Why Big Red Diary?

a tour de beaujolais – plus…

Today I took a day-tour through Beaujolais with a little Saint-Veran and Pouilly-Fuissé tagged on for good measure.


It started with blue sky and sunshine in Beaune, if only 14°C. Beaujolais, however, was cloudy with a temperature too warm for a pullover, but borderline too cold without – tsk…

I started my Tour de Beaujolais in Brouilly, looking in on the early grapes cut by Château Thivin. It’s nice to see (eventually!) plenty of grapes on the vines – just don’t mention that to those that were hailed around Morgon/Fleurie/Moulin-à-Vent! On the hillside in the Côte de Brouilly I took some images of the goblet vines with their ‘hair up’ – ie with the growth from the arms all tied together above the vine, sometimes using a wooden post in the middle for support.

I then drove on to Regnie (or Regnié or even Régnié depending on what signs you see) before Villé-Morgon for lunch. Next a tour through Chiroubles before returning to Morgon-Bellevue to see the first grapes being triaged at Château de Bellevue – in this case Moulin-à-Vent for the Hospices de Moulin-à-Vent cuvée. The quality looked pretty good – triage was more cursory than in Beaune – but to my eyes the grapes looked very good – just a little rot to be pulled out. The first part of this tank (the bottom of the tank) was getting whole clusters and then afterwards it was going to get some destemmed grapes on top – here was also the tallest ‘giraffe’ I’ve seen! I’ll try to post some short videos of this – try! EDIT: Okay, 3 days later:

  • Gamay processing and a big giraffe:

Then onwards through Fleurie and onto Moulin-à-Vent / Romaneche-Thorins. Whilst checking out some of Jadot’s vines here near the windmill I saw a slow-moving tractor with cases of grapes – Labruyère was stamped on the cases – I decided to follow! Edouard Labruyère was at home and showed me the grapes: “We have about 14 hectares and we lost about 4 of them to the hail – we have three parcels which we won’t even bother trying to harvest – but if I can ever use the word ‘good’ in connection with hail, at least this hail came at a good time, i.e. early in the grape maturing phase!

“Today is our first day of harvesting and we’ve done the hailed vines first, and apart from a little rot, they look good – though I’ll be destemming this, as you can see the hail marks on the stems. Over the whole harvest we will probably destem about half of the harvest. We’re going to take our time harvesting, probably doing about 1-1.5 hectares per day – we should be done in 8 days or-so.”

So, a little hailed grapes to control – but not everywhere – still a little rot to triage as the mildew pressure was as bad here as anywhere in May/June – but the dryness then took over. There’s actually been less rain here than in the Côte d’Or – only 18mm in the last week – they might have liked a little more. It’s very early days, as this is the first day harvesting for some, many others have not yet begun. It was the same story as I traveled through Saint-Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé – I saw only 1 team in some distant vines, all the other grapes seemingly still on the vines – some of these tasted ready, others still a little acid-forward.

the first cut in beaune?

more sour grapes

Or, more correctly, more on Sour Grapes.


a little pommard…

Today I took my ‘B’ camera in hand for a jog around the vines – Pommard was my choice. Hardly a soul in the vines – certainly no pickers. The weather was cloudy but warm enough and with a little breeze too – drying, I hope. The first flashes of sun showed themselves about 5pm…

harvesting: exactly how much mud can you get on your boots?

dsc01052The last days of the last week delivered a lot of rain for some – but the growers say not too much – but further north it waned. Maranges and Santenay had approaching 50mm, in Meursault it was closer to 30mm and by the time the weather-front reached Beaune there was a deposit of only 15mm. The Côte de Nuits saw much less. It was enough to dissuade almost everyone from entering the vines with their secateurs, though I did find the team from Domaine Boisson-Vadot (Meursault), on Saturday afternoon, in some of their Meursault villages – mud clinging tightly to their boots! For this parcel they estimated at least 60% was lost to the frost. Mud or not, the grapes tasted great!

Sunday, which a few days earlier was forecast to be dry was clearly a washout – heavy rain starting before first light (now about 07h15) – and continuing to about 6pm. All is now dry and the forecast suggests sun and a modest 20-22°C at least until next weekend. Look out for many starting their whites on Monday – or Tuesday with less mud! – and the reds starting to commence from about Wednesday onward.

For my home team, anticipating the lack of grapes and the (quite probably) ridiculous price that they will fetch, we will commence on Wednesday – but with 7 tonnes of Morgon!

Let’s see how that goes 🙂

offer of the day – camus?

camusI know I harp on about this from time to time, but Camus get the bad press that they deserve with regard to the average quality of their wines, but it is very easy to lose a certain perspective.

Look at the offer I have this weekend from a Swiss merchant (in swiss francs). Now let’s be honest, this is never going to be the best Chambertin, but note the price. You cannot buy a current vintage Chambertin for under €200, indeed the price here is more in the order of a current vintage Chambolle/Vosne/Gevrey/Morey – but a villages wine, not even a 1er cru!*

I haven’t tasted this 2010 for a long time, but let me be clear, this will be a significantly better wine than any villages that you choose to compare it with. I’m drinking some bottles of the ’98 at home every now and then – bought similarly to this offer – and they never cease to please and easily show a grand cru character – even if not a very top grand cru like they should.

So, do you want to drink the best wine you can for your money, or would you rather, for example, drink a proper villages Chambolle? As ever, the choice is really yours 🙂

*There’s 8% Swiss VAT to add to this price – which still means it’s a giveaway…

rain and rainbows…


Yesterday evening about 10pm we were treated to lots and lots of lightening, and occasionally heavy, but essentially modest, rain.

Today, it’s been dark for most of the day, with a little rain here and there too. Just now, however, Beaune erupted with thunder, rain and even a little sunshine and rainbows – pretty, if short-lived – still, it’s nicer in than out 🙂

a beaujolais harvest update

dsc00811Translated from today’s news email from Inter Beaujolais.

The progresses of the grape maturity in Beaujolais (16,000 hectares between Lyon and Mâcon):

The first secateurs will be used in anger at the end of this week – for the earliest maturing areas.

In terms of climate, the ideal conditions of recent weeks, with hot temperatures and dry weather, has allowed the grape maturatity to progress while maintaining good sanitary conditions. Note, the high amount of sunshine in July and August (more than 100 hours) and approaching records in August, with 20 days of full sun versus an average of 10 days.

The volume (and outside the areas damaged by hail in the spring, which was about 2,200 hectares affected by 50% or more), the harvest should be above the average of the last 5 year’s yields – a more classic harvest of between 700 and 800,000 hectolitres. The weight of the berries is below average, but the average cluster size is quite larger this year – despite the plot-to-plot variablity.

The rains of last night and those announced for the weekend will be beneficial after several very hot, dry weeks. The weather forecast for next week suggests normal seasonal temperatures and sunshine, which should help the vines to achieve their maturity ‘serenely.’ The winemakers whose plots are in the later maturing should also benefit from these weather forecasts.

grappl’in with savigny blanc


Earlier this year I compared the 2011 and 2012 of this villages white: The 11 was open, soft and simply very, very tasty. The 12 was a little more angular and phenolic – impressive but not yet really tasty – things can change quickly, though.

Here we are at the end of our summer and virtually all the angles of this wine have now been carefully chamfered. It’s very tasty now, with a trailing, sweetly acid-led flavour. Actually, it’s delicious…

abbaye de la bussière

dsc01020Touring the Hautes Côtes de Nuits today, in particular the Valley of the Ouche. Here is the classic Burgundy canal-boat land, and with plenty of cafés along the way.

Also here is the Abbaye de Bussière, up-market stop-over par-excellence. I took a coffee before an Aston-Martin club came for afternoon tea – the hotel hosted the Lamborghini and Porsche clubs in last weeks too – fortunately none were present while my trusty Scoobydoo took centre-stage in the car park.

Owner Clive Cummings gave me a pre-coffee tour of the buildings and grounds that he managed to buy from the Diocese of Dijon in 2005; “It was used as a retreat for clergy but its upkeep became too expensive. When we came it was all suspended ceilings and water that would freeze-over in the winter” laughs Clive, but behind the ceiling tiles remained the beautiful vaulted ceilings. In 2006 he and his wife managed to open the hotel with 9 rooms in good shape – now they have 20 – up to 30 are possible. With 2 restaurants and 34 staff, they have an almost 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio!

The Cistercian beginnings here were in 1131, but that was ‘take-2’ as their first attempt burnt down and so these buildings were built nearer the Ouche river – just in case! During it’s life it presided over many estates and hundreds of monks, but only 7 remained by the time it became state property at the Revolution. There were multiple owners and uses before it was eventually bequeathed back to the church. The ‘cellier’ is a beautiful building with an old wine-press – much the same as that in the Clos de Tart, the (admittedly cool temperature) ‘cellar’ is basically at ground level – I assume the water-table is a little too high here for ‘depth.’ Clive has plans for a wine club for his regular visitors and tasters; collecting and then storing the wines that the club members will have previously tasted from cask.

I have a feeling that I’ll be returning to test their twice monthly weekend brunches – with a spotlighted winemaker too!

some views from near the abbaye de morgeot in chassagne…

And note that, since yesterday, my header picture is now accurate, as cremant producer Louis Picamelot started their harvest yesterday!

the saint-vincent 2017 in mercurey

mercurey-1The Saint-Vincent is a regional celebration that was created by the Confrérie des chevaliers du tastevin in 1938* and the poster (right) for the 2017 event has been released this week. It is a meeting of all the grower syndicates of Burgundy in one village each year, and their associated (about 80) small statues of Saint-Vincent are paraded through the streets, before the eating and drinking commences.

Mercurey 2017 has taken the baton from Irancy 2016 – and hopefully they will have booked nicer weather than was the case in Irancy!

I note that it is not just Mercurey that is the home of the 2017 Saint-Vincent, but also Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu (though usually Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu is mentioned in brackets!) This will be third edition of the Saint-Vincent in Mercurey, the others being 1962 (a great vintage 🙂 ) and 1985.

The organiser’s website is up and running, though without much info so far. They are targeting between 50 and 100,000 visitors over the weekend – 30-40,000 has been nearer the mark in recent years – but that’s still a lot of frites, and presumably some wine too.
*List of towns since 1938.

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