The changing ownership landscape of the Côte d’Or

By billn on June 29, 2021 #the market#warning - opinion!

The waxing and waning of vineyard ownership – or rather the relative size of ownership – has always been the subject of external forces; times of higher demand, times of lower demand, times of disease or simply times of consistently poor weather. Burgundy has never been a stranger to those things…

Outwardly, and from this perspective, things seem little different today to what has happened in previous generations but dig deeper and I’d say that the current situation is different.

My current musings on this were partly prompted by the recently announced sale of the Christian Confuron estate to the Evenstad family of Domaine Serene, to add to their ownership of Domaine de la Crée in Santenay. Actually, I’d been aware of both the sale and the (undisclosed but ballpark) price of €40 million – for under 7 hectares but with grand and 1er cru appellations – for a few weeks after visiting a domaine that had bought grapes from this Confuron estate but was seemingly going to lose their grape contract this year due to the sale – but, hopefully, they will manage to come to some short-term accommodation on that front.

On the positive side for this Confuron acquisition, we have a business that is focused on wine – whether that wine comes from Oregon or Burgundy – we can all appreciate the synergy and, of course, there are domaines in Burgundy that have estates in Oregon too – so all is fair! On the negative side – and negative purely from my gut feeling – is the ever-growing concentration of vineyard land in the hands of a) buyers from outside of Burgundy and b) groups and individuals who are not primarily in the wine business. Some buyers still count wine as an important part of a portfolio of assets whilst others buy due to their ‘interest’ in wine but the essential issue today is the significant geographic change of ownership of the vineyards of Burgundy. Outside of the pre-revolutionary times of the French monarchy/aristocracy and ownership by the church – Burgundian vineyards have never seen such dwindling local ownership.

New ownership still has an important French dimension and at the most exclusive end of the vineyard scale, many hectares are being rolled into the portfolios of some of France’s richest individuals. And do continue to watch this space, a certain domaine in an important Côte de Nuits village has tongues wagging of an imminent €800 million transaction – you heard it here first 😉

Less transparent still, are the organisations that are buying up estates and parcels here and there and paying off the incumbent producers. These organisations have no winemaking so ‘donate’ the vines to important domaines in both the red and white villages of the Côte d’Or, guaranteeing themselves or their ‘club members’ the majority or all of that production – it’s hard to imagine many illustrious names being used as ‘toll manufacturing’ facilities but this is the effective result and you need not feel sorry for the domaines – they are being well recompensed, though don’t expect them to show you the wines when you visit.

Whilst I have uncomfortable feelings about the loss of local ownership of Burgundian vineyards, the inward investment that this has generated and the relative clarity of ownership that we see, clearly has many benefits. The reduction of local ownership of the vines is something that I instinctively feel to be a sub-optimal direction for the region but I feel significantly less positive about the lack of clarity surrounding the growth of the 1er and grand cru ownership and then toll-manufacturing approach – and just occasionally I feel the need to beat out a few words on my keyboard about it!

[Edit:] Posted today (30-June):

an update from the côtes…

By billn on June 28, 2021 #travels in burgundy 2021#vintage 2021

It’s now the mid-point of the summer and to all intents and purposes, the flowering of the vines in Burgundy is now over.

The recent combination of plenty of rain and temperatures of around 30° means that the vines have exploded into life – the flowering this year – what flowers remained – was relatively fast. Whilst the flowering was quite quick despite the frost of April, it seems that the grapes are far from homogenous – small grapes, larger grapes and a mixture of sizes await in the same parcel.

The overall effect of the warmth and plenty of rain has been to push the growth cycle of the vines significantly forward such that comparing the same stage at the end of June in other vintages, 2021 is now roughly in line with 2012 and 2019.

End june 2021 - vintage comparisons
Vintage comparisons/estimations, above, from the Chambre d’Agriculture.

We can assume that if all other things remain equal, then 2021 will actually be an earlier vintage than either of 2012 or 2019 – that will be due to the much smaller crop, due to frost, which will ripen faster than if there were more grapes were on the vine. Domaines are currently pencilling in harvest from mid-September but we can keep an open mind for now.

Not unsurprisingly, given so much rain and warm weather together, there is currently a heightened risk of mildew in the vines. Normally, the weather conditions that are required for oïdium are quite different – but also the risk is relatively high for oïdium too at the moment. Certainly, the forecast for the next week is stormy and cooler – I will keep my fingers crossed that hail such as seen between Gevrey and Brochon plus the storm last week in Pouilly-Fuissé, will not re-occur.

A few mixed images from last week:

Hail in the southern Mâconnais

By billn on June 23, 2021 #vintage 2021

Pouilly-Vinzelles, today...
Pouilly-Vinzelles, today…

Just 2 days ago, Solutre & Pouilly(-Fuissé) were badly hit by hail. I managed to take a tour of the vines while visiting today.

Much damage was done to the leaves and to what grapes there were – even the wood of the thicker stems was badly bruised and often snapped off towards the end of the branches. Yesterday, it didn’t look too bad as everything was still green, today the browning of the impact points had begun and I’m sure it will look even worse tomorrow.

The hail really came in a band and was accompanied by a high wind that exacerbated the damage – it just so happens that (in and around Fuissé) this band of weather followed the line of the new 1er Crus of Pouilly-Fuissé – and in only their second vintage too! As one vigneron of Fuissé described it today: “In some places there is no real drama, though we still have some effect from the hail, in other places it’s much worse and we wait for the official inspection. In these latter places, it’s clearly not just a case of this year’s losses but also how easy it will be to make our pruning for 2022 – some vines will clearly be complicated in this respect. You can see where there are puncture holes in the leaves there is generally damage to the grape clusters below too – and we’d only just, say 95%, finished the flowering too.

Indeed, it wasn’t just a case of various grapelets taking direct impacts; the recently flowered ‘bunches’ when taking a hail impact usually break off completely or lose at least half their length – and, given the frosts of April, there was so little potential yield in the first place.

At least in Vergisson they had some luck and were not touched – but then they have already lost about 80% to the frost so…

2021 is not for the faint-hearted vigneron – particularly, so far, the producers of whites. Some images from today:

The Baghera Jayers, part 2 – the results…

By billn on June 21, 2021 #the market

1999 Cros ParantouxI’m sure that you might remember this.

Well, yesterday the auction took place and nearly everything was sold – bringing in a tidy sum of just over 6 million Euros.

The top lot, no surprise, was the case of 1999 Jayer Vosne 1er Cros Parantoux, a snip at 561,200 Swiss francs including the (high!) buyer’s premium. In fact, the top ten lots brought in a remarkable 2.5 million Euros.

If you chose to watch the football on Sunday, rather than attend the auction, and would like to read the press release to see what you missed, look here and enjoy!

Fourrier’s 2003 Gevrey 1er Clos St.Jacques…

By billn on June 21, 2021 #degustation

Fourrier's 2003 Gevrey 1er Clos St.Jacques

Nostalgia alert: Ah, remember when these little puppies could be had for under £300 – no, not per bottle – per dozen! It seems it’s 3 years since I last popped one of these, so…

2003 Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Clos St.Jacques
The cork slides out a little more easily than I would prefer but it’s in-tact and the wine is fine.
Many 2003s have been in a kind of stasis, a plateau, of pre-maturity for nearly 10 years now but this wine is finally starting to show a little development; the colour is not one of youth and for the first time I’m getting a little age-related dried leaf plus soil and spice on the nose. That said, the dried leaves are still quite modest given the impressive weight of this ripe cherry fruit and even a floral accent with aeration – and it’s still quite a primary fruit too. For the vintage, I like the shape of this – not facile and round – here is a decent structure on which to pin the fruit. The tannins are modestly grained but ‘present’ – so not an ultra-elegant CSJ as this wine was in 2002. Overall, a mouthful of heart-warming and tasty flavour that is finally starting to show a little added, age-related, complexity – really a wine that’s far too easy to drink too!
Rebuy – Yes at the old pricing!

the last (floral) days…

By billn on June 15, 2021 #vintage 2021

Batch 2 - iris 2021

I thought I’d update you after this first image of the iris crop chez-moi this year. Two were missing in action this year – no blooms – but still a creditable 14 different ones this year. The yellows were the first and the last…

With all the seedlings, I’m running out of space for more.

A later flowering year but still a good year for them, without too much rainy weather over the flowering season – maybe I’ve another 10 days to enjoy the blooms before it’s all over for 2021…

an open day – château moulin à vent

By billn on June 14, 2021 #events

Chateau moulin a vent open day 2021

New in my inbox today.

I guess that this is the covid-successor to the last few years’ Jazz à Moulin à Vent – also held at the château. I can’t make it as I have a new kitten to collect that day(!) but feel free to head along yourself!

See Here.

the 99 potel volnay vv

By billn on June 13, 2021 #degustation

1999 Nicolas Potel Volnay Vieilles-Vignes

1999 Nicolas Potel, Volnay Vieilles-Vignes
The colour is starting to show some age and is certainly not clean and bright. The nose starts with a small whiff of brett but it’s borderline and seemingly reasonably volatile – it soon disappears from the glass – what remains is a very attractive blend of creamy iron and flowers – eventually a little tobacco/leather too. Lots of mouth-filling volume and fresh energy here – this is still a structural wine but one of mouth-watering sweetness that offsets some slight tannic bitters. Open, giving, still rather young but offering clarity to its many flavours. Bravo villages and just really getting into its stride, I think. The 97 of this was well thought of, indeed I bought plenty myself, but in comparison to this wine, that 1997 was always a little stolid. This has all you could wish for, for its label…
Rebuy – Yes

yesterday in the côtes…

By billn on June 10, 2021 #travels in burgundy 2021#vintage 2021

Beaune Gréves - mainly
Yesterday afternoon. Mainly Beaune Gréves but a little Toussaints and Bressandes to the right…

Obviously, some damage in Gevrey-Chambertin yesterday but the storms were extremely localised. The rest of the Côte d’Or was threatened – like Beaune above – but there was rarely more than occasional rumbles of thunder and a few spots of rain – unlike the 40mm of rain in just a few minutes that fell on the vines of Gevrey! Of course, there is damage here, which will compound the frost from April…

For me a trip to see the work (and what work!) that is underway at the Château de Pommard and then in the afternoon a chance to see the rare vine varieties that are being conserved in Beaune; Tressot Noir, Côt, Troyen, Gamay Castille or Oberlin Noir anyone? That latter variety the only one that was starting to flower – it was also the first (of these) in 2020 too.

As for flowering, in general; there are some early outliners in the vines – usually those in sunny spots, protected by walls – but it will be another week before the Côte d’Or really gets into the swing of flowering. Almost a week ago there were some flowerings in the ‘Americans’ as the locals describe the suckers that sprout from the American rootstocks – normally the proper flowering of the chardonnays and then pinots begins 10-14 days later…

For me, today will be a little typing, coffee drinking (terraces!), jogging and a visit to taste some Meursault…

Burgundy Report

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