Tag Archives: Aloxe-Corton

Hospices de Beaune – 154th Auction of Wines – Tasting

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 will mark the 154th auction of the wines from the Hospices de Beaune, one of the longest extant and certainly the most prestigious of wine charity events in the world.  The Hospices, or Hospital, in Beaune has been the beneficiary of the sale of wines from donated parcels of vineyards since its original endowment in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor of the Duchy of Burgundy, and his wife Guigone de Salins.  Today, the auction sales serve to benefit not only the upkeep of the original L’Hotel Dieu (which continued in use as a hospital until the early1960s, now a museum), but also to benefit and finance the new, modern hospital in the town of Beaune,  This post will not attempt to recall the history of the Hospices or the origins of the many cuvees offered at auction on Sunday.  For a wealth of information on the Hospices, its functioning, the history, the various blends or cuvees, its viticulture and winemaking, and the details of the sales, visit the website http://www.hospices-de-beaune.com/index.php/hospicesdebeaune.

This post will offer the author’s opinions of the wines, tasted on Friday morning, November 14th, at the official professional tasting offered at the new cuverie of the Hospices de Beaune Domaine Viticole.  Incidentally, the 2014 wines will be the last vintage of the current regisseur, Roland Masse, and in 2015 the first woman winemaker, Ludovine Griveau, will take over.

THE 2014 VINTAGE – 534 PIECES OFFERED

Despite the hailstorm in June which devastated many of the Hospices’ vineyards in Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, and Meursault, the 2014 Auction will present 534 barrels for sale in the 2014 vintage.  Other vineyards elsewhere returned healthy, even copious crops.  So 2014 is a return to more normal , average yields in Burgundy, and represents an increase in the size of the auction lots over the 2012 and 2013 vintages.  Still, 534 barrels from 60 hectares of vineyards, at 228 liters per barrel only represents a yield of about 20 hectoliters per hectare, a miserly result from nature’s vagaries in 2014.

I have covered the 2014 harvest and beginning of vinifications in other posts, but the tasting of the Hospice de Beaune cuvees on Friday was my first extensive tasting of wines from the 2014 vintage.  Keep in mind that most of the cuvees tasted were still in the process of secondary, malolactic fermentations, a difficult period to judge the wines’ potential.  But nonetheless, these professional tastings allow potential buyers at the auction, as well as domaine owners. negociants,  restaurateurs, and amateurs du vin, the possibility to evaluate the wines.  Historically, these official tastings mark the first evaluations of a new vintage, even with the wines in a very raw state.  I have been tasting new wines in Burgundy for over 25 years, often at various stages of the wines’ evolution, and while evaluating wines in such a state of unfinished youth can be difficult, it is not impossible to get an appreciation of a wine’s flavors, concentration, depth, texture, and balance.  What follows are my opinions of the wines at this early stage of their development.

I arrived at the Hospices de Beaune cuverie at 8:45am, to find nearly 200 people already waiting for and beginning admission to the tasting.  The lines of tasters were excited by the vintage’s strong potential, and the orderly crowd awaited their turn to enter the caves, and once inside, wound their way snake-like through the rows of barrels.  The entire process of tasting the 32 cuvees of red wines, followed by the 14 offerings of whites, took about two hours.  The caves were a bit crowded, but the organizers’ policy of only allowing 600 people in the large cellars at any one time meant that the lines proceeded in a manner that allowed all the tasters time to taste all the wines, take notes if they wished, and chat amiably about their impressions.

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Hospices de Beaune tasters winding their way through the cellars. Unrushed, generous, and complete, the organizers did a superb job of showing the many different cuvees.

As usual in Burgundy, the reds were all tasted before the whites.  I have no idea how many people will be tasting over the four tasting periods (morning and afternoon sessions on both Friday and Saturday), but the amount of wine poured out as samples must be substantial.  Hopefully the generosity of the Hospices will be matched by the generosity of the bidders at the auction Sunday afternoon!

THE WINES – 2014 – A VERY FINE VINTAGE

As a very general observation, somewhat sweeping and contradicted in many individual instances, I found the red wines to be better than the whites.  Most of the reds offered a tremendous depth of fruit, lush, velvety textures, and a beautiful yet powerful balance between fruit, acidity, tannin, and oak.  I was astounded that of all the reds sampled, only a few were marked by toasty oak, and all the wines were in new oak barrels.  Most showed a depth of concentration that stood up to the new oak barrels, which I believe bodes well for the continued elevage of the wines after their sale at auction.  The whites, many still cloudy from the tumultuous primary fermentations and some slightly petillant from the onset of malolactic, struck me as somewhat flat on my palate, rich and fat in ripeness, but many lacking some grip, firm, fresh acidity, and real depth of concentration.  But these generalisations will be contradicted by some of the specific notes below.

RED WINES

Santenay Christine Friedberg – Bright focused red fruits tightly wound around a core of bright tart acidity.  Malo evident.  Lushly textured, even velvety.  Good length and depth.  Quite fine.

Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Rameau-Lamarosse – Spicy cinnamon notes with dark cherry cobbler elements.  Richer and longer than the Santenay, showing a kiss of toasty oak to finish.  Very good.

Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Fouquerand – Griotte cherry and cassis flavors, quite tart, linear and focused, with firm tannins.  A bit tight and drying in the finish.  Decent.

Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Arthur Girard – A little gas and petillance. Gamey and bloody notes, a strong mineral element with dark red fruits.  Rather deep and concentrated.  Very fine but a bit brooding.

Savigny-les-Beaune Les Vergelesses 1er Cru Forneret – Meaty aromas with new toasty oak very evident.  Bright tart red currant fruits. Lush with a lovely silky texture.  Oak resolving in the finish.  Very good plus.

Monthelie Les Duresses 1er Cru Lebelin – Bright, tight, focused red fruits, quite tart, with malolactic evident.  Finishes a bit green, lean, and slightly vegetal. Ok but not a favorite.

Auxey-Duresses Les Duresses 1er Cru Boillot – Tightly wound red tart fruits around a racy acidity and fine tannic structure.  Nice smooth texture, but restrained and somewhat short to finish.  Decent.

Beaune 1er Cru Cyrot-Chaudron – Pronounced toasty new oak.  Roasted cherry cobbler flavors.  Not quite enough depth and concentration to support the new oak. Good but oaky.

Beaune 1er Cru Maurice Drouhin – Deep intense red fruits of sour cherry and cassis.  Quite rich and deep, suave velvety texture.  Lovely integrated oak finish.  Balanced, nicely tuned.  Very good.

Beaune 1er Cru Hugues et Louis Betault – Petillant.  Bright tight acidity showing a bit lean in fruit.  Firmly tannic.  Not for hedonists.

Beaune 1er Cru Brunet – Tight, closed and tannic.  Lacks depth of fruit, even a bit hard.  Not for me.

Beaune Greves 1er Cru Pierre Floquet – Complex aromatics with clove and cinnamon spices.  Lushly textured, full red fruits of cassis and raspberry.  Hints of iodine minerality.  Long fresh finish.  Very good.

Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Avaux – Closed subdued nose.  Petillant entry, a bit of gas and showing new toasty oak.  Firmly tannic.  Fruits masked by new oak elements.  Closed and ungiving at the moment.

Beaune 1er Cru Rousseau-Deslandes – Toasty oak and grilled cherry fruits.  Lush rich texture but flavors and finish dominated by oaky toastiness.  Not for me.

Beaune 1er Cru Dames Hospitalieres – Complex aromatics of spice and soft red fraises des bois (wild strawberries).  Soft and accessible, a fine drink, if perhaps a bit simple and one-dimensional.  Good.

Beaune 1er Cru Guigone de Salins – Meaty, gamey, butcher shop nose.  Lush velvety texture, buoyed by a kiss of new oak.  Long pleasant finish but a bit marked by oak.  Good.

Beaune 1er Cru Nicolas Rolin – Subdued quiet nose.  Focused bright, tight and tart red fruits, with an emerging gaminess mid-palate.  Finishes firm but not hard. Should age nicely.  Very good.

Volnay 1er Cru General Muteau – Malo evident with pronounced petillance and gassy elements.  A bit light with soft red fruits.  Seems elegant and stylish, but maybe lacking a bit of depth?  Good.

Volnay 1er Cru Blondeau – Quite a bit of gas, even a bit reductive. Silky fine texture with sour cherry fruits.  Subtle and suave to end.  Quite fine.

Volnay Santenots 1er Cru Jehan de Massol – Strawberry and soft cherry fruits.  Lush palate, smooth texture, and excellent tannic balance.  Delightful to taste.  Very well done.

Volnay Santenots 1er Cru Gauvain – Spicy red fruits. A bit firmer but also more dense than the Santenots above.  Full and quite concentrated red fruits give way to a long complex finish.  Very good to excellent.

Pommard Suzanne Chaudron – Tight closed nose.  Firmly tannic, not at all open.  Finishes tannic, lean, even mean.  Not for me.

Pommard Raymond Cyrot – Meaty and dense.  Rich full red fruits of cherry and cassis with a background of toasty oak.  The finish is dominated by the new oak.  Decent but oaky.

Pommard Billardet – Red licorice and tart sour cherry fruits in the nose.  Petillant and gassy.  Hard to evaluate through the malolactic notes.  A bit tart, firm, and tannic to finish.  Should be ok.

Pommard 1er Cru Dames de la Charite – A bit of gas and reduction in the nose and entry.  Dark cherry, deep, dense, and a bit brooding.  Very masculine and concentrated.  Very good to excellent.

Pommard Epenots 1er Cru Dom Goblet – Ripe cherry, red berry fruits.  Suave and velvety texture.  Lovely balance of soft tart cherry fruits, lightly oaky, finishing elegant and stylish.  A feminine counterpart to the powerful Dames de la Charite cuvee.  Very good to excellent.

Corton Grand Cru Charlotte Dumay – Pure refined nose of dark red fruits of dark cherry and cassis.  Lovely sweet mid-palate with spices of cloves and cinnamon in the background.  Excellent balance and depth.  Should be superb.

Corton Grand Cru Docteur Peste – Spicy clove cinnamon nose but darker and a bit more brooding in fruit than the Charlotte Dumay.  Deeper, firmer tannins give a slightly drying tone to the finish.  But the sheer depth and power should overcome in the end.  Excellent.

Corton Grand Cru Clos du Roi Baronne du Bay – Lovely red fruits of currant and strawberry give way to a soft, elegant, and refined texture.  Quite drinkable today, nicely supported by new oak tones.  Very good to excellent.

Echezeaux Grand Cru Jean-Luc Bissey – Dark black fruits, dense and brooding.  Tart blackberries and black currants.  Deep, intensely concentrated, and very long to finish. Superb.

Clos de la Roche Grand Cru Cyrot-Chaudron / Georges Kritter – Quiet, closed nose.  Dense and firmly tannic entry.  Blackberry and myrtille notes but also brooding, gamey and sauvage.  Perhaps even a bit too dense, almost over-extracted.  Should be excellent.

Mazis Chambertin Grand Cru Madeleine Collignon – Dark and brooding black fruits with a hint of reduction.  Lush, silky suave texture underneath.  Really refined and elegant with sheer weight and power.  Hints of raw meat, licorice, clove and cinnamon spices.  Long and luscious.  Superb.

WHITE WINES

Saint Romain Joseph Menault – From 600 liter tonneaux.  Citrus notes of lemon, lime, and pink grapefruit.  Chalky wet stone minerality, hints of malolactic petillance.  Precise and focused, with a crisp clean finish.  Very fine.

Pouilly-Fuisse Francoise Poisard – From 450 liter barrel.  Creamy and vanilla notes with a whiff of stony minerality.  Mildly citrus with peachy stone fruits.  A little diffuse, and perhaps a bit short.  Good.

Beaune 1er Cru Les Montrevenots Suzanne et Raymond – Lemon meringue, lovely creamy texture, delightful chardonnay fruit flavors kissed by new oak.  Refined and elegant.  Very good.

Meursault Loppin – Light citrus notes, light texture. Undistinguished, lacking depth and concentration.  Not to my liking.

Meursault Goureau – Creamy texture but a bit light and innocuous.  Disappointing depth and concentration.

Meursault Poruzots 1er Cru Jehan Humblot – Tangy citrus notes with a whiff of new oak.  Petillant, but lacks real depth and grip.  Light and dominated by a finish of new oak.  Acceptable.

Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru Baudot – Closed reluctant nose.  Soft and a bit flabby in texture, with creamy vanilla flavors.  Light lemon chiffon.  Disappointing.

Meursault Genevrieres 1er Cru Philippe le Bon –  Bright focused minerality of wet hot stones.  Lushly textured, a bit diffuse and loose.  Lacks grip and depth.  Almost soft.  Acceptable.

Meursault Charmes 1er Cru de Bahezre de Lanlay – Intense tangy nose of citrus and wet stones minerality.  But short and a bit fat in the mouth.  Builds a bit mid-palate and finishes fairly long and deep.  Good.

Meursault Charmes 1er Cru Albert Grivault – Tangy citrus notes of lemon and kaffir lime.  Bright, fresh, intense depth of fruit.  Real Meursault, almost oily in texture.  Very fine depth and a long crisp, tangy finish.  Very good to excellent.

Corton Vergennes Grand Cru Paul Chanson – Dense and focused mineral and citrus notes.  Focused, rich, and deep at the same time.  Creamy mid-palate shows very fine depth of concentration.  Fine length in the finish.  Very good to excellent.

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru Roi Soleil – A bit oaky.  Creamier style than above, a bit diffuse.  Lacks precision and concentration.  Ok.

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru Francois de Salins – Citrus with white flowers and bright focused minerality.  Bright, tight, focused citrus acidity with minerality adding precision and persisitence.  Racy and long.  Excellent to superb.

Batard Montrachet Grand Cru Dames de Flandres – Creamy nose a bit closed, showing vanilla and a bit of honey.  Rich entry of lemon and wild-flower honey.  A bit of tart malic acidity gives fine length and structured depth.  Excellent.

PROSPECTS FOR THE AUCTION – 2014 HOSPICES DE BEAUNE

The evolution of prices over the last years, with continued increases multiplied by short vintages, is expected to continue with the 2014 vintage Hospices de Beaune auction.  A very fine vintage of reasonable quantities, combined with increasing worldwide appreciation and demand for Burgundy wines, is sure to bring record setting returns from the auction for the benefit of the Hospices de Beaune’s operations.

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WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES ! Burgundy Harvest Update – Sunday, 21 September, 2014

It is another glorious day in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or!  Yesterday’s clouds and foggy morning gave way to clearing blue skies by 2pm, which continue today with low humidity and lovely temperatures (midday: 17°C, 63°F).  A line of clouds should be rolling in from the northwest later today, but the forecast is for continued splendid weather through most of next week.  This continued Indian summer is making everyone smile.  (Yes, the French use the phrase too, eté indien)   Just for the sake of contrast, here is what the same view from above looked like yesterday morning, and indeed for much of rainy July and early August:

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Meursault shrouded in fog Saturday morning, September 20th, 2014

Almost all of the white wine grapes are now in the producers’ cellars.  There are some parcels of Puligny and Meursault 1ers Crus whose ripening has been delayed by the hailstorm of June 28th, but plans are to pick those early next week.  The white grapes were nearly uniformly clean, ripe, and, except for some hail damage where shriveled berries quickly dried and fell off the vine, showing no signs of significant rot or botrytis.  For most growers the white grapes went straight to the pressoirs, there was little need for any triage.

Potential alcohol levels varied between 12.3° and 13.5°, and the fruit and juice that I have tasted has a wonderful sweetness, complemented by brilliant, tightly wound acidity.  These will be  classic white Burgundy wines, with chaptalisation rarely necessary, and if practiced, only to bring the wines up in alcohol a half to at most one degree.  Fermentations are proceeding very rapidly in the cellars, as a healthy crop also brought in healthy and copious yeast populations on the fruit.  The INAO has set the maximum yields for regional and villages white Burgundies at 60 hectoliters per hectare this year, and except for the hail-ravaged 1ers Crus in Meursault and Puligny, and some other plots of very old vines, this should be a fine vintage for quality wines with enough quantity to replenish stocks in the marketplace.

One of my neighbors in Puligny, Francois Carillon, reported that his alcoholic fermentations began almost immediately after debourbage (the settling of the juice’s gross lees), and took only a week to complete after the must was transferred to barrel.  His Bourgogne Blanc and Puligny villages yields were in the range of 50 hectoliters per hectare.  At Domaine Michel Niellon, Michel Coutoux was very happy with the quality and quantities of his Chassagnes from villages as well as 1ers and Grands Crus levels.  Potential alcohol at harvest was between 12.5° and 13.2°, and the vats were bubbling away when I visited Saturday morning the 20th September.

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Fermentation getting underway in this vat of Chassagne villages.
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Fermentation in full-tilt boogie in this vat of 1er Cru Vergers.

Most growers transfer their juice from vat into barrels when the fermentation begins, and that process is now underway in most white wine producing cellars throughout the Cote de Beaune.

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This vat of Chassagne villages bubbling away happily.
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Niellon Chevalier Montrachet continuing its fermentation in barrel.

Laurent Pillot finished his harvest  on Friday afternoon, bringing in the Aligote adjacent to his cuverie at the bottom of the village near the RN6/74 interchange.  He and his son were just finishing cleaning tanks after debourbage, and transferring the must to barrels for fermentation.

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A very happy Laurent Pillot in his Chassagne winery.
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Laurent’s son Adrien prepares the barrels to receive the must.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, the latest parcels to be picked seem to be those most impacted by the hailstorm at the end of June, as well as the higher slopes of Puligny, Blagny, and Meursault where cooler temperatures usually mean a later harvest.  More on these wines in a later post.

The Pinot Noir harvest is in full swing as I write this post, with most of the Cote de Beaune reds in the cellars, and in the Cote de Nuits, most grapes are being brought in under superb conditions.  Many of the producers of the Cote de Nuits’ illustrious Grands Crus will wait to bring in their fruit next week, under what is forecast as continued near-perfect weather.  As of yesterday, I saw some fruit remaining in Corton, the upper slopes of Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix Grands Crus parcels, and quite a few parcels waiting to be picked in Vosne, Morey, and Gevrey Grands Crus.  For the most part, the harvest of reds in Volnay, Pommard, and Beaune has finished, with spectacular fruit brought in, just not much of it.  The 1ers Crus and much of the villages parcels in these communes were severely impacted by the hailstorms, and yields will be down significantly.  Some growers report parcels that produced only 5 hl/h.  The quality is beautiful, but the quantities will be miserly.

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Triage at Domaine Marquis d’Angerville sorting Volnay 1er Cru Champans
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A lovely bin of Volnay 1er Cru Champans at d’Angerville. Yields are down >50%.

Guillaume d’Angerville estimates that in the last 5 years (2010 to 2014 vintages) he has produced the equivalent of only two average crops.  The quality of 2014 is superb, with little rot and very little damage from vinegar flies in the Cote de Beaune.  But there will be little wine to sell from the 2014 vintage.

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Guillaume d’Angerville with a handful of beautiful Volnay. Excellent quality, just not much of it.

There has been widespread talk, and a bit of quiet fear, of a new pest that has arrived in the Pinot Noir vineyards of Burgundy.  I have heard a lot of discussion about drosophila suzukii, the invasive species of fruit fly that has been found in several vineyards.  The flies thrive in heat and humidity, particularly in places where the air is stagnant, without much wind.  The flies puncture the ripening fruit, introducing a vinegar yeast to the bunch, and can decimate surrounding vines quite rapidly, turning wine grapes to vinegar juice.

For many growers, 2014 marks the first year of this new pest, and I heard varying comments on its presence, effects, and vectors.  Everyone agrees that the issue is localized in small parcels this year, mainly in the Cote de Nuits, but reported to be quite problematic in the Cote Chalonaise as well.  Many maintain that heat, insufficient ventilation, and humidity are causes, and point to parcels where leaves were not pulled from the fruit before harvest, especially in the lower, frequently wetter areas.  Others claim to have no problems whatsoever, due to the sanitary conditions of their organic and sometimes biodynamic plots.  The highest estimates of the effects of the vinegar fly that I have heard are that 3 to 5% of the fruit was affected in the Cote de Nuits.  Pickers and sorters have been extremely vigilant this year, sniffing boxes and bunches for the telltale vinegar aromas, and even where the fruit arrives in beautiful condition, extra care and time are being taken on the tables de triage.

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A bunch of Pinot Noir affected by drosophila suzukii vinegar fly.  This bunch smelled of cheap red wine vinegar
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Richebourg getting special attention on the table de triage at Domaine Parent-Gros, Francois Parent was very cautious.
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Extra personnel were added to the sorting table at Domaine Bertagna
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Victoria Damoy (front left) supervises her triage table at Domaine Pierre Damoy

Most growers with whom I spoke did agree to one thing: that drosophila suzukii has indeed arrived in Burgundy, and that it will become another significant issue that will require vigilant attention in the vines for the coming years.

The next several days will complete the harvest in the Cote d’Or vineyards for 2014.  Growers will continue their work as the wines begin to take shape and reveal their personalities.  But confidence is high that a quality vintage is being produced in 2014.

Chasing the Sun: Chenove to Chorey in Vintage 2014

While the television coverage of President Francois Hollande’s dismissal of the French government and Prime Minister Valls scrambling to form another was non-stop speculation and spin, the main thing on people’s minds here in Burgundy is the weather.  The outgoing Economic Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, denounced austerity and conservatism, claimed modern Europe has been in economic crisis since 1929, quoted St. Augustine, and the French markets responded with the Bourse up nearly 3% in a couple days.  The French government may look to the left for a solution to stagnation and unemployment, but the farmers and growers of France’s most important agricultural export look to the skies.  Too bad all the hot air generated by the politicians, spin doctors, and talking heads can’t change the jet stream and bring us some true summer weather!

After a wonderfully sunny week, showers returned on Saturday evening August 23rd.  Sunday was a superb late summer day, with brilliant sunshine and magnificently warm but not too hot temperatures.  It was perfect for the international baseball tournament and country-western line dancing at the Journees Americain in Fenay, just east of Dijon, which I attended.  Unfortunately, by late evening thick clouds had moved in from the west, and the night brought rain.  Monday morning brought drear and drizzle, with weather more appropriate to late October than late August.  It is cool, damp, and grey here in the Cote d’Or.  Monday evening brought rain and Tuesday morning the fog and clouds covered the upper slopes of the Cote d’Or and and a steady rain drenched the region.  As I write the sky is clearing a bit, and the wind is picking up out of the west.  The forecast is for continued unsettled weather.

After writing about the prospects for the harvest in the southern part of the Cote d’Or, with another post devoted to the illustrious Grands Crus, it is time to consider the northern part of the region, the regional, village, and 1ers Crus north of the A6 motorway, from the suburbs of Dijon to the outskirts of Beaune.

CHENOVE, MARSANNAY, and COUCHEY

White, red, and rose wines are produced in the three villages entitled to the Appellation Marsannay Protegee.  These villages were mostly untouched by the hailstorms of June 28th, and show delightfully healthy bunches of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit.  Well off the beaten path,  these villages do have some very fine parcels and terroir.  It is no accident that one of the climats of Chenove is called Clos du Roy, testament to the importance of this village during and after the reign of the powerful Valois Ducs de Bourgogne.  A little visited, but exceptionally preserved pressoir and winery dating from the 14th century are still present amongst the modern apartments of Dijon suburbanites.

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The 14th Century pressoir of the Dukes of Burgundy in Chenove
A good vintage for these wonderful Mirabelle plums, on a path above Chenove
A good vintage for these wonderful Mirabelle plums, on a path above Chenove
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Some very fine looking Pinot Noir from older vines in Chenove
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Lovely Chardonnay in Marsannay
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A very fine result in Couchey

Much like the villages of St. Romain, St. Aubin, Monthelie, and Auxey-Duresses, Marsannay is going to have its day in the sun, particularly if the 2014 vintage finishes sunny and dry.  The prices are good, quantities from the three villages are ample, and more and more offerings by-the-glass are being seen in the hip wine bars of Beaune.  Negociants are swooping in to buy fruit, and producers from these villages are stepping up their quality as well.  Wines from Alex Gambel and Rene Bouvier are starting to have a cult following on the east coast of the USA, and the prix-qualite rapport is excellent.

FIXIN

Early in my career I was exposed to the wonderful wines of Fixin, representing the fine wines of Domaine Pierre Gelin.  Today the wines from the village of Fixin are emerging from relative obscurity, and the 1ers Crus are simply delicious in recent vintages.  Normally a bit more pointed in structure, with higher acids, and a bit more chalky tannins than the wines from its neighbor Gevrey-Chambertin, Fixin can show great depth and richness when yields and weather coincide correctly.  Modern winemaking techniques are bringing Fixin to a welcoming market, as the wines generally represent very fine value.

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Fixin also has a beautiful Romanesque chapel, parts of which date from the 9th Century
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Lovely, abundant fruit here at Fixin 1er Cru Les Hervelets
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Very fine Chardonnay in Fixin 1er Cru Clos de La Perriere
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Fixin 1er Cru Clos Napoleon. Leaves had been pulled and the crop thinned in preparation for the harvest
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Should be an excellent yield in Fixin 1er Cru Clos Napoleon. These old vines show some variable veraison, and the crop was also being thinned out when I visited.
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“Reveil de Napoleon” a bronze by the famous sculptor Rude, in the Parc Noisot in Fixin. Worth a detour. Dijon has a fine museum of Rude’s work, with copies from other monuments in France.

The wines of Fixin, particularly its 1ers Crus, are worth searching for.  They can be every bit as good as Gevrey-Chambertin, at half the price, though the vineyards are small, and quantities limited.

BROCHON and GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN

I was having a quiet Saturday afternoon at my Domaine Henri Richard gite in Gevrey on June 28th, when the skies suddenly darkened, the wind began to howl, and the rain began to pour in sheets.  What really got my attention was that a bit of this downpour was bouncing.  It was hailing.  Gevrey-Chambertin did not get too much hail that day, but curiosity forced me into my car and onto the Route de Grands Crus, where I then encountered another few waves of the storms that were moving in from the south.

There is some damage to the vineyards and fruit in Gevrey, but nothing compared to the devastation further south, which I have already reported in previous posts.  Gevrey growers tell me that 5 to 10% of their crop was lost to the hail, but at the moment, most expect a fairly normal, average-sized crop, because the vines were carrying a fairly copious fruit set, and the recent rains have swollen the grapes significantly.  The key to 2014 will be the weather between now and September 15th, when many growers forecast the harvest will begin.  A rigorous selection at harvest and again in the winery will be required to keep quality at the levels that recent prices command.

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Beautiful fruit in Brochon, whose southern parcels are classified AOP Gevrey-Chambertin
Brochon Water Windmill
Brochon also has a wonderful engineering curiosity, a 19th century wind-powered water pump
As in many areas that were hit quickly, hail damage in Gevrey was predominantly on the southern sides of vines
As in many areas that were hit quickly, hail damage in Gevrey was mostly on the southern sides of vines
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Excellent results in the Gevrey village lieu-dit of Les Justices
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Pierre Damoy’s Gevrey village Monopole Clos Tamisot with a fine set of fruit
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Getting there, but a little behind the ripening curve in this Gevrey village plot
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Beautiful ripening at veraison mid-August in Gevrey village Aux Corvees
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Variations in ripening at Gevrey 1er Cru Champeaux
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This will need sorting and a strict selection in 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques
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Lovely fruit, also in Gevrey 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques
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But a bit wet in Clos St. Jacques at the bottom of the slope with fewer stones
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Lovely fruit in 1er Cru Clos des Varoilles
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A bit of damage in 1er Cru Cherbaudes

 

Gev Perr Probs
Problems here in Gevrey 1er Cru Les Perriere, quite a bit of millerandage, but the adjacent vine at the top right of the photo looks fine.

Gevrey-Chambertin should deliver a fine quantity and quality of fruit in 2014 if the weather improves.  The next few weeks will determine the quality of the vintage, but there is plenty of fruit for producers to work with here.

MOREY ST. DENIS

I have always liked the wines of Morey.  To me they show an accentuated minerality, a flavor almost like the iron accents in blood, or the smell of mecurochrome that my mother would put on an abrasion when I skinned my knees or elbows.  I have been told that Morey has an inordinate amount of manganese in its soils, which might account for the high-toned, tart dark fruit flavors that I associate with Morey St. Denis.  Damage here was minimal, and the growers here should be happy if the clouds lift and the sun shines.

Morey Clos des Ormes (2)
Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Clos des Ormes
Morey PV 1
An amazing vine with some lovely fruit: Morey villages lieu-dit Pierre Vivant
Morey Luisants Chard (2)
Chardonnay in the heights of Morey: 1er Cru Monts Luisants
Morey Luisants PN
Some lovely Pinot Noir in 1er Cru Monts Luisants as well
Morey Ruch (2)
A good set here in Morey 1er Cru Les Ruchots
Morey Rue de Vergy
Morey villages lieu-dit en la Rue de Vergy above Clos de Tart: secondary crop above, culled fruit below. Experienced pickers only required!

CHAMBOLLE-MUSIGNY

As mentioned in a previous post, Musigny, at the knoll  of the hill just above Clos de Vougeot, was significantly impacted by hail.  Damage north of the village was quite limited except in the upper slopes near Bonnes Mares, but moving south towards 1ers Crus Les Amoureuses and Les Charmes more sustained damage appears.  I would estimate losses of 35% in some Chambolle vineyards.

CM Sentiers
A few millerandes, but a fine spread in Chambolle 1er Cru Les Sentiers
CM Cras
Lovely spacing in Chambolle 1er Cru Les Cras
CM Plantes (3)
A splendid vine in Chambolle 1er Cru Les Plantes
CM New Amour
Domaine Bertagna’s new plantation at top right of photo, newly built terraces of Chambolle 1er Cru Les Amoureuses above Monopole Clos de La Perriere
CM Amour
A bit of hail damage, and not much fruit on this Chambolle 1er Cru Les Amoureuses vine

Chambolle-Musigny has always been a favorite village for me.  Its elegance and suave flavors remind me of a darker style of Volnay, more sultry, like Lauren Bacall compared to Catherine Denueve.  Good results can be expected here if the weather will cooperate, though hail damage in the southern parcels was significant, reducing the crop by 25 to 35%.

VOUGEOT and FLAGEY_ECHEZEAUX

Outside of their distinguished Grands Crus, there are not many parcels of vines in Vougeot or Flagey to talk about.  Vougeot has 3 hectares of vines classified as villages, and almost 12 hectares of 1ers Crus parcels to complement the 50 hectares of Clos de Vougeot.  The only non-Grand Cru property in Flagey-Echezeax is classified as Appellation Vosne-Romanee Protegee.  These parcels sustained some heavy damage from the hail, especially parcels higher on the slope, including the two Monopoles, Clos de La Perriere (Domaine Bertagna) and Clos Blanc de Vougeot (Boisset’s Domaine de la Vougeraie), where I estimate 40% of the crop was lost.  The Vougeot 1ers Crus Les Petits Vougeot and Les Cras were less affected, as were the small villages parcels.

20140817_170419
Vougeot 1er Cru Monopole Clos de La Perriere showing damage & millerandage

VOSNE-ROMANEE

Unfortunately, Vosne-Romanee, the village where, according to Thomas Jefferson, “there are no ordinary wines”, was substantially impacted by the hail, and I have written of the damage to the Grands Crus in a previous post.  Yet other vines in Vosne-Romanee were also badly damaged, particularly northern, upper parcels of the 1ers Crus Les Suchots and Les Beaux Monts.  Again, fruit on the southern side of the vines was more damaged, but a fair bit of fine fruit clusters remain to be harvested.

VR Such
Damaged clusters were removed in this parcel of Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Suchots
VR BM South
Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts south side of vine
VR BM
Same parcel from the opposite, northern side with less damage

Further south, and down the slope adjacent to and below La Tache, things appear fairly good, with an abundant crop ripening nicely.

VR Mal
Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Malconsorts in fine form
VR CdReas (3)
A very fine result in Vosne 1er Cru Monopole Clos des Reas (Domaine Michel Gros)
VR CdReas
Uneven ripening, millerandes, but no hail damage in Clos des Reas

Moving further south into Vosne-Romanee villages appellations, at the Nuits St. Georges border about 10 to 15% losses in vines seems to have been the average.  Again, the fruit clusters on the south sides of the rows of vines were most affected by the hail.

VR aReas South
South side hail damage in Vosne-Romanee village parcel, here at Aux Reas
VR a Reas
Much more attractive (and riper) fruit on the north side, again Aux Reas

Occasionally in the Cote d’Or one still comes across vineyards like the one pictured below, showing the effects of using herbicide treatments on several rows of vines.  While I recognize that Les Bourguignons are fiercely proud, independent people, with huge, compassionate hearts, I simply do not understand how one’s neighbors can tolerate the continued use of poison in these treasured vines.  This is an abominable cruelty to agriculture.

VR Desherbes
Herbicide poisons in use to kill grass, weeds, and who knows what (or who) else in these vines

NUITS ST. GEORGES and PREMEAUX-PRISSEY

The town of Nuits St. Georges and the village of Premeaux-Prissey, which is entitled to the appellation of Nuits St. Georges, constitute one of the largest vineyard appellations in the entire Cote d’Or, with over 178 hectares of villages and 147 hectares of 1ers Crus shared between them.  There are no Grands Crus in Nuits St. Georges, but there are a lot of excellent wines produced here.  As throughout most of the Cote, the finest terroirs are mid-slope, where they enjoy excellent exposure to the sun, great drainage, and a superb mixture of calcaire stones and rich, nutrient and mineral-laden soils.

Hail was not an insignificant factor in the Nuits St. Georges appellations, but I would estimate only spotty losses of 5 to 10%.  Where there was damage, it was again on the south side of vines, with the northern sides showing abundant and fine fruit clusters.  Millerandage seems to have been fairly significant, with quite a few older vines showing substantial shot berries in their bunches.

NSG Vill
Uneven ripening and a few millerandes, here in Nuits villages Au Bas de Combe
NSG Boud (2)
Nuits 1er Cru Boudots, two vines with differing ripening schedules
NSG Dam (3)
A lovely vine with superb fruit in Nuits 1er Cru Les Damodes
NSG Murg
A very fine crop in Nuits 1er Cru Les Murgers
NSG Pruliers
Abundance in Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Pruliers
NSG Roncieres (2)
Lovely old vines fruit in Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Ronciere
NSG Porets
Quite a bit of damage in 1er Cru Clos du Porrets St. Georges just south of Ronciere

 

NSG LSG (2)
Two closely intertwined vines showing millerandes, a bit of hail damage, and secondary growth (at the top right side of photo) in 1er Cru Les St. Georges
NSG LSG
A much better set in this part of 1er Cru Les St. Georges, nearly uniform ripening
NSG Chard CDFST Prem TB
Some lovely white grapes in the upper parcel of Nuits Monopole 1er Cru Clos des Forets St. Georges (Domaine de L’Arlot).  Are these Chardonnay or their delightful Pinot Beurrot?
NSG Arg North
A fine result on the north side of 1er Cru Clos des Argillieres, a ways to go to ripen
NSG Arguil
Not so fine, with some damage, on this southern side of Clos des Argillieres

 

NSG Clos Arlot
The marvelously tilted, roller coaster ride of Nuits 1er Cru Monopole Clos Arlot (Domaine de L’Arlot)
NSG Marech
Nuits 1er Cru Monopole Clos de la Marechale (Domaine J-F Mugnier), beneath the rock piles from the quarry above

I could not get inside to view the vineyards in two of my favorite Nuits St Georges (Premeaux) 1ers Crus Monopoles, the Clos Arlot of Domaine de L’Arlot, and the Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Clos de la Marechale, which I have enjoyed since Faiveley controlled its production.  These adjacent sites in Premeaux-Prissey  express two different sides of Pinot Noir.  I always enjoy the rich dark red fruits and smooth, satisfyingly silky style of Clos de la Marechale, while the more brooding, mineral,  sauvage black fruits of Clos Arlot are fantastic with lamb or game.

COMBLANCHIEN and CORGOLOIN

Today the villages of Comblanchien and Corgoloin may be more well known for their marble stone, quarried from some of the Cote d’Or’s hardest limestone rock, but I predict that there will soon be some newly popular producers, lieux dits, and wines from these attractive vineyards around the major rock industry of Burgundy.

With prices for all Burgundy escalating, it may soon be impossible to offer a Cote de Nuits village wine by the glass in many top restaurants.  However, the Appellation Cote de Nuits-Villages Protegee wines from Comblanchien and Corgoloin can fill that void for high quality Pinot Noir at a reasonable tariff.  I, for one, am excited to see the appearance of a few lieux-dits names on the labels of some of these villages’ better producers.  Jean-Marc Millot’s Aux Fauques, from Comblanchien, and the Domaine d’Ardhuy’s Corgoloin Monopole Clos des Langres, are two examples of Cote de Nuits-Villages at its best.

Comblanchien (2)
An excellent crop in the Comblanchien Cote de Nuits-Villages site Aux Fauques
Corgo Ardhuy
Old vines with fine fruit in Corgoloin Monopole Clos des Langres
Comblanchien Monument
A sad memorial at the church of Comblanchien: the war was nearly finished here when retreating Germans shot eight suspected collaborators and burned 52 houses in the village.

Last Thursday marked the 70th anniversary of one of many atrocities committed by German SS troops as they retreated from the Allies’ advance and inevitable liberation of France.  The memorial at Comblanchien marks that sad night.

Comblanchien and Corgoloin have a long history of viticulture as well.  The Clos des Langres of Corgoloin was planted in the 9th century by monks from the Abbey of Cluny, and remained the property of the Diocese and Bishops of Langres until appropriated by Revolutionary forces at the end of the 18th century.

While the Cotes de Nuits-Villages wines from these villages (as well as those from Fixin and Brochon with the same appellation) may be headed up in price with all the rest of Burgundy’s wines, they still represent an excellent value for the world’s most distinctive Pinot Noir.

ALOXE-CORTON

While this village’s wine production is dominated by its Grands Crus Corton and Corton Charlemagne, there are still nearly 90 hectares of villages appellation vines in Aloxe and 37 hectares of 1ers Crus spread between Aloxe and Ladoix.  Hail damage was minimal here, especially as many of the vines are in the lower slope areas of the Corton hill.

Aloxe
Aloxe Corton 1er Cru Les Fournieres
Aloxe Mills
Millerandage in Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru

 

If the sun returns to Burgundy, Aloxe-Corton will be a good source of quality wines in 2014.  There are top producers such as Domaine Antonin Guyon, Domaine Tollot-Beaut, and Domaine Chandon de Briailles bringing very fine wines to market at reasonable prices compared to other villages across the Cote d’Or.  While some wines from the village have a reputation for lightness, these producers’ wines show medium depth of soft cherry fruit, bright acidity, tightly wound minerality, and smoky, bacon-fat aromas that I thoroughly enjoy.

PERNAND-VERGELESSES

For years this village has literally lived in the shadows of the hill of Corton’s illustrious Grands Crus, yet judging by the presence of white and red offerings in the wine bars of Beaune and the surrounding region, Pernand-Vergelesses is in for a time of renewed appreciation.  With one 1er Cru, Sous Fretille, virtually identical in geography and geology to Corton Charlemagne, and other vineyards being the first and the last to grab sun from the sky just adjacent to Savigny, I believe that Pernand-Vergelesses will soon be a brighter star in the Burgundy firmament.

Pernand Sous Fret
Looking down from atop Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Sous Fretilles with the village below
Pernand (2)
Not without some damage in Pernand
Pernand
Some lovely Pernand Chardonnay
Pernand Ile Verg Red
Fine Pinot Noir in Pernand 1er Cru Ile de Vergelesses

As a salesperson I used to refer to Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc as “baby Corton-Chuck”.  The reds can also be delightful bargains, though it seems most of the Pernand offered today is white.  Look for the 1ers Crus of Ile de Vergelesses or Vergelesses, as well as the Sous Fretille.

SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE

It was only last year that Savigny was devasted by hail in July 2013, and the results are empty cellars for some producers from this lovely village.  One producer of Savigny-les-Beaune that I have known for over 25 years told me that they made no 1ers Crus in 2013.  If she is lucky, there will be a fine crop in 2014 to harvest.

Savigny sits in the mouth of a broad valley cut by the River Rhoin.  After the village, the valley opens to the east with some superb vineyards on both the northern and southern sides of the Rhoin.  The broad, open valley is perfectly exposed, and its 1ers Crus are the first and the last to receive the day’s sunshine.  The soils vary from quite stony to a mixture of clay and soil, argilo-calcaire, the essential terroir of great Burgundy wines.  Aux Guettes, Clous, Serpentieres, Gravains, Les Lavieres, Fournaux, Champs Chevrey, Narbantons and others all present excellent rapport prix-qualite.

Savigny Goudelettes
Wonderful Savigny fruit from village lieu-dit Les Goudelettes
Savigny Verg
Savigny 1er Cru Vergelesses, above the Pernand 1er Cru Ile de Vergelesses
Savigny Lav
Lovely fruit set in Savigny 1er Cru Les Lavieres
Savigny Guettes (2)
Should be a very fine result in Savigny 1er Cru Clos des Guettes
Savigny Briailles
The beautiful Chateau of Chandon de Briailles, with gardens by Lenotre, who also designed the gardens of Versailles
Savigny Washing & River
Adjacent to the Chateau, Savigny’s lavoir, or communal wash house, with the Rhoin River flowing through.

 

 

 

 

 

Hail damage and millerandage were fairly slight in 2014 in Savigny-les-Beaune.  Yet still, the average for winemakers there is to have made approximately two normal vintages in quantity over the last four years.  Understandably prices will rise, as the lack of wine throughout Burgundy is exerting enormous pressures on price.  But those growers who exercise restraint will find themselves with increasing market share.  The wines of Savigny-les-Beaune still represent value for this buyer’s money.

CHOREY-LES-BEAUNE

This village on the outskirts of Beaune has always been an excellent source for Cote de Beaune-Villages and the village appellation of Chorey-les-Beaune.  Most growers there are producing quality wines at very moderate prices, often not much more than Bourgogne Rouge.  Most of its 154 hectares sit on the eastern side of the former Route Nationale 74, which has been the traditional separation of wheat from chaff in Burgundy.  However, these wines are generally charming: full of Burgundy Pinot Noir flavors and delightfully easy to drink.  My current house quaffing wine is Chorey-les-Beaune from the friendly cousins at Domaine Tollot Beaut.  Delicious!

Chorey (2)
Fine stuff in Chorey-les-Beaune lieu dit Les Beaumonts
Chorey
This photo was taken at 8:22pm on August 18th, 2014. Chorey-les-Beaune is still bathed in sunlight just before sunset. Looking closely, one can see the hot air balloon to the south above the village: a magnificent way to survey the vineyards if the wind is from the south.

This post and previous missives have covered the prospects for the 2014 harvest in the Cote d’Or in some detail, village by village, lieu-dit to Grands Crus from Santenay to the suburbs of Dijon.  If the sun continues to shine, the Cote d’Or should enjoy a fine harvest in 2014.  Some villages, notably northern Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, and Beaune, have been devastated by the hailstorms of June 28th, and will suffer greatly from a lack of wine at a period of worldwide increases in demand for wines of authenticity and terroir.  And there is no vineyard area on earth that more fully embodies the concept of terroir than the Cote d’Or.

I still believe that Matt Kramer said it best: ” Memorable wine is as much a map as a taste. It is why wine lovers in general, and Burgundy lovers more than anyone else, spend so much pleasurable effort exploring the distinctions between one vineyard and another. This is why a thirty-one mile strip of land, the Cote d’Or, has captivated wine drinkers for a millenium. Through its wines, one has the sensation of having found a terrestial crossroads, a place where man and plant and planet meet“.  (Emphasis mine, Matt Kramer, Making Sense of Burgundy, 1990).

What the weather brings in the next couple of weeks will only add to the complexity of understanding this incredible place.  I am happy if you enjoy my humble contributions, while I live my dreams in France.