The swiss sale of La Romanée back to the 1862 vintage…

By billn on April 16, 2021 #events

For the safety of their international customers, Baghera/wines has chosen to organise a dynamic online sale, auctioning the 332 lots in live-streaming from “Club 1865 by Baghera” and on the Baghera/wines website.

la romanee memories
Image and video from Baghera

I’d planned to attend Sunday’s auction but there you go – it won’t be possible – one day later and such gatherings would be allowed in Switzerland. I note that you had to register your details at least 72 hours ahead of time if you want to bid online – it seems that’s already too late for you now, if not already done.

It’s still possible to follow the sale, live online if you are interested though. Maybe I may glance at my laptop whilst otherwise watching Max Verstappen and Louis Hamilton and co on Sunday – as I won’t now be going to Geneva…

another nice wine this week – 2013 Bienvenues

By billn on April 15, 2021 #degustation

2013 Olivier Leflaive Bienvenues

This week we celebrated a birthday in a nice Swiss hotel, so for pre-dinner, I brought a bottle of my own. Bought direct from OL on release. This wine has spent quite a long time in a refrigerator as the apartment gets too hot in the Beaune summers – perhaps why it showed so young – but sealed with a DIAM10, there were, of course, no problems…

2013 Olivier Leflaive, Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet
Hardly a medium-yellow colour – very young looking. Such a forward and impressive nose – still plenty of oak showing in these youthful aromas – I could have easily guessed 2017 from the colour and freshness of aroma – it turns out not just the aroma! To start with I’m really impressed by the acidity – tinged with a rasp of salinity – then it’s the mineral-laden finish that just goes on and on. The fruit is obviously of ripe yellow citrus but richly packaged and with oak references too – but never overtly of spice, cream or vanilla – or anything else so gauche. The acidity is the key to balancing the richness and concentration of this wine – and it’s completely delicious in a very young style – the finish is wide and haunting. Layered gorgeousness here as opposed to the layered rigour of my last hyphen-Montrachet (my last post). A simply great and still baby 2013, bravo – I knew that there was a reason for buying some!
Rebuy – Yes

drinking to excess…

By billn on April 14, 2021 #degustation

drinking to excess(?)

Excess, in this case, not necessarily volume-related…

I’d planned to post on this modest line-up of bottles early last week – but the frost-related events of the week made me reconsider my timing – despite bottles such as these being the marketing livelihood of the region – or at least the central part of the Burgundy region.

Whilst it’s no surprise that we began with the white, I’m more often inclined to drink great Montrachets/hyphen-Montrachets at the end of a tasting – the reason? There’s extra glycerol and a mouth-coating nature that can dull the reds that follow – any level of red and it can last for quite a time too – up to half-an-hour – but anyway:

2005 Leflaive, Chevalier-Montrachet
It’s hard to believe, but in the great scheme of things these bottles were relatively inexpensive – certainly versus their retail price today. A wine that was impressive young, and then impressively impossible to drink when 5-6-years-old. What would today hold?
A deeper yellow colour but no overt oxidation – not aromatically either. The nose was powerful and mineral, practically a salinity hovering above the depth of ripe but still fresh fruit, an accent of creaminess suggesting a little age. In the mouth a blend of muscle and richness – the almost brutal structural minerality that I remember from my last bottle, fortunately, now only that – a memory. This wine opened wider and wider with aeration – no mean feat from a great start. I’m so happy that I retained a modicum of patience with this wine. Incisive, powerful, complex and with just enough of the minerality of this place that you might even have a chance of guessing (blind!) where it came from. Over 3 hours a wine that never waned but I would still say super-impressive rather than delicious…
Rebuy – Maybe at the old price

2007 Comte Liger-Belair, La Romanée
My last bottle of this vintage – the first drunk during our Paulée meal at the end of the 2011 vintage in Beaune. Probably the vintage of this wine that I have drunk the most – so often was it served by Louis-Michel Liger-Belair in the first 15+ years of his tenure.
A little aeration is required but here’s a nose that adds more and more weight – there’s a complex foral and spice mix that overlays the fruit – one might say a typical very great Vosne – particularly as there’s plenty of evidence of sous-bois/dried leaves to this wine now. Mouth-filling – but with a roundness too – no space is spared in the mouth. The flavour sweeps you towards the finish, finely textured but then widens over the palate in the finish like only a great wine can – so impressively spiced here – a great, great finish. Not the best vintage but a wine that would transcend its neck-label – if it wore one!
Rebuy – Yes at the old price!

2001 Romanée-Conti, Romanée St.Vivant
My only bottle of this. A wine of great, great repute when young, so I decided 20 years should be enough time to check on that!
The colour here is not much ‘older’ looking than that of La Romanée. What a nose; stems, spice, redcurrant purity, florals – I am very impressed – a notch more impressive than the 2007, though it’s also had more maturation time – just a brilliant perfume. Textural sweetness, starting in such a seductive way – it’s the combination of texture and balance that does it. The flavour clearly delivering delineated layer after delineated layer of deliciousness, not just fruit and spice but a suggestion of coffee-complexity too. In the end, I think I chose the correct order for the reds – it didn’t seem much of a step up to the RSV from the La Romanée but going in the other direction showed a smaller wine in the mouth – albeit, only modestly smaller – the clarity of middle-flavour of the RSV took it in this case though. A shame I didn’t have the chance to compare the same vintages.
Rebuy – would love to!

weekend 14 2021, some wines…

By billn on April 13, 2021 #degustation

weekend 14 , a few wines...

Yes, mainly Chablis but with no regrets, just utter enjoyment from all this weekend:

2019 L&C Poitout, Petit Chablis
A vertical nose – high and low tones but not so wide – there’s a floral freshness here. In the mouth the width that was missing on the nose abounds in the mouth; volume, complexity and an engaging purity- more important delicious drinkability – bravo.
Rebuy – Yes

2016 Laurent Tribut, Chablis
Not a strong colour. The nose – ooh, here is a perfumed wine. In the mouth, we have lots of concentration and an oily silkiness to the texture. A sweetness, an unctuous nature that isn’t hyper-energetic but then it doesn’t need to be – just so moreish – it’s literally begging me to take another sip. This is the character of the best 2016s and I absolutely adore it. Bravo.
Rebuy – I would love to!

2019 Cyril Gautheron, Chablis 1er Montmains Vieilles-Vignes
80 year-old-vines near Forêts
A beautiful nose, modest intensity but with a clarity of agrume/complex citrus fruit here. Open, easy over the palate but beautifully composed, open and nicely energetic, fringed with a proper Chablis salinity. Now that’s why I bought a case!
Rebuy – Yes

2019 Château de Rougeon, Fleurie Poncié
The first vintage for this wine – no prizes for guessing from a parcel in Poncié, in this case previously worked by the Chateau Poncié.
There’s plenty of colour. A nose of graphite depth and energetic width – that’s a fine if not so floral welcome. There’s depth to this wine, the graphite minerality of the nose and a layered delivery of ripe, dark fruit – not cliché Fleurie – but then these vines are up higher than much of Fleurie and sit close to Moulin à Vent. My first impression is of a sweeping, more mineral style to this wine but with aeration, it grows more depth and texture – just like a great Fleurie but with a slightly different flavour profile. It’s simply excellent, delicious, wine.
Rebuy – Yes

Additionally, there was a blanc de blanc crémant from Armand Heitz in Chassagne-Montrachet – yellow colour in a clear bottle – the cuvée name was Marcelle Lochardet – it was pure, fresh and delicious – zero dosage but nothing hard or sharp – not the typical mirabelle aromas of crémant – you could easily think it was a good Champagne – simply an excellent wine…

weekend walks…

By billn on April 12, 2021 #asides

To lighten the mood after last week’s frost – it’s also snowing at home this morning(!) – a few images of two weekend walks. The first in Thun, Switzerland:

And then a nice circular walk from Sunday from Schloss Wyl taking in the Ballenbühl viewpoint of the Berner Alps:

basking in the sun as if nothing had happened… the 2021 frost…

By billn on April 08, 2021 #vintage 2021

Late yesterday afternoon, before driving back to Beaune, I took a jog through the Petit Chablis above Les Clos, tracing the route to Fontenay, then the road back to, and through, the grand crus to my car. The lizards were out, basking in the sun as if nothing had happened…

Actually, just before I started my run and was changing at the back of my car, a traditional white van of the vineyards drove past and its driver looked to see who on earth would be wearing shorts – in my defence it was sunny and the temperature was back up to 15°C! Bemusement turned to recognition, so he reversed, parked and we had a short chat. It was Vincent Dauvissat. He was wearing the look of someone who’d had almost no sleep in the last 48 hours – and of course, he probably hadn’t – all red-eyed and tired. I offered my condolences about the weather and we chatted – I suggested that it was looking like 2016 all over again – Vincent shook his head and said “Oh no, I think it’s much worse than that…

We should consider that the frosts of 2016 were not forecast – at least, not in the Côte d’Or. This week’s frosts have been signposted for the best part of two weeks so there was ample time for preparation but nature can be harsh and farming is not all straw hats, suntans and sitting on tractors. But let’s start at the beginning – at least my beginning…

Frost fighting - Aloxe-Corton
The view towards Aloxe-Corton, early 06 April 2021

Tuesday and Wednesday were Chablis days for me, staying overnight. Of course, like everyone, I’d seen the weather forecast – on Monday, I’d already returned a whole bunch of garden plants back to my garage for protection! I was anticipating the water-sprays in the vineyards of Chablis so planned an early start to Tuesday, aiming to arrive before daylight. Duly underway from Beaune at 5am and just before the autoroute, I saw the candles burning on the hill of Corton – so I decided to make an early detour.

There were some candles burning on the east-facing side of the hill but most were south-facing coming out of the village of Aloxe and in the Corton-Charlemagne heading towards Pernand. I was a little surprised that there were so many candles as all was dry and the temperature seemed a steady 0°C – perhaps there were some cooler pockets of air, but not by much. This seemed a more prophylactic approach than a ‘saving the vines’ approach – but I’m sure it was good training for the nights that followed! From the autoroute I did note a parcel with (lit) candles that was high up in Savigny – I have to assume a white 1er cru. Anyway – off to Chablis and my first stop, candle-smoked Les Clos:

The road to Chablis slowly cooled from 0°C in Beaune to -4.5°C along the way. Because of my detour in and around Corton, it was already becoming light when I arrived in Chablis, where I was ‘greeted‘ by the sight and smell of many candles. At the foot of the Chablis Les Clos grand cru we had -4°C – ouch – and of course, it was likely that pockets of colder air in other valleys existed! Whilst it had been dry in Beaune, it had rained in Chablis – just a couple of mm on Monday evening – but that was going to make life much more difficult here. The candles were mainly towards the bottom of the hills – as would be seen for a classic Spring frost where the coolest air collects at the bottom of hills and in depressions but as a vigneron later that morning told me, ‘No, it was a proper winter frost – a black frost – as low as minus 6 in some places – so it’s not just the bottom of the slopes – it will be small vintage in 2021…

It felt voyeuristic but I couldn’t avoid taking photos and videos – there’s something mesmeric about the water-sprays as the ice builds. The vignerons had already started their aspersion (the water sprays) at 23h30 on Monday night, the candles were lit between 1 and 2 am. Economically and humanly it’s not possible to protect everything. From an economic perspective, it’s 400 candles per hectare at €10 per candle and this cost ignores the people doing the work. You can already see that for Petit Chablis and the majority of Chablis production, the price of the finished wine is too small to cover this cost for even 1 night – a candle will be spent in 8 hours. There’s also the question about the environment – the burning of paraffin wax is clearly not part of the esprit of biodynamic or organic approaches, even if it is not in the list of banned treatments. I like the idea of the windmills that have popped up in the Côte d’Or since the frosts of 2016 but they were of little use in this case as there was no warm air above the cool to circulate.

Whilst many shops are ‘lockdown-closed’ the centre of Chablis bustled with tractors on Tuesday and Wednesday, ferrying supplies of replacement candles to the vines. Tuesday was to be just the first of three nights of frost – but it had been a very tough start. Already at 10h00 on Tuesday one vigneron told me he could see leaves blackening from the frost. I thought that, maybe, some cold-comfort could be taken from the fact that the majority of buds had not yet opened, but that was, quite likely, overly optimistic. Emphasising the point, another vigneron in the afternoon told me ‘We’ve got a couple more difficult nights coming but the damage is largely done. It’s much more a 2016 style of frost than what we had in 2017 and 2019. A host of domaines chose to exit organic certification in 2016 because after the frost some mildew developed before the flowering – which was one of the drivers – it’s certainly not impossible that it will be the same this year.‘ The afternoon in Chablis alternated between sunshine and snowy squalls.

Overnight Tuesday to Wednesday things were fractionally colder in Chablis – they were a lot colder in the Côte d’Or. In both areas there was snowfall late on Tuesday evening – no more than a centimetre or two – given the minus temperatures it might even have helped insulate the leaves but by 10 am the sun (and candles) had burnt the snow away! In Chablis, the candles were lit already an hour earlier than the previous night. The Côte d’Or saw temperatures between -3° and -6°C – if there had been no damage on the first evening here there certainly was on the second – the prophylactic approach of the Côte d’Or during first night had turned a real battle.

08 April, frosty again

This morning, Thursday 08 April, has seen no respite – maybe a degree cooler in the Côte d’Or and Chablis but again properly minus – even the cars in (warmer) Beaune centre with a layer of frost. In the Clos de Vougeot early this morning an enterprising soul had even been using a helicopter to try to keep the air moving around their vines. The air is heavy with the pollution of paraffin wax candles and for a short time, at least, the frost is now over – but there is still the chance of a frosty reprise on Monday or Tuesday next week.

The Beaujolais had largely escaped this wave of cold for the first night as it was quite windy and dry – temperatures much closer to 0°C. The Mâconnais was colder in the north than the south to start with – but still with temperatures in Fuissé of -3°C on the first night – so colder than the Côte d’Or. The Côte Chalonnaise was properly cold – so we can expect similar damage to the Côte d’Or. It’s far too early to contemplate yields – a proper idea of that will only come after the flowering – say early to mid-June. That said, we already know that, regionally, it is going to be a very small volume in 2021, the whites will be the worst affected as they have the earlier growth.

The black humour of the Chablisiennes was on show this week – ‘Well, because of covid, closed restaurants and Trump taxes, we already had a little too much wine in our cellars!

Basking in the sun part 2

weekend 14 2021, drinks…

By billn on April 05, 2021 #degustation

weekend 14 2021 wines...

2018 Vocoret, Chablis 1er Montée de Tonnerre
Despite the 2018 vintage, here’s a wine that could only come from Chablis – fresh and inviting aromas. Plenty of mouth-filling presence, lovely citrus energy too. A year on since last tasted, this wine is now in a very good place. Easy but delicious drinking.
Rebuy – Yes

2019 Alain Gautheron, Chablis Emeraude
Thats got a lovely citrus-fresh aroma – perhaps a blend of yellow and green – a lovely invitation. Wide, just a little cushion between it and incisive. But there’s a lovely, almost zesty, orange-flesh freshness here too. That’s completely delicious – and a good job too – I bought a dozen – remember buying wines in 12s?
Rebuy – Yes

2019 Lauren & Remi Dufaitre, Brouilly
This nose starts a bit diffuse and unattractive – far from the performance on the palate which was just so moreishly delicious – fortunately, air brings big aromatic improvements. The nose goes deeper and darker, almost wrapping itself around your senses. Plenty of freshness but concentrated and textured too – ooh – that’s lovely. Simply delicious – no wonder that I, with some help, almost finished the bottle on the first day – next time I will. Bravo wine on day one, still very, very good on day two…
Rebuy – Yes

2013 François Gaunoux, Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes
A nice cushion to this red-fruited nose. Silky, direct, a little mineral too. The flavour widening – here just a touch of more herby flavour – not an easy year in 2013 – but the flavours broaden out in fine fashion in the finish – a cherry-stone impression here. Long too. Refreshing and very tasty wine.
Rebuy – Maybe

2013 Clotilde Davenne, Bourgogne Aligoté Vieilles-Vignes
A steely, slightly smoky, reductive nose. In the mouth this is briskly fresh, showing a hint of the aromatic reduction – though less than the nose – and plenty of mineral and citrus complexity. The reduction sticks around for about 20 minutes before fading into the background. Still very young, highly attractive wine that’s better to decant – Yum!
Rebuy – Yes

this week’s early spring views in Burgundy…

By billn on March 31, 2021 #travels in burgundy 2021

The forecast is cooler next week – indeed with overnight minus temperatures – but today it was 26°C in the afternoon – my lunchtime run being a bit of a sweaty affair – but who’s complaining. Obviously, it’s still sandwiches for lunch!

Here are a few views from this week (so far) in Burgundy:

2019 Red Burgundy – part 3 – Beaujolais

By billn on March 30, 2021 #reports

2019 Beaujolais

The sixth in my series of 2019 Burgundy Reports is now online. To recap:
1. The whites part 1 – Mâconnais
2. The whites part 2 – Côte de Beaune
3. The whites part 3 – Chablis
4. The reds part 1 – Côte de Beaune
5. The reds part 2 – Côte de Nuits
6. The reds part 3 – Beaujolais

Now my latest report, covering the reds of 2019 Beaujolais is now online – here. This is Part 3 of my three 2019 Red Burgundy Reports.

This report covers the visits to taste 2019s at domaines #217 – #280 in my campaign of 2019 visits with another 400+ wines tasted. It, naturally, includes both what I like and who I like, and rather than ‘just’ scores, I actually note all the wines worth that are special search to buy!

I hope that you enjoy this in-depth look. I’m now underway in Burgundy again, catching up on some domaines that missed in the last months, and visiting some new names – so new reports will, still mainly be for 2019s – but with a mix of regions, rather than the format as above.

It was 22°C today – I needed sunscreen for my head when jogging. I also noted lots of police cars stationed in the vineyards of Beaune – no-doubt waiting for unsuspecting victims – out and about after 6pm!!!

Burgundy Report

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