Why Big Red Diary?

2017 harvest – 11 september

An overused descriptor, but really, practically caviar…

Our penultimate harvesting day – and today was a grand cru day.

We started with Corton-Charlemagne – and we had quite a lot too. There was a little rot to remove, but as all our whites go over the triage table that was no problem – many white producers trie in the vines and don’t do a separate triage back at the domaine – the grapes going direct into the press. One surprise was how much pinot gris we had in these vines – less than 2% (I would guess) but it still looks a lot when in the bins – I also thought that only pinot blanc was allowed as a ‘cépage accessoire’ – but hey-ho… Of-course we had our pregnant pause again today – our press was too small to accommodate all the Charlemagne grapes, so we had to wait for that to finish its cycle before we could finish-off that parcel’s grapes.

I spoke with a consulting oenologist this morning about how the harvest was shaping-up. We mainly discussed reds today “The acidities of reds this year are on a good level – most reds are showing pH 3.2-3.3 and unlike the 2015s, there’s plenty of malic acid this year. The degrees are pretty good with early pronounced florals in tank and specific gravities are falling easily so far.

Lunch was par for the course – very tasty! As it was a Corton-Charlemagne day it seemed natural that it was also for the table. This 2011 was a beautiful, linear, but expressive and mouth-watering wine – great lines! Like the food, yum! The RSV was very nice – luckily as the first bottle (2 years ago) from this 6-pack was a little tired. This had wide and attractive aromas. The mouth was freshness and like the CC was quite linear and fresh before opening out beautifully from the mid-palate onwards. The best comment about these two wines, was that not a drop remained in the bottles!

After lunch we started with Beaune Montée Rouge – villages, not 1er cru – very good ripeness but starting to show some rot – I wouldn’t have wanted to see how bad this would have been if the grapes had waited another couple of days in the vines – but that’s why we triage 🙂 Last year the Montée Rouge was frosted, so from roughly 1 hectare they produced only 1 barrel – we have more this year! Easily the best was for last today – Beaune 1er Les Reversées – directly the smallest berries of our 7 days of triage so far, and easily the cleanest too – 99% of our work was removing the leaves. Great stuff!

2017 harvest – 10 september

Nothing much to add today – except that there were a number of tonnes of Chorey-lès-Beaune grapes that crossed over our triage table. But we finally finished the parcel at just past 6pm! Two more whites and two (or was it three?) more reds to bring in and we are done!

After yesterday’s rain, today was clear and sometimes bright with temperatures hovering around 20°C. The weather was nice enough that the bins of grapes delivered to us from the vines, stopped bringing in mud with them by the middle of the afternoon!

It’s a little boring for me to keep saying that the grapes were nice – even if they were. Maybe better to think of the lovely fillet-mignon with lentils for lunch – and a new cheese discovery for me – Cantal cheese from the Auvergne. A little creamy, crumbly – similar to an aged cheddar with a nice salty tang – very yum – indeed, so good that I passed on the Epoisses today! Oh, there was another 1979 too – it started spicy like a Nuits or Vosne, slowly adding depth and almost a smoky coffee – right from the start, this was delicious. A surprise – a Beaune. Delicious all the same. Think I’ll have to find something nice for lunch tomorrow!

2017 harvest – 09 september

After 5 days of being steeped in grape-juice!

There really is a lot of colour coming out of the grapes this year – there’s a much more disgusting view of my hands, but I can’t hold a camera and press the button at the same time – lucky you! The ultimate was 2015 when my hands looked like I had a long-term smoking habit after just 3 days – but 2017 is not far behind – and still more than I remember being the case in 2005. I’ve been told that the level on phenolics/anthocyanins was a record in 2015, so it’s pretty high in this vintage – evidenced by the deep colour coming through in tanks that have macerated only two days…

A band of rain came through about 5am today, but you’d be forgiven for not noticing in Beaune at 8am – as it was practically dry. Rain, not heavy, but consistent waited until closer to 11am to properly set in – thankfully the afternoon became brighter nd brighter – we even ended up with a little sun. Our pickers were in Chorey today – poor them – heavy clay in the soil here and not many stones – their boots must have got bigger and bigger – caked with mud as the rain made its mark. We had both colours of Chorey today – starting with roughly a tonne of chardonnay – planted by Sylvain Pitiot where previously pinot was in the ground – he liked the look of the clay there – was his reasoning. The vines are now about 25 years old and the grapes were good. Then came our marathon – Chorey red – we have over two hectares – which filled the rest of today and probably will fill all of tomorrow too!

Lunch, as every day so-far, was delicious. I brought along a 1978 Pierre Boillot (the father-in-law of François Mikulski) Meursault-Charmes which did indeed charm us with its truffly nose, but at least compared to the 1976 – the last bottle of mine drunk during my last harvest, I think – it was a direct and less open and giving palate, good flavours but with no weight and no caress. Super wine in super condition for its age and I’m only being harsh in the context of that great benchmark!

Tonight a few bottles with a certain Australian winemaker who is visiting Pommard – hopefully I’ll still make tomorrow’s 09h30 start time!

2017 harvest – 08 september

Pernand Sous Fretile is go…

Today started with beautiful white grapes but then it was red, red, red…

Following the (white) Sous Fretile was red Savigny 1er Les Vergelesses then a pair of Pernands – first En Caradeux and then a smaller parcel of Les Fichots. The Vergelesses comes from a plot of old vines – roughly 60-years-old, and although needing very little actual triage (the amount of concentration on the grapes passing across the table is the same) the berry size was not the smallest – it is like this every year with particular plat material. The two Pernands were very, very similar in the amount of triage – particular this year is the very modest amount of under-ripe grapes that I’ve been discarding – even in vintages like 2005 or 2015 I’m sure that there was a little more. Despite the ripeness of the grapes – you only need see how brown the pips are – the degrees are not too much – 12° for our Savigny villages, 12.5° for the Corton – despite how sweet the grapes and grape-juice tastes. The acidity seems to offer a little more freshness than either 2015 or 2016 at the same stage, yet analytically it’s really only average.

Note that our chief was up to it again with his blind bottle – this time I was sure that it was (once more) an Ampeau of similar vintage to yesterday’s white. So it was – 1979 again – but my guess was a Volnay – I would never have come up with a Blagny! Like the white this wine was unrecognisable after 10 minutes of air. Bot the aroma and flavour being earthy, pinched and not that tasty to start. Time brought a lovely red fruit note and much more width and richness to the flavour and texture. Definitely worth a refill!

Tomorrow is Saturday and we will be be bringing in grapes on Saturday and Sunday – but tomorrow will be different – we will have rain!

2017 harvest – 07 september

Shoveling Beaune Villages into the giraffe…

Just two vineyards to triage today – both red.

We began the day with the last part of our villages Savigny. Here in what is described as the most ‘humid’ part of the vineyard, was a little rot that needed to be removed, but as if to amplify the description of this parcel, something I’ve never seen on a triage table before – and how it survived our 300 kg bins of fruit I’ll never know – a small newt – just looking at everyone as it moved along the table whilst sat on a cluster of grapes! It was on the other side of the table to me and my fingers were too sticky to take a picture – somebody else helped it outside of the cuverie!

Lunch was a wholesome affair, cassoulet-style. As payback for my 1993 Corton yesterday, the chief poured a blind bottle. It was white – clearly – okay deeply golden! It smelled fresh, mineral and old. The first sip was long, narrow and implied a cool place I guessed older than 1985 – it was a 1979. I also guessed it was from Saint Aubin – the chief said ‘It’s a little more noble’ – Puligny 1er Combettes. I have to say that 10 minutes later, with air, that it was a different wine, rounder, fuller and much more impressive. It was probably even harder to guess at this stage – luckily I only needed to be wrong once 🙂

Post-lunch we had Beaune – villages Beaune from nearly 0.9 hectares – so there would be plenty of Beaune. Here was less rot – but still a little – than the second parcel of Savigny.

Not much more to report today, other than the colour is forming very quickly on the Corton and Savigny already in tank.

2017 harvest – 06 september

Our tumble-drier in action!

Today, like yesterday, started for us with Savigny Blanc Les Vergelesses – this time from the upper parcel. Also like yesterday, our tumble-drier (above) was the bottle-neck in our process. Once it was full the press programme lasts 2.5 hours – so we can triage some more, but then those grapes have wait for the press to finish – oh, and be emptied! Yesterday we did a little Corton before finishing the last of our white – today we were more patient and finished the white first. A great result – mainly leaves to triage and the occasional bunch with a bit of oïdium. Including all that fell through our vibrating table, we had only 25kg of ‘waste’ from almost 2 tonnes of fruit – it was that clean. And like yesterday, it was delicious.

Whilst waiting for the press we tasted the two cuvées from yesterday, and the Corton, already pink, is wow – for grape-juice, anyway – just a beautiful line of fine acidity despite the weight of flavour – or mainly sugar! Note, yesterday I didn’t listen properly – there isn’t more bourbe (sediment) in the whites this year – the opposite – there’s actually very little, so the tanks won’t need much time to settle before being moved into barrel

The last of the Vergelesses was placed in our press in time for lunch. Pernand blanc, St.Joseph and a little bottle from me as homage to our Corton yesterday; Jadot’s 1993 Domaine Corton Pougets. Despite the cork breaking in two the wine was fine. The nose got better and better in the glass, with detail, complexity, purity and all-round fabulousness – really something! In the mouth a little narrow, direct and intense – good but hardly a giving wine at this stage. So a nose to die for and a palate still to wait for, but for all that a great bottle.

After lunch we had about 4 hours worth of Savigny villages – an old-vine parcel, but a big one – nearly 1 hectare. No oïdium, rather rare porriture – mainly leaves! There’s plenty of juice at this stage and I’ve certainly seen smaller grapes, but the amount of sugar, the viscosity of the juice is impressive. There’s no rain forecast before Saturday and with more and more of the Côte de Nuits starting their harvest before that rain, there’s time for the grapes to shrink – just a little. Still, I sense finer acidity at this stage than in either 2015 or 2016. Let’s see.

Tomorrow there will be more Savigny and then some Beaune villages – it’s a great team here too!

2017 harvest – 05 september

Day one at the home domaine – and it’s a new home domaine this year! ‘Only’ Côte de Beaune fruit here, but there’s a slight chance I could make a couple of days guest appearance in the Côte de Nuits before I head home – let’s see!

First to say – what great fruit, and delicious fruit too. Grand Cru red and 1er Cru white today – it could be the reverse tomorrow 🙂 The Savigny white is from probably the best white area in Savigny – Les Vergelesses. The domaine have two parcels, high and low – this is the low and we will wait a little longer for the high. Then there was Corton-Renardes – delicious again – the later picked fruit containing both a little chardonnay and pinot gris – less than 1% – both with good ripeness. I have rarely thrown away so little – leaves, the very rare bunch that contained some rot or was a little unripe – but practically nil. The white has quite a lot of bourbe (sediment) so might need closer to 48 hours of settling before being run into barrel – we will see. The largest difference between my old ‘home’ domaine and the new one, is that here the fruit is collected in larger bins – roughly 300 kg worth. Depending on how long they wait to cross our triage table, the weight can significantly increase the amount of free-run juice – which is essentially lost under the vibrating table – I suppose it’s like a little saignée.

If we look at other vintages ending in a seven, then the whites will have some competition – 07 was very good for well-placed vineyards though a little acidic at villages and regional level. The reds, however, will have very little competition – 1947 was the last ‘7’ vintage of any renown – so 2017 looks like the best 7 for red in 70 years! The weather is set fair, so there should be no catastrophes and my prediction should be a relatively safe bet.

This is a relatively young domaine, so have the best yields that they have seen – though their Corton-Charlemagne was badly hit by frost last year, so this year the vines have only a modest quantity of fruit, but otherwise I think they will be pretty happy. That’s enough for day 1!

2017 harvest – 04 september

The Clos de Vougeot about 17h00 today.

There’s a wave of new starters in the vines today and interestingly, a number of producers are noting that they are harvesting vineyards on exactly the same day as in 2015 – that will be a good comparison in the future.

In the Côte de Beaune, there are many starting their first harvests in Beaune, Pommard and Volnay – but the whites are not yet over; Dominique Lafon was picking his Montrachet this morning and Jean-Marc Roulot won’t finish his harvest until Thursday. Olivier Lamy makes today his last day of harvesting whilst Patrick Essa of Domaine Bouisson-Charles, usually a later picker, is just starting in his Meursault 1er Crus today and Fabien Moreau also started his campaign in Chablis! I note, with distaste, there were also a couple of machines harvesting in Beaune Vignes-Franches – again!

Today I took the road north, as far as the Clos de Vougeot. Perhaps a dozen different teams were active on the Corton hillside, one in Chorey too but afterwards very little. The Nuits 1ers of Premeaux all the way into Nuits were empty – just an occasional person in the vines – most likely monitoring sugars. Likewise north of Nuits I saw only one team, it looked like in Aux Thorey, but from there it was clear – just two teams in the bottom of Vosne (villages Vosne-Romanée) near the Route Nationale. Of-course no-one in the Clos de Vougeot is ready to pick; I met Sylvain Pataille there – who consults at the Château de la Tour – he explained that in the Clos they can wait at least another week as the weather is set fair. For his own domaine Sylvain will start tomorrow with whites.

On the other side of the D974 (route nationale) to the Clos, there was action. There is a relatively newly planted and quite extensive parcel here called En Bollery, owned by JC Boisset and delivering fruit for their crémant producer, Louis Bouillot. The total parcel covers 7.37 hectares (4.82 of pinot and 2.45 is chardonnay) but just 4 hectares are in production this year. Amazing after the (unacceptable!) machines in Beaune Vignes-Franches and Meursault-Charmes to see that grapes destined for crémant must all be hand-picked. With that in mind, and because crémant is so often forgotten (but is around 15% of all burgundy production!) I popped into Louis Bouillot and pulled winemaker Frédéric Brand away from his tanks and presses to get an idea of their operation this year:

The Louis Bouillot harvest started on the 21st with the first musts coming from the Beaujolais area. Since last Wednesday they have been picking near the Clos de Vougeot (En Bollery above), Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin – today they started in Savigny-lès-Beaune too. Their harvest will consist of, roughly, 30% pinot, 20% gamay and the rest chardonnay – some musts are already fermenting, and with an average of 75 tonnes of grapes per day arriving at the cuverie in Nuits St.Georges, it’s no surprise with all that volume of fermenting juice that all the tanks are aspirated out of the roof, because that’s a lot of CO2. I hope that the birds on the roof are not too sleepy!

LB make about 15,000 hectolitres (that’s about 2 million bottles) and Frédéric has 50 tanks of juice, each with different colour labels for the different colour grapes – and big tanks – 280 hectolitre tanks! The fermentations are at low temperature – 16-18°C – the aim to keep the finesse and florals. Frédéric thinks that it looks like a good vintage; “But there are two parts to vintage; before and after the rain. After the rain the sugars were perfect for crémant, before that they were borderline high, but so-far we already have more tension than in either 2015 or 2016. The grapes are coming in very clean but the rain has made the grapes more fragile so we have to keep vigilant.

Four colours of fermenting juice…

So-far Frédéric has 70% of his musts already delivered, but as of today, only 20% of the grapes have been cut – “It’s almost a wave of ripening from the south to the north.” And they really will finish with grapes that come from the Chablis region! Frédéric also pointed out that the colour was coming out of the red grapes so easily this year that no extra time on the skins will be needed – “There will be plenty of rosé in 2017.” Also, starting with this vintage they are evaluating many more parcels, vinifying them separately – “To try to decrypt the terroirs!” They have separated at least 10 different ones at the moment, including the En Bollery parcel – which has its own ‘baby’ press – it takes a mere 2,000 kg of grapes!

weekend wines – week 35 2017

2013 Alain Geoffroy, Chablis 1er Vau-Ligneau
A modest depth of colour.The nose is fresh but also deep and tropical – certainly a little botrytis here. Mouth-filling, fine, sweet, indeed melting acidity – that’s classic Chablis – the sweet pineapple and slightly oily texture is a little less Chablis. Just fabulously delicious wine, yet, not quite what you might expect from the label. Many 2013s are becoming a little over-developed – but not this one, not yet. Non-standard, but delicious.
Rebuy – Maybe

1998 Thomas-Moillard, Bonnes-Mares
I pulled this out of the case at the same time as their 1996 Corton Clos du Roi – hence, I wasn’t exactly salivating at the prospect of this one – but it’s a winner! A deep colour, plenty of sediment at the bottom of the bottle too. The nose is directly deep, loam and sous-bois with a blood red fruit – almost iron in tandem, becoming slowly sweeter too. The palate is modestly rustic and muscular in the typical slightly extracted TM vernacular, but the mid-palate and finish are pure grand cru – weighted waves of long finishing, absorbing flavour. TM always seemed to better in difficult vintages vs good vintages – the 99s always seemed too extracted by comparison – this 98 (and their 98 Romanée St.Vivant) never showing the astringence of 90% of young burgundy in that vintage. The flavour is deep, a little raisin, and like nose, a lot of bloody-red fruit, not super sweet like most modern vintages but entirely ‘classic.’. Long with a little bitters, long, long. This wine has never been elegant but has always been absorbing, muscular and impressive – I suppose proper Bonnes-Mares!
Rebuy – Yes

2008 L&A Lignier, Morey St.Denis 1er Cuvée Romain Lignier
I’m hazy which climats are in here, I seem to remember Les Faconnières, Les Chenevery and maybe La Riotte too in 2008 – but I’m less sure on the latter one – still I do remember that this was a blend of 50-100 year-old vines.
A deep, fresh, almost sprizy but attractive nose on first pouring. A little more time in the glass brings more composure and even a pretty accent of sweet florals but with no loss of deep Morey fruit. Lots of volume in the mouth, almost plush before the acid takes the lead, but this brings both freshness and energy – width too. There’s still a little tannin and young, mouth-watering flavour, borderline mouth-puckeringly fresh to start but nigh-on perfect with food – take note. Such a baby this wine – but a delicious one. Cleaner and finer than the Bonnes-Mares, with just a little less grunt but super stuff. Really excellent but not for acid-adverse drinkers!
Rebuy – Yes

2017 harvest – 03 september

The day starts with about 12°C but peaks around 23°C – the week seems set like this – that will be perfect.

It’s Sunday so there are not many people ‘about’ – that said I did my touring between 12h30 and 15h30 – so that’s also peak eating time – we are, of-course, in France!

First a little grand cru hommage in Vosne-Romanée – nobody was in the vines and, so-far, virtually nothing has been picked – just Arnoux-Lachaux yesterday in their Aux Reignots…

Onward through Nuits and to the south there was simply no-one in the vines. In Ladoix I turned-off, up the hill into Corton, and here, at last, were people harvesting – it was the team of the Hospices de Beaune bringing in Corton-Vergennes Blanc. All the way round to Pernand I saw just one other team starting to set up in Corton-Charlemagne – it looked a big team too – but I was the other-side of the vineyard so didn’t speak with anyone. At the bottom of the hill – next to Corton Vigne au Saint was a machine harvesting villages Aloxe-Corton. The next machine harvesting we met was in the bottom of Beaune. Just one other team were working in Beaune at this time and – yes it was the Hospices again, in their parcel of Teurons.

There was nothing to report in Pommard, but on the far side of the village in Volnay were two teams just starting – Domaine Clerget in their 1er Cru monopole Volnay Verseuil – quite the prettiest triageurs seen this year(!) and on the other side of the road, Mark O’Connell’s team in his 1er Cru monopole of Clos de la Chapelle.

The grapes are looking great this year – and there are plenty of them in most vineyards. The reds have some patches of sun-burn and the raisined grapes are the tastiest I can remember – all very clean. Many of the lower vineyards show some yellow leaves due to the lack of rain in the last weeks. So, it’s looking like a fine vintage, so-far.

2017 harvest – 02 september

Amid rain-showers, a quick tour around the market – where I met a couple of Kiwis from Rippon and Carrick who are here to harvest (JM Millot and JJ Confuron) – and updating in the apartment, I won’t be touring the vines today, but I see Charles Lachaux is under way today:

14h45 this afternoon:

2017 harvest – 01 september

A tour in the Côte de Beaune this afternoon. There’s not much red being picked yet – Lafarge was at it, and I saw red grapes being triaged at de Montille – but Pommard and Volnay seemed very sleepy – maybe it’s the weight of all those grapes on the vines! Meursault and Puligny were busier though. I bumped into Francois Bitouzet who was harvesting I assumed Meursault Santenots – but no, it was Les Corbins! He’s very happy with what he’s taken in so far – last year the frost left him only 12 barrels from the combination of two vineyards – this year it’s over 50. Tomorrow he’ll be picking his Meursaults Charmes and Perrières. Talking of Meursault (pictured) I watched a picking machine work in this 1er Cru – in such ideal conditions I feel very unhappy at such an approach – a wine that will retail for at least €40, often double, deserves to be better treated, indeed probably needs to be better wine too!

Then on through Puligny. A brooding sky this afternoon – threatening heavy rain – but apart from a short shower early in the afternoon, just a very fine day for harvesting.

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