another short update on the 2021 vintage

By billn on August 25, 2021 #vintage 2021

Crushing a grape sample to test the analytics
Crushing a grape sample to test the analytics

Two bite-sized snippets that afford plenty of perspective:

“With the potential harvest parameters of % veraison & vine health being heterogeneous from one plot to another it is, for the moment, very difficult to precisely project the optimal dates for the onset of the harvest. In terms of the stages of vine growth and summer rainfall (125mm in July-August in Beaune, which would be classed as ‘historically normal’), 2021 can be compared to 2012. These trends, to date, indicate starting points of 18-20 September but the evolution of the state of health in the first half of September (notably any development of botrytis) will come into play in the decision.”
Chambre d’Agriculture, Côte d’Or – 24 August 2021

“For the white grape varieties, due to excessive frost damage, only 2/3 of the data points will be available this year. Two-thirds of the sampled plots of chardonnay have passed the mid-veraison stage, however, maturity is not very advanced from an analytical perspective. The plots of aligoté, severely impacted by frost, cannot be sampled this year. For the black grape varieties, samples from a little more than 3/4 of the plots could be collected. These black grape varieties are the most advanced in maturity, particularly the pinot noir where most of the sampled plots are close to full veraison. The sugar contents vary from 145 to 150 g/l, except in the Yonne. The acidities are currently high, in particular, due to a significant presence of both tartaric and high levels of malic acids.”
BIVB Infos – 24 August 2021

weekend 33 2021 – two bottles

By billn on August 25, 2021 #degustation

weekend 33 2021 bottles

Including another Barthod from my (previous) UK storage – there are more…

2018 Auvigue, Pouilly-Fuissé La Frérie
Cork sealed – the climat name used here.
A forward, slightly round nose – there’s fresh intent but framed with a lemon-custard impression. A wine that, like the nose, starts round but then comes to a more intense point of flavour – here at the end, along with a suggestion of salinity, before that the lemon-custard style of the nose. Delicious it is, and that’s despite a lot of flavour having an origin in the barrels.
Rebuy – Maybe

1999 Ghislaine Barthod, Bourgogne
Nearly a full case of this ‘rescued’ from the UK. Cork-sealed, still robust too.
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose starts a little tight but then bursts into action with a very high-quality, purity of, red fruit – thats very lovely and it has some depth too. Aromatically this seems rather younger than its 22 years – just adding a slightly mineral and graphitic quality with time. In the mouth, this is lithe, direct too. There’s a small fur of tannin but it’s largely bereft of dryness. I love the line and fine acidity here. The finishing flavours recollect the mineral style that became evident on the nose. Overall good sweetness yet this remains a wine of indeterminate age, drinking well despite no overt age-related sous-bois / dried leaves. Not the extra – complete – ripeness of recent vintage Bourgognes but with a clarity of fruit that is different. Lovely wine…
On day two the mineral aspects are more to the fore and there’s a little extra bitters creeping into the finish – it was finer on day 1.
Rebuy – Yes

a couple more bottles from last week…

By billn on August 24, 2021 #degustation

Whilst in the UK last week, I took the opportunity to take delivery of ‘stocks’ of wines that I’d kept in different locations. I’d anyway not visited the UK for three years so it seemed silly to keep paying storage charges for wines that I wasn’t drinking. Delivery duly received, I just had the matter of navigating the post-Brexit customs when I returned home via France. Fortunately being one of the first off the boat meant that they were not ready to ask questions as I sped home on Saturday 🙂

Here are just some thoughts on two that I opened midweek without taking any notes – spot the generic similarity of the labels:

2004 Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny: There’s a long and boring story behind the reason for having a case from this vintage but given that 9 bottles remained I thought I’d make a quick raincheck on how bad they could be! Though the pyrazine taint remains obvious to me, the wine is round and has good flavour too. I even took a second glass which means I liked the wine more than I expected to – clearly I wouldn’t rebuy though!

1998 Denis Mortet, Gevrey-Chambertin:
Previously, this was always a good wine aromatically spoiled by a very ashy oak treatment. There remains more than a hint of cigarette ash on the nose even at close to 25 years of age but the fruit has become rounder and the wine generally more accommodating. The ash is hardly visible in the flavours and I must say, this is rather atypically round and sweetly fruited for the vintage – the acidity is fine though – there were no obvious tannic references to the vintage either. A smooth, supple and delicious wine – only 3 or 4 remain from this case but I will be enjoying them over the next few years.
Rebuy – Yes today. Due to the aromatic oak, I know I was less positive in the wine’s first 15 years!

Becky Wasserman Hone 1937-2021

By billn on August 23, 2021 #sad losses...

On Friday evening, on the US forum wineberserkers, I saw the notice of Becky’s departure from this place. I checked in on another UK forum that I visit and there was no mention. I started to type the news but having known her for over 20 years, I felt a little like an ambulance chaser and decided to let the weekend pass and write my thoughts here.

Becky began her Burgundian journey in the 1960s; at that time with a different husband to the Russell Hone that we all know and love today. Becky began by selling barrels from Burgundy to customers in the US – consolidating multiple orders and shipping full containers to the States. With her two sons, Peter and Paul, the family lived in Saint Romain near the barrel-maker François. When I got to know her, Becky had only the slightest of accents when speaking French but the boys, brought up in St.Romain had none, switching effortlessly between the two languages depending on their company.

It soon dawned on Becky that the contents of those French barrels could be a much better product to sell than the barrels themselves – and, over time, she was proven right. There were some downs as well as ups – particularly during one credit crunch when a customer failed to pay for a large consignment of wine after delivery. Then there was the time that her office roof caved in and it took many months to be fixed – the whole team de-camped, nextdoor, to what had been the wine cellar of Ma Cuisine until the work was completed. But her business weathered the storms and grew stronger for it.

Becky began by selling the wines of hand-picked producers that she had come to know and, as she tasted more widely, the range grew too. It is without a hint of consideration that you can describe her as the most pioneering, important, importer of burgundy wine into the US for the last 50 years – her portfolio only lacked a little DRC/Leroy magic – but she still counted those producers as friends. Becky once told me that in her early days she’d invited Aubert de Villaine to a tasting of the wines she was starting to export but was unsure if he would actually attend; attend he did and took a little extra time to compliment her on the quality and cleanliness of her glassware for the tasting – good tasting glasses being a rarity in the 1970s – Aubert and Becky always kept in touch after that!

Soon a new house was to beckon – above Savigny-lès-Beaune in the hamlet of Bouilland. Becky confided that although the wine business was thriving at the time, the banks needed a lot of convincing to lend the money – eventually they accepted when Becky included in her business plan the Bouilland Symposia. These symposia being week-long tasting and dining experiences with producers and critics – originally with Clive Coates but other ‘hosts’ were to follow. Bouilland later becoming the home of Clive Coates’ 10 years-on burgundy tastings – all under the various outbuilding rooves of the Wasserman-Hones with dinner prepared by Russell. I only visited one of these tastings – the 1997s – as one year later ‘the press’ were banned as there were more of them coming to taste than producers.

When it comes to the critics, Becky knew them all – not only knew – she also opened doors for very many. Her office kitchen – just across from Ma Cuisine in the centre of Beaune – saw generations of writers and would-be writers, young and already established, joining her and her team for lunch. “It’s the only rule I have for the people that work for me – we have to eat lunch together – but it’s cooked here.” Becky knew that it was a symbiotic relationship, selling wine and knowing the people who wrote about wine, and she was most happy sending people to what she thought good addresses though often had to be stoic – ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink!

Of course, you also met winemakers at Becky’s table. I remember the day that Dominique Lafon (who for a time before joining the family domaine had worked for Becky) came and sat down, eating his sandwich and berating what one (or more!) of his neighbours in Montrachet had done. We hadn’t previously met and Becky shot me one of those stares that said – ‘say nothing’ – and after Dominique left Becky’s stare was reinforced with a ‘and write nothing too!‘ Of course, 20 years ago, Becky had overestimated the level of my French language skills, so I was anyway 50% clueless 🙂

I was often welcomed at Becky’s table and really can’t remember who made the introduction for me but she was happy to write a small piece in the first issue of Burgundy Report in 2003. I’m sorry that I fell out of visiting the team at Le Serbet – the name of her business – but it largely mirrored Becky being less often in Beaune in the last years. I still look back at the day when I asked her what she really thought about the book I’d written about the region – her answer inscrutable, perhaps enigmatic but still a great answer “What I can tell you, is that a lot of people are green with envy and would be very happy just replacing your name on the cover with theirs!” Thanks Becky.

I suppose that Becky was doing a similar job with (budding) journalists that the BIVB do now but actually within the trade of wine nobody did it as she did – or at all, before she did it! It is such an understatement to say that she will be missed. My thoughts extend to Russell, Peter and Paul but I know that her whole team in Beaune will be equally devastated…

A Yorkshire lunch – in three acts…

By billn on August 20, 2021 #degustation

A short hop to Leeds – so a Yorkshire lunch – even if one of us didn’t have the fortune of originating from that county 🙂

(My) Lunch was French onion soup, venison Wellington and nibbling from a selection of cheeses. I can’t remember the last time I saw this soup – is it just a Paris thing? Not a large volume of food but with a few bottles to keep the three of us company it still required our attention for 4 hours!

1999 Rougeot, Meursault 1er Charmes
The label tells that this was recorked at the domaine in 2015.
Now that’s a very lovely nose, sweetly fruited but with a fine focus and just a little age-related complexity – that’s just lovely. In the mouth this is incisive but still concentrated; agile and mineral too. I’m liking the precision and minerality here – a lot! I guess that it’s my wine. Simply super wine!

2009 Comtes Lafon, Montrachet
There’s a bit more basso-profundo to this nose, still a suggestion of oak toast too, so it’s a surprise when it bursts over the palate with energy and a taut style yet is still so broad finishing. There’s a creaminess to this finish that I put down to age, rather than the barrel – I’m guessing a wine of the early 90s (93-95) – I should have taken more care with the colour! – but certainly grand cru from the breadth and length of this wonderful finish – it’s a better wine than the 1999 but not by as large a margin as the label suggests as it’s much less chiselled but given the vintage, no surprise… An absolute treat!

Served as a pair and we knew the vintage:

2006 de Montille, Volnay 1er Taillepieds
Modestly red in colour and very red-fruited too – only with time taking on some extra, saline, complexity. Round in the mouth and very accessible – deliciously accessible – though lacking any great intellectual rigour. Time in the glass showed a wine that was developing in multiple directions and becoming more complex though never losing the ‘easy’ tag for me. I guessed Cote de Beaune 1er but was surprised when the wine was revealed having always considered this cuvée to be something stricter…

2006 DRC, Grands-Echézeaux
Wow – immediately I’m thinking of fine structure and the great grand cru complexity of Cote de Nuits aroma. The first taste doesn’t disappoint either! Structural without pain, accessible but with no lack of complexity – mineral wine but without austerity. Yes it’s young and structured but it’s so drinkably delicious too, despite the authority of this performance. The minerality takes me in the direction of a top Clos de la Roche but never for a moment do I note anything of Vosne spice or the roses of whole clusters – but who cares – this is great wine!

And our last pair…

1996 Dominique Gallois, Charmes-Chambertin
The first wine I ever bought en-primeur!
Ooh – that’s also a rather good nose – of more structure and maturity than the DRC – but not by a lot. In the mouth, broad, fresh and energetic – clearly more acidity and tannin too – though never too much in either area. There are some parallels with the previous wine but that younger wine is clearly more sophisticated. Still, I’m very happy with this and the acidity tells me it’s my wine. Balanced and precise, the structural overcoat still has a few creases to iron out but for a, generally speaking, sometimes slightly bland (grand) cru – in comparison to its neighbours such as Latricières etcetera – here’s a wine with character in spades and I love it.

1997 Ponsot, Griotte-Chambertin
Here the nose is certainly redder and riper than the last – less chiselled indeed a little diffuse but with no lack of invitation. Broad, again red-fruited over the palate, almost disarmingly lush. Simply delicious wine but of this pair, give me the little extra rigour, the strictness and complexity combined in the 1996.

I’d call that a great lunch!

a burgundian vintage update…

By billn on August 18, 2021 #vintage 2021

Chambertin 12 days ago
Chambertin, 12 days ago

The last week, or so, has brought some welcome summer weather to Burgundy – even a few days with temperatures above 30°C. There has still been some rainfall, but more modest than in previous weeks, so the veraison is progressing. It seems that veraison in the Côte de Nuits is currently a little more advanced than in the Côte de Beaune or the Chalonnaise. The current estimates are about 50% veraison in the Côte de Beaune and closer to 90% in the Côte de Nuits. Not surprisingly, the veraison in the Hautes Côte is behind these two – but that’s completely normal.

It should be noted that the modest rain of the last days follows on from no lack of rain in the previous weeks – so, there is still much humidity in the Côtes and in the vines. This week the temperatures have been modest – largely under 25°C – it could get closer to 30° at the weekend but next week we will return to 25°C or a bit less.

Given the continuation of warm but not hot weather and still plenty of humidity there remains the question of ‘maladies.’ The bunches of grapes have largely passed the stage where they can be infected by mildew – so those that were clean should remain so – but the weather is allowing plenty of new shoots to be produced and these are susceptible to the disease. Oïdium remains present in the vines – exacerbated by the heavy morning dews.

The harvest date predictions have remained quite stable – though the window is wide – 15-25 September remains the window for most producers, red and white – for now! Officially after the last treatment, you shouldn’t harvest grapes for 30 days – so most producers have already finished their last treatments and are now on holiday.

At least the weather this year will mean that there will be significantly fewer sun-burned clusters of grapes to triage.

weekend #32 2021 – not many wines…

By billn on August 16, 2021 #degustation

weekend 32 2021 wines

For me a very short weekend, as on Saturday I took ‘advantage’ of the new, less stringent, requirements for UK entry – via France. Still, there was the modest matter of 1,300 km to drive over 17 hours: Hardly any people on the boat – maybe because the flexible return cost £400! – still, that was cheaper than the tunnel or flying and having a hire car for a week! I’m now double vaccinated, very tested, and at large in the UK for a short few days. But, returning to the theme of wine:

My first bottle showed the travesty of all my Nomacorked Alsace Grand Crus – I could use that word interchangeably with ruined!2000 Sylvie Spielmann, Riesling Bergheim, bought from Sylvie at the domaine circa 2002. The cork didn’t come out in one piece but it had done a good job; the wine deeper coloured but with no hint of oxidation – becoming a little tertiary and petrolly – but very clean and drinkable – yum.

2007 Comtes Lafon, Volnay 1er Santenots du Milieu
A robust cork that came out in one piece.
Great colour for the vintage – still plenty of depth and no overt look of age. A lovely nose, layered with red fruits – still a wine of youth – yet completely approachable. In the mouth there is a width of flavour that, like the nose, seems to melt over the palate in layers – texturally it’s very nice too. Good energy and clarity for this vintage with the merest frame of bitters that indicate a vintage of less easy ripening than we experience today but this counterpoint bringing a lovely extra dimension to my interest. I found this completely delicious and am happy to have a few more in the cellar – at least I think I have!
Rebuy – Yes

offers of the day – Dugat-Py 2019 & Robert Groffier 2019

By billn on August 13, 2021 #asides

I don’t get to see these wines from Dugat-Py so often but my usual Swiss merchant seems to be widening his list of growers. Of course, they are expensive but really not that expensive, it seems, compared to those from Groffier!

Domaine Dugat-Py 2019
Gevrey-Chambertin VV 75cl 99.00* Swiss Francs
Pommard VV la Levrière 75cl 139.00
Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée Coeur du Roy VV 75cl 149.00
Gevrey-Chambertin Champeaux 1er Cru 75cl 265.00
Gevrey-Chambertin Les Corbeaux 1er Cru 75cl 265.00
Gevrey-Chambertin Petite Chapelle 1er Cru 75cl 265.00
Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 75cl 475.00

Domaine Robert Groffier 2019
Gevrey-Chambertin Les Seuvrées 75cl 115.00 Swiss Francs
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Hauts Doix 75cl 209.00
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers 75cl 229.00
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 75cl 590.00
Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 75cl 590.00

*As usual, these are delivered prices but without the Swiss purchase tax of 7.7%

weekend #31 2021 – some wines…

By billn on August 10, 2021 #degustation

weekend 31 2021 wines

Three winners this weekend…

2008 Dubreuil-Fontaine, Corton Clos du Roi
Hmm, this is a 2008 but one with no lack of aromatic depth or concentration. There’s the first impression of some sous-bois in the mix together with a beautiful floral width – that’s lovely. In the mouth this has good impact and super width of flavour – there’s a stony element to the fruit but with flavours of great punch. Slowly, slowly lingering on a more mineral, slightly herbal finish. No shrinking violet and at the edges, you can see it’s from a cooler vintage though the core remains impressive and delicious.
Rebuy – Yes

2015 Laurent Tribut, Chablis
All the different parcels of the domaine assembled, some from above Beauroy, but mainly from near Forets.
An encompassing nose – faintly with a little apricot – no, peach. Lovely shape in the mouth, cool-fruited and more mineral than when young. A 2015 but clearly from Chablis – and delicious too. Lovely wine
Rebuy – Yes

2019 Antoine Sunier, Régnié Montmeronts
I bought some of this so had high hopes.
Plenty of colour. Vibrantly, sweetly perfumed fruit. I’m loving the energy here but it’s still a supple wine. The flavour has a slightly direct style but it’s also deeply flavoured. A wine that was drunk all too quickly – and that’s a great sign. Excellent!
Rebuy – Yes

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