Why Big Red Diary?

friday, it’s the last harvest notes…

let them eat cakeFriday: As the harvest closes we can now take time out to eat cake!

There was a chance for some sorting on Saturday and Sunday, but given perfect harvest conditions in the last few days coupled with a forecast for rain at the weekend, people have worked double-time and are aiming to finish (probably late) today. So I won’t go this weekend.

Yesterday’s grapes from Charmes-Chambertin went through the triage table very easily, and today the Gevrey-Chambertin and Latricières-Chambertin likewise – and that’s quite an acheivement given that the grapes from this grower are not usually the best, but this year the Latricières was better than 2005. As I’m typing this the Chambertin grapes are being picked and should arrive at the domaine in the early evening – these will be the last arrivals apart for some Hautes Côtes de Beaune later next week.

This producer (at least) feels so much happier after the Côte de Nuits harvest than he did after the Côte de Beaune. He heard from a friend that August gave the Côte de Beaune three times more rain (100mm) than the Côte de Nuits (30mm) – this (we) he has to check – but if so, it amply shows why there was more rot in the south.

So 2006 in summary: Potentially very good whites. Côte de Beaune reds (the grapes) closer to 2004 than 2005 quality. Corton seems to have had excellent quality grapes of both colours. Côte de Nuits grapes (on average) slightly below 2005 quality, but in some places higher. For the wines we will have to wait a little. It was a mix of hot and cold during the year so this will hopefully provide a full spectrum of flavours – I can’t wait!

PS What better post-script than to have the words of Aubert de Villaine:

Concernant les vendanges, nous ne sommes pas du tout déçus. Nous avons récolté des raisins à haute maturité (avec des teneurs en sucre parmi les plus élevées de ces dernières années) et nous avons réussi à mettre en place un tri proche de la perfection ! Je suis optimiste quant au résultat.

Or, if you prefer, my reprehensible attempt at translation:

Concerning the grape harvest, we are not at all disappointed. We collected grapes with high maturity (sugar contents were among highest of recent years) and with sorting we came close to perfection! I am optimistic for the result.

[EDIT] PPS – I also found these great posts by Jeremy Seysses of Dujac on the very, very nice Chez Pim site:


rare beaujolais!Value, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That said, I expect the market for vintage Beaujolais is rather limited – just one guy/gal in Ohio it seems – at least when he/she wants $1,200 for said bottles.

They say that there’s one born every minute (mug that is), I expect our person in Ohio will have to trawl very wide to find them!


pumping overThursday: The early grapes (at least at this producer, and note that we are talking about pinot noir) were visually a little disappointing; the Beaunes the Savignys the Bourgogne – all were difficult and needed a hard triage. What remained was ripe enough but didn’t instill a sense of excitement.

What came in after some wonderful Corton Chaumes on Monday was a big improvement versus the previous week and lifted our excitement levels; the Santenay was nice, as was the village Vosne-Romanée and some Volnay 1er Taillepieds too – much less sorting was needed.

Yesterday the Corton Rognets grapes were super, very close to the level of Monday’s Chaumes – with the right growers you will have very lovely wines from Corton in 2006 – and from both colours too. Nuits 1er Vaucrains grapes were also excellent, requiring very little triage. This afternoon the grapes from Charmes-Chambertin are expected.

Tomorrow it will be Gevrey-Chambertin and Latricières-Chambertin.

The grapes have been coming into the winery quite cool in a morning and are being triaged in nice working conditions, i.e. ~20°C, sunny and dry – perhaps this week’s lack of rain has also helped improve the excitement levels – at least together with higher phenolic ripeness and (typically all) brown lignified pips seen in this second week.

There’s just a slight chance that we could be finishing up on Sunday as there is still some Hautes Côtes to think about, if so I will be back onsite Saturday and Sunday.


ladies of the table
Wednesday: Vinotas spreads the fame of the sorting team.

I had to run back to Basel – curses – but my moles (Sophie, Sally and Julia above) will keep me up-to-date on how things look. Amazingly, while Beaune and its environs remained dry, my garden recieved 30mm of rain in 36 hours – we are 250km apart.

Updates this afternoon… okay, Thursday really!

tuesday’s summary…

botrytis in romanee saint vivantTuesday: is Vinotas day 5.

Yesterday evening I took a tour around the grand crus of the Côte de Nuits. About 70% of the vines have already been harvested, some sections (Leroy I think) of Romanée St.Vivant and Drouhin’s Grands-Echézeaux still stand proud with their fruit. There is much less rot here than I saw in the Côte de Beaune, but it’s still around – see the picture with an affected bunch in the aforementioned RSV. The Clos de Vougeot, in-part because of the protection afforded by its wall is also mainly picked.

Parts of Musigny still bear fruit, but Romanée-Conti and (the same domaine’s) Richbourg look to have been harvested – there are still quite some bunches on the vines however – perhaps we might see a second pass if the weather allows. The grand crus of Gevrey are likewise quite advanced as far the harvesting goes.

The canvassing of candid opinion gleans that many a winemaker is disappointed with the Côte de Beaune reds, they have the required ripeness (fruit and phenol) and acidity but at least from the perspective of the harvesting, triage and the first two or three days in the cuverie, they remind of 2004 with slightly less acidity. Everyone likes the whites. As usual a good domaine will make a good wine – it’s a mixture of triage and technique.

Today is cooler again, yet despite not just the forecasts, but 36 hours of constant, heavy rain just 150km northwest of Beaune – we are an oasis of dryness – sofar! Let’s see what the day’s grapes bring…

monday (it’s a new week…)

perfect grapes
Monday: Never judge a book by its cover!

It’s a few degrees cooler this morning – but dry – just arrived we have grapes from Corton Chaumes, 90 year old vines that have given a low (significantly sub 30hl/ha) yield – the grapes are perfect, as good as anything seen in 2005. In the picture you can see the ‘field-blend’ of chardonnay, pinot noir and at the bottom the lighter pinot beurot (pinot gris). The stems are part lignified, dry and if you chew them there is no astringency. The winemaker gets a flash-back of Saturday’s DRC and decides to go for it – we will include 50% whole clusters. The destemmed grapes are added over the whole clusters and we expect some carbonic maceration to start at the base of the stainless-steel tank and the wine will go from there.

Anyway, if it goes wrong, Nanson will be blamed and will have to buy the barrel 😉

After this perfect material, we wait for grapes from Aloxe. What arrives is from the Aloxe 1er Cru Guérets and from the same owner as for the Corton Chaumes – and it shows! The vines are a little younger – but only a little – around 70 years, and the quality is very close to the Corton; very little rot with well-formed bunches. As can be seen by the speed of the triage table, these gapes are easily the equal of 2005.

julia does pigeageNext up (following choucroute and cake…) we have over 100 cases of pinot from Maranges. The grapes look almost good – we slow the triage table a little vs what we had in the morning – some of our cases have more rot than others but overall everything looks fine and still way, way better than the bourgogne grapes of Sunday. Apparently the winemaker buys all of the production from this plot in Maranges – as he personally feels it is about the best terroir – and despite the lowly appellation, he requests only 5-7 bunches per vine. I think herein we see the result of that decision.

Looking at the Chassagne 1er Vergers that we triaged yesterday; already it is 90% clear, which is hard to believe when you see the yellow/grey opaque material that comes from the press – sulfur dioxide is a wonderful thing! It will now be moved from it’s gross lees into another tank and from there, with its fine lees, direct into the barrels. The taste is already rather good, viscous and with a nice balance – still, this would be rather expensive if drunk as grape juice!

The rain has pretty much stayed away the whole day. We have a few degrees lower – though still T-shirts and shorts for the ‘workers’ – and the humidity is a little lower. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

weekend rain (part 2)…

chassagne 1er vergersSunday:
The title is a little unfair – despite the pessimistic predictions of the forecasters – we have on-and-off rain all day, but never heavy.

About 2:00pm I find myself in Chassagne loading the picked grapes from 1er Cru ‘Vergers’ onto a truck. Optically they are nothing special, about one in five bunches have some rot – perhaps one in twenty are quite bad; The taste on the other hand is excellent as is the balance of sweetness and acidity. A good (quite easy) trie and all will be well here.

5:00pm and we have 150 cases of bourgogne rouge grapes (from Meursault) arrive at the winery; these in places have rot almost to the same magnitude as we had to triage in 2004, though on average I would say better than 04.

Tonight we deserve a dinner so head to Beaune with ‘Vinotas’, whose day 4 report can be found here. Some bottles are consumed with very above average food at Le Gourmandin in Place Carnot.

weekend rain (part 1)…

drc 1er cru
Saturday morning and it’s raining in Beaune – we delay our trip.

Actually we just stay in bed a little longer 🙂

We arrive in Beaune late afternoon and there is no rain – in fact it’s rather warm. In the evening we open lots of bottles and are all humbled (including the winemakers among us) by the understated complexity and alround excellence of domaine de la Romanée Conti’s 2002 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru – and (as you can see above) we compared it to lots of other bottles! I should add the Julia’s cooking also helped a lot – Julia is from Brasil and is here doing a stage.

Safe to say we slept very well; Sunday the first grapes of our trip arrived.

inclement weather & vinotas on tour…

Vinotas Part 3

chance of rainUnfortunately the weather prognosis is not good for the weekend. Those that were planning to harvest during the weekend are currently rethinking their plans due to a forecast of rain for Saturday and Sunday – the heaviest rain for Sunday – but then rain has been forecast several times and none has materialised!

If, for a change, the forecasters are correct, it might bode for a better Côte de Beaune harvest than Côte de Nuits – the saga will unfold…

harvest message from Bernard Vallet

The sun is shining !
After a month of July dry and very hot, August was quite cold and humid. September looks very interesting and will be probably the key of this vintage; the grapes seem protected by good skins , result of the July weather.

We already received the first grapes that we buy every year and really the “table de tri” was not so useful. Concerning our own vineyards it was nice to see absolutely no rot: the grapes are healthy and we start harvest on Monday 25th.

As last years the natural level of sugar looks very good. Acidity is well-balanced and tannins are present ! The “medias” already give notice of an “outstanding vintage in white”: we can confirm with the first musts arrived in our cellar.

Kind regards,
Bernard VALLET
Pierre BOUREE Fils

RIP – Henri Jayer

Not unexpected but anyway very sad news. Allen Meadows words need no addition:

It is with deep regret that I inform the board members that Henri Jayer passed away last night after a long illness. Jayer was renowned and admired the world over for his lush, seductive, well-balanced and impeccably crafted burgundies and was arguably the most famous Burgundian winemaker ever. Just as importantly, he unquestionably has had the greatest impact and influence among today’s generation of Burgundian winemakers. He was a man of strong convictions about how wines should be made but the superb quality of his wines, even in difficult vintages, certainly provided persuasive evidence that his methods worked. And the auction market voted with its pocketbook as well, according Jayer wines enormous valuations, indeed on a consistent par with those of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

I knew Jayer for years and also admired and respected his philosophies, work ethic and ultimately, the results he so consistently achieved. Hanky J, as he was affectionately referred to, will be missed. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and admirers.”

Allen Meadows

bourgogne agenda for october…

Dates for your diary in October:

  • 14 October – “Foulée des Vendanges” Savigny-lès-Beaune. Foot-race through the
    vineyards. +33[0]3 80215121
  • 21-22 October – “Paulée de la Côte Châlonnaise”, Châlon-sur-Saône and Givry (Saône-et-Loire). Harvest-home celebrations. Tel. +33[0]3 85 45 22 99 or [0]3 85 48 37 97.
  • 21-22 October – “Coup d’oeil, coup de coeur”, Auxey-Duresses. Open-cellars event. Tel. +33[0]3 80 21 25 78.
  • 22 October – “Fête des vendanges”, Joigny (Yonne). Harvest festival. Tel. +33[0]3 86 62 11 05.
  • 28 October – “Vinplissime” 1st “Journées Nationales du Vin”. Tel. +33[0]1 56 03 14 31.
  • 28-29 October – “Fête du vin bourru” Nuits-Saint-Georges (Côte-d’Or). Tastings and entertainments. Tel. +33[0]3 80 62 11 17. www.lacabotte.com
  • 28-29 October – 58th “Fête des Vins de Chablis”. Entertainments, and tastings of local wines and produce. Tel. +33[0]3 86 42 42 22.
  • 11-12 November – “Fête des Vins du Grand Auxerrois” , St-Bris-le-Vineux. Saturday: trade. Sunday: general public. Tel. +33[0]3 86 53 66 76.
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