Tag Archives: Beaune

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.

Burgundy Harvest Updates – Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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.

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Thierry & Pascale Matrot’s Puligny 1er Cru Combettes looking beautiful.  This from lower parcel as upper was replanted
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Matrot Puligny 1er Cru Combettes had 50% hail damage, mostly already fallen off the vines. 20-25hl/h if they are lucky.
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Adelle Matrot gets the Puligny Combettes  fruit into the vat…
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While Elsa Matrot checks the potential alcohol – 12.9% !

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.

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The quality of fruit bunches from Domaine Coffinet Duvernay Chassagne 1er Cru Fairendes was phenomenal. No hail, no rot.

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.

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Great to see Eva Reh of Domaine Bertagna smiling about the harvest! Son Philip assisting on the table de triage.
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Domaine Bertagna cellar-master Denis Rozat extremely pleased with the quality of Nuits 1er Cru les Murgers.
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Domaine Bertagna reds are all fermented in small stainless tanks. The Nuits 1er Cru Murgers goes into vat.
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Beautiful Domaine Bertagna Nuits 1er Cru Les Murgers waits for the sorting table.

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.

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Delphine Roumier (middle right) leads the table de triage in ensuring perfection for the Chambolle 1er Cru Les Cras
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These Roumier Chambolle Les Cras whole custers were beautiful.  I am not sure what percentage of the total will be whole cluster.

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.

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Victoria Damoy (on left with gloves) on the sorting table at Domaine Pierre Damoy, Marsannay harvest.
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Beautiful destemmed fruit from Marsannay (Couchey) lieu-dit Bretigniere, one of two Damoy Marsannay parcels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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A very warm day in Gevrey.  Sarah Bastien of Domaine Henri Richard (in hat, left), sorting whole clusters of Charmes-Chambertin.
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Beautiful Charmes-Chambertin fruit from Domaine Henri Richard.  Many of these boxes went to the vats as whole clusters after the sorting table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Richeburg triage.  Caroline Parent-Gros, her brother Mathias, and her father Francois Parent were all smiles.
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Richebourg Grand Cru after destemming, soon to go into vat. Great looking and great tasting!
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Surgical precision on the table de triage for Domaine Parent Gros’ Richebourg Grand Cru. Mathias Parent-Gros supervising (far right).

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.

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Looking southeast from the Chemin de Moines de St.Vivant on La Montagne in Vosne-Romanee towards Nuits St. Georges. Splendid weather still prevails.

 

Burgundy Harvest Updates – 2014

I am bouncing all over the Cote d’Or on my first experience of the harvest in Burgundy.  After thirty years of visits as a buyer and tourist, I am finally witnessing how some of the greatest wines on earth are made.  The harvesters are in the vineyards by 7am, work until noon, usually have a fine lunch and rest until 2pm, and are back in the vines (or in the winery) until 7pm.  It is a long day of hard and monotonous work, but feels immensely satisfying at the end of the day, when the juice is in the vats and the wine begins to make its personality (climat, vintage, quality & quantity) known.

I began this Saturday morning September 13th by assisting at the table de triage in Gevrey-Chambertin with Sarah Bastien & Guillaume Borot of Domaine Henri Richard.  My job: to pick out the stems, leaves, and other detritus that make their way past the destemmer.

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Pick out any green, brown, or leafy bits. My job at the end of the sorting table, after destemming.

But many pictures and a full vat later, I took our dejeuner de vendangeurs complemented by jus des raisins de Gevrey villages aux Corvees (12.3° ) !  Of course wine was also served.

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Harvest workers are fed well! Sarah Bastien of Domaine Henri Richard dishes up Choucroute a l’Alsacienne for the vendangeurs.

After , I made my way south to help lug caisses (the harvest grape boxes that contain about 25kg of grapes – around 20 bottles all finished) with Philippe Duvernay and his son Sebastien of Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay in Chassagne.  Heavy lifting, mostly in 1er Cru Fairendes, where the fruit was being brought in at 12.5 to 12.7° potential alcohol.

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Lovely fruit from Coffinet-Duvernay’s Chassagne 1er Cru Fairendes. Old vines produce clusters with quite a few millerandes, highly concentrated in flavor.
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Small caisses or boxes for the harvest. Each box has about 25 kg of grapes (about 55 lbs), which produces around 20 bottles of wine (750ml) per box.
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Philippe Duvernay slowly presses whole cluster fruit for almost two hours, while others, like Niellon, use a screw device to break up the clusters a bit before slowly pressing the grapes.

The harvest in the Cote de Beaune is progressing nicely, while many in the Cote de Nuits remain on the sidelines as the marvelous weather brings the Pinots to superb, near perfect ripeness.  Crews were out in force in Savigny, Aloxe, and Ladoix, but Corton Charlemagne saw nary a vendangeur.

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Harvest crews out in Ladoix 1er Cru. Hardly any teams were out in the Grands Crus of Corton or Charlemagne.

Next week will bring more harvest teams out in the Cote de Nuits, as the superb weather is forecast to change to cloudy and rainy by Thursday.  But the wonderful thing about weather forecasts here in France is that they are rarely accurate and often change twice a day.  Several important growers with whom I spoke this week were planning to hit the vines further north on Monday, September 15th.

I learned of a new pest in the vineyards this week, one rather specific to red wine grapes, and caused by the small fruit fly relative named drosophila suzukii, the vinegar fly.  The fly punctures the skins of ripening grapes, allowing botrytis acetic to take hold, decimating grape bunches and turning the sweet red juice into vinegar.  It can be prolific and exceptionally damaging in warm, humid conditions, which will be another factor in when the big red producers of the Cote de Nuits decide to begin their harvests.  With unsettled weather possibly returning on Thursday, it would not be surprising to see more vendangeurs in the Cote de Nuits early next week.

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A Pinot Noir bunch affected by the drosophila suzukii vinegar fly. Botryitis takes hold producing a pronounced vinegar smell and taste. This can be ruinous to fermenting vats, and is far more dangerous, and luckily, far less frequent, than normal grey rot.

Stay tuned for more harvest reports from the 2014 vintage in the Cote d’Or….. and for immediate gratification as well as more pictures, follow me on Twitter at @amitiesjerome.

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Race to Ripeness: Prospects for the 2014 Vintage – Santenay to Beaune

I awoke in Meursault Monday morning August 11th to a refreshingly cool, dry, and brilliantly clear morning, after three very warm and humid days with evenings and nights of thunderstorms, lightning, and localized, torrential downpours of rain.  Thankfully no hail fell during these storms, but as veraison occurs (when the grapes begin to change color with ripening), the season’s weather becomes important, as the harvest gets planned, and the quality and quantity of the vintage begin to take shape.

The Cote de Beaune is wet.  And damp, even soggy.  With veraison comes the end of vineyard treatments for oidium and mildew, as well as their efficacy (not to mention the potential for off-flavors in the resulting wines if vineyards are treated too late).   Continued humidity and rain bring the risk of rot developing (not the noble kind), and the possible further deterioration of an already difficult vintage.  The saying goes “Aout fait le mout”, or “August makes the juice”, and the next 30 days will have a profound effect upon the quantity and quality of the 2014 vintage in Burgundy.

The beginning of the vintage saw very moderate rainfall, with one grower in Chassagne reporting a total of 100mm of rainfall for all of March, April, May, and June combined.   Flowering proceeded rapidly with splendidly sunny, warm weather, and the resulting berry-set forecast a fine and copious vintage for 2014.  Alas, for many parts of the Cote de Beaune (as well as Cote de Nuits, which will be covered in a subsequent post), June 28th brought devastation in a wave of hailstorms that wrought significant damage on some of Burgundy’s most precious vineyard sites.  That damage has become ever more visible as veraison proceeds, and the prospects for a decent 2014 vintage hang in the balance, challenged by the vagaries of le meteo.

July was an extremely variable and difficult month, alternating between rainy and sunny days without any rhythm or sustained periods of sunshine and dry warmth.  In July alone, the same vigneron reports nearly 100mm of rain, more precipitation than the previous four months combined.  What is surprising and unusual is that the attendant wetness and humidity in July did not require a lot of additional treatments in the vines, far fewer than 2013, for instance.  The vegetative cycle was slightly delayed, pushing the predicted harvest dates into mid-September.

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Storm moving north towards Beaune, while the village of Puligny is bathed in brilliant sunlight (Sunday afternoon, August 10, 2014, just after 5pm)

August has continued this wet and humid atmosphere, with a continual procession of storms moving from south to north or southwest to northeast, bringing warm moist air from the Mediterranean to collide with the cooler prevailing temperatures in Burgundy.  The results in the three evenings and nights of the weekend of August 8th to 10th have been localized but heavy downpours of rain, spectacular displays of brilliant lightning within cumulo-nimbus cloud towers (unfortunately concealing the year’s ‘largest’ full moon), and standing water at the bottom of many vineyard sites on the slopes of the Cote de Beaune.  There is substantial erosion on the steeper slopes, and a lot of soil and some rocks have been carried down the slopes onto roads and paths.

Soils and stones washed onto the Route de Chassagne at Santenay
Soils and stones washed onto the Route de Chassagne at Santenay

The soil in most of the Cote de Beaune is saturated and sticky, making footing and tractor work precarious.  Walking into most vineyards, my shoes were quickly clogged and coated with sticky clay-mud, and I felt as though I were wearing heavy clogs after only a few steps.  The stonier sites are easier to navigate, but one still feels a certain sponginess to the ground, in spite of better drainage in the upper, rockier parcels.  Bending over taking quite a few photographs made me realize exactly how hard the work of harvesting grapes truly is.

The prospects for 2014 are not easy to assess today, but it is certainly going to be a difficult harvest and challenging vintage.  Extensive hail damage in a swath of 1ers Crus from northern Puligny through Beaune will make picking a long, arduous task, requiring an experienced, well-trained cadre of itinerant workers.  Luckily, many domaines have pickers who return year after year, with the requisite experience and knowledge to pick only the better bunches.

This vintage will present extraordinary challenges: in many places individual bunches of grapes have a combination of hail damage, millerandange (shot berries), and healthy grapes with differing levels of maturation on the same bunches.  A careful selection in the vineyards, followed by an extremely critical selection at tables de triage (sorting tables), will be essential before the grapes even get into the vats or pressoirs.

What follows are my assessments of the state of veraison and prospects for the 2014 vintage from Santenay to Beaune, village by village.  Villages and vineyards further north will be covered in a subsequent post.

SANTENAY

Often an overlooked village of excellent value and fine quality white and red wines, 2014 appears to favor Santenay, especially in its 1ers Crus sectors.  While the white bunches of grapes have not yet reached the stage of veraison, the clusters are compact and show good size, with little millerandange.  Vineyards show a substantial but not excessive yield without problems of health or vigor.

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Beautiful Chardonnay in the upper slopes of Santenay 1er Cru

The Pinot Noir bunches are also quite healthy, with veraison fully underway and many clusters already on their way to the dark purple colors needed for perfect ripeness.  My only concern is with the wide variations of ripeness at this stage of veraison, with some individual vines showing a mixture of green bunches, mixed color bunches, and others fully colored.  This could be a cause for concern at harvest because of different levels of ripeness on the same vine.  The vineyards surrounding Santenay’s iconic Moulin a Vent windmill were particularly impressive, healthy, well-formed, and clean.

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Pinot Noir veraison variations in Santenay 1er Cru
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Note differing maturation of fruit on different fruiting canes on the same vine

This author was having dinner at Fabrice and Corinne Germain’s lovely restaurant Le Terroir on Saturday evening August 9th, and our meal was accompanied by a nearly relentless rain, with frequent deluges and flickering of electric lights, punctuated by rolling thunder and brilliant flashes of lightning.  The rain continued through most of the night at my apartment in Meursault.

CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET

There has been a lot of rain in Chassagne this July and early August, as evidenced by standing water at the bottom of vineyard slopes in several places.  Overall, the vines and grapes look very healthy for both red and white, with good yields on the way.  The rain may cause some grapes and bunches to swell towards possible dilution, yet this may be offset by a fairly significant amount of millerandange which I observed in both red and white parcels.

The mid-slope 1ers Crus vineyards seem particularly wet, as dense clay soils with only moderate amounts of calcaire pierres did not absorb the deluges as easily.

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Even the upper parcels of Morgeot were drenched, here at Fairendes
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Les Champs Gains soaking in its own juices

On the whole the upper and stonier slopes look superb, with 1ers Crus Caillerets, Ruchottes, Vergers, and Chaumees appearing very healthy.  Across the RN6 (now the D96), en Remilly and Dent de Chien above, and Blanchot Dessus adjacent to the Grands Crus, look poised to deliver an excellent crop.  Chassagne-Montrachet may deliver the best results for 2014 in quantity and quality, simply because it has been least affected by weather issues.  Of course the short crops of the last three years will continue to pressure pricing in an upwards direction, but for now there will be wine to buy.

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Sensational vista from La Grande Montgne
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Lovely fruit in 1er Cru Blanchot Dessus
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No problems in Caillerets

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Clos St. Jean Rouge
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Variable veraison in the Pinot Noir, here at Boudriottes
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1er Cru vegetables in Clos St. Jean
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“Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory….”

The world seems to have an unquenchable thirst for white Burgundy these days, and luckily for the proprietors in Chassagne they have been blessed by the gods in 2014, with what should be very fine quality and quantities of wine to sell.  This vintage should be a prescient test of the elasticity of price and demand.  The top tier suppliers will always sell, even at inflated prices beyond the means of all except the top 1% of incomes, and yet proprietors who take a reasonable and long-term view of their business could enjoy an increasing share of the market with their wines.

ST. AUBIN

Much like Santenay, St. Aubin has long been under-appreciated and even ignored in much of the world.  Yet this relatively unknown appellation is attracting significant attention for its reds and whites as prices of the more famous villages mount, and shortages of more popular crus persist due to short vintages.  It is a lovely appellation, whose only drawback is the name of its primary inhabited area: Gamay.  Not to be confused with the disloyal grape, the vineyards above and to the north of the village present some wonderful climats for the cultivation of Burgundy grapes, though Chardonnay seems to be the preferred encepagement. 

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Looking west towards St. Aubin from its 1er Cru en Remilly

Blessed with some extraordinary sites just adjacent to some of Chassagne’s finest vineyards (such as 1ers Crus Charmois, Les Combes, en Remilly, and Les Murgers des Dent du Chien), with open expositions to the east and south, there are fine climats that rate as 1ers Crus in their own right, such as Sentier du Clou and Les Frionnes.  I predict that 2014 will be the year that St. Aubin is ‘discovered’, not only due to price but also the quality efforts of producers like Hubert Lamy, Laurent Pillot, and others.  The vineyards show discipline and great material.

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Beautiful Chardonnay in St. Aubin 1er Cru en Remilly
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Wonderful fruit in Sentier du Clou
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St. Aubin villags appellation from below Les Frionnes

It is no accident that some of Burgundy’s finest white wine producers are looking to expand their presence in St. Aubin.

PULIGNY-MONTRACHET

While a large part of Puligny went unscathed by the June 28th hail, significant 1ers Crus were affected and show some disastrous results, especially north of the Montrachet Grands Crus.  From the middle of Clavaillons and Folatieres north to the Meursault border there is significant damage from hail, quite a bit of millerandange, and losses that I would estimate at 50%.  These parcels will require delicate picking and sorting, as well as a stringent selection before pressing to avoid any unpleasant or inferior wines.  The photographs below were all taken between the 1ers Crus of northern Folatieres, Clavaillons, Les Combettes, Clos de la Garenne, Les Truffieres, and Chalumeaux. 

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Northern Folatieres with leaf and berry damage
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1er Cru Monopole Clos de La Garenne
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Upper parcel of Truffieres – where are the grapes?
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Chalumeaux – deceptive in appearance – north side of row
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Chalumeaux from the south side – more apparent damage
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Damage in Clavaillons
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Les Combettes – some good fruit but will require careful picking & sorting
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This will require a sorting table – a messy selection in Les Referts

I did notice an interesting difference in the sides of the vines which are planted with a west to east orientation down the slopes.  The southern sides of many vines affected by the hail were nearly completely devastated by the impact.  Yet on the northern sides of many vines there was healthy fruit and fine clusters of grapes.  While this is certainly not the case with all vines, especially those rows planted with a different orientation, I found it interesting, as it shows how the storms moved from south to north, swiftly, and with devastating effects.  Luckily sufficient foliage also remained to continue photosynthesis and ripening of the grapes on the vine.

Without doubt, the prices of Puligny will escalate in coming months, clearly differentiating itself from its neighbors in Chassagne and Meursault.  This author did not visit the vines of Auxey-Duresses or St. Romain, but I hope to discover these appellations in the coming months.  Like Santenay and St. Aubin, they could very well enjoy an increasing appreciation as they fill the price void between regional Bourgogne Blanc et Rouge and the more renowned appellations.

MONTRACHET GRANDS CRUS

The finest Chardonnays in the world were spared on June 28th, but the rains of July and August are falling unsparingly on all parts of the Cote d’Or.  The ground is very wet in the Grands Crus of Montrachet, with some standing water in the lower parts of Batard Montrachet.  The upper slopes of Chevalier Montrachet are quite mucky, in spite of rockier soils, and on the sun-bench of Montrachet itself the ground is water-logged; walking in the vineyard is an unpleasant, sticky mess of a slog.  I saw no evidence of recent tractor work.

The vines are healthy, and bear a fine yield of mostly beautiful fruit.  Some vines in Chevalier show a bit of hail damage.  The most significant difficulty that I observed was a fairly widespread amount of millerandange, especially in some parcels of very old vines.  Of course these seedless shot-berries will ripen with the other grapes, and a small proportion of millerandes can actually increase the intensity of concentration of the juice and boost overall dry extract.

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Montrachet: fine bunches, but quite a bit of millererandange
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Montrachet berries from pea-sized to bbs
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Clusters with normal berries and millerandes in Le Montrachet
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A very fine set in Chevalier Montrachet
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Lovely fruit in Criots Batard
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Fine tight clusters in Criots Batard
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Chevalier Demoiselles with some hail damage
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Chevalier Montrachet: uneven set and some hail damage
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Normally, an inspirational view up the Montrachet hillside for all Chardonnay lovers around the world. What will 2014 bring?

MEURSAULT

Meursault vineyards, both north and south of the village, show sustained damage and a substantial reduction in quantity, particularly in the 1ers Crus.  From the forested park just below Blagny into Les Perrieres, Les Charmes, Genevrieres, Poruzots, Boucheres, and Gouttes d’Or, losses are heavy, estimated at 50 to 75%.  Some upper village lieux dits seem to have been spared as were village Meursault vineyards closer to the RN 74 (now D974).

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Meursault Perrieres – Millerandange and damaged clusters
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Meursault Charmes Dessus – devastating
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Damaged clusters in Genevrieres
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Narvaux again, excellent clusters
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Excellent fruit in Meursault  Narvaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Henri Darnat’s Monopole Clos Richemont (part of Meursault 1er Cru Les Cras near Volnay) shows significant hail damage

Meursault has probably lost close to two-thirds of its 1ers Crus production in 2014.  While village lieux dits can probably sustain the market (many lower slope vineyards such as Limozin, Sous la Velle, and Grands Charrons were unscathed), I predict that such individual vineyard names will become more common usage, with prices approaching former 1ers Crus levels.  The conditions in Blagny were also quite fine for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and I would not be surprised to see La Piece sous le Bois scoring highly when tastings of the 2014 vintage get underway.

VOLNAY

Perhaps my favorite wines from the Cote de  Beaune come from the beautiful medieval village of Volnay, hidden up in the combe between the 1ers Crus of Pommard and Volnay.  Elegance, balance, and a positively succulent, velvety texture run through these wines compared to the power and structure found in the wines of its northern neighbor Pommard.  The best views in the Cote de Beaune can also be found there, by taking the road high above d’Angerville’s Monopole Clos des Ducs.  If you proceed high enough up the road, keeping left, you will eventually come to a vineyard planted at the top of the mountain, dedicated to women who have made special contributions to Volnay, appropriately named Clos Elegance.

Many writers have already commented on widespread hail damage in Volnay, especially in the upper reaches of the 1ers Crus Clos des Chenes and Taillepieds.  While I hate to see the quantity of these wines diminished (due to my buying and drinking habits), I must say that this writer found some fairly healthy fruit in my favorite vineyard sites.

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Lovely Pinot in lower parcels of Clos des Chenes
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A bit more advanced ripening in Champans, further down the slope
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Some millerandange, but really quite fine clusters
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Not many bunches but fine grapes in Taillepieds
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Lower Taillepieds (but note quite a few dead leaves on the ground)

On the other hand, many of the Volnay vineyards close to Pommard shared the devastation that can be found in that adjacent village.  This area begins a swath of near total destruction that extends through the 1ers Crus of Beaune, nearly to the Autoroute A6 which separates Beaune from Savigny.  Perhaps it is no accident that Pommard and Volnay at their border share a number of lieux dits,  1ers Crus Fremiets (Fremiers in Pommard) and Chanlin (divided into upper village appellation Chanlins Hauts and 1er Cru Chanlins Bas in Pommard).  Common conditions are what define the idea of climat.

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Ugly in Volnay 1er Cru Fremiets
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Plenty of damage in Chanlin as well
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Clos des Ducs, with its 1er Cru swimming pool

I was unable to access the Marquis d’Angerville Monopole Clos des Ducs for a look-see (August is vacation month, after all), but things looked fairly healthy, and adjacent vineyards had approximately 30 to 40% crop losses due to hail and millerandange.

POMMARD

Driving south from Beaune on the evening of June 28th was a scene I will never forget.  Leaves and branches from the majestic old plane trees littered the road lining the RN74 leading out of Beaune.  When I arrived in Pommard and proceeded up into the slopes, the damage was horrifying.  In many places another vintage was lost, in some parcels for the third year in a row.

As veraison begins with the few grapes that are left, the enormity of the task of harvest becomes apparent.  Some clusters have only a few grapes left, irregularly dispersed on the bunches and in the vines.  Others seem to be only half a bunch of grapes, the remainder having withered and fallen off the vine.  Leaves still strew the ground.  Luckily the vines have had the moisture to regenerate their foliage, so that photosynthesis can bring what little fruit that remains to ripeness.

Here again, it is the beautiful slopes of the 1ers Crus that suffered the most damage, and villages appellations above and below the 1ers Crus were not spared either.  In 2014, Pommard will produce around 90% less wine than a normal vintage.  While some producers are insured against such losses, such insurance is expensive, and the insurance payments cannot cover the loss of wine list placements, market visibility for the ‘brand name’ of Pommard, or the pain of watching a year within generations of effort disappear in minutes.

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A few bunches in lower Les Rugiens
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Fruit and fruiting canes in disarray in Chaponnieres
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Pommard sluice drain and soil catcher in use (and definitely needed!)
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Vine with no grapes and few leaves in Charmots
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Some fruit OK, some damaged and dried out in Pezerolles
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Upper Rugiens with clusters half dried out, half normal
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A few fine berries with uneven ripeness in Les Petits Epenots
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Some nice, some not: Clos des Epeneaux
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Not a pretty sight: looking uphill just below Upper Rugiens

In my final years of high school, my best friend’s father, a prominent radiologist in Texas, introduced me to his favorite wine: Pommard.  I do not remember the producer, but I remember drinking it several times with spicy Steak Tartare and hot crispy French Fries.  I may never be able to afford to reproduce that generosity for my friend.

BEAUNE

The hailstorm moved northward on June 28th, and the damage inflicted on the vineyards of Beaune would indicate that it intensified, unleashing a fury of berry to golf ball sized hailstones on its route.  There are some parcels which have no grapes whatsoever, where even fruiting canes remain denuded of leaves and new vegetation has yet to appear.  Other parcels seem abandoned, with little evidence of continued cultivation, as though the grower has decided that nothing good will come from visiting a vineyard that has no fruit.  There are one or two areas in Beaune 1ers Crus where small amounts may be harvested and vinified: the ribbon of vineyards between Clos des Mouches and Les Avaux had a few healthy bunches on some vines, though still not more than I would estimate as 25% of a normal crop load.

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Some fruit and a lot of damage at Beaune les Marconnets
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A parcel of Les Teurons missing grapes and most leaves
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Clos des Mouches has few grapes to harvest, white or red
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Clos des Avaux has a bit of fruit to vinify
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Soil and stones flowing down the Chemin de l’Ecu, between Toussaints and Cent Vignes, with another storm about to arrive

 

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A storm moving on towards the hill of Corton

This correspondent did not visit the up and coming villages of Monthelie or Auxey-Duresses, as my past business experience rarely brought me there.  But judging by the increasing number of offerings from local wine bars, restaurants, and retail stores from St. Aubin, St. Romain, Monthelie, and Auxey-Duresses appellations, it would seem that we Burgundy lovers are in for a major re-alignment of our drinking habits.  Unless I hit the lottery, these next few years will see few great bottles bought, even fewer consumed, and a world in which Burgundy will become a luxury product, not a beverage.  I look forward to my continuing education in these newly popular and affordable appellations which I have previously ignored.

November’s Hospice de Beaune auction will be notable for its intensity of world competition for a smaller number of barrels of wine produced.  Yet as the elation of soaring prices complements the sad misfortunes of diminished supply, the only real optimism lies in the certainty that 2015 will bring another vintage to discover.

In 30 years of professional work and leisure travel in Europe, I have never seen such a destructive force in an agricultural area.  For some growers, after three straight years of such setbacks, the continued cultivation of their property would seem to require an act of incredible faith in the generations which proceeded them as well as a belief in the success to come for future descendants.  Nature humbles us in a way that no human insults can approach.

As I finish this post on Thursday afternoon August 14th,  for a second day in a row heavy clouds have moved in with winds from the west and southwest.  For two days off and on it has been raining a cold miserable mist more appropriate for post-harvest weather.  It is a cool, brisk, and rather wet 62 degrees F, 17 C. The forecast is for more rainstorms tonight through Saturday, with temperatures  remaining unseasonably cool (this will, at least, retard any spread of rot in the vines).  A few periods of sunshine, but little warmth.

If I were on vacation, I’d be disappointed.  Helas !