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harvest 2011 – 4th september (week 1 summary)

the green berries of 2001
 No glue was used in the making of this image!

Sunday was a day of rest – almost – so time to take stock of the first week.

The grander reds still wait in the vineyards, though a majority of the whites are now gathered. The lead image (above) gives you a stylised and sanitised example of what the early-picked pinots have looked like so-far.

  • Temperatures were high in week 1 – approaching 30°C. Triaged grapes (the waste) in only a few hours had an acetic waft about them, so housekeeping, keeping the grapes cool after picking (refrigerated vans) then cooling them in their fermentation tanks were the highest priorities to avoid subsequent faulty wines.
  • Very low levels of rot in the pinot; better than 2006, perhaps on a par or better than 2009 – maybe 2005 was marginally better(?) – but rare stuff!
  • Despite those very low levels of rot the triage is challenging, as every bunch needs a workover – even the very best vineyards are delivering bunches with one or two unripened grapes that need to be plucked; quite easy when they present like those above, but a pain in the ass when there are verjus (tiny green grapes that never swelled) and always hiding between the ripe stuff
  • The berry size is quite large – the middle bunch above would have been characteristic of 2010, though in itself that was an extreme
  • Those parcels that favour whole clusters perhaps do so even more this year as the stems are browner than I ever saw – though whatever you read/hear, colour alone is a very poor guide. The counter-argument to whole clusters is that the pHs are already quite high – do you want to make them higher still by including stems(?) – and note that the stems also add more water into the mix – there’s a lot of that already! Don’t be surprised if some producers throttle back on the stems a little this year, and if they do, it won’t be because of the quality of those stems
  • Because of their (big) berry-size, week 1 pinots might need an occasional saignée and, as the sugar levels are modest, chaptalisation of 0.5-1.0° might be relatively common. Of-course that may change for week two’s 1er and grand cru plots, but the wet weather is coming and you only need 20°C for rot to flourish. I think it could be a white-knuckle ride as there has been no sign of the north-wind – not yet anyway.
  • Chardonnay grapes look rather good on the whole, if less robust (thinner skins) than most years; admittedly some had challengingly distributed rot, other parcels were fabulous. Below you can see some easy to remove rot from one of the few parcles of Montrachet still to be picked. pHs have been a middling 3.2 to 3.5 so without the benefit of analytics it’s way too early to conjecture on the level of freshness the wines will display post-malo

Of-course the elephant in the room – alone, they are tiny elephants I’ll concede – is the ladybird. I was stunned by how many were in the ‘waste‘ from our vibrating table, far more than in 2004. There seemed fewer than that vintage on the triage table (if not crawling on my legs!) but clearly some of them made it into the fermentation tanks. As the week drew on their quantity reduced, by Saturday the number seemed comparable to the 2004 vintage – I hope that their presence will continue to wane.

Back to Sunday. The forecast was bad so the home domaine chose to have a small parcel of Santenay 1er La Come picked, but for only two pallets of grapes there was no point to start up ‘the machine’ so those scruffy looking grapes (it seems there had been no selection at the vine) were placed in a refrigerated truck to be dealt with on Monday morning. There was maybe five minutes of heavy rain at 9am after which the rain gods chose to spare (at least) the Côte de Beaune. By 5pm, only a few more periods of drizzle had ensued. The Kiwis and Springboks joined us for a tour from Santenay through the villages back to Beaune; stopping in Puligny for coffee and a simple lunch; to check out the lyre-training in Auxey and to ‘test’ the occasional grape along the way.

Plenty of domaines/growers chose to to accept the rain free day and continue their harvest; some by hand, some by machine and some even dragging their triage table into the vines (see all below).

A really good day before we took the road home to Switzerland – masses of rain en-route and on through the night too. I hope the Côtes didn’t get it so bad!

10 responses to “harvest 2011 – 4th september (week 1 summary)”

  1. Jamie Goode

    Hi Bill, great report. Still evidence of sulfur on the leaves and even the grapes in the Montrachet shot. They must have sprayed quite recently. High chance of elemental sulfur in the must? This can lead to reduction issues – one of the several routes that H2S can be generated during fermentation

  2. Don Cornwell

    A great summary Bill. So you’re not hanging out for week 2?

  3. romaric

    funny, that’s my team on your pic

  4. romaric

    In Meursault, the guy with the machine told me the work with his machine was faster and cheaper than people..
    I guess we are not expecting the same thing.

  5. harvest 2012: a basic summary

    […] year it was relatively easy to make some broad-brush descriptions of the vintage. This year it really isn’t so […]

  6. Rishad Ahluwalia

    Hi all – so basically Bill, you are saying that 2011 reds may have the same greenish corruption as 2004? I only have a few bottles of 2004, but many were horribly undrinkable!

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?