021

Tuesday and Wednesday were Chablis days for me, staying overnight. Of course, like everyone, I’d seen the weather forecast – on Monday, I’d already returned a whole bunch of garden plants back to my garage for protection! I was anticipating the water-sprays in the vineyards of Chablis so planned an early start to Tuesday, aiming to arrive before daylight. Duly underway from Beaune at 5am and just before the autoroute, I saw the candles burning on the hill of Corton – so I decided to make an early detour.

There were some candles burning on the east-facing side of the hill but most were south-facing coming out of the village of Aloxe and in the Corton-Charlemagne heading towards Pernand. I was a little surprised that there were so many candles as all was dry and the temperature seemed a steady 0°C – perhaps there were some cooler pockets of air, but not by much. This seemed a more prophylactic approach than a ‘saving the vines’ approach – but I’m sure it was good training for the nights that followed! From the autoroute I did note a parcel with (lit) candles that was high up in Savigny – I have to assume a white 1er cru. Anyway – off to Chablis and my first stop, candle-smoked Les Clos:

The road to Chablis slowly cooled from 0°C in Beaune to -4.5°C along the way. Because of my detour in and around Corton, it was already becoming light when I arrived in Chablis, where I was ‘greeted‘ by the sight and smell of many candles. At the foot of the Chablis Les Clos grand cru we had -4°C – ouch – and of course, it was likely that pockets of colder air in other valleys existed! Whilst it had been dry in Beaune, it had rained in Chablis – just a couple of mm on Monday evening – but that was going to make life much more difficult here. The candles were mainly towards the bottom of the hills – as would be seen for a classic Spring frost where the coolest air collects at the bottom of hills and in depressions but as a vigneron later that morning told me, ‘No, it was a proper winter frost – a black frost – as low as minus 6 in some places – so it’s not just the bottom of the slopes – it will be small vintage in 2021…

It felt voyeuristic but I couldn’t avoid taking photos and videos – there’s something mesmeric about the water-sprays as the ice builds. The vignerons had already started their aspersion (the water sprays) at 23h30 on Monday night, the candles were lit between 1 and 2 am. Economically and humanly it’s not possible to protect everything. From an economic perspective, it’s 400 candles per hectare at €10 per candle and this cost ignores the people doing the work. You can already see that for Petit Chablis and the majority of Chablis production, the price of the finished wine is too small to cover this cost for even 1 night – a candle will be spent in 8 hours. There’s also the question about the environment – the burning of paraffin wax is clearly not part of the esprit of biodynamic or organic approaches, even if it is not in the list of banned treatments. I like the idea of the windmills that have popped up in the Côte d’Or since the frosts of 2016 but they were of little use in this case as there was no warm air above the cool to circulate.

Whilst many shops are ‘lockdown-closed’ the centre of Chablis bustled with tractors on Tuesday and Wednesday, ferrying supplies of replacement candles to the vines. Tuesday was to be just the first of three nights of frost – but it had been a very tough start. Already at 10h00 on Tuesday one vigneron told me he could see leaves blackening from the frost. I thought that, maybe, some cold-comfort could be taken from the fact that the majority of buds had not yet opened, but that was, quite likely, overly optimistic. Emphasising the point, another vigneron in the afternoon told me ‘We’ve got a couple more difficult nights coming but the damage is largely done. It’s much more a 2016 style of frost than what we had in 2017 and 2019. A host of domaines chose to exit organic certification in 2016 because after the frost some mildew developed before the flowering – which was one of the drivers – it’s certainly not impossible that it will be the same this year.‘ The afternoon in Chablis alternated between sunshine and snowy squalls.

Overnight Tuesday to Wednesday things were fractionally colder in Chablis – they were a lot colder in the Côte d’Or. In both areas there was snowfall late on Tuesday evening – no more than a centimetre or two – given the minus temperatures it might even have helped insulate the leaves but by 10 am the sun (and candles) had burnt the snow away! In Chablis, the candles were lit already an hour earlier than the previous night. The Côte d’Or saw temperatures between -3° and -6°C – if there had been no damage on the first evening here there certainly was on the second – the prophylactic approach of the Côte d’Or during first night had turned a real battle.

08 April, frosty again

This morning, Thursday 08 April, has seen no respite – maybe a degree cooler in the Côte d’Or and Chablis but again properly minus – even the cars in (warmer) Beaune centre with a layer of frost. In the Clos de Vougeot early this morning an enterprising soul had even been using a helicopter to try to keep the air moving around their vines. The air is heavy with the pollution of paraffin wax candles and for a short time, at least, the frost is now over – but there is still the chance of a frosty reprise on Monday or Tuesday next week.

The Beaujolais had largely escaped this wave of cold for the first night as it was quite windy and dry – temperatures much closer to 0°C. The Mâconnais was colder in the north than the south to start with – but still with temperatures in Fuissé of -3°C on the first night – so colder than the Côte d’Or. The Côte Chalonnaise was properly cold – so we can expect similar damage to the Côte d’Or. It’s far too early to contemplate yields – a proper idea of that will only come after the flowering – say early to mid-June. That said, we already know that, regionally, it is going to be a very small volume in 2021, the whites will be the worst affected as they have the earlier growth.

The black humour of the Chablisiennes was on show this week – ‘Well, because of covid, closed restaurants and Trump taxes, we already had a little too much wine in our cellars!

weekend 14 2021, drinks…

By billn on April 05, 2021 #degustation

weekend 14 2021 wines...

2018 Vocoret, Chablis 1er Montée de Tonnerre
Despite the 2018 vintage, here’s a wine that could only come from Chablis – fresh and inviting aromas. Plenty of mouth-filling presence, lovely citrus energy too. A year on since last tasted, this wine is now in a very good place. Easy but delicious drinking.
Rebuy – Yes

2019 Alain Gautheron, Chablis Emeraude
Thats got a lovely citrus-fresh aroma – perhaps a blend of yellow and green – a lovely invitation. Wide, just a little cushion between it and incisive. But there’s a lovely, almost zesty, orange-flesh freshness here too. That’s completely delicious – and a good job too – I bought a dozen – remember buying wines in 12s?
Rebuy – Yes

2019 Lauren & Remi Dufaitre, Brouilly
This nose starts a bit diffuse and unattractive – far from the performance on the palate which was just so moreishly delicious – fortunately, air brings big aromatic improvements. The nose goes deeper and darker, almost wrapping itself around your senses. Plenty of freshness but concentrated and textured too – ooh – that’s lovely. Simply delicious – no wonder that I, with some help, almost finished the bottle on the first day – next time I will. Bravo wine on day one, still very, very good on day two…
Rebuy – Yes

2013 François Gaunoux, Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes
A nice cushion to this red-fruited nose. Silky, direct, a little mineral too. The flavour widening – here just a touch of more herby flavour – not an easy year in 2013 – but the flavours broaden out in fine fashion in the finish – a cherry-stone impression here. Long too. Refreshing and very tasty wine.
Rebuy – Maybe

2013 Clotilde Davenne, Bourgogne Aligoté Vieilles-Vignes
A steely, slightly smoky, reductive nose. In the mouth this is briskly fresh, showing a hint of the aromatic reduction – though less than the nose – and plenty of mineral and citrus complexity. The reduction sticks around for about 20 minutes before fading into the background. Still very young, highly attractive wine that’s better to decant – Yum!
Rebuy – Yes

this week’s early spring views in Burgundy…

By billn on March 31, 2021 #travels in burgundy 2021

The forecast is cooler next week – indeed with overnight minus temperatures – but today it was 26°C in the afternoon – my lunchtime run being a bit of a sweaty affair – but who’s complaining. Obviously, it’s still sandwiches for lunch!

Here are a few views from this week (so far) in Burgundy:

2019 Red Burgundy – part 3 – Beaujolais

By billn on March 30, 2021 #reports

2019 Beaujolais

The sixth in my series of 2019 Burgundy Reports is now online. To recap:
1. The whites part 1 – Mâconnais
2. The whites part 2 – Côte de Beaune
3. The whites part 3 – Chablis
4. The reds part 1 – Côte de Beaune
5. The reds part 2 – Côte de Nuits
6. The reds part 3 – Beaujolais

Now my latest report, covering the reds of 2019 Beaujolais is now online – here. This is Part 3 of my three 2019 Red Burgundy Reports.

This report covers the visits to taste 2019s at domaines #217 – #280 in my campaign of 2019 visits with another 400+ wines tasted. It, naturally, includes both what I like and who I like, and rather than ‘just’ scores, I actually note all the wines worth that are special search to buy!

I hope that you enjoy this in-depth look. I’m now underway in Burgundy again, catching up on some domaines that missed in the last months, and visiting some new names – so new reports will, still mainly be for 2019s – but with a mix of regions, rather than the format as above.

It was 22°C today – I needed sunscreen for my head when jogging. I also noted lots of police cars stationed in the vineyards of Beaune – no-doubt waiting for unsuspecting victims – out and about after 6pm!!!

weekend wines, week 13 2021

By billn on March 29, 2021 #degustation

2010 Famille Barbet, St.Amour Clos des Billards
A reserve caveau label – usually the best of wines – let’s see…
The colour is modest and showing some age but there’s no browning. All the time that it’s open, this is a timid nose, that’s not to say that it’s not a very fine nose – it is, fine red fruit clarity and complexity – but never full-power and no gamay-marsala ageing characteristics. Mouth-filling and wide, delicate, elegant, pure – I could go on in this vein. Don’t drink this in a crowd or you will miss most of what’s going on – you might even call it characterless – and I would understand. Ultra-pure, complex, delicious – and I do love it – but versus everything that’s been made in Beaujolais since 2015 – half a wine!
Rebuy – Maybe…

2019 Alain Geoffroy, Chablis
An attractive aroma with some freshness. I like the shape and energy, there’s good texture too. Persistence in the finish – a tasty wine – and with a Chablis style to it too. Very good.
Rebuy – Maybe

2019 Château de Rougeon, Aligoté L’integral
A forward nose, strongly herbed and shows an older, apple-style, fruit. This is a wine made without sulfur and with skin maceration too. Do I want a second glass – unfortunately not – not a wine to my taste though I’m a big fan of some aligoté with ‘only’ no added sulfur…
Rebuy – No

2020 St.Cyr, Beaujolais Nouveau French Kis Kanon
Almost Beaujolais ‘Oldeau’ – and not actually allowed to be sold with this label now (after a certain amount of time) – though the same wine could now be sold as ‘Beaujolais’…
A bright cherry-red colour. A sweetly cordial fruit – hardly medium-weight flavours, some might not say ‘serious‘ but fun and very tasty wine. Isn’t that the plan?
Rebuy – Yes

a 1992 mid-week winner…

By billn on March 25, 2021 #degustation

Vincent & Denis Bethaud 1992 Fixin Les Clos1992 V&D Berthaut, Fixin Les Clos
Of course, today’s domaine Berthaut-Gerbet. Hard-wax-topped – the wax in-tact. A decently robust cork too – I had anyway decided to start with the ah-so and it came out easily in one piece.
Ooh – now that’s a nose! Deep, faintly smoky – I would guess with whole-clusters – and sweet too – it’s a really great invitation for a wine of such age, no deviations or distractions – aromas that embrace. Bright – fresh – good attack and than slow-moving fresh waves of smoky, layered, sweet flavour – no exact primary fruit but a last impression of heavy strawberry with such a clean but long finish. A little iron in the flavours if, not quite, blood. Really at its apogee – in my experience, it’s rare for a 30-year-old, of any level of the appellations, to come so perfectly together as this has – but you’ve got to win sometimes 🙂
Rebuy? – No Chance!

Competition in Morey St.Denis – offer of the day – clos des lambrays 2019

By billn on March 24, 2021 #the market

AOC Clos des Lambrays

There’s been a long, slow ‘progression‘ in the pricing of Clos des Lambrays. It’s fair to say that the 1990-2010 wines were always thought of well but as a cheaper entry to the world of grand crus, with pricing that befitted their more elegant, more modest, intensity versus other grand crus. It’s unlikely that new generations of drinkers will think of Lambrays in those terms – at least not in terms of pricing – with last week’s newly released pricing of their 2019s!

I lead with the pricing announced in the UK rather than my local Swiss supplier as that latter merchant usually has the pricing only in April – see the link above. Subscribers who have read my reports of Lambrays and Tart will know that I rate the wines highly but that they remain different ‘beasts.’ I’m left wondering, however, if their respective billionaire owners see only the need for equivalence. Both are investing heavily in their charges – seemingly the work at Lambrays with their massive crane and road closure to construct an entirely new cuverie is the more expensive ‘investment.’

Maybe that goes some of the way to explaining a UK price of £1,080 a case, in bond, for the 2019 vintage – per case of three bottles! So add 20% purchase tax to calculate the actual bottle price. It would be unfair of me not to point out a yield of only 15 hl/ha in the Clos in 2019 – half the normal amount – partly attributable to their first year of conversion to organic viticulture*. Still, I’ll leave that to sink in if you were a previous buyer of Lambrays…

It seems that in one swoop the owners of Lambrays want price equivalence (well, nearly) with Clos de Tart, a wine that has been more than double the price of Lambrays for several years now. I have to assume that they have a different (new!) buyer demographic in mind.

Almost the value play of the Clos des Lambrays cellar in 2019 is their Puligny-Montrachet 1er Clos des Caillerets – a mere £798 per 6 in bond – and a different colour, but hey!
*Thierry Bruin was more concerned with producing enough wine than, for instance, organic viticulture. In this respect, Lambrays is a late-comer but Jacques Devauges has a great track record in this area…

The 107th edition of the Tastevinage tasting

By billn on March 23, 2021 #annual laurels

Tastevinage Spring 2021...

As usual, my invitation to taste came too late for me to actually taste – my day already replete with appointments – but last Friday was the Spring tasting of the Tastevinage organisation in the Clos de Vougeot. The tasting certainly complicated by distancing, etcetera.

If you click on the image above, you can find the list of successful producers and their wines.

wines from weekend 12 2021

By billn on March 23, 2021 #degustation

wines weekend 12 2021

A fine and varied selection this weekend…

2017 Agnes et Didier Dauvissat, Chablis 1er Beauroy Elevé en fût de chêne
Plenty of depth to this yellow-coloured wine. A width of sweetness – more creme-patissière than the seashore but very inviting all the same. Incisive, super attack, wide, clean, very mineral – more-so than almost all 18s and indeed most 19s can muster. Such a waterfall of deliciously mouthwatering flavour – yes! Bravo, delicious, proper Chablis, just missing a bit of aromatic salinity today, that’s doubtless due to the elevage, but the wood has already 99% been shed by the palate…
Rebuy – Yes

2019 Château Thivin, Côte de Brouilly Les Sept Vignes
Bought as part of a mixed 12 at the domaine after tasting last month…
A round, cushioned and forward nose with a fine depth of fruit. Mouth-filling freshness with great texture. There’s such a lovely energy to this deliciously mouth-watering fruit. Thivinb’s entry wine for their range of Côte de Brouilly – and already a great wine. Bravo!
Rebuy – Yes

1996 Jean Grivot, Nuits St.Georges 1er Roncières
From a half bottle – a robust cork that smells sweet and clean.
Ooh – there’s a depth of aroma – squeaky-clean, almost textured dark fruit and minerals – that’s very impressive for an old half-bottle – full of iron and blood – completely typical for Grivot’s Nuits with age! In the mouth – clearly the acidity of the vintage – but not a bit sharp as there’s plenty of flavour concentration to offer balance. Such a concentration of middle and finishing flavours – like the nose, darkly fruited and very mineral. Not a wine with overt maturity – no sous-bois or dried leaf characters. Paint me impressed – I have some full-size bottles of this (or maybe they are 95s…) if so, and as much as I’m enjoying this powerful, if far from elegant wine, they deserve more patience! A brute that I can appreciate.
Rebuy – Yes

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