Why Big Red Diary?

home domaine harvest day 1 – 22-sept-2016

 Not really representative, but good to see how great some gamay fruit can be…

The home team’s first grapes of this 2016 vintage arrived in the dark close to 9pm yesterday evening – all the way from Morgon – so a good 1 and a half hour’s drive away. They overnighted in the refrigerated truck in our courtyard.

It was fresh this morning – blue sky, but clearly a little less than 10°C – and now we could see our grapes. At least in the cases the fruit looked good to very good, and almost indistinguishable from pinot – it would be interesting to see how it looked once it started to cross the triage table – see video below:

  • Gamay processing – the Beaune way 🙂

The fruit needed a little triage work – really just the usual stuff of removing dried berries, some under-ripe bunches and a little rot, but the cases contained no fauna (I smelled but didn’t see 3 or 4 stink-bugs) just rather attractive bunches of grapes. I have to say, the taste of raisined gamay grapes – the stuff we throw away – is really fine, and much tastier than the same from pinot! The first seven pallets of fruit, triaged today, were all destemmed. We have more Morgon being picked today that will again arrive in the evening – this we will probably leave as whole-clusters – but let’s see how it looks tomorrow. I took note today that there was really plenty of sugar in these grapes, as we stuck to the triage table like glue – maybe not so much as 2015 or 2005, but still plenty more than most vintages – let’s see if that’s also reflected in the pinots to come.

From other domaines I heard that both Benjamin Leroux and François Mikulski harvested their Meursault 1er Genevrières today – and both very happy with yields of about 35 hl/ha. The hillside here offering a good return in 2016 – unlike the villages and bourgognes in the flat of Meursault, most of which was sacrificed to the frost at the end of April…

The home team also went out to inspect the vines in Marsannay and Santenay this afternoon – ‘walls of fruit‘ was their summary. These two villages avoided the frost in April, which started to exert itself from Chassagne and northwards. There should be some good stuff on the way from this corner of the Côte d’Or, and with a proper rendement (yield) too.

ladies of beaujolais…


Honestly, I dislike positive/negative profiling, so ‘women wine-makers‘ at least as a concept, grouping or genre has always seemed odd to me, because the job-title wine-maker is in itself sexless. I’ll give you that from a historical perspective, women winemakers are clearly in the minority – yet that is also ‘so last century…

That said, I’ll still take these infos on-board if it brings useful new names; Claude-Emmanuelle and Mee I’ve already visited – so now I’ll have to look out for Sonja, even if I already know the (brilliant) wines!

19 years of bio in the clos du château des ducs…

  • The Lafarge method of hand destemming:

This morning Domaine Lafarge – that’s Michel (‘Lafarge Senior’ who made his first harvest in 1950) Frederic (whose first harvest was in 1979), Frederic’s wife Chantal Lafarge and their daughter Clothilde – harvested the grapes of their Volnay 1er Cru and monopole Clos du Château des Ducs.

It wasn’t just their normal harvest – that will happen over the next days, but today they decided to harvest these particular grapes in front of plenty of visitors, with the help of a horse, celebrating their 19th vintage as biodynamic producers. Here was also a fascinating chance to see their hand-destemming of the grapes (above). Michel said his grandfather had done it exactly the same way; ‘so not with whole clustrers?’ was the obvious question – “Well, you have to understand that they rarely got the same ripeness that we have today…” was his response.

Why celebrating their 19th vintage? “Well” Frederic says, “It wasn’t really the best start to any vintage, but it has finished well, we simply couldn’t have had better grapes than we see in the Clos this year, and the yields are correct. We decided that this was something to celebrate” That was reinforced my Michel “The grapes are not ‘almost perfect’ they really are perfect – as you can see and taste – but then it’s the Clos du Château des Ducs!” he said with a shrug. This monopole, shielded by its walls plus the houses of the village (above) did escape the frost, but the Lafarge’s have no magic wand, so it’s a different story in their villages vines on the flat of the land, and also some of their Volnay 1ers, such as Caillerets, lost much of their production. But here, today, was something to be very proud of.

As an aside I asked Frederic where he’d hidden the normal residents of this clos – his chickens: “Ah, they are on holiday” – the beach? I asked “Almost! Auxey-Duresses! You know that each year we have to give them a holiday from the clos, because as soon as the grapes start to change colour, they start to make their own harvest!

And whilst I had Frederic to hand, I asked about his harvest in Beaujolais: “Oh, I think it looks very promising. We started yesterday with our Côte de Brouilly, but we haven’t yet decided what grapes to do next!

Many of the great and the good of Volnay came to stand by the Lafarge’s side today, including Francois Duvivier and Guillaume d’Angerville of Domaine Marquis d’Angerville – and Guillaume swept past me so fast on his bicycle in Volnay that I had no chance to raise my camera! – Patrick Landanger and Francois Bitouzet too. d’Angerville will start their vintage tomorrow in Fremiets (and others), whereas Bitouzet-Prieur harvested all of their Taillepieds this morning.

I suspect these bottles of 2016 Clos du Château des Ducs will be perfect mementos, the treasures of a difficult vintage…

a tour de beaujolais – plus…

Today I took a day-tour through Beaujolais with a little Saint-Veran and Pouilly-Fuissé tagged on for good measure.


It started with blue sky and sunshine in Beaune, if only 14°C. Beaujolais, however, was cloudy with a temperature too warm for a pullover, but borderline too cold without – tsk…

I started my Tour de Beaujolais in Brouilly, looking in on the early grapes cut by Château Thivin. It’s nice to see (eventually!) plenty of grapes on the vines – just don’t mention that to those that were hailed around Morgon/Fleurie/Moulin-à-Vent! On the hillside in the Côte de Brouilly I took some images of the goblet vines with their ‘hair up’ – ie with the growth from the arms all tied together above the vine, sometimes using a wooden post in the middle for support.

I then drove on to Regnie (or Regnié or even Régnié depending on what signs you see) before Villé-Morgon for lunch. Next a tour through Chiroubles before returning to Morgon-Bellevue to see the first grapes being triaged at Château de Bellevue – in this case Moulin-à-Vent for the Hospices de Moulin-à-Vent cuvée. The quality looked pretty good – triage was more cursory than in Beaune – but to my eyes the grapes looked very good – just a little rot to be pulled out. The first part of this tank (the bottom of the tank) was getting whole clusters and then afterwards it was going to get some destemmed grapes on top – here was also the tallest ‘giraffe’ I’ve seen! I’ll try to post some short videos of this – try! EDIT: Okay, 3 days later:

  • Gamay processing and a big giraffe:

Then onwards through Fleurie and onto Moulin-à-Vent / Romaneche-Thorins. Whilst checking out some of Jadot’s vines here near the windmill I saw a slow-moving tractor with cases of grapes – Labruyère was stamped on the cases – I decided to follow! Edouard Labruyère was at home and showed me the grapes: “We have about 14 hectares and we lost about 4 of them to the hail – we have three parcels which we won’t even bother trying to harvest – but if I can ever use the word ‘good’ in connection with hail, at least this hail came at a good time, i.e. early in the grape maturing phase!

“Today is our first day of harvesting and we’ve done the hailed vines first, and apart from a little rot, they look good – though I’ll be destemming this, as you can see the hail marks on the stems. Over the whole harvest we will probably destem about half of the harvest. We’re going to take our time harvesting, probably doing about 1-1.5 hectares per day – we should be done in 8 days or-so.”

So, a little hailed grapes to control – but not everywhere – still a little rot to triage as the mildew pressure was as bad here as anywhere in May/June – but the dryness then took over. There’s actually been less rain here than in the Côte d’Or – only 18mm in the last week – they might have liked a little more. It’s very early days, as this is the first day harvesting for some, many others have not yet begun. It was the same story as I traveled through Saint-Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé – I saw only 1 team in some distant vines, all the other grapes seemingly still on the vines – some of these tasted ready, others still a little acid-forward.

the first cut in beaune?

more sour grapes

Or, more correctly, more on Sour Grapes.


a little pommard…

Today I took my ‘B’ camera in hand for a jog around the vines – Pommard was my choice. Hardly a soul in the vines – certainly no pickers. The weather was cloudy but warm enough and with a little breeze too – drying, I hope. The first flashes of sun showed themselves about 5pm…

harvesting: exactly how much mud can you get on your boots?

dsc01052The last days of the last week delivered a lot of rain for some – but the growers say not too much – but further north it waned. Maranges and Santenay had approaching 50mm, in Meursault it was closer to 30mm and by the time the weather-front reached Beaune there was a deposit of only 15mm. The Côte de Nuits saw much less. It was enough to dissuade almost everyone from entering the vines with their secateurs, though I did find the team from Domaine Boisson-Vadot (Meursault), on Saturday afternoon, in some of their Meursault villages – mud clinging tightly to their boots! For this parcel they estimated at least 60% was lost to the frost. Mud or not, the grapes tasted great!

Sunday, which a few days earlier was forecast to be dry was clearly a washout – heavy rain starting before first light (now about 07h15) – and continuing to about 6pm. All is now dry and the forecast suggests sun and a modest 20-22°C at least until next weekend. Look out for many starting their whites on Monday – or Tuesday with less mud! – and the reds starting to commence from about Wednesday onward.

For my home team, anticipating the lack of grapes and the (quite probably) ridiculous price that they will fetch, we will commence on Wednesday – but with 7 tonnes of Morgon!

Let’s see how that goes 🙂

offer of the day – camus?

camusI know I harp on about this from time to time, but Camus get the bad press that they deserve with regard to the average quality of their wines, but it is very easy to lose a certain perspective.

Look at the offer I have this weekend from a Swiss merchant (in swiss francs). Now let’s be honest, this is never going to be the best Chambertin, but note the price. You cannot buy a current vintage Chambertin for under €200, indeed the price here is more in the order of a current vintage Chambolle/Vosne/Gevrey/Morey – but a villages wine, not even a 1er cru!*

I haven’t tasted this 2010 for a long time, but let me be clear, this will be a significantly better wine than any villages that you choose to compare it with. I’m drinking some bottles of the ’98 at home every now and then – bought similarly to this offer – and they never cease to please and easily show a grand cru character – even if not a very top grand cru like they should.

So, do you want to drink the best wine you can for your money, or would you rather, for example, drink a proper villages Chambolle? As ever, the choice is really yours 🙂

*There’s 8% Swiss VAT to add to this price – which still means it’s a giveaway…

rain and rainbows…


Yesterday evening about 10pm we were treated to lots and lots of lightening, and occasionally heavy, but essentially modest, rain.

Today, it’s been dark for most of the day, with a little rain here and there too. Just now, however, Beaune erupted with thunder, rain and even a little sunshine and rainbows – pretty, if short-lived – still, it’s nicer in than out 🙂

a beaujolais harvest update

dsc00811Translated from today’s news email from Inter Beaujolais.

The progresses of the grape maturity in Beaujolais (16,000 hectares between Lyon and Mâcon):

The first secateurs will be used in anger at the end of this week – for the earliest maturing areas.

In terms of climate, the ideal conditions of recent weeks, with hot temperatures and dry weather, has allowed the grape maturatity to progress while maintaining good sanitary conditions. Note, the high amount of sunshine in July and August (more than 100 hours) and approaching records in August, with 20 days of full sun versus an average of 10 days.

The volume (and outside the areas damaged by hail in the spring, which was about 2,200 hectares affected by 50% or more), the harvest should be above the average of the last 5 year’s yields – a more classic harvest of between 700 and 800,000 hectolitres. The weight of the berries is below average, but the average cluster size is quite larger this year – despite the plot-to-plot variablity.

The rains of last night and those announced for the weekend will be beneficial after several very hot, dry weeks. The weather forecast for next week suggests normal seasonal temperatures and sunshine, which should help the vines to achieve their maturity ‘serenely.’ The winemakers whose plots are in the later maturing should also benefit from these weather forecasts.

grappl’in with savigny blanc


Earlier this year I compared the 2011 and 2012 of this villages white: The 11 was open, soft and simply very, very tasty. The 12 was a little more angular and phenolic – impressive but not yet really tasty – things can change quickly, though.

Here we are at the end of our summer and virtually all the angles of this wine have now been carefully chamfered. It’s very tasty now, with a trailing, sweetly acid-led flavour. Actually, it’s delicious…

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