In over 25 years of visits to Burgundy, I cannot recall two more glorious days than Monday and Tuesday, September 15 & 16, 2014. Absolutely perfect blue skies were complemented by hot but dry temperatures and minimal humidity. Yesterday, Tuesday the 16th, was especially gorgeous, with temperatures close to 30°C (85°F). Teams of pickers were out nearly everywhere, and the landscape from time to time looked like a swarm of ants with people, minivans, and even small busses converging on the slopes of the Cote d’Or.
The Cote de Beaune continued its frenzy of Chardonnay picking, and began the difficult task of sorting out its hail damaged reds in Volnay, Pommard, and Beaune. The Cote de Nuits was really out in force for the first day yesterday, with fruit being harvested from Chenove down to Premeaux, mostly in the villages and 1ers Crus parcels. I stopped to check in with many growers, occasionally helping at the sorting table, lugging or cleaning caisses, and taking pictures while getting a sense of the quality and quantities coming into local cellars.
The last week to ten days of warm, sunny, hot, and dry weather has had a dramatic effect on the grapes and potential yield of the 2014 harvest. After the rains of July and the first two weeks of August, grapes were quite swollen and potentially diluted. Even with hail damage, there appeared to be sufficient fruit in many but the most severely damaged vineyards to return a reasonable yield for 2014. The hot and dry weather has significantly reduced the swollen grapes in size, and estimates vary as to the eventual rendement. I have heard that the INAO has authorized crops of up to 60 hectoliters per hectare in villages appellations, and up to 50 hl/h in the 1ers and Grands Crus. No grower with whom I have spoken has estimated anywhere close to these numbers, with most guessing at yields of around 40 to 45 hectoliters per hectare. Of course in hail damaged vineyards, yields will be significantly less. In reality it is too early to tell what yields will be, as that can only be done when the fruit has become wine. But outside of Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, and the 1ers Crus of Puligny and Meursault, things do not look too bad, and the quality of fruit that I have seen and tasted is top notch. It will be a very good to excellent vintage in 2014.
On the whole there are broad smiles nearly everywhere. The whites at the villages level are fairly abundant, with little if any rot, and any hail damaged fruit was so dried out that it fell off easily on the sorting tables. The 1ers Crus whites in Chassagne are spectacular in quantity and quality. While the hail storm of June 28th certainly limited the quantities harvested from the 1ers Crus in a swath from northern Puligny through northern Meursault, there is little rot to worry about, and the hail-damaged, dried berries were not a problem. Some growers used their tables de triage, while a few others sent their fruit straight from the fields into the pressoirs, as they saw nothing but perfect fruit in the picking boxes.
Thierry & Pascale Matrot have reason to be proud! Three beautiful daughters who make their lives easier – two in the vines and cellars, and one who is running Le Chevreuil, one of Meursault’s top restaurants (as well as the attached hotel).
Meanwhile in Chassagne-Montrachet, Philippe Duvernay of Domaine Coffinet Duvernay was positively elated at the quality of his Chassagne 1er Cru Fairendes, harvested with no rot or hail damage. His fruit went straight from the picking boxes into the pressoir.
My first stop in the Cote de Nuits was at Domaine Bertagna in Vougeot, a domaine with outstanding 1ers and Grands Crus holdings, where the four previous years have seen only miniscule harvests, amounting to the equivalent of two normal vintages since 2010.
Eva Reh had a delighted smile on her face, and cellar-master Denis Rozat was excited to be beginning another harvest. Their joy will be mitigated by severe losses from hail in the Clos de Vougeot and their prized, adjacent monopole Clos de La Perriere, but the harvest is clean, beautiful, and very tasty.
Fruit from Domaine Georges Roumier’s Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Cras was being sorted when I arrived there, and after the sorting, entire whole bunches were being sent to the vats. There was a small amount of rot which was quickly excised, and great care was being taken to smell any bunches suspected of vinegar fly acetic development.
Pierre Damoy hastened his schedule by a day or two, and yesterday, Tuesday, September 16th, he began his harvest with Marsannay. No problems with fruit here, and he expects to bring in his Grands Crus in comparable condition, with about 10% hail damage in his Chambertin and Clos de Beze, less in the lower slopes of his Chapelle-Chambertin.
After Sarah Bastien of Domaine Henri Richard finished her Gevrey villages aux Corvees, the team took a small break by harvesting her new Pinot Blanc from Brochon (destined for a new Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs). After lunch she began the reds again with the domaine’s Grands Cru Charmes-Chambertin. Cellar-master Guillaume Berthier will use about 25% whole clusters in the Charmes-Chambertin, and up to 40-50% of whole clusters for the parcel of Charmes which will be labeled Mazoyeres-Chambertin.
When I arrived at Domaines Parent-Gros in Beaune, home of Domaine Anne-Francoise Gros and her husband Francois Parent of Domaine Francois Parent, I found that they had just begun harvesting their parcel of Richebourg Grand Cru. The sorting table team was closely inspecting each bunch of grapes for any signs of rot or acetic odors. The fruit was beautiful with a small amount of rot, a few vinegar bunches, and some dried out hail-damaged berries, but overall in great condition. It tasted delicious.
As I write these notes on Wednesday midday September 17th, the mornings clouds have burned off and the sun is shining brilliantly again. The clouds of this morning were probably a welcome sight to pickers and workers in the vineyards, after yesterday’s relentless sun and considerable heat.
The wind and clouds are moving from south to north again, and the radar shows some unsettled weather ahead, moving up from the Mediterranean. It remains quite dry, but predictions are for possible storms tomorrow through the weekend. Hopefully these will hold off a few days and the rest of the harvest will finish with a wonderful result for vintage 2014.