Why Big Red Diary?

harvest – 27th september

The previous evening was leftovers again, but this time supplemented with 2004 Puligny and 2002 Fourrier Gevrey Clos St.Jacques. The white had a very obvious 2004 character, the red was elegance personified – no fireworks but understated complexity.

Today and it’s raining – not too heavy, but wet all the same. We have no grapes today; the Beaune Avaux and Corton Rognets was advanced and the Gevrey and Vosne were put back to tomorrow. Chambertin won’t be harvested until the end of the week. So in the morning I chatted with a couple of very similar vignerons (well, same village!) David Clark and Laurent Ponsot in Morey. I asked Laurent how his harvest was shaping up and he flashed a big smile and said “what harvest, we wont begin anything in Morey for at least a week!“. Acually he was going to be getting some first grapes from Corton soon, but even in the cold and damp he was very confident that photosynthesis would continue and that his grapes would improve. David Clark was also in good shape, looking to start his harvest on Tuesday or Wednesday, so-far nothing had been cut.

Back to Beaune in time for lunch; avocado with home-made mayonnaise, pork with cauliflower cheese, cheese and then floating islands for dessert. Wines to accompany were JN Gagnard 2006 Chassagne 1er Boudriotte, a 1996 Giroud Côte de Beaune, a 2007 David Duband Morey 1er Clos Sorbé and lastly one of my 1991 Saviour Club Chapelle-Chambertins (or Chapelles-Chambertin as the cork was stamped). The Gagnard had good balance a very sneaky, oak driven, creamy mid-palate though perhaps need a bit more intensity, the Giroud was relatively sweet and drinkable despite the acid at its base, the Duband had a sweet oaky, almost confected note and finally the Chapelle was a treat!

Quote of the week overheard during lunch “I don’t think I can survive a second week without a toilet seat!!“. Far from being an initiation ceremony for non-French stageurs, it turns out the original was broken, and nobody had got around to buying a replacement. Various consultations ensued as to whether particular ‘outlines’ would be beneficial for the person delegated to make the purchase!

harvest – 26th september

sunday vendanges ladybirds and corton rognetsIt’s Sunday, and surprise, surprise, it’s not raining.

The previous evening we had a lovely soup (sorry chef it was better with a pinch of salt!) and the quenelles with a lobstery sauce – one of our antipodean colleagues decribed them as ‘French dumplings’ – a great call methinks! To drink was a 2008 Bourgogne Blanc from Domaine Dublère ‘Cuvée Millerandes‘ – very nice, indeed powerful, the acidity not quite seamless in the finish, but this was way above standard bourgogne level. For a bit of fun we tried the ‘cooking wine’ next; a Camille Giroud 1996 Monthélie – actually it was drinkable, blind you might think it smelled Italian as it spent so much time in oak. The last one was André Cathiard 1989 Vosne Les Suchots – all strawberry fruit, ginger and lace – a bit shorter than it could have been -probably some of its years had been spent ‘too warm’, but still a wine to contemplate.

Back to today. The pickers have been out early again and by 9:00am everything set to triage some Ladoix. We have to slow the table down a little as we need to weed out the unripe and some rot – I’d say it’s about a 2006 to 2008 level of rot (and the average of 2006 and 2008 is not 2007 before somebody says it!) After about 2 hours we’re strainght into Savigny 1er Les Peuillets and despite also having to watch for under-ripe bunches and rot, it’s on a much lower level than the Ladoix – lovely grapes, almost with the cleanlines of 2009 but perhaps some of the berries are swollen because of the rain. Interestingly a few of our red friend with black spots on their wings could be found in the triaged material for throwing away – I never saw one in the triage table or in the winery though…

Lunch! The eggy-salad played havoc with the first wine, my first pinot noir from British Columbia (actually my first wine of any kind from BC!). Great label design; a bear carrying a gramaphone talking to a ‘maiden’ – I had to explain to the previously referenced antipodean that the bear was holding an earlier version of the iPod. Anyway the 2007 Foxtrot Okanagan Valley smelled great, and once we moved onto the coq-au-vin it was a nicely composed, well balanced drink. Following was Méo-Camuzet’s 93 Corton Rognets. My first one of these was lovely but the last one was compromised and cloudy – this was the same. Drinkable – even good – there was nothing particularly amiss with the nose and we finished it no problem.

The weather was so good – we were even enjoying sunshine – that the pickers were called to do duty in Beaune 1er Les Avaux, and then Corton Rognets. The Beaune was quite a mix; relively clean but the average berry size was bigger than the Savigny. The last grapes from Corton Rognets were stunners, triaging alone I bet I had to pull out no more than 10kg from two pallet-loads of fruit. Tiny berries, beautifully blue-black in colour. The skins tasted to have some tannin, so we chickened out of whole cluster despite optically having grapes of 2005 quality. And there we are – now it’s 7:30pm and time to start the big clean-up!

harvest – 25th september

saturday vendangesFor info, this year the Vougeraie harvest log is online – help yourself.

So yesterday evening was leftovers and two grand crus, both from Camille Giroud; a 2007 Corton-Charlemagne and 2008 Charmes-Chambertin – both very good indeed as somebody might say, actually the Charlemagne could have been fine-plus!

I mentioned yesterday the potential this year for a Côte de Beaune, Côte de Nuits divide, so lets get into that: It hangs on maturity and the weather. Much of the Côte de Beaune will have been harvested (we’re talking reds) by Monday and at decent maturity too. There is some rot, but few of the best sites have been significantly affected – grape quality was rather good, 2006++. Despite also having excellently clean grapes (still) the Côte de Nuits has an issue – in general the grapes are not yet ready to pick. 11-12° is still common. While we had blue skies and sunshine the cold temperatures were not too much of a problem – photosynthesis continues. Now we have cloudy skies, (even) cooler temperatures and more rain in the forecast, 5° or lower overnight. I expect a sudden rush into any vineyard that reaches 12.5°, maybe even a bit less! The forecast says it may turn warmer and sunny Tuesday or Wednesday – but the forecast has a poor record this year. Côte de Nuits producers will be hoping the forecasters have got something right…

Today the pickers are out at first light, just about 7:30 – there was a little rain overnight, but we have dry, fairly bright, if cloudy skies. Onwards with Pommard Clos des Vergers – this is a villages plot but the grapes are frankly excellent – hardly any triage is required, lovely stuff. You tend to be quite concentrated whilst triaging, so it was a surprise mid-morning when I looked around to see that there was some heavy rain. It lasted about 20-30 minutes, before we moved back to cloudy with sunny spells. After the Pommard, Santenay 1er La Comme. These grapes needed a bit more care to weed out unripe binches (bunches that really shouldn’t have been picked) and a little rot – a good result though, in the end I think we triaged well over 4 tonnes of Pommard/Santenay grapes before lunch.

Did somebody mention lunch? It was a simple affair of melon and Parma ham, veal with potato (Dauphinoise of-course), cheese (including probably too much Brillat-Savarin) and pineapple upside-down. Wine was a Giroud 2000 Hautes Côtes Blanc followed by Louis-Michel Liger-Belair’s first vintage of Echézeaux, the 2006. It remains the best Echézeaux I ever tasted from barrel though I was surprised how oaky this wine was, but aromatically it was a powder-keg of complexity, it needs much more time though.

Our afternoon will not be as packed as first planned because the pickers were told to stand down after the morning rain. Still, there’s plenty of villages Volnay this afternoon from a different contract to yesterday’s Volnay. The grapes are excellent, only some unripe bunches to pull out and some with verjus – tiny ungrown green berries amongst the ripe ones – to remove. So we have an early finish, we can start the clean-up already at 6pm…

harvest – 24th September

friday-vendangesSo the night before and I open a bottle of Blair Pethel’s Domaine Dublère 2007 Beaune 1er Blanche Fleurs and watched James Bond on TV! The wine is really on-song, even the domestic management is appreciative – though I think a lot of the depth of flavour seems barrel-related (creamy vanilla dimensions), it has great texture, is slightly plush and generally shows lovely balance.

Okay, that was yesterday – now I’m in Beaune, and just in time.

Typically it started raining at home 3 minutes before I wanted to pack things into the car (…) most of the trip to Burgundy was dry though. Arriving to the car-park at the hotel it started with a little light rain. Five minutes after I got to the domaine, the heavens opened – big rain, glad I’m not picking!

Fortunately today’s grapes had been picked before the wet. We started triage of Volnay 1er Lurets, and really good these grapes were; full speed on the triage table and virtually zero rot – they tasted good too. The Lurets is part of a new contract together with Volnay Caillerets, but the usual give and take means that to take these 1ers, there’s also some villages Volnay to be taken too. We had been prepared for bad grapes but apart from a little rot and some underipe bunches to be triaged – I saw much worse grapes in 2006 – we still had the table running at about 90% of maximum speed !

This afternoon it was only be a delivery of Bourgogne Blanc must so no triage. If the rain abates, tomorrow will be busy though.

Info on whites seems to be all related to the storm on the Sunday 12th September. Two days before the storm the home team’s Meursault looked fantastic – the vigneron had done a great job, leaving neatly spaced bunches – everything was set. Whether they were hit by hail or not (hail was restricted to the Santenay/Chassagne border), many vines seemed to react to that weather; Those plots with the most advanced maturity were suddenly beset by botrytis – 20% of the previously beautiful Meursault was affected 1 week later. There were many stories in the last days of winemakers harvesting because their grapes were ‘turning brown’ or ‘turning to chocolate’ – that was the botrytis. Those plots with a lower level of ripeness (at the storm) seem to have followed a normal maturity path and largely failed to develop botrytis! Apparently everyone was harvesting Montrachet yesterday – the last minute before today’s rain.

Having done a good job of triage the home team were rewarded with cheese and tomato tart, duck a l’orange, cheese and finally apple tart tartin. A 2007 Montagny 1er blanc from Christophe Denizot and a 99 Fourrier Gevrey VV helped to wash it down. So effective was this lunch that there were parts of blue sky to be seen by 1:30, in fact the sun shone on-and-off all afternoon, more importantly it stayed dry. Parts of the Côtes had as much as 30mm in the morning!

Tomorrow more on the Côte de Beaune, Côte de Nuits divide…

looking like a wet weekend in côtes…

Okay – the first full report will be tomorrow as I interrogate my fellow harvesters and stageurs – but it looks like I will be doing it wearing several layers of (waterproof!) clothing.

The forecast for my weekend – how about yours(?)


presenting the world champion producer of pinot noir (2010)

donatsch-pn-passionMartin Donatsch from Weingut Donatsch in Malans, Graubunden (Grisons, Switzerland) has apparently won this year’s competition for “Champion du Monde des Producteurs du Pinot Noir” – the world champion among the pinot noir producers to you and me. The wine concerned was Martin’s 2008 Malanser Pinot Noir «Passion».

No fewer than 1,100 wines were tasted in July by ‘an international jury’ in Sierre, Switzerland. 71 wines (6 percent) won gold medals and 260 won silver – even some French wines acheived a silver medal! I wonder how that percentage compares to the IWC(?) – I looked at the IWC site but it looked like I would have had to do lots of counting! Anyway I’ve bought a couple of bottles to see how it squares up to a Richebourg-or-so. They should arrive next week!

2004 rené engel grands-echézeaux


The back label of this bottle, Philippe Engel’s last vintage, has a poem from William Blake to toast him.

2004 Rene Engel, Grands-Echézeaux
Medium ruby-red – I caught myself admiring the late-evening sun as it beautifully reflected through the glass. The nose is not immune to the vintage character; it starts at an encouragingly low level but disappointingly blooms in the glass – maybe to a 6/10 level. Below the mirepoix is a creamy, faintly lactic depth – and depth this wine certainly has. Wide in the mouth, the acidity has a slightly jarring, sharp leading edge – give it an hour of aeration and this mainly but not completely tones down. The texture is very fine and the width and depth are high-class indeed. The length, despite its persistence, currently holds onto some of that character. Today this isn’t a fitting tribute to Philippe, so take any of 99-2003 to toast him – they are all drinking well. I hope that my other bottles of this will come good in another 10 years or so…
Rebuy – No

harvesting a-go-go! well, almost…


Plenty of producers in the Côte de Beaune have started to harvest their first parcels today. Fewer in the Côte de Nuits have ventured out, most of those look like they have another 3 or 4 days left to sharpen their secateurs.

My timing to join the home team looks not too bad – shame that the long-term forecast means rain might great me on Friday – that said, the long-range forecast has been wrong all year! On a positive note I feel sure that lots of producers will point to the fact that they need light as much as heat to ripen their grapes – in that respect the last days and those to come look like they might help them to generate some positive ‘spin’!

latest vintage update & windmills in meursault for vincent girardin…

Things are very busy at Vincent Girardin’s base in Meursault; not only are they about to start harvesting, they’ve also bought a new domaine.

First the harvesting; it’s starting for Vincent Girardin with some chardonnay in the Côte de Beaune, some others are already brining in the first grapes. The storm on Sunday that delivered hail to northern Santenay and parts of Chassagne (‘just’ Morgeot mainly) mainly left a lot of fruit needing to picked sooner rather than later. The rest of the domaine’s vines will be harvested between next week and the end of the month.

Another grower confirms this, telling me:

There’s rot and it’s ok with the cold weather but there’s great heterogeneity. Anyway in general everyone is planning to pick earlier than they had first expected so harvest will probably be over by Oct 1st

Let’s see…


Now back to the enlarged Domaine Vincent Girardin – actually the new part is still a separate entity because it’s in Beaujolais – but there are 20 new hectares of vines from the estate La Tour du Bief in Chénas:

moulin-a-vincent-girardinAll parcels of the twenty hectares of the estate La Tour du Bief are in the village of Chénas with “lieux-dits” Les Caves, La Rochelle, Les Vérillats, Le Bief and La Tour du Bief.
A rigorous, impeccable farming plan allowed us to find an exceptional genetic reserve, with some of the vines being more than 80 years old. What more can be expected when the ambition is to restore life to this estate by producing exceptional wines?
Today, my goal is to continue the tradition of the production of great Moulin-à-Vent wines that, in the last century, competed with the great villages of the Côte de Nuits. With their structure and complexity linked to a potentially important capacity for ageing, wines from Moulin-à-Vent were always cited as examples and with age, it’s said that they “Pinotent”, meaning getting closer to their Burgundian (Pinot) neighbors by evoking aromas of cherry, matured fruits, spices and truffle.
A project of classification of the best soils as “Premier Crus” as in Burgundy is about to be studied to return this great wine to nobility. The parcels of the estate will be affected by this classification.
Winemaking is traditional, followed by ageing partly in wood foudres of 50hl and then in Burgundian barrels of 228 liters. Wines are neither fined nor filtered in order to give them as much complexity and life as is natural.

(Vincent’s press release.)

david clark 2008 côte de nuits villages…


2008 David Clark, Côte de Nuits Villages
Medium-plus cherry-red colour. Like many of David’s wines the aromas have a dark undertow that has a hint of reduction at its core but there a musky padding to it that makes it quite compelling. Cool, this has just enough padding to cover the acidity – as it warms in the glass the balance is more generous. Very good width to not especially deep fruit, but there’s a hint of creaminess to add to the crunchy dark fruit and a lovely length. I like this very much, and whilst I might prefer to drink it before the fruit fades and the acidity becomes pronounced, it might still be interesting to save a bottle or two. Very nice indeed.
Rebuy – Yes

getting closer – vintage 2010…

With less than a week to go for some. After some heavy rain yesterday and even hail in (at least) Santenay, here are a few thoughts on the harvest from one winemaker…

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Lots of rain over the past week, interspersed with some sun. Perfect rot conditions. The winds we’ve had have been mostly moist, so no help there. Weather’s supposed to degrade again at the end of the week and through the weekend, making things even more interesting. I’m doing sampling tomorrow, and will probably start sometime after the 20th, with the sample results and weather forecast both coming into the decision-making process. I don’t expect to finish until well into October, however.

And new for today – how clean is your wood? !

jasper looks again at 2007 reds…

Updating 2007 here.

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