Why Big Red Diary?

a few swiss days…


The last days in Switzerland have been quite nice – but oday there’s rain in Beaune. Back to the typing!

frost – a couple of informative notes:


From Jasper Morris at Berry Brothers & Rudd

And from a merchant:

Lots of good info, though with respect to the second link, Burgundy is not ahead of an average year, despite a relatively warm winter, because average temperatures were insufficient for growth in most of March and April – up until 1 week ago it was considered ‘average.’ Indeed, since then it has continued rather cool – I noted the first flowers about the 18th May 2 years ago – at this rate they may not open before the 18th of June! Which won’t be helpful for anyone thinking they might get crop from the newly moving ‘dormant buds…’

frost – 2+ – the côte de nuits…

As promised, I also toured around the vines of the Côte de Nuits on Friday and inspected vines ‘here and there’ along the way.

As-ever, it seems that the Côte de Nuits has the lighter of the frost damage – though I’m definitely talking ‘on average’ because:

  • Marsannay – most producers are desolate – it’s very bad here – plenty of reports of 80%+ losses
  • Gevrey – on the hillside it mainly looks okay, but occasional crus such as Fontenys are cooked. Clos Varoilles and La Romanée are not so bad, but it’s complicated, because one producer will report that their Charmes is 100% okay, another will point to about 20% losses – Chambertin and Bèze are equally hit and miss – mainly the lower sections had problems here.
  • Morey and Chambolle are similarly affected to Gevrey – mainly the lower vines having problems, but the crus not so much in Morey, more-so in Chambolle.
  • Musigny (Petits Musigny) and the kings of Vosne look hardly affected (see the pics) though I noted some crisped leaves between Echézeaux and Grands Echézeaux.
  • The real issue is that, like in the Côte de Beaune, it is the ‘bulk’ wines, those regional and village level plots that have been very badly affected. Really it’s too early to say, but in some places, like Marsannay, potentially well over 50% seems to have been lost.

Any improvements on ‘hearsay’ estimates will come only after fruit-set – so in about 4-8 weeks more…

Some are asking why candles were not used in the Côte d’Or to avoid damage – and ‘are they legal?‘ Well, yes, they are not particularly environmentally friendly, but they are legal. I even saw a nice ‘facebook picture’ of one producer’s square block of vines in Les Amoureuses, filled with candles. The problem is that nobody is ‘prepared’ to deploy them, and for two reasons:

  • Unlike in Chablis, there’s no automatic alarm system to wake everyone at 4am when a trigger temperature is reached.
  • Also, the last small frost damage (whites mainly) was 2010, you have to go back to 1991 for the last significant episode of damage.

So it’s really not on the radar of most producers – and just like in Chablis, it would be the important vineyards that were protected, not the vast majority. So really there would have been little difference in the volume of vine-growth that was lost.

The night in question (last Tuesday) was actually not that cold, rarely reaching as low as -2°C, but the ground was damp after plenty of weekend rain. If it had been dry, the vines would hardly have been troubled at that temperature…

Anyway, I showed enough pictures of singed leaves last week – so no more of those are required. From Friday:

not all doom and gloom today – some horsing about too

frost – 2


I asked a couple of producers this morning if it was bad, or really bad, both said the latter.

Without doubt it is a very important event, though I’m sure it’s better to wait until after the fruit-set to see if 30% or 75% of the potential harvest is lost. But however we look at it, it’s a massive loss, which (so far anecdotally) is a loss shared equally between the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits – for once!

Whilst it’s still a tiny snapshot, I walked in a lot of the Côte de Beaune vineyards today:

  • Santenay hillside – looks 90%+ okay
  • Chassagne 1ers Morgeot and Maltrioe – some vines totally blitzed, other maybe lost only 25% of buds
  • Chevalier-Montrachet (lower) and Montrachet – the same as in Chassagne
  • The bottom of Meursault wasn’t good, the bottom of Perrières, including the Clos des Perrières, looked okay.
  • The top of Volnay and Beaune looked not bad, the bottom of both was not good – Grèves included in that.
  • Bottom of Corton on Pernand side, not good
  • Mid-Charlemagne (below the cross) looked fine, likewise mid-Bressandes too.

From what I looked at, the top vines did better than the bottom vines, but a couple of vignerons told me it was the reverse in some places. The leaves ‘burned’ by the frost are obvious – already silver grey and crispy dry versus the green of healthy leaves. Pinot often looks okay, probably because it is a little behind chardonnay in the growth cycle, but there were also pinots with tiny but clearly frosted buds…

I will be charging around the Côte de Nuits tomorrow…

and last week’s producer visits?

1-burg 168

Hmm, let’s not forget those heroic (for putting up with me) producers of Beaujolais that I visited last week (week 16…)


Whilst in ‘relatively’ warm Beaujolais this week, I’ve watched all the pictures of ‘candles’ and water-sprays to combat the frost in Chablis, but this morning it seems the Côte d’Or has been touched – and it seems to have been more severe than a ‘touch.’

“I think I lost 90% in the villages and regional appellations. For the 1er crus in the order of 40 to 60%…”
Jean Pierre Charlot – Joseph Voillot, Volnay

I’ll be in Côte d’Or vines in both côtes over the next two days looking at the potential damage. I’ll keep you posted…

a bouquet of fleuries


After 3 days this week and about 230 wines tasted, I think it’s time to head back to Beaune today!

And for those who’d like to taste some black-coloured Fleurie, 6 months too early, here’s a link 😉

week 16s weekend wines…


Hmm – a nice selection I thought – but there were a couple of disappointments.

2013 Olivier Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Champ Canet
A hint of oak spice and a width of engaging aroma. Ooh! This is nice; layers of beautiful flavour and a fine line of enlivening acidity. Fine finishing too – really super wine – Yum! I’m always ready for a top-up…
Rebuy – Yes

2013 Nathalie & Gilles Fevre, Chablis Preuses
This is wide and deeply fruited, ripely fruited – lots of sweetness and apricot – interesting but not obviously Chablis. In the mouth this is big, layered and sweet – everybody but me seems happy – it’s a long way from classic Chablis with lots of botrytis-fruit. It’s quite long, but I have to revert to the Puligny which, by comparison, is outstanding. I also thought this was outstanding when I tasted it at the domaine in January 2015, but like many, many 2013s it has developed quickly, and in a direction that’s not to my taste…
Rebuy – No

2012 Comte Liger-Belair, Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Cras
The nose has an obvious fire-work style reduction – the bottle lasted about 1.5 hours but the reduction outlasted the wine – if I opened another, I would decant the wine. In the mouth this feels lovely, complex and finely textured – lots of fine flavour here but it remains framed with the same reduction from the nose. Decant!
Rebuy – Maybe

2014 Château des Bachelards, Saint-Amour
The nose starts all mineral and herbs – not what I expected – here is another wine that needs decanting, but bring out the aromas rather than chase away reduction. Time brings a simmering, deep and silkily-dark fruit and even occasional suggestions of flowers. Immediately more concentration, a little more plushness and silk of texture versus the Liger-Belair. An impression of layers of flavour – clearly we are drinking this WAY too early, yet it cushions and caresses the palate with, frankly, super fruit that has a faintly salted accent. Big, long-finishing, wine but brilliant! This will be ever-greater, the longer you wait…
Rebuy – Yes

friends stop by for the weekend

DSC00145Friday I had to rush back from Beaujolais because I had friends coming to stay for the weekend – amongst touristy vineyard viewing we managed to squeeze-in a Friday-dinner at Ma Cuisine and a Sunday-lunch at Auprès du Clocher. I think that all our expectations were met 😉

Saturday began with croissants, pain-au-chocolat and lots of coffee – perhaps more than first intended as it was raining! By 11am we anyway decided to brave the rain and attack the market to buy something for our dinner. Always one of the best omelettes at Bistro Carnot was followed by a tour through the vines of Pernand, Corton, Aloxe, Nuits, Vosne, Chambolle, Morey and Gevrey – including visiting Huguette for coffee in Gevrey! Then came the cooking and the bottles!

On Sunday there was sunshine! There was also (still) croissants, pain-au-chocolate and coffee, but but it was a little less ambitious pile of pastries as we knew that lunch awaited! Before lunch we took in the vineyards and views of Santenay, Chassagne, Puligny and Meursault. After lunch, at a reduced pace, Pommard and Beaune.

A shame to wave them goodbye in the afternoon!

pics from last week in beaujolais…

The week (mainly) was in Beaujolais, visiting producers. Next week I’ll be back for the third week in a row, but with just one task – to taste through 250 bottles of 2014s. Call me a wimp, but I’m going to do it over 3 days…

First some pics from Wednesday:

Then some more pics from Thursday and Friday:

today: blue-sky, horses & concrete to make a grand cru…

La Romanée today…

Simply a beautiful day today – almost 18°C, despite a cool start – and a cloudless sky too.

I took in a few sites around the Côtes today, before heading back to Bojolais tomorrow. I passed a couple of nice horses along the way, but really I was more interested by the seemingly ridiculous work on the hillside above the Clos des Perrières in Vougeot. You see, here on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, are planted a couple of small plots of vines, which because of the way that the maps were drawn, are (were!) theoretically classed as Musigny. One was particularly precarious with a 20 feet drop into the Clos des Perrières for anyone who stepped back without thinking. Now it looks like a major construction project – probably just to add a safety wall!

You know, life would have been far simpler if they had left the ‘cliff’ as it was!

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