Rhythm & Blues in Burgundy

The harvest is in.  With mostly glorious weather conditions prevailing from mid-August through this past weekend, September 28th, the grapes, both white and red, gold and deep purple hued, arrived in the cellars in excellent condition.  Except for those vineyards hit by the hailstorms of June 28th, quantities are substantial and quality appears to be very high.  Not much rot, more talk than actual acetic effects from drosophila suzukii, and a natural degree of ripeness that will require little, if any, chaptalisation.

Very healthy yeasts came into the cellars on the grapes, and fermentations have begun quickly.  In many cellars the whites proceeded to barrel to complete their primary, alcoholic fermentations within a week to ten days.  The reds are just finishing up in vats and tanks, with pumpovers and pigeage to extract fine, deep ruby-purple tones with ripe, fleshy flavors and the tannic backbones that should make for a very fine vintage.  The dry weather of the last month has had only one sad effect: the brilliant colors of fall in the vines, with shades of autumn in New England, are more brown than yellow, red, or lively orange.

Beautifully ripe Chambertin at Domaine Pierre Damoy in Gevrey
Brown grapeseeds, no greenness here. Again Domaine Pierre Damoy in Gevrey

Until today’s overcast sky and periods of light rain, we have enjoyed a true Indian summer, with warm, sunny days and starry, cooler nights as we move past the autumnal equinox into fall.  The days grow shorter as the sun moves south in the sky, and yet people here are reluctant to give up their summer pleasures: bicyclists are out in the hills in force, and yesterday, a national day of walks called Frandonee brought out hundreds of people for a 20 kilometer walk from Morey-St. Denis through the valley of Vergy in the Hautes Cotes de Nuits.  A weekend exposition and book fair at the Chapter House of the Clos de Vougeot was packed with interested consumers.  It was a wonderful weekend to be outside.

Piles of marc (seeds, stems and skins after pressing) await the distillateur just outside Pommard.

And yet the elation of the harvest, the open doors to all domaines bringing in grapes, the ritual lunches, dinners, and paulees of the harvesters with the growers after the vendange, has finished, has dissipated.  The open excitement of another vintage drawing to a close is replaced by a quiet reserve as nature, in the form of fermentations that were once thought magical until Pasteur’s discoveries, takes its course.

For this writer it has been a complete change of rhythm.  There are so many fewer people in the vines.  Appointments must now be made to speak with vignerons and their oenologists about the vintage.  Burgundian reserve has returned.  We wait.  This year the fruit has been so healthy and the weather so warm and gorgeous that fermentations are quick and easy.  As the alcoholic fermentations wind down, the next issue will be how swiftly the malolactic fermentations take hold.  If they, too, are swift and easy, unlike the previous two years, we could very well be watching an awesome vintage being born in 2014.  Until the wines are more ready to taste and evaluate, I must find other forms of entertainment.  Thankfully, Netflix has just arrived in France.

Grey, cloudy, moist, warm weather has moved up the Rhone and Saone valleys this morning, and is forecast to hover over the Cote d’Or until Wednesday afternoon.  On cooler evenings one can already smell the wood burning in fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.  I, for one, hope for more sunshine and a pleasant fall before the cold and grey of Burgundian winter sets in.

From the falaise above St. Romain. The village of St. Romain bathed in sun, with the village of Meursault beyond.

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