Why Big Red Diary?

at last, just a tiny bit of snow ;-)

No, not in Burgundy, rather the weekend in Graubunden.

Our hut was a bit cold, so I can tell you that the 2013 Puligny shows much more oak at 5°C than it does at 12-15°C! The 1993 Clos St.Jacques was very good but not great – but probably 10-15°C at consumption may have had much to do with that! The hut was a toasty 20°C – just when we were ready to leave the next day 😉

Really a great time, but don’t mention the 4.5 hours to get home – it should be less than 3…

week 02 2016 – chablis

This week’s mugshots 😉

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Inexplicable Chablis…


Don’t expect me to explain the market for Chablis to you – it generally leaves me confused!

There is a certain lack of wine here in Chablis, and a lot of it sells rather quickly; yet a significant amount of this volume departs the producers’ cellars for less than €7 per bottle for Chablis, and less than €10 for premier crus – for larger orders of-course.

The average domaine size in terms of hectares is much larger than in the Côte d’Or, though because of the pricing of the wine, the turnover per domaine is rarely more – only four employees for 80 hectares wouldn’t be uncommon in Chablis. Because of this larger number of hectares per domaine there is often a blurring of lines between ‘agriculture’ and ‘viticulture’ – you definitely won’t find such large tractors in the Côte d’Or, though the latter does have a few harvesting machines. Harvesting machines are not the exception in Chablis; for all the evocative images of a horse ploughing the rows, Chablis is machine-driven – even very well known domaines, of quality, may harvest their Petit Chablis and Chablis by machine and their more important wines by hand – even a proportion of the grand crus have machines doing the work.

Then there are the wines: I’ve slowly, organically, built up a list of producers that I like to visit, put together largely through tasting blind. This has taken me more than three years and the result, so far, is that this January I’m making almost 50 producer visits to taste their 2014s – but this list really doesn’t reflect the larger reality of wine from Chablis. Because of my methodology, I search out only the interesting stuff, so I’m insulated from the market realities. Of-course you are too if you buy only from domaines that I like!

It’s really only through open, off-the-record, discussion with (certain) producers that you appreciate that there is a lake of not great wine that comes from Chablis – grand crus that taste like poor villages wines – here I fail you, as my modus operandi doesn’t bring me into contact with them! But that being true, one has to ask the question why?

30 years ago there was also a lot of ‘sub-moderate’ wine in the Côte d’Or, but a virtuous circle of new generations that have; travelled the world and taken on different perspectives, seen price growth which has enabled investment in their cuveries, and the best working materials, has gathered critical acclaim that has further increased their apparent desirability and pricing, which has, slowly-but-surely, increased the average quality of wine. This has without doubt been helped by benevolent vintages, but domaines are equipped to deal with most things today.

The question I’m struggling to answer today is ‘why not in Chablis?’

The top wines from Chablis are fabulous, with a quality, desirability, tastiness and most importantly, character, that can match almost anything from the Côte de Beaune, yet where is the virtuous circle? Are there insufficient critics reporting? Is the, generally, more agricultural structure to blame? The desirability of the land reflects, if to a slightly lesser extent, the feeding frenzy of the Côte d’Or with parcels of grand crus very hard to come by today – at almost any price. Certainly the small, everything by hand, model of the Côte d’Or – for example, someone like Jean-Claude Bessin – is rarer in Chablis, yet there are exponents of the mechanised approach that really make compelling wine too.

It’s clear to me that low pricing has a hand in the problem, and you will know me as someone who pushes back against pricing excess, but in the last 10 years the price of a villages Meursault has doubled, Chablis considerably lags – I even have to suppress laughter when a producer of Chablis tells me that they will increase their prices this year – by perhaps 10 centimes…

In the end, I see pricing as indicative of the problem, and the lack of price appreciation as affecting the virtuous circle, but the totality of the issue still escapes me.

a grand cru chablis courir…


I had more appointments in the afternoon than the morning today, so when finished at 11am, I decided it was time not just for a jog around the grand crus, ‘B’ camera gripped tight, but also enough time for a shower afterwards – so I don’t smell more than the wines in the afternoon! It seems that my timing was good; by 1pm it’s dark and (of-course!) raining…

A light frost of about -2°C overnight – the first for a while…

in chablis – week 2…


It was a really pretty morning in Chablis today – the sun and blue sky with a particular clarity. They say it’s like that before it snows – let’s see. The temperature was not much lower this morning, still 6°C in town, but a couple of degrees cooler out and about in the local villages.

This morning, visits in the two villages noted in the above picture, followed by visits only in Chablis in the afternoon – very nice, no car required – and no rain, or snow, yet!

And to keep you going, a trio of articles online in the last days:

A little dijon-ing on saturday

The only day that it wasn’t forecast to rain, so on Saturday we thought ‘why not take the 20 minute train ride(?)’
Massive versus Beaune, Nuits, or Chalon – but lots of cool places to visit…
Highly recommended.

week 01 2016 – chablis

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This week’s lucky, lucky group of producers (Because I visited ;-))

Well, that’s the first week (of three) in Chablis successfully noted. It seems to me that the weather has been much nicer ‘up north’ than in Beaune this week – emphasised by the crashing rain and some fog when I got back to Beaune this afternoon.

Tasting the 2014s is something of a pleasure – luckily, as I think I will have at least 45 producers in the bag by the end of the month – the January report will definitely be full!

Happy New Year to all – I hope that you enjoyed your bottles over the last couple of weeks!

A modest selection of pics from this week:

a little lunchtime (older) chablis…


Well, it’s so rare that anyone seems to drink anything more than 3 years old, I thought I might as well list them! Fortunately the vintage played right into my preference zone, the 2007s easily the best for me! Nice to see that these were all so fresh too!

2008 Domaine du Chardonnay, Chablis 1er Vaillons
Deep, green-fruited aromas. Bright and fresh in the mouth, indeed nicely mouth-watering, super Chablis, but the green fruit, which is common in 08 is not my favourite as it sometimes tends towards asparagus.
Rebuy – Maybe
2008 Domaine du Colombier, Chablis Bougros
A similar colour nose to the last wine, just a little more airy and fresher. Intense and direct flavours with an extra cushioning, just like a grand cru should have. A super finish!
Rebuy – Maybe
2007 Alain Geoffroy, Chablis 1er Beauroy
Pretty, complex and fresh – indeed lovely. Direct and incisive very lovely flavours edged with a little salinity. Excellent length too – yum!
Rebuy – Yes
2007 Jean-Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis 1er Mont de Milieu
A little more aromatic roundness and weight. Super-fresh, again incisive and direct but also with lovely complexity. In a word, gorgeous!
Rebuy – Yes
2007 Domaine de la Meulière, Chablis 1er Fourneaux
This nose starts bigger and tighter but slowly opens to show some quince and a lovely, engaging open complexity – it becomes really great. Very nice, complex wine – also gorgeous, but different, and just gets better and better in the glass – Bravo!
Rebuy – Yes
2006 La Chablisienne, Chablis Les Preuses
Ooh – now that’s pretty oaky! Time in the glass lessens it a little but this vanilla impression seems to be stubbornly sticking around – I’d have expected it to be gone by this age. Broad, seemingly modest acidity but lots of tasty flavour dimension.
Rebuy – No

death in beaune and the first weekend bottles (of 2016)…


We  weren’t planning on being in Beaune over the new year holiday, rather we had the 31st planned with friends in Bern – but due to problems their end, this was postponed – so why not Beaune(?) Well the obvious answer (having now done it!) is that Beaune is completely dead! Walk around the Boulevard (periphique, if you prefer) at 11pm and you may be passed by half a dozen cars – only! The central streets were silent, just the occasional music from an apartment. We decided to walk to Hotel Le Cep for a little bubbles – and there were more staff than people – actually it was about equal – 4 of each, including us! Still it was a lovely moment when 24h00 passed and the bar-man came around with fresh champagne for everyone – classy!

I’m starting a campaign of about 40 domaines in Chablis today, so these are probably the last bottles until next weekend – anyway, considering the amount of food and drink to have passed through my lips over the last couple of weeks – probably a little discipline won’t go amiss! Given the vintages I wasn’t sure if I’d end up drinking all of these, but as it turned out… 😉

2004 Pascal Lachaux, Clos Saint Denis
Deep colour. I’m looking for a bit of pyrazine but I know from experience (I bought 6!) that this wine has shown it on only the lowest level, and sometimes, depending on my detection equipment, not at all. Today is a not at all day. The nose still lacks for any delicacy though there’s the first interesting showing of a little leafy development. In the mouth it tastes much nicer than it smells. The texture is lovely, silken but with a hint of richness that tells you it’s from a very good vineyard. The flavour is ripe enough, layered and tasty. If you don’t want to sniff this is very fine for the vintage.
Rebuy – No

2011 Nicolas Rossignol, Volnay 1er En Chevret
Here’s a wine that needs air-time as it’s a big, tight bundle of dark aroma – there’s a little reduction here. Air allows it to unwind its limbs and become much more aromatically welcoming. In the mouth this has plenty of power for a 2011, weight but balance – excellent balance. I’m obviously drinking this far too young but there’s more than a suggestion of good things to come…
Rebuy – Yes

chalon, before the rain

Chalon is a place that I invariably bypass – heading south to Mâcon, and then back north to Beaune – but there was a window in the forecast for rain today, so we successfully see the last of the market, drink a coffee, make a small tour of the old town and safely make our way back to Beaune whilst staying dry. Actually the rain is late, it doesn’t arrive until 18h00 – so good for us!

Chalon is really a large town, or rather, city. The old town is quaint and has the benefit of the Saone river running through the centre – I’m sure it looks great on a nice early summer day. The old buildings are far from as well kept as is the case in Beaune, but fascinating all the same. We’ll make another visit when the weather is warmer…

vosne and ‘out-houses!’

A new year’s day walk on the first part of the footpath from Vosne to the Abbaye de St.Vivant – including the shit cabottes of Vosne.

Just because it is Vosne-Romanée, don’t think that everything is like a palace! 😉

Happy New Year!!!

one or two holiday bottles…

Just a modest selection that’s kept mind and soul together over the last days; but quickly going through (most of) them:

2001 Mugneret-Gibourg, Vosne-Romanée
Really something of a modest disappointment – though consistent with previous bottles; fine bones, sleek, but modest, indeed dilute – not a patch on the flamboyance of its youth – at least at near 15 years old!
2005 Alex Gambal, St.Aubin 1er Murgers du Dents du Chien
Wow – one of the best surprises of Christmas – big, deep, complex, somewhat reductive with a modest struck-match. Just a brilliant, brilliant wine – Bravo!
1998 Pol Roger (Mag)
My last of 6. As good as any – beautiful, sleek, complex, elegant drinking – also the last glass on day 2!
2009 J.Moreau, Chablis Valmur (Mag)
Lovely wine with a certain fat but insinuating sweetness and lovely acidity. An absolute wow with people who just want a nice glass of wine.
2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée St.Vivant
My last of three and easily the best. Just wonderful on every level – everyone was complimenting it – so I didn’t tell them what it would cost to buy one today!
2000 Finca Altimera Malbec
Dark, almost black, concentrated – seems like a baby, a very tasty baby. Just a great contrast to the DRC.
2008 Alex Gambal, St.Aubin 1er Murgers du Dents du Chien (Mag)
Lovely with a very faint reduction that starts like toasty oak before vanishing. Nicely layered and with lovely acidity. The second half on day two was even better – just a beautiful wine. Not as good as the 05 this Christmas but damn fine.
2001 Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc
Lovely, lovely wine. Fine, precise, beautiful acidity with a subtly excellent finish. The 2008 Dents du Chien was a little more crowd pleasing, but this was lovely.
2007 Mugneret-Gibourg, Bourgogne
This smelled rather nice and open. In the mouth there was good fruit and just a faint spikiness to the acidity – not the most perfectly balanced wine, but easy to drink.
2010 Jean-Marc Bouley, Volnay
This seemed deep and concentrated, a little impenetrable to start, but give it about 3 hours and there’s complexity and even a little elegance. Very enjoyable now, but only if you carafe!
1998 Bouchard Père, Nuits St.Georges 1er Clos St.Marc
I’d been planning to open this when it was 20, but every time I searched for something in the cellar this seemingly popped up shouting ‘me!’ This day I succumbed. It is indeed still a little young – but grand cru in every dimension – what a brilliant wine – complex, powerful and with great dimension. Red surprise of the Christmas.
2005 Mischief & Mayhem, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Champs Gain
Just a faint whiff of oxidation- but faint enough to add complexity not sadness. Big in the mouth but with a truly super line of minerality in the long finish. Holding on and still a great performance.
2005 Potel-Aviron, Morgon Côte du Py
The 11th of 12 – and all have been frankly super. Dark coloured, complex, not obviously gamay. Just a bottle that was very much enjoyed in the same context as all the other more expensive bottles.
2010 Edmond Monnot, Maranges 1er Clos des Rois
Wide-open, pretty red fruit. A certain complexity and freshness. Engaging, indeed faultless!
2009 David Clark, Bourgogne Au Pelson
Lighter colour than many. Floral and pretty (100% whole cluster). Engaging, complex and lovely drinking already.
2009 Chézeaux/Ponsot, Griotte-Chambertin
Do I not like those ardea closures! Damn near impossible to remove with a waiter’s friend, hard enough with a screw-pull! I almost broke the ‘cork’ it was so hard sealed – others I’ve cracked the glass! Anyway, deep, dark, glossy, ripe. Full in the mouth, full-flavoured too. Very one-dimensional today, though it does come out of its shell a little after a few hours. Hard to tell its from Burgundy before that!
2006 Camille Giroud, Gevrey-Chambertin En Champs
Lighter coloured, less intense but prettier aromas. In the mouth it’s sleeker and less rich, but the mid-palate to finishing flavour is beautifully complex, indeed just beautiful, despite a faint vanilla note. Lovely and much nicer than a freshly opened 09 Griotte!
Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Reserve
Lovely, fresh, almost mandarin notes – easy (and fast!) drinking!
1993 JJ Confuron, Clos de Vougeot
Ouf! What do I have in the glass before me(?)
Medium-plus colour of indeterminate middle-age but no browning.
Deep, herby and spicy aromas, massively scaled, and something of a cool, almost dismissive stance.
Mouth-filling, beautifully textured, indeed a little richness to this texture. Growing intensity and rather massively concentrated.
The flavours are also a little herby but also very complex with quite enough sweetness and seemingly resolved tannin – yet – this wine shouts out that it needs 10 years more in the cellar.
Honestly this is something massive, and I have the impression of much, much oak in its youth, but, I don’t know if I like it or not. It’s far too early to love it. Day 2 this was much more drinkable – I think I caught myself enjoying it 😉 The 1993 Jadot Clos de Vougeot is as good a wine as I’ve had in the whole year (behind an incredible 1971 Chambertin) but this Clos de Vougeot is far too young to make such pronouncements!

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