Goodbye Alex…

By billn on October 05, 2022 #sad losses...

Alexandre Brault 2020I’m very sorry to hear that we lost a good wine friend.

Yesterday, Alex Brault left us tragically early.

For a number of years, he was an integral part of Alex Gambal’s (yes, two Alexes!) operation in Beaune. When Gambal decided his time was up in Burgundy, Alex Brault entertained the idea of making a bid but he soon realised that he had no chance when the Boisset company became the prime suitor.

Alex was undaunted and set up his own operation in Meursault – and he was making some lovely wines.

Only a few hours before I got the news, I’d put him on my list of producers I’d like to visit over the next weeks…

He was one of the good guys…

offer of the day – Robert Groffier 2020

By billn on October 05, 2022 #the market

From my usual Swiss merchant. Prices for Groffier’s 2019s, 2018s, 2017s, 2016s and 2015s in the brackets, — indicates not offered…

Domaine Robert Groffier 2020
Gevrey-Chambertin Les Seuvrées 75cl 119.00 (115.00, 95.00, 89.00, 89.00, 79.00) *Swiss Francs
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Hauts Doix 75cl 209.00 (209.00, 205.00, 169.00, 159.00, 146.00)
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers 75cl 229.00 (229.00, 205.00, 199.00, 179.00, 158.00)
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 75cl —, (590.00, 399.00, 399.00, 349,00)
Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 75cl —, (590.00, 399.00, 399.00, 349.00)

When you don’t see the price of the last two, you almost have the impression that the wines are cheap 🙂
*As usual, these are delivered prices but without the Swiss purchase tax of 7.7%

offer of the day – Domaine Leflaive 2021…

By billn on October 02, 2022 #the market

As always, from the same Swiss supplier each year. Priced in Swiss Francs (chf)
Image (right) courtesy Domaine Leflaive:

DOMAINE LEFLAIVE 2021 – Puligny-Montrachet
In brackets are the prices for 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 & 2015 – though most of the 2018 prices are missing (—), sorry …

Bourgogne 75cl 74.00 (69.00, 55.00, 49.00, 45.00, 42.00, 38.00)*
Puligny-Montrachet 75cl 129.00 (119.00, 99.00, —, 89.00, 82.00, 69.00)

Puligny-Montrachet Les Clavoillons 75cl 195.00 (185.00, 148.00, 139.00, 128.00, 118.00, 89.00)
Meursault Sous Le Dos d’Âne 75cl 195.00 (185.00, 148.00, —, 128.00, 118.00, 99.00)
Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 75cl — (—, —, —, 198.00, 185.00, 145.00)
Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes 75cl — (—, —, —, 198.00, 185.00, 185.00)
Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles 75cl 475.00 (385.00, 299.00, —, 259.00, 245.00, 195.00)

Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet 75cl 895.00 (—, 595.00, —, 498.00, 459.00, 325.00)
Bâtard-Montrachet 75cl 1,040.00 (890.00, 648.00, —, 565.00, 498.00, 348.00)
Chevalier-Montrachet 75cl 1,350.00 (1,190.00, 840.00, —, 695.00, 685.00, 445.00)

*As always the Swiss purchase tax (7.7%) is not included but otherwise, these are delivered prices.

Well, not only do they have an expensive new cuverie to pay for, they also have only a tiny, tiny volume of 2021s to sell!

a nice little earner…

By billn on September 30, 2022 #the market

Bouchard Père Le MontrachetWell, it’s been quite some time that a big pile of money has been looking for a new home!

Last week at the press conference of the Hospices de Beaune, a fellow ‘writer’ asked me if I’d heard about a billion euro transaction to buy Louis Jadot and then they jinked and said ‘or maybe Bouchard Père!‘ – Well, what could I do with that?

Then came this yesterday – no links, no other information, and at least as far as Google was concerned, nothing to corroborate. So, still nothing that I was going to go out on a limb to publish. But today, Bourgogne Aujourd’hui and Wine Spectator had the press release:

“François Pinault’s Artémis Domaines—the owner of Bordeaux’s Château Latour, Burgundy’s Clos de Tart and Napa’s Domaine Eisele Vineyard—is buying a majority stake in Maisons & Domaines Henriot, which owns Bouchard Père & Fils in Burgundy, William Fèvre in Chablis, Maison Henriot in Champagne and Beaux Frères in Oregon. The Henriot family will become minority shareholders in the combined company.”

The amount of money involved in this transaction has not been disclosed but the magic billion is on many peoples’ lips.

But let’s turn the clock back to 1995 when the Henriot family from Champagne bought Bouchard Père for an estimated, at the time, $50 million. This was a time when Bouchard was in the doldrums – both the company and their wines – losing money despite having 90 hectares of their own vines – today it’s more like 130 hectares – oh and not to forget their cellar of more than 6 million bottles came with the sale. Three years later, Henriot added Domaine William Fevre in Chablis to their family of wineries. Since the purchase of William Fevre, a whole generation of wine-writers have seen Fevre and Bouchard as domaines joined at the hip.

And the nice little earner?

With a little under 0.9 of a hectare, Bouchard Père is the third largest owner of Montrachet. In the current climate of (Burgundy) vineyard valuations, those vines alone have, possibly, a value of 150-200 million Euros. With that context, a billion Euros might just seem a little cheap don’t you think? I think you can safely expect that the price of (their) Beaune will be on the up!

As an (obvious) addendum to the Artemis/Henriot announcement, on this same day, came the announcement that the previous head of Bouchard Père – Thomas Seiter – was taking on the position of President at Louis Jadot in Beaune, replacing (the retiring) Pierre-Henry Gagey, whose son, Thibault Gagey, will be taking on the role of Jadot’s ‘Directeur-Générale.’

The Domaine Viticole of the Hospices de Beaune in 2022 – Organic wine and their 162nd Auction

By billn on September 23, 2022 #vintage 2022

Hotel Dieu - the new and the old...
Hotel Dieu – the new and the old – ‘influencer’ Margot Ducancel in pink!

It’s that time of year again and the latest wine auction of the Hospices de Beaune will soon be upon us – the 162nd such auction.

On Tuesday 20th September the team of the Hospices made a short press conference (in the Hotel Dieu) to discuss not just the upcoming auction but also from Ludivine Griveau came information on their 2022 harvest and the domaine’s move to organic certification.

In the presence of Alain Suguenot, the mayor of Beaune, François Poher, Directeur & Président of the Hospices Civils de Beaune began the meeting by pointing out that because of the Domaine Viticole of the Hospice de Beaune, Beaune was one of the only hospitals in France that accept no government money for their investments. Additionally “Commerce is important and there is much discussion of the price appreciation of burgundy wine but here, at least, that money has a cause and is used – there is also the link to our movement towards organic viticulture because the health of the people in the vines, around the vines and the general public who drink wine – with moderation – is, for us, paramount.

And so to the comments of winemaker and head of the Domaine, Ludivine Griveau:

First on Organic Certification
This year was the second year of our journey to organic certification. We want to convert the whole domaine – and that’s a tremendously large project of 60 hectares. You might ask, ‘Why not before?’ My answer is that I wasn’t ready! We needed to observe, we needed to fully understand the methods that we would be employing, to have the unity of purpose in our teams, and to adapt our vines for the change to come. But organic or not, our aim continues to be to reduce the dose of treatments. Organic isn’t perfect, we still need to use, for instance, copper, but our objective is to have grapes that have been produced from organic viticulture and we then sell those baby organic wines to the negociants at the auction…

Second on the 2022 vintage at the Hospices
It wasn’t a harsh winter but it was one with ‘correct’ rainfall. Frost brought many worries in April but didn’t affect us too badly. The growth in the vines got underway quite early, indeed the growth became quite explosive before super conditions for flowering. We had only ‘moderate intensity’ from the usual maladies and the vines resisted the dry weather well. The volume was generous as are many vintages that follow a frosty year – like 2021. Growth remained clean and early though the veraison wasn’t particularly fast. In August we checked over 120 parcels for the levels of maturity before starting our harvest in Pouilly-Fuissé on the 25th of August. We waited until the 29th to cut our first grapes in the Côte d’Or. I see nice density but not too much alcohol for the whites. Our 46 tanks of reds were full! There were only 16 tanks of reds in 2021!*
*The smallest number of auction lots since 1977!

So, it seems that at this stage the team are very happy with both the quality and the quantity of wines for 2022. Given the quantity, even if the prices soften a little, it looks like the turnover of the sale will be heading for a record in 2022.

We had a question and answer session after the comments of Ludivine where, unfortunately, both Alain Suguenot and François Poher left the stage – I had a question but it was more for those two gentlemen than Ludivine – so I simply write it below to ‘leave it on the table…’

And my question:
The contacts are both deep and old between the domaine viticole of the Hospices de Beaune and the domaine viticole of the Hospices de Nuits. Do the panel think that, in the future, a single auction would be a more beneficial approach?

This question was prompted by my, long-held, impression the auction of the wines of Nuits has been the ‘smaller brother’ of the same in Beaune and that it, particularly, would be likely to financially benefit.

Thursday September 8 – my last Burgundy harvest day – number 9

By billn on September 14, 2022 #vintage 2022

Our domaine’s last day.

For us, this was the end of the annual harvest that underpins the livelihoods of so much of the region – not just the winemakers but also the ancillary suppliers that support this industry – barrels, tanks, bottles, plumbers and electricians, etcetera…

Generalising about the grapes of 2022:

2022 Savigny Les VergelessesSpeaking of the home domaine in Beaune – though more generally too – in terms of timing we were neither early nor late – today, even 1 week later, there are those who are still active in the vines – today, Wednesday 14th, at least, given the heavy rain in the Côte de Nuits, they might be questioning their later timing.

Instead of the 1-week head start that chardonnay harvesting commonly has over the pinots, the two colours were ripe at roughly similar times this year. Geography has been evident this year with harvesting starting first in the south – Beaujolais – and harvesting is still not finished in the north – Chablis.

2022 is another vintage of ripeness and, so long that they were not compromised by hail, very good quality grapes. The grapes were far from the smallest we’ve seen in recent years but their concentration remains unquestioned. Reds and whites usually lie between 13-14° of potential alcohol i.e. higher than in 2021 and more consistent between colours than in either of 2019 or 2020. We see decent enough acidity in terms of pHs – 3.15-3.35 for the whites and more like 3.6 for many reds – though with extended maceration the acid intensity of the smaller red grapes is slowly coming through, so perhaps nearer to 3.5 will be more common when it’s time to empty the tanks. The quantity, ripeness and easy extraction of the colour and tannins for the reds have been obvious.

As for fauna on the triage table – ladybirds have been only rare visitors, stink bugs and spiders were the most common (as in most years) and in the first few days we saw lots of earwigs but these latter insects became less common as our harvest progressed.

Oh, and there is the quantity! The worries over April frosts are now long forgotten. I previously noted that this is the hot vintage with the most rain in the last years and this has led to gains in volume. Domaines that debudded less assiduously this year after consistently low volumes since 2018 will have been flirting with over-production in 2022 – or perhaps having to decide what to do with their over-production!

There are always differences in timings brought about by viticulture or ripeness preferences – or both – but here lies the middle ground.

Back to our last day:

Grapes from Beaune’s Montée Rouge and Pommard’s Les Vaumuriens brought joy to our triage table. Our north-facing Montée Rouge was one of the rare vineyards where we needed to remove some unripe grape clusters but was otherwise clean and healthy. The Pommard, despite its altitude, had no such issues. There are vintages when the Pommard is only ready after the main group of pickers has disbanded but this year it slotted perfectly into our programme.

So, a perfect finish to our 2022 triage? Not quite, we finished with 2 more bins of the Bourgogne Rouge – triage-table reset to the slowest tempo and a minimum of 6 pairs of hands removing the dried grains as cheering pickers skipped through the cuverie – the pickers keeping our enthusiasm from waning!

Thank you 2022 and my wishes are with Marko who usually provides us with an alternative harvest commentary. At the last moment, he had to cancel his trip to the Côtes for harvesting. I hope he’s well…

Wednesday September 7 – my Burgundy harvest day number 8

By billn on September 10, 2022 #degustation#vintage 2022

Oof! This was a day to remember – or better still, forget!

Today we almost exclusively triaged ‘Bourgogne.’ Both our colours of Bourgogne (Bourgogne Côte d’Or) come from the same sector as our Chorey-Blanc that had been affected by hail – only here was a little worse.

Our first two bins of Bourgogne Blanc took one hour to triage – and that was only about 500kg of grapes. At the base, we had great grapes but we had to spend a lot of time removing anything that may contribute ‘off-tastes to the must after pressing – this was effectively all the dried grapes and any with hail impacts. Both rot and oïdium were thankfully rare. What wasn’t rare were the dried berries – not the raisined style of some recent vintages but rather the tiny berries that didn’t develop and went brown and dried. Normally these fall by the wayside on the vibrating table – but not these – boy did they take some removing!

The whole morning was devoted to the white and then a little of the afternoon too. Finally a change of scene – Bourgogne Côte d’Or Rouge – again from the same sector. I can say that triage was slightly easier than for the white but like for the white, the triage table was moving at the slowest possible pace and was replete with 6 pairs of hands with secateurs.

Two days later, checking on the musts – red and white – I can happily report that everything tasted clean – no off-tastes from dried material…


Of course, lunch brought some respite. We made a toast to Louis-Fabrice Latour with a 2013 1er from Maison Latour followed by a 1996 Corton:

2013 Louis Latour, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Sous Les Puits
Cork, not DIAM. The colour is just a little darker than I’d like. Aromatically there’s a little too much development here for the age but with generous, slightly structural flavours. Not a wine that would win any prizes but that’s not why it was on the table – adieu Louis-Fabrice.

1996 Ardhuy, Corton-Renardes
Browner colour. The nose that is far from foxy – round, with fresh energy – plenty of cooking spices and sous bois – but nicely clean and gradually offering some floral perfume – really engaging! Fresh as any 1996 should be but never sharp. Energy and clean flavours like the nose – I think we were all a little surprised how very, very good this wine was!
Rebuy – Yes

Tuesday September 6 – my Burgundy harvest day number 7

By billn on September 09, 2022 #degustation#vintage 2022

Louis-Fabrice Latour & Jean-Charles ThomasMixed emotions on the Tuesday morning; our first bins of Corton-Charlemagne arrived about 08h00 and the grapes were resplendent – not too much to triage here!

It was only about an hour later that we heard of the death, in the night, of Louis-Fabrice Latour – almost a youngster at 58 and with 4 kids too. Louis-Fabrice (right with his winemaker Jean-Charles Thomas) had withdrawn from some of his more public rôles about a year ago and had lost a large amount of weight in the last months – but even when anticipated, it’s still a shock. I remember someone who was open and friendly and if he ever came across me tasting, it was like he had all the time in the world for me – it was a skill /personality trait he had with everyone. He was the 11th generation of the family to run Maison Latour and will leave a big hole in that organisation…

Corton-Charlemagne done – and not removing the appreciable amount of pinot gris that is co-planted in these old vines – we then had some Beaune ‘Renault’ – or more correctly Les Bons Feuvres. This is villages level Beaune that everyone asks – ‘where is it?‘ and that’s easy, it’s next to the Renault garage as you head south from Beaune towards Pommard! Good stuff, properly ripe and, again, with not too much to triage.

Lunch brought a couple of wines; both red:

2019 Quentin & Vincent Joussier, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise
Lots of colour and lots of energy – both aromatically and from a flavour perspective. I must say a very tasty and almost juicy wine.
Rebuy – Yes

1993 Comtes Lafon, Volnay 1er Santenots du Milieu
A rare older wine this week where the cork didn’t break into two – in fact ot looked young and left the neck of the bottle with a loud pop too!
Aromatically clean and slightly floral too, though a nose with a modest structural impression. It was the same in the flavours; clean, young even though structurally, not a wine that I’d describe as elegant. Very good – maybe even wait another couple of years…
Rebuy – Maybe

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