random ruminations

Quite a bag of things here – I must have had extra time to collect them all! – I hope that they aren’t all too negative, it’s really not what Burgundy is about…

2011 Tribulations. A clear message…

  • If you have any sensitivity or dislike for the pyrazine profiles of the 2004 vintage, you cannot afford to buy 2011s blind.
  • You have to taste the wines first, and only after they have spent at least 6 months in bottle to be reasonably confident that they are ‘safe’.
  • Buying en-primeur is not an option for this vintage – caveat emptor!

The message, or at least my message, about the 2011s needed to be be put ‘centre-stage’.

I feel that 2011 was the last nail in the coffin of non-coccinelle-related theories as to the major source of pyrazines in the 2004 wines. 2011 again saw sometimes very large, sometimes smaller (some would say none…) concentrations of this cute bug. The main difference versus the 2004s was the super-clean fruit we triaged in 2011 – there was some unripe material to remove, but the raw materials were in very fine shape.

The base wines are quite lovely; certainly more interesting than 2000/2007 and as drinkable early as 2002 was – EXCEPT – many, many wines are already showing the pyrazine taint, and frankly to an extent that surprises (even!) me. I had assumed that the largest concentrations of bugs were to be found in the Côte de Beaune, and relatively early in the harvest too, so was dumbfounded to note that almost half the 2011 wines presented on November 16th 2012 by the Syndicat de Gevrey Chambertin (analgous tasting to this – you will have to wait for these notes) were showing varying levels of that classic pyrazine note. In 2004, the whites were less obviously ‘infected’, I have minimal data so-far for those 2011 whites.

In absolute fairness I have to note: If you either never noted the 2004 pyrazines, or were not turned-off by them, you have many, many lovely wines to stock up on – and perhaps less competition for them too!

Because of the timing of this ‘summer’ report closer than usual to the merchant offers of 2011s, I have included my ‘Vintage Viewpoint’ in this report – I’ll move it to it’s more tradition ‘autumn report’ when that is published before Christmas.

Oh Puligny…
I always considered the town square of Puligny-Montrachet (Place Marronniers) to be a place of understated elegance. Of-course many of the houses lay empty, but everything was perfectly maintained. The only modern touch was the Hotel Montrachet, but it was also rather discreetly done. In July I went with friends for the good value lunch-menu at Hotel Montrachet – and all-change! No not the Hotel, the square. The horse-chestnut trees that ringed the square have been cut down, replaced by 7-8 metre lime tree ‘saplings’ – sad, but apparently the horse chestnuts were diseased. But the square is also being remodelled; mirror pools, bronze statues and planters – it all looks more than a little ‘bling’. Perhaps that’s what the wine-world expects these days when the price of an average 1er cru starts at €50…

I was recently asked my opinion on the ageability of some vintages. Which got me thinking about some of the things that may underpin drinkability in twenty or thirty years time, if not outright ageability.

The good(?) A significant proportion of older ‘duds’ seem to be compromised by massive amounts of brett or horrible musty aromas that doubtless the result of a lack of cleanliness in the original grapes. I’m convinced that the wines of today are massively cleaner so can significantly avoid these ‘drinkability’ pitfalls.

The bad(?) but I do grow more and more concerned by the en-vogue reductive characters that we now see so often in wines, most young wines need their CO2 ‘displacing’ even if they don’t show the aromas and flavours of reduction. Some ‘character’ is one thing, but what about wines that still show as reduced when you are draining the last drops from the bottle(?) – I can’t believe that’s a good long-term situation.

White wine ‘characters’…
Earlier this year I was asked to characterise the different styles of white wine. Off the cuff I came up with these as a starting point, what do you you think?

  • Direct would cover the incisive, frank, linear (mineral) genre
  • Classic a little more toast, vanilla and textural padding – an equally valid genre that implies no lack of concentration, complexity, or balance.

Of course, unsuccessful wines surround both these poles – too acidic/unripe, too oaky to leave any character etcetera…

Expansionist tendencies…
Already at the end of last year, special interest groups, federations and syndicates were aligning themselves either for or against a European Union initiative championing the right to plant more vines. At the core of what is being called the issue of ‘Plantation Rights’ is the proposal for a general liberalisation of vine planting rights across the European community.

Lined-up in opposition are the traditional wine-producing nations of France, Spain, Italy etcetera. On the ‘pro’ side, however, are not just a bunch of countries that would like a larger slice of EU wine-market, but also some of the négociant operations of existing (major) wine-producing countries, people who would be more than happy to have ‘more and cheaper’. I discussed this (27.11.2012) with Pierre-Henry Gagey, head of Maison Louis Jadot and, more pertinent, President of the BIVB; what follows is a distillation of the position of the BIVB and a few pertinent quotes:

“Essentially, more planting should be possible, but we want to keep a strong control. We could easily plant another 5,000 hectares in Champagne or Burgundy, but we risk destroying the names of those great producing regions, names that those places have spent 100s of years developing.”

Given a long history in Europe of surplus wine being sent for distillation, and because of this ‘wine-lake’ the EU Agricultural commision giving grants to people who pull-out their vines, I asked PHG how the people in Brussels can push liberalisation in this case:

It is really quite simple; their position is that the market can decide. I think this is fine for ‘brands’ but not appropriate if your wine carries the name of a place – such as Meursault.

I understand that an accommodation could be the way forward, though the groups opposing remain uncomfortable with it: Planting could be liberalised in (for the sake of discussion) France, but the produce of those vines, whether in the departments of Burgundy or Champagne could only be sold by their varietal name – i.e. no direct link to the ‘place’.

It is a strong debate that we are still having. You can imagine that a few extra thousand hectares of vines planted in the department of Champagne, used to make ‘vin mousseaux de Chardonnay’ will doubtlessly have some affect on the market for the wines of Champagne. Additionally, we have the question of who would oversee this production and ‘make the control’. Currently in Burgundy it is the growers associations, we would say that it should be the ‘interprofession’ i.e. body that brings together both growers and négociants.

What is clear, is that this is coming to a head: The vote in Brussels is in December this year. In the next Burgundy Report, I’ll let you know how it went…

10 responses to “random ruminations”

  1. David Olsson

    Such a shame about the new square in Puligny. A few years ago we were watching some of the staff from Domaine Leflaive play Pétanque in the shade of those beautiful old trees. This year it looked more like a empty Super-U parking lot.
    And the 2011:s are full of lady bugs. What’s the world coming to?

  2. burgundyfan

    Hotel Montrachet it’s one of the best places to eat in burgundy. It’s not like in Chagny were your table is sold twice. Before you go to sleep make a walk thru the village und you will find out that this village has more dogs than people.

  3. Michael Donohue

    You seem to assume any plantings in those 5k ha would not yield anything distinguished. Who knows? The next Montrachet or Clos de Mesnil may be waiting to be discovered.

  4. Michael Donohue

    I suspect you have just about the best life anyone could hope for, even if it is limited (primarily) to Pinot and Chardonnay,exposed to these wines as you are.

  5. Michael Donohue

    Perhaps I should have said immersed in au lieu d’ exposed to. It’s far more fluid!

  6. Michael Donohue

    Did you get to the White Club @ DRC?

  7. Große Weine in eiskalten Kellern: Reise ins Burgund Februar 2013 | Glücksinseln

    […] Nachdem der ambitionierte und vielbeachtete Weinjournalist und Autor Bill Nanson Ende November 2012 verlauten ließ, der Jahrgang 2011 im Burgund sei qualitativ durch eine Marienkäferplage beeinträchtigt, häuften sich immer mehr Gerüchte und Stimmen, die sich teilweise negativ über den 2011 ausließen. Hier der Link zu Nansons Artikel: https://www.burgundy-report.com/summer-2012/random-ruminations/ […]

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