Inside Burgundy preview (click on 'menu' to see it in full screen)Presentation Transcript
Profiles of over one thousand vineyards,
hundreds of descriptions and appraisals
of domaines and their wines, 35 highly-
detailed full-colour maps of every wine
area from Chablis to Pouilly: Inside
Burgundy unlocks the secrets of one of
the world’s most acclaimed wines. Jasper
Morris, Master of Wine and burgundy
specialist for three decades, conveys
The vineyards, the wine & the people
his infectious delight in the quirks of
character, both human and geographic,
that make memorable Burgundian bottles.
Jasper Morris MW
The vineyards, the wine & the people
Jasper Morris MW
I have known Jasper Morris since the early 1980s, having met him with his been written by someone who has and does walk the land: you can stand with
‘mentor’, Becky Wasserman, in the Burgundy hamlet of Bouilland, where she him, look to your left, spot the dip that was a quarry, note how the slope turns just
lived and where Jasper, his wife Abigail and their various cats now themselves here towards the morning sun...
live. Almost three decades in the Côte d’Or might seem sufficient apprenticeship These insights extend well beyond the glories of the Côte d'Or: we are guided
to write this book, but added to them is the author’s natural ﬂair for far more through the increasingly serious and interesting hills of the Côte Chalonnaise,
research into the region which is his business (and, clearly, his passion) than his and into the heart of Pouilly-Fuissé, where as Jasper observes thoughtful and
profession demands. He knows the place – literally – from the bedrock up. painstaking vignerons are making better and better wines.
From the opening sentence of the Introduction ‘First, I developed a love of To each vineyard Jasper has given his ranking, through village to premier cru
wine – and then came Burgundy.....I found something special in Burgundy that I and grand cru quality, comparing it with those of Dr Jules Lavalle in 1855 and
had not found elsewhere’, his delight in his subject is plain. Add to Jasper’s thirst Camille Rodier in 1920 (with whom he is often, but not always, in complete
for knowledge Becky’s philosophy of ‘the appreciation of wine as something agreement), stating modestly that he hopes such commentaries will be useful to
enormously more worthwhile than merely a product in which to trade’, and you the reader and consumer. Then, in each commune, he covers in detail the owners
have the basis for this book. and the wines they produce.
Fired by this enthusiasm, Jasper has since 1981 made his living from buying, If this were not enough, there are the maps, which draw upon and extend the
selling and understanding burgundy. This gives him the perfect alibi for a work of Burgundian cartographers Sylvain Pitiot and Pierre Poupon. I have never
researcher, scholar and writer: he can knock on any door, visit any cellar as a seen vineyard maps so exact and so explicit, illustrating to perfection the dense
trusted, knowledgeable yet candid insider. He has built up what I suspect is yet always elegant, unbelievably informative text.
unrivalled knowledge of every aspect of life in the region, from the quirks of The knowledge in this book is encyclopaedic and every page widens one’s
geology to the complex patterns of cousinage, inheritance and personality that understanding of Burgundy: did you know that inhabitants of Gevrey-
decide why Domaine A has the vineyards it has and makes the wines it does. Chambertin are known as 'Gibriaçois', or that the ﬁrst Ban de Vendanges
Jasper asks in his introduction ‘Why another book on Burgundy?’ Most other declaration was in 1212 near Tonnerre? Then there are the insights, still relevant,
books on Burgundy, on any wine region for that matter, are compendiums of facts: into why area A has so much premier cru land (to keep the wartime Germans
what is grown where, who makes it, how good is it and how does it compare to from requisitioning the wine), or why vineyard B is not grand cru (the then
what else is being made. These are invaluable as works of reference, necessary for owners didn’t want to pay the tax). With Inside Burgundy Jasper Morris has
knowledge, but often lack an historical perspective, preferring what is now to given his readers, and his adopted Burgundy, the book they deserve.
what might have gone before. To sum up, Jasper Morris has found a way to illuminate the bafflingly
Burgundy is unique, and Jasper states openly that what sort of wine to make complex relationships between people and place, vigneron and vineyard, which
is less of a problem for a Burgundian than it might be for a pioneer of ‘brave New are at the heart of Burgundy. Authors have tried before and superb books have
World Pinot’, adding ‘though if another one of those tells me again that he makes resulted; none, however, has suceeded quite so well in presenting the detail,
his wine in the Burgundian style, I cannot answer for the consequences. If in making clear the pattern, without drowning the reader in nuance, exception
nothing else, I hope that this book will show that there is no such thing.’ and ambiguity.
What there are, and have been for centuries, are the vineyards – and each
single one is described in historical, geographical, geological, vinous and factual Steven Spurrier
detail. Refreshingly, what also comes through these descriptions is that they have London, June 2010
wines will turn out, given that he has no back catalogue of reference points.
However, what he can do is make a judgement of the producer himself: is the
vigneron who has been responsible for growing the grapes and making the wine
completely passionate about what he or she is doing? Do they respond with
interest and honesty to the questions one might ask? Are they driven by the
quality of the product, or by the desire to sell me some wine? Time and again in
Burgundy I found that their focus was on how they could make the best possible
wine. Every tasting was suffused by their huge enthusiasm for what they were
doing; only after that, if I wanted to buy some cases, they may – or indeed may
introduction not – have had something available to sell.
There may be other, more fanciful, reasons which help to explain my love of
Burgundy. I cannot help but feel that there is a link between the chalk and clay
soils of my native Hampshire, and the famous clay-limestone argilo-calcaire of
Why Burgundy? Burgundy. I feel much less at ease on sandy soils. Might there be scope for a short
I did not grow up in a burgundy-drinking family. I did not even have a moment of monograph on the terroir of Basingstoke, drawing parallels between my two
epiphany when one single earth-moving bottle of burgundy convinced me of the passions for wine and cricket and that of another more famous Basingstoke Boy,2 2 Basingstoke Boy, the title
road to follow. First, I developed a love of wine – and then came Burgundy. John Arlott, who shared the same passions? of John Arlott’s
When I originally set up as an independent wine merchant I had at the time Books, 1990.
no predisposition in favour of one part of France over another, though I doubted Why this book ?
that with our limited means our young company could make much headway in There have been many ﬁne books on Burgundy already written – please see the
Bordeaux. In fact, I came to Burgundy almost last in my anti-clockwise tour of bibliographical essay on p.640 – so why another? But most of these in recent
France, taken at various moments in 1981, having begun in February in the Loire times have concentrated on producers rather than on the vineyards. Domaines
valley. Yet even from the ﬁrst trip I found something special in Burgundy which change, but the vineyards remain more or less immutable: a compendium of their
I had not found elsewhere. characteristics seems a useful addition. Over nearly 30 years of visiting Burgundy
1 For a superb appreciation One person was the key. My ﬁrst guide in Burgundy was Becky Wasserman,1 I have picked up a vast amount of information – for which I have as great a thirst
of Becky, see Margaret who had recently withdrawn from her ﬁrst business as a barrel broker, selling as I do for the wine itself – and I wanted to collect this together and make
Rand in The World of Fine
Wine Magazine No. 19, François Frères barrels in California, and was now concentrating on distributing constructive use of it.
2008 pp 168-170. growers’ burgundy in export markets. It was the start of the great movement I thought at ﬁrst of writing this book about the vineyards only, since there are
towards domaine-bottling, and I was fortunate enough to be in at the beginning already numerous publications detailing the lives and wines of the major
and to be introduced to some of the most passionate exponents. producers of Burgundy. However a chance encounter with Aubert de Villaine at
Becky has played an immense role in the development of Burgundy’s current the annual meeting of the Centre Historique de la Vigne et du Vin in Beaune
Golden Age. Not only has she encouraged so many young growers to develop their changed my thinking.
businesses, she has fed the enthusiasms of countless wine writers and importers Terroir is nothing, he suggested, without man – both l’homme and l’Homme.
over the past 30 years, conveying her philosophy and appreciation of wine as An individual man puts his imprint on the wine, interprets the terroir; and
something enormously more worthwhile than merely a product to trade. Her Mankind has shaped the vineyards across the centuries, making decisions which
husband Russell Hone supports her with his exceptional palate and unparalleled have resulted in the various terroirs being as they are today. It has been suggested
memory of wines tasted and drunk. that the human input might even be considered part of terroir itself. I would not
Working with Becky back in 1981, doing an apprenticeship on the commercial go this far, but I would agree that terroir alone has no signiﬁcance without human
side of wine before returning to his family domaine, was Dominique Lafon, who intervention and interpretation to make something of its fruits.
soon became and remains a good friend. Part of his job was to prospect for new
growers on the scene, several of whom became our suppliers. Many household The vigneron as hero
names today had never exported before, and were thus unknown in the UK and For all that the stamp of the vigneron is crucial to the nature of the wine (a point
USA. It was even possible to pick up an allocation of Lafon wines. Dominique explored in the chapter on stylistic choices), we should resist the temptation of
was also able to accompany me to certain more established cellars where the placing the growers on pedestals, investing them with hero status. They are
etiquette of the day made it difficult for him to invite himself to go and taste. human beings like the rest of us: some are better at the job than others, all are
A budding young wine merchant of 23, however enterprising, cannot possibly capable of making mistakes from time to time, and of moments of sublime
hope to make sense of tasting barrel-samples so as to be conﬁdent of how the achievement when everything comes together as it should. The cult of the
12 Inside Burgundy Introduction 13
individual grower as a demi-god in his or her own right is dangerous. would just see it as wine. In theory. Actually, ﬂights of fancy while appreciating
Our vigneron will change too during the course of a career – which may last wine are an absolutely vital part of its appreciation, even if they do not always
as long as 50 years in the case of a Jacques d’Angerville, Michel Lafarge or Jean bear close examination the following morning. Evelyn Waugh’s portrayal of youth
Mongeard. Leaving aside the obvious development of knowledge and expertise ﬁrst experiencing the delights of getting drunk on ﬁne wine in Brideshead
along the learning curve, the vigneron is just as susceptible to the ups and downs Revisited, when Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte vie with each other for ever
of life as any other human being. There may be a rocky patch after the break-up more fantastical poetic descriptions, remains incredibly vivid.
of a relationship or a mid-life crisis, perhaps even a change in style when a new The classic tradition of British writers in the ﬁrst half of the 20th century is
3 I can think of some partner inﬂuences some changes in techniques.3 a rich ﬁeld. I have chosen to quote from time to time from George Saintsbury,
examples which I will not Maurice Healy and others. They often got facts wrong and they certainly were
quote. We were
considering sub-titling the Conﬂict of interest not interested in the intricacies of winemaking, but they absolutely made their
book ‘The Sex Life of The three major British books on Burgundy published in the 1990s were all subject come alive. To reproduce this style today would invite derision, but it has
written by Masters of Wine, of whom one, Anthony Hanson, was still involved greatly enriched the literature of wine over the years. Here is Maurice Healy on
with a commercial wine-selling company and the other two, Clive Coates and a bottle of Volnay Caillerets 1889, the ﬁnest burgundy he ever drank, edging out
Remington Norman, had previously been. Their close links with the region had various Richebourgs and other famous names:
originally come about for commercial reasons, but only thus had they developed ‘And so the moment arrived when it was proper for me to raise my glass. This
the depth of knowledge which enabled them to write about Burgundy. was nearly twenty years ago but I still remember the magniﬁcent shock of that
I also have a primary career within the wine trade. From 1981 to 2003 I ran a bouquet, rich in mellow perfection and entirely free from the inﬁrmities of age.
wine importing company, Morris & Verdin, which fairly early on came to I took one sip; I closed my eyes and every beautiful thing that I had ever known
specialise in burgundy. Since 2003 I have continued to work in the commercial crowded into my memory….’ 5 5 Maurice Healy, Stay me
with Flagons, Michael
sector as Berry Bros & Rudd’s burgundy buyer. Among the beautiful things in my life have been some wonderful bottles of
Joseph, London, 1940, p.
It is therefore appropriate to address the question of a potential conﬂict of burgundy. Not necessarily grands crus, not always great vintages – but wines 167.
interest between this commercial activity and the other role I have chosen here, which, from ﬁrst sniff, have demonstrated that the vigneron has done the best
as author. The most important point is that this book is not a guide to individual possible job with the grapes available from that vineyard, in that year.
wines, and there is no attempt to rank the region’s producers (see p.16 for exactly Burgundy does not respond well to being put in a straitjacket. There are no set
what I have attempted). There are inevitably some implicit judgements, and it rules to making burgundy; there are no set rules to appreciating burgundy.
may well be that some wine enthusiasts will make the acquaintance of some It intrigues, fascinates, delights, infuriates, disappoints, charms, enraptures and
vignerons and wines with which I work through reading this book. But that is not puzzles. Very like the life of man, as long as it refrains from Hobbes’ deﬁnition –
the point, and certainly not my motivation for wanting to create this work. ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.’6 This book aims at lighting the way 6 Thomas Hobbes,
As a specialist in this region I feel that I have developed a body of knowledge towards bottles which are rich in ﬂavour, delightful, civilised and long – and Leviathan, 1660.
and more especially a depth of understanding of burgundy that I want to share. I certainly plural.
hope this book will transmit my enthusiasm for all the ﬁne wines of the region
and encourage readers to explore more widely.
Jasper Morris MW
Understanding burgundy Burgundy, 2010
Everybody tastes wines in different ways. I am regularly reminded of the start of
4 EM Forster, Howard’s End, Chapter 5 in EM Forster’s Howard’s End 4 in which many of the protagonists have
Edward Arnold, 1910. gone to a Beethoven concert:
‘Whether you are like Mrs Munt, and tap surreptitiously when the tunes
come… or like Helen, who can see heroes and shipwrecks in the music’s ﬂood; or
like Margaret, who can only see the music, or like Tibby who is profoundly versed
in counterpoint, and holds the full score open on his knee….’
I can just hear one or two of our more fanciful wine commentators invoking
‘a goblin walking quietly over the universe from end to end’ as Helen does, while
Tibby’s transitional passages on the drum would be mirrored by the oenological
anorak who needs to know the exact pH of the wine, percentage of new oak and
other technical details before he can appreciate the glass in front of him.
But the ideal is of course meant to be the approach of Margaret Schlegel, who
14 Inside Burgundy Introduction 15
test to prove competence. There were doubts about the ability of would-be Protestant community in Burgundy who could, in exile, spread the fame of the
courtier Claude Hugault in 1607 after he failed the tasting test ﬁrst time. So they wines they had left behind.... By the early 18th century merchants from outside
gave him two ‘tasses’ of wine to taste and he correctly spotted that they were from the region were coming to Burgundy to prospect for good wines, which were sold
3 J Delissey & L Perriaux, op. the same bottle.3 An early precursor of the training for Australian show judges! to them by a breed of specialised tasters, known as courtier-gourmets. Later in
cit. p.3. Courtiers had to live within the walls of Beaune; they could not buy wines on their the century these ﬂedgling négociants began to travel abroad to search for clients.
own account; they could not solicit for business, but had to wait to be approached In many instances wine was added to an existing portfolio, frequently to do with
by external merchants. the cloth trade.
Today, the courtiers continue to act as intermediaries. Their job does not only Maison Champy opened its doors in 1720; Bouchard Père & Fils in 1731. And
entail matching buyer to provider; they also need to have a sufficiently good many others among today’s larger négociant operations have antecedents which
understanding of the styles of wine from different villages and vineyards so that date back to the 18th or 19th centuries. Famous houses may also change hands
they can be conﬁdent of the authenticity of the samples on offer. while retaining their original names: thus Bouchard, Jadot and Drouhin are all
owned in whole or in part by concerns from outside the region.
How the system works Today many négociant houses have developed signiﬁcant vineyard holdings,
A merchant wishing to offer wine from a vineyard where he has no vines himself as the table shows. Several claim to be the largest landowners by using different
has options as to how and when to buy – as grapes, as must, as wine in barrel or measures: vineyards overall; vineyards in the Côte d’Or; premier and grand cru
the ﬁnal article in bottle. One or two merchants exist who specialise in this last, vineyards.
effectively just bringing to market bottles created by somebody else that they
think are good examples of sellable wines. Classic négociant houses Foundation Vineyards Turnover4 4 The ﬁgures are taken from
the 2009 Enterprises &
However for the most part merchants want as much control over their wine Champy 1720 17ha unknown
as possible, so the ideal is to ﬁx a contract to buy grapes well in advance of harvest. Bouchard Père & Fils 1731 130ha €35.0m of Le Bien Public
In some cases these contracts may run for years. It is also possible to make an Chanson 1750 45ha €8.0m
agreement with the grower as to how he farms his vineyard, and in these cases it Louis Latour 1797 50ha €54.1m
is normal to agree payment according to the maximum permitted yield per Labouré-Roi 1831 6ha €35.7m
hectare rather than by the actual volume of grapes delivered. This encourages Albert Bichot 1831 100ha €33.6m
the grower to concentrate on quality rather than maximizing his revenue. Joseph Faiveley 1825 120ha €13.5m
Normally the grower will harvest the grapes (hopefully when the purchaser Louis Jadot 1859 154ha 5 €59.8m 5 Not all in the Côte d'Or
thinks they are ripe), after which the buyer will collect from the vineyard gate. It Joseph Drouhin 1880 45ha €29.5m
is starting to become more common, though, for the purchaser to send in his own
picking team. For white wines, many growers prefer to deliver the contract as The new négociants
must – unfermented grape juice fresh from the press. It is said that this is to The world of trade is never static, so it is no surprise that new players set up in
satisfy the amour propre of the grower, as it will not be known that he is business at regular intervals. The most dynamic of these over the last generation
immediately selling his crop on to another – but it can also simplify cheating if the has been Jean-Claude Boisset, now quoted on the Paris stock exchange, who has
grower is unscrupulous. You know that he has a vineyard in St-Aubin premier swallowed up many less-successful but longer-established names not only in
cru En Remilly, but is that what he has delivered as juice, or could it be something Burgundy but elsewhere in France (and abroad). This group’s turnover exceeded
from a less-good vineyard? that of all the classic négociants cited above put together. Former Burgundy
Reds may well be bought in barrel after the alcoholic fermentation, and houses now owned by Boisset include Bouchard Ainé (founded 1755) and
indeed wines of either colour may be bought at any time in barrel either to satisfy Jaffelin, both of Beaune; Louis Bouillot, Mommessin, Morin and Ponnelle from
the need of an under-provided négociant, or if the original producer wants to slim Nuits-St-Georges; J Moreau (Chablis); Mommessin and Thorin (Beaujolais).
down his inventory for reasons of excess quantity (or inadequate quality). Meanwhile Olivier Leﬂaive, once it became clear that Anne-Claude Leﬂaive
At least at this stage both players in the transaction probably know the price would be running the family domaine, developed his white-wine specialist house,
of the deal. This is not true of the transactions in grapes earlier in the cycle. Olivier Leﬂaive Frères in Puligny-Montrachet. Another white-wine specialist,
Vincent Girardin, expanded from his original Santenay base into a thriving
The classic négociants négociant operation in Meursault –though he is now downsizing the merchant
When the Edict of Nantes, originally decreed by Henri IV in 1598 to allow side of his business in favour of developing his own vineyards. Jean-Marie
religious tolerance, was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685, it caused an exodus of Guffens developed his négociant concern, Verget, in the Mâconnais, though
Protestants out of France to areas such as Germany, England and the reaching as far north as Chablis for some of his grapes. Other smaller-scale white
Netherlands where their religion could be practised. There had been a signiﬁcant specialists include François d’Allaines and Maison Deux Montille.
34 Background to Burgundy The Burgundy wine trade 35
The grape is sweet and the juice which runs from it is sticky.
The pip changes from bright green to a dark green, almost brown colour.
in search of
However Jacques-Marie Duvault Blochet, 19th-century owner of La
Romanée Conti, Clos de la Pousse d’Or and many other famous vineyards, was
adamant that you should always wait for full ripeness. Assessing his 53 vintages
at the helm, he considered that he had only lost out on four occasions by deciding
7 J-M Duvault-Blochet, De to pick late, and had won the gamble the other 49 times.7 He had come to the
la vendange, 1869, reprint conclusion that unless the onset of rot dictated otherwise, you should wait for 13
2007, Terre en vues, p.13.
per cent potential alcohol. Then you should start picking – because beyond What sort of wine to make is less of a problem for a Burgundian than it might be
13.5 per cent, though the wines might seem exceptional at ﬁrst sight, they would for a pioneer of brave New World Pinot. Though if another one of those tells
have difficulty in fermenting out and would lose some of their ﬁnesse. me again that he makes his wine in the burgundian style, I cannot answer for
the consequences. If nothing else, I hope that this book will show that there is
Yields no such thing.
The size of the crop is determined in part by the weather conditions, which may In Burgundy the majority of producers will have inherited their positions and
reduce it through frost, hail or disease, or swell it through rain. However the a house style will already be in place – though of course the incomer may wish to
vigneron can and should exert control too, starting with choice of rootstock and tinker with it, or possibly even introduce dramatic changes. But it may not be the
plant material when the vines are planted, continuing through nutrient control right idea to search too deliberately for a style.
in the vineyard and, most obviously, his pruning decisions, his debudding It is equally a temptation for critics and consumers alike to impute the quality
programme and perhaps green harvest. or style of a producer’s wines to one or another of various key decisions during the
What is a reasonable yield? The generalisation that quality and quantity are growing, or more often winemaking, process. I very much doubt if this is really
inversely proportional is only partially true. Large crops sometimes come around the case, though of course certain choices such as including stems or otherwise
because excessive summer rainfall has swollen the grapes and diluted the fruit, do have a major part to play.
but healthy, problem-free vintages such as 1990, 1999 and 2009 also tend to be But more importantly, the style of a producer’s wines depends on the myriad
generous. However the vigneron whose yields are generally below average will miniature decisions which he or she is making throughout the day and all year
clearly do better than he who pushes his crop too far. This latter is more an round. These choices are a combination of temperament and technique, and will
ingrained conservative attitude – if some grapes get damaged by an accident of inform his or her wines throughout.
weather or disease, other bunches will remain to ﬁll the full quota – than out- I suspect that it is also for this reason that domaine wines almost always seem
and-out greed. to be superior to négociant cuvées in the cellars of those who make both. Even if
It can be hard to pin down a Burgundian to a deﬁnite ﬁgure. ‘I haven’t even the purchased grapes have come from an impeccable source, they will not have
made a feuillette [half a barrel] per ouvrée [a 24th of a hectare],’ moans one in been grown in the image of the man making the wine, whereas those from his
a difficult year. I calculate this to be about 27hl/ha or around one and a half tons own vineyards will have been.
per acre. If I am in any doubt as to the yields practised at a given date, I ﬁnd out Much depends also on the balance between an intuitive understanding of
the surface area of the various vineyards and then discreetly count the number what needs to be done and a reliance on prescribed techniques, in the way that
of barrels on offer. some cooks use their cookbooks for instruction, others just for inspiration.
If yields are consistently ultra-low, this may indicate exceptionally stressed
vines, or a signiﬁcant number of dead plants in the rows – neither of which is Faut-il suivre le millésime ?
desirable, while the latter is in fact illegal now if above 20 per cent. As a rule of This is an age-old question – should the vigneron follow the style of the vintage,
thumb, Pinot Noir can produce magical quality at around 35hl/ha, while or do what is needed to countermand its failings or excesses?
Chardonnay can still thrive at yields up to 10-15hl/ha higher. My immediate reaction – perhaps an emotional rather than intellectual one
– to this conundrum when I ﬁrst heard it discussed in the early 1980s, was that
it would be much better to follow the vintage. If the vintage is sunny and the
grapes ripe but low in acidity, so be it. If the season is cooler and the wines a little
on the lean side, then we just accept that they will be stylistically different from
I suspect that the great majority of producers, if posed the question in its
simplest form, would also say that you should follow the vintage. But then
consider – would it not be better if one compensated for the shortfall of the
68 Background to Burgundy In search of a style 69
particular year? If there are signiﬁcant tannins already present, most vignerons and I have never been in sympathy with those importers who believe that they
will try to extract less. Certainly, if the aim is to provide a consistent product year- know better than the vignerons how to produce great wine, prescribing from afar
in, year-out, there will be more need to resort to techniques and technology. what techniques they want their suppliers to use. (Surely the role of the importer
is to identify suppliers who know what they are doing? And to ship wines made
Techniques and technology in different styles to appeal to the different palates of their various customers?)
Every so often a new technique is discovered – or often rediscovered after If you were to shadow a talented winemaker for a season or even a week or
researching 19th-century texts. Next, a vigneron in the limelight or an oenological perhaps just a day, it would soon become apparent that he or she is taking tiny
guru promotes the use of said technique. Many disciples follow and critics praise decisions at every moment. If these are conscientiously made, with intelligence
the results. and ﬂair to boot, the overall quality of the ﬁnal wine is likely to be good. But more
So far so good; but the following crowd, reasoning that if occasional use of importantly, it will have been imprinted with the style of the person making all
this technique is good, decides that greater use of it must be better. those mini-decisions.
Eventually the pendulum swings back the other way as people begin to see Christophe Roumier and Frédéric Mugnier live next door to each other. They
the drawbacks of the technique, now restored to where it should have been all have vines in many of the same vineyard sites, have a broadly similar philosophy
along: a useful tool in the vigneron’s locker to be brought out when circumstances on winemaking and use many of the same techniques. Yet their wines are
indicate that it would be of use to that particular wine in a given vintage. stylistically miles apart, and they do not necessarily succeed in the same vintages.
Obvious cases in point are the cold soak (maceration à froid) technique for Both growers are pretty consistent now, but earlier on I felt that 1988 and 1995
red wines and lees stirring (bâtonnage) for whites. Oenologist Denis Dubordieu were Christophe vintages where Frédéric fared less well, but that 1989 and 1993
introduced this latter technique for the dry white wines of Bordeaux, having were triumphs chez Mugnier.
researched its use in Burgundy in previous times. Burgundians had rather lost
sight of it, but suddenly a new enthusiasm ﬂooded the region. Stir up those lees Who a man is and where he comes from
to nourish the wine and prevent oxidation. But if a little stir from time to time There is no reason why winemaking talents should be restricted to those in the
can be beneﬁcial, regular and forceful bâtonnage denatures the individuality of principal villages, though in the Côte d’Or it is remarkably rare to ﬁnd a producer
the wine and can itself lead to oxidation. Nowadays most talented vignerons of quality who is based in the Hautes-Côtes or down in the plain, even if working
prefer to stir a little, if they feel that the vintage is likely to beneﬁt. with some of the principal appellations of the Côte.
Is there something in the air (or the water) in Gevrey-Chambertin that
Il faut avoir le courage de ne rien faire makes it difficult for a Gibriaçois1 vigneron to produce a ﬁne, gentle, graceful 1 as inhabitants of Gevrey-
Others prefer to eschew intervention as much as they possibly can. ‘You should Chambolle-Musigny? Certainly in a line-up of Chambolles, those made in Gevrey Chambertin are known.
have the courage to do nothing ’ was the great dictum of René Lafon, still tend to stick out for their deeper colours and more assertive tannins. Even when
frequently quoted on the Côte. the wine is tasted in the grower’s own cellar, his Chambolle will clearly be more
Of course, we have to intervene somewhere. Even the most ‘natural’ elegant and less structured than his Gevrey-Chambertin.
winemakers in the movement for ‘natural wine’, eschewing the use of sulphur at This may be because different cultures and traditions grow up in the various
any stage, must intervene to the extent of picking the grapes and pressing or villages. Or it may be to do with a different form of culture: that of yeast cells. We
crushing them. Even René Lafon was not advocating leaving the wine untouched speak of the natural yeasts coming into the winery on the skins of the grapes, but
in barrel without topping up, for example. And he was prepared to intervene in it is not entirely clear whether the work is really done by these yeasts, or by
case of crisis, such as encouraging his 1963 whites to ferment by adding the lees populations which have developed over time in the winery itself. If the latter, then
of subsequent vintages, or extracting some colour in rot-infused 1975 reds – to follow our example – the Chambolle grapes being viniﬁed in Gevrey-
through heating. Chambertin may be fermenting away with Gevrey yeasts.
However, exceptional circumstances aside, he liked to leave the wine to do
its own thing without constant nannying, chivvying or tweaking. It does take
courage. But, to return to an earlier metaphor, the cook who keeps pulling a dish
out of the oven to see if it is done will not achieve the perfect roast of the one who
relies on experience.
The inﬁnite capacity for taking pains
There is a tendency to think that there are some key secrets to winemaking. You
must ﬁlter or not ﬁlter, use 100 per cent new barrels or none at all, rack by the
light of the moon or avoid racking altogether…. It is clearly not as simple as that,
70 Background to Burgundy In search of a style 71
drunk in the early 2000s while still in its young stage, with hauntingly pure fruit. the ideal exposure of the vineyard. There was another Ruchottes-Chamberin: who owns what Ha
Ponsot no longer has the contract to farm these vines, which has passed instead vein of rock apparent just below the Clos, showing Domaine Armand Rousseau 1.06
Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg 0.64
to Patrick Bize in Savigny. clearly on the track which separates this part of the Frédéric Esmonin 0.52
vineyard from the rest of Ruchottes. In total there are Christophe Roumier (Michel Bonnefond)* 0.51
Mazis-Chambertin 27 separate parcels of Ruchottes-Chambertin shared François Trapet 0.20
Henri Magnien 0.16
AC: Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru between eight owners. The biggest owner was Thomas Château de Marsannay 0.10
L: 1ère Cuvée (upper part); 2ème Cuvée (lower part) Bassot, which sold its holding in 1976 to Rousseau, Marchand Grillot 0.08
R: 1ère Cuvée JM: grand cru 9.10ha Mugneret-Gibourg and Michel Bonnefond, whose parcel
*Michel Bonnefond is the owner, Christophe Roumier
Mazis- or Mazy-Chambertin lies at the northern end of the group of grands crus, is farmed by Domaine Roumier. Christophe Roumier the sharecropper. It is the same wine under either label.
closest to the village, and is divided into two parts of which Mazis-Haut, sitting told me of a tasting held in 2007 by the three vignerons
on the same rock formation as Clos de Bèze, is slightly superior to Mazis-Bas. who had proﬁted from this sale, a tasting which went back to the ﬁrst vintage,
Between 1855 and 1935 Les Mazis increased 1977. Recent vintages very much showed the style of the winemaking at the
Mazis-Chamertin: who owns what Ha from 8.59 hectares to its present 9.10 at the individual domaines; but this was not the case for the wines with ten years or
Hospices de Beaune Cuvée Madeleine Collignon 1.75
Joseph Faiveley 1.20 expense of a little morsel of Les Corbeaux. more of bottle age, which demonstrated the style of the vineyard, moderated of
Rebourseau 0.96 Of course, in best Burgundian fashion, there course by the nature of the vintage, much more than the hand of the winemaker.
Harmand-Geoffroy 0.73 is a fair bit of Mazis-Bas that is higher up the
Bernard Maume 0.67
Domaine Armand Rousseau 0.53 slope than part of Mazis-Haut. The difference Premiers crus
Philippe Naddef 0.42 between the two is that Mazis-Bas is on slightly The premiers crus are in two main groups, plus two singletons, Combottes and
Tortochot 0.42 deeper soil, with some inﬂuence from the cône Bel-Air. One group is next to the nine grands crus, though one might differentiate
Dupont-Tisserandot 0.35 de déjection of the Combe de Lavaux both in between those below Chapelle and Mazis, and those just to the north, close to the
Domaine d’Auvenay 0.26 terms of soil make-up and temperature. It is a village, and clearly in the cône de déjection of the Combe de Lavaux.
Bernard Dugat-Py 0.22 predominantly brown soil with a few stones. The second swathe constitutes the Côte St-Jacques. Around 1930, when the
Domaine Chris Newman 0.19
Jean-Michel Guillon 0.18 The underlying rock is in the form of ﬁssured various crus were being delimited, there was a move by a group of vignerons to
Frédéric Esmonin 0.14 slabs through which the roots can penetrate. use the name ‘Côte St-Jacques’ or even ‘Côte St-Jacques-Chambertin’ for these
Joseph Roty 0.12 Mazis-Haut has noticeably less topsoil and is vineyards. In the event only Clos St-Jacques itself plus Lavaux and Estournelles
Domaine Charlopin-Parizot 0.09
Confuron-Cotetidot 0.08 more similar to Ruchottes-Chambertin. retained the right, justiﬁed by long-term usage, to use ‘St-Jacques’, and none of
The wines are noted for ﬁrm structure and them the suffix or preﬁx ‘Chambertin’. This band of premiers crus then continues
considerable power. They often have a wilder character than other members of further along the hillside as far as the boundary with Brochon.
the Chambertin family (especially Domaine Maume’s example), with notes of
tannins, leather, menthol, liquorice – all sorts of complex aromatics which are Bel-Air
far removed from the opulent sweet fruit of Charmes-Chambertin. ACs: Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru; Gevrey-Chambertin
L: not mentioned R: not mentioned
Ruchottes-Chambertin JM: Village (unless they cut the forest back) 2.65ha* * plus 0.84ha classiﬁed as
AC: Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru In pre-phylloxera times the Bel-Air vineyard was somewhat more substantial village
L: 1ère Cuvée (upper part); 2ème Cuvée (lower part) than it is today. In fact, vines only reappeared after parts of the forest were
R: 1ère Cuvée JM: grand cru 3.30ha cleared and replanted in the 1960s. Two rectangular vineyards have been carved
Though Ruchottes-Chambertin is a small enough vineyard in any case, at just out of the forest – the smaller, upper part is classiﬁed as village while the lower
3.30 hectares, it nonetheless divides into a lower and an upper part; the latter, part, continuing the upper part of Ruchottes-Chambertin, sits atop Clos de Bèze.
known as the Clos des Ruchottes (1.10ha) belongs entirely to Domaine Armand The high, cool situation and steep slope on thin soil, mostly white marl, gives
Rousseau. The name, which ﬁrst appears in 1508, is a corruption of rochots, or wines of greater acidity than most, with a slight blackcurrant tint to the fruit.
‘little rocks’, underscoring the infertile, stony nature of the soil. The upper part is Domaines Taupenot-Merme and Charlopin produce the premier cru version
on an oolitic white marlstone, while below there is éboulis from the bathonian while Domaine de la Vougeraie has vines in the village sector.
period. The nature of the rock and the paucity of the topsoil give wines typically
light in colour and full of subtle nuances rather than overpowering weight. La Bossière
I walked round the Clos des Ruchottes with Eric Rousseau. The mother rock ACs: Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru; Gevrey-Chambertin
was clearly apparent just above the vineyard, with nothing capable of growing L: not mentioned R: not mentioned JM: 1er cru 0.45ha* * plus 1.44ha classiﬁed as
apart from a few alpine strawberries – already ripe in mid-May, a testament to Tucked up in the entrance to a small valley parallel to the Combe de Lavaux, village
130 Côte de Nuits Gevrey-Chambertin 131
132 Côte de Nuits Gevrey-Chambertin 133
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St-Jacques The amount of new oak here Domaine Trapet
varies according to the vintage, from 60 per cent in 2004 to 100 per cent in 2005, The domaine is currently run by Jean-Louis Trapet, son of Jean and cousin of
for example. The 2008 has 85 per cent. Year in, year out, this is a magical wine the Rossignol-Trapets. He is married to an Alsacienne, Andrée, and together they
and one can easily see why it is priced ahead of all but the ‘big two’ grands crus. maintain links with and make wine from Alsace, though production remains
Not quite as substantial perhaps as the two Chambertins but the same ﬁrmly centered on Gevrey-Chambertin. Jean-Louis moved towards biodynamic
quintessential poise and class. The crown prince? farming in the mid-1990s, working ﬁrst with guru François Bouchet and now
Gevrey-Chambertin From nine different parcels, of which eight are in the with Pierre Masson. The domaine has been certiﬁed by Biodivin since 1998 and
south-east corner of Gevrey (e.g. En Reniard, Champs Chenys, Crais and a bit of Demeter from 2005.
premier cru Clos Prieur) and just one from Brochon where the wines are sturdier Jean-Louis would rather talk about the philosophy of wine than the detail of
– so this is a relatively ﬁne, delicate Gevrey which in any case suits the house winemaking, but the broad-brush outline is partial destemming, with a cool pre-
style. Most of the vines are just over 20 years old, the village sector of Gevrey fermentation maceration before a long fermentation, then
having been particularly hard hit by the winter cold of 1985. the descent by gravity of the wine to the barrel cellar, with Domaine Trapet Ha
30 to 75 per cent new oak used according to the cuvée. He Le Chambertin Grand Cru 1.85
Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru 0.55
Domaine Séraﬁn uses no sulphur at harvest or during the viniﬁcation and Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru 0.74
This domaine was originally put on the map by Christian Séraﬁn’s father, who maturation processes, just adding a small dose at bottling. Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Prieur 0.21
espoused 50 per cent whole-bunch fermentation and not too much new oak. The wines are succulent and rounded and make an Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Petite Chapelle 0.37
However on Christian’s watch the grapes have been completely destemmed and, interesting contrast to the tighter, more precise style of Marsannay 0.90
except the lowliest cuvées, matured in entirely new wood. Much thought Jean-Louis’s cousins at Domaine Rossignol-Trapet.
goes into matching a particular tonnelier and forest Le Chambertin Grand Cru The warmth and richness on the surface of the
Domaine Séraﬁn Ha with the character of a given vineyard. He likes the Trapet style is supported by a dense mineral core which is the vineyard
Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 0.31 elegance of Taransaud for some and the power of François expressing itself. This combination of purity and grandeur makes for a very
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Cazetiers 0.23
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Fonteny 0.33 Frères for others. complete wine.
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Corbeaux 0.45 This makes for powerful wines with noticeable Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru The Trapet holding was purchased in 1904,
Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru Millandes 0.34 tannins, which do however emerge with fruit and terroir the year of Louis Trapet’s birth. This is a relatively muscular wine chez Trapet,
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Baudes 0.32
Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 1.03 intact after a decade or more of bottle age. The key is in with rich red fruits surrounding a core of steel.
Gevrey-Chambertin 1.67 the vineyard work, with strict pruning and de-budding
followed by a green harvest and deleaﬁng on both sides. Cécile Tremblay
Christian Séraﬁn is now past retirement age, but with a niece in the vineyards Though the preceding two generations had not been involved in wine, they
and a daughter in the cellar and office, continuity is in place. retained ownership of vineyards inherited from Edouard Jayer, uncle of Henri.
Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru A massively powerful wine, as if it had some In 2003 Edouard’s great-granddaughter, Cécile Tremblay, decided to take back
full Chambertin parentage. Very sumptuous black fruit ﬂoods the palate, while three hectares of vines on the expiry of the lease. More are due to follow in 2021
the oak provides structure for long-term ageing. and Cécile has already purchased or rented further land. Since August 2008 she
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Cazetiers All Séraﬁn wines are powerful, but this has rented premises in Gevrey-Chambertin, the former Caveau du Chapître.
has elegance as well. There is an exceptional density of fruit but in a reﬁned The vineyards were not in great condition when Cécile took them over –
register, avoiding blockbuster territory. too much fertiliser, herbicides preferred to ploughing, and so on, but they are
Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes From a variety of plots, notably Les Crais in steadily being licked into shape. The vines are now certiﬁed organic and Cécile
Brochon. Dense fruit usually tends towards dark descriptors like black cherries, pursues a number of biodynamic methods. Her list of wines will doubtless evolve
but with a sense of vibrancy. Ten years’ age is about right for a good vintage. further: in 2006 and 2007 premier cru Les Rouges went into the village Vosne-
Romanée, while most of the Nuits-St-Georges is premier
Tortochot cru Murgers, but the vines are young. From 2021 there Cécile Tremblay Ha
Chantal Tortochot-Michel succeeded her late father Gabriel and has smartened will be much more Beaumonts and some Clos de Echézeaux Grand Cru 0.18
up the winemaking procedures. These are inexpensive wines with sound fruit, Vougeot as well. Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru 0.36
Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Beaumonts 0.15
but the viticultural aspect needs attention before this domaine can move to a Some stems are kept during viniﬁcation, which takes Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Rouges-du-Dessus 0.23
higher level. The holdings are impressive though, with grands crus Chambertin, place in wooden vats for up to a month, with some Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Feusselottes 0.45
Charmes-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin and Clos de Vougeot, premiers crus punching down but very little pumping over. The solids Nuits-St-Georges ‘Albuca’ 0.25
Morey-St-Denis Très Girard 0.40
Champeaux, Lavaux St-Jacques and Morey-St-Denis Aux Charmes, plus a range are pressed at the end with a small vertical press of Chambolle-Musigny (from 2009) 1.00
of single-vineyard village Gevreys. whose virtues Cécile sings highly. The wines are then Vosne-Romanée 0.60
158 Côte de Nuits Gevrey-Chambertin 159
The Hill of Corton
282 Côte de Beaune The Hill of Corton 283
Simple, competent Chablis winemaking might consist of fermentation in
stainless-steel tanks, with malolactic, on lees until March, then racking and
further ageing on ﬁne lees in the tanks with a ﬁning, cold-stabilising treatment,
and then ﬁltration before bottling in the summer. A more sophisticated version
might push back the ﬁrst racking and maintain the élevage on ﬁne lees for up to
18 months, thus avoiding most of the stabilising/clarifying treatments.
The alternative is to consider some sort of wood treatment. In times past
Chablis would have been made in old wooden barrels, frequently the local
feuillettes of 132 litres. Indeed bulk-price quotations for Chablis are still given by
the feuillette. Nowadays new or at least recent barrels are the order of the day.
Some vinify in barrel, be it foudre, biodynamic egg, demi-muid, 228-litre or
feuillette, while others only go to barrel for the élevage after fermentation, in
which case new wood should be avoided.
What do I want from Chablis? First, what I do not want is an anonymous
Chardonnay du Monde made in the Yonne département. The wine has to speak of
Chablis has been one of the most imitated wines in the world. In France, it used place, and especially to evoke the magical mineral character which seemingly
to be said that four times as much was sold in a year as was made, while several comes from the Kimmeridgian soil, argilo-calcaire like the rest of Burgundy, but
generations of American drinkers became used to jugs of domestic ‘Chablis’ – in this case full of little marine skeletons, Exogyra virgila.
low-quality white wines. In the UK, Spanish ‘Chablis’ had its moment. But France Petit Chablis one might drink without thinking twice, just pleased to have a
can now protect the names of its appellations and happily all this is in the past. little hint of the region at an affordable price. ‘Straight’ Chablis need not be
Even today in Chablis itself there is more than one interpretation of the wine. complex either; just a touch more body and a very deﬁnite requirement for some
Chablis for me needs to speak of whence it comes – there are too many wines in of the local character, with its whiff of marine austerity.
this region which are attractive international Chardonnays but that do not show
any especial Chablis typicity. The ranks of wineries with batteries of stainless- Chablis orthography
steel vats that have sprung up in industrial parks at the edge of town are Consistency of spelling has never been one of Burgundy’s strong points, although
indicative of the dynamic commercial success of the region – but also of an over- the variations are more due to a richness of competing historical traditions than
simpliﬁed, mass-market approach that once again risks damaging the to academic incompetence. Chablis is by some way the worst offender. The most
authenticity of ‘le vrai Chablis’ – this time from within. obvious variations are between the singular and plural, but vowels appear and
disappear at random from time to time. For the headline name I have adopted
Developments the version most commonly seen; under each producer, I have tried to use the
As the risk of frost diminishes – the most recent tricky year being 2003 – and as spelling used on their own labels, but inevitably there will be inconsistencies.
the region becomes less insular, changes are being seen in the vineyards. The
traditional planting was at around 6,500 vines per hectare, usually trained Grands crus
according to a system of double guyot: both shoots led in the same direction, so Whereas in the Côte d’Or each grand cru vineyard has its own appellation, the
that if the upper one is frosted the lower one may survive. Current thinking is to rules are different here: there is one appellation called Chablis Grand Cru, but it
increase the planting density to 8,000 vines per hectare (advocated by the Union covers seven separate vineyards. There were originally ﬁve classiﬁed in 1935:
des Grands Crus), or even 10,000, using single or double guyot, but with the two Blanchot, Clos, Grenouilles, Valmur and Vaudésir, with Bougros and Preuses
shoots heading in opposite directions away from the vine trunk, as in Bordeaux. added only in 1938. Anachronistically Roald Dahl’s My Uncle Oswald drinks a
There is also, at long last, a swing of the pendulum back towards hand- grand cru Grenouilles in 1912.1 1 Roald Dahl, My Uncle
picking, at least by the top estates. At the turn of the millennium it was rare to André Jullien (1832) considered that Les Clos stood out, followed by Valmur Oswald, Michael Joseph,
ﬁnd producers still harvesting by hand, excepting of course such unregenerate and Grenouilles, then Vaudésir, Bouguereau and Mont-de-Milieu, which all came 2 C Coates, The Wines of
traditionalists as Raveneau and Dauvissat, and other leaders like William Fèvre within his Première Classe. So did Blanchot, which was quoted separately as it is Burgundy, University of
California Press, 2008, pp.
and Billaud-Simon. Now many more of the leading names are picking at least in the commune of Fleys, not Chablis. Les Preuses and ‘une partie de Bouguereau’ 43-44.
their premiers and grands crus by hand. There is also a move towards the use only appeared in his Deuxième Classe.
of natural yeasts for fermentation, encouraged by local oenologist Jacques Clive Coates2 places Les Clos ﬁrst, Valmur and Vaudésir as runners-up,
Lesimple. ‘We have the luck to work with an oenologist who is not a pusher of Preuses in fourth place, then Blanchots, Bougros and Grenouilles in a putative
products,’ comments grower Didier Picq (see Producers, below). second division. Of course, a complicating factor is that few producers can offer
Bouzeron & Rully red by a margin of two to one, reﬂecting the historical position, even though for
a period greater interest was shown in the red wines.
The whites tend to be light, fresh and friendly, most often designed for
drinking in their ﬁrst three or four years. The best examples from the top
domaines will of course have a longer life, but it is not clear if enough is gained
from additional ageing to warrant the risk of losing the initial charm. The best
white-wine vineyards face east or south-east across the plain of the Saône.
The reds are also lighter, and certainly less tannic, than either Givry or
Mercurey. Their charm is their perfume, and like the whites they show better in
youth and freshness. The main red-wine vineyards are either on the lower-lying
land immediately west of the village – Les Pierres and Préaux being exclusively
Pinot Noir, Le Chapitre and Molesmes predominantly so – or else on the low
ground well to the east of the village such as Les Champs Cloux and La Renarde.
This is also very much a centre of the sparkling wine industry with houses
such as Veuve Ambal, Albert Sounit, Vitteaut-Alberti and Louis Picalemot all
originating in Rully.
A small red-wine premier cru located south-west of Rully below the hamlet of
Agneux, where sheep rather than vines would indeed once have rambled.
Produced by Eric de Suremain of the Château de Monthélie.
La Bressande 2.61ha
A monopoly of the Château de Rully. The vines, all Chardonnay, sit on a steepish
east-facing slope made of a build-up of alluvial soils with debris from higher up.
Champs Cloux 4.62ha
A substantial premier cru making only red wines, with good examples from
Domaines Brelière, Briday and Duvernay. It is on the east side of the little stream,
La Thalie, which cuts through Rully.
Le Chapitre 2.45ha
This is tucked in close to the village itself – as vineyards called Le Chapitre
always are, so as to be close to the church. The main producers are Domaines
Belleville and Dureuil-Janthial. Domaine Jaeger-Defaix makes red wine in the
Clos du Chapitre.
Clos du Chaigne 3.26ha
One of two isolated premiers crus in the commune of Chagny, the vineyard’s
full title is Clos du Chaigne à Jean de France. Shallow red topsoil sits on top of
hard limestone. It is produced by Domaine de la Folie and Louis Picalemot.
Clos St Jacques 1.69ha
With Clos du Chaigne, Clos St Jacques is one of two premiers crus in the
commune of Chagny. There is also a very good village Rully called Les St Jacques,
made by Domaine A&P de Villaine, amongst others. The sole producer of the
premier cru version is Domaine de la Folie.
556 Côte Chalonnaise 557
of the major Côte d’Or appellations as we can some delicious wines in 2009, but it is too early to say First impressions This year there was hardly any middle of the month it was cold enough to start having
reasonably manage. The wines are tasted blind in whether or not this year will take its place in the work to do on the sorting tables. Nor was there a lot of ﬁres at home in the evening. Fortunately the last week
small ﬂights, village by village or, where appropriate, pantheon of great vintages. discussion about the subtleties of the vintage since cheered up considerably, with a succession of hot,
vineyard by vineyard. This gives us a really useful The weather The summer of 2009 had a very everybody had the same story to tell, the same smiles sunny days.
overview of the vintage, as well as an inside track as to different feel to it compared to its two immediate on their faces. It appears to be a decent-sized crop, The long-term forecast had promised a ﬁne, dry
who is going up in the world and who might have predecessors. It was not without problems – notably though drier summer conditions in the Mâconnais September, but it did not materialize for the ﬁrst half of
under-performed that year. hail in May and some poor weather in July – but at have reduced yields as there was precious little juice the month. Rain on Thursday 11th, continuing
Thereafter I continue to monitor how a vintage is least the ground heated up properly this year, which it in the bunches. sporadically for the next two days caused deep gloom,
progressing by the best method of all, which is by had signally failed to do during the drab summers of Sugar levels are where they should be everywhere, especially in the Côte de Beaune and further south.
drinking some bottles. There is also a good opportunity 2007 and 2008. acidity either just right or sometimes a touch on the Imagine the relief when Sunday 14th dawned bright,
to get another overall perspective when Becky There was very little wind on Palm Sunday, perhaps low side. The white wines showed well at the Hospices cool and clear – at long last the wind had turned from
Wasserman and Clive Coates host their ‘Ten Years On’ just a very light north-easter, which normally gives de Beaune, but real judgements can be made only after the west to the north or north-east.
tasting in Bouilland, with the growers providing slightly cool but dry sunny weather. Then came the the malolactic fermentation has ﬁnished. The red This new weather pattern stayed in place, thank
bottles from their cellars and then turning up to try ﬁrst piece of bad news on Ascension Day, May 21, with wines are attracting more of the early buzz than the goodness, for the following fortnight and saved the
their own wines alongside the competition. hail in Morey and Gevrey, especially in the grands crus. whites, and there is no question but that the fruit harvest. A few people started picking on Sunday 21st,
Throughout the assessments here, mention will The ﬂowering took place in warm, sunny conditions tastes delicious right from the start. It is a low-acid with the main bunch beginning around Thursday 25th.
frequently be made to the wind on Palm Sunday and – though it was sometimes very windy – in late May year and the tannins are not aggressive, which means It was not easy, with hail, oïdium, mildew, rot and
the Ban de Vendanges, the signiﬁcance of which is and into the very start of June, setting a likely harvest that the wines will be enjoyable early on. It is too soon unripe grapes to contend with, but those who had done
explained below. date of September 10. Fine weather in June with to say whether they will remain exciting in the long their work in the vineyard well and were properly
occasional heat spikes turned much more variable in term. Overall there is more of a feel of 1999 than 2005. equipped at harvest were reasonably content –
Palm Sunday July with some heavy storms, most notably on July 13 temperatures were around or above 12ºC/54ºF.
The locals have a saying that le vent de Rameaux sera le and 14 when over 100mm of rain fell. This made life 2008 The cool, drying wind dropped on Sunday 28th, a
vent de l’année – the wind on Palm Sunday will be the difficult for the vignerons as they could not get into the This vintage is destined to be overshadowed by the marvellous, warm, late summer’s day, as indeed was
wind of the year – not of course the only wind which vineyards, but it caused no real damage. 2009s. It is the second Sarkozy summer (see 2007): the following Monday. But the next day, the wind
will blow, but nonetheless the deﬁning weather The weather continued unsettled, with alternating another cool and frequently damp season during which returned to the westerly airﬂow that had dominated
pattern for key parts of the growing season and hot and cool days, and further storms on July 22 and the ground never warmed up, and with signiﬁcant the summer and things became cool and gloomy late
especially the vintage: see p.43. This will be referred to 23. There were occasional signs of mildew and even disease pressure to trouble the growers . Yet it still in the week. Better weather returned for the following
frequently in the vintage summaries below. rot, but these were very localised. Otherwise the vines proved possible to make good wine. week, when the most hardened of determined late-
were looking good and the grapes healthy, with The weather After a cold but mostly dry winter, pickers completed their harvest.
The Ban de Vendanges veraison around the end of the month, when the the spring got off to a slow start. April was an old- First impressions Unquestionably this had been a
The origin of the Ban de Vendanges, the official start weather improved, albeit without really heating up. fashioned month, with something of everything but really difficult season for the vignerons. In many
date of the harvest, was to allow the local seigneur to August, however, was glorious, developing into a none of the heat of 12 months earlier. This made a brief instances yields were way down, either because of the
pick before the commoners, which in times of very small heatwave towards the middle of the month appearance in the ﬁrst ten days of May after which the ﬂowering or through the various diseases of oïdium,
short fermentations meant that he would get his wine before the weather broke with a welcome storm (rain weather turned grey, gloomy, cool and occasionally mildew and rot. One or two producers effectively lost
to market before the rest. Those with formal enclosed and thunder rather than anything worse) on the wet. When this went on well into June fears of another almost their entire crop. But these days every halfway-
vineyards or clos also had the right to pick before the morning of Friday 21st. Apart from a brief incursion poor summer began to mount, along with the risk of decent producer has at least one sorting table and the
Ban. In more recent times the Ban has been used to from the tail end of Hurricane Bill (25th, 26th) the mildew. The vines also showed signs of chlorosis and strength of mind to use it.
designate an official start date to prevent the impatient weather stayed ﬁne for the rest of the month and the ﬂowering, which happened through the second and Wines of both colours, though, show promise. The
from picking too early, before the grapes are ripe. growers could hardly contain their optimism. third weeks of June (suggesting late September for whites are intriguing in that they have a richness of
This practice has become increasingly less valuable, The change of the moon suggested more unsettled the harvest), was strung out, with some of the plentiful fruit, especially in their primary aromatics, combined
as it has become clear that it was more often than not conditions but, apart from a drab ﬁrst week of bunches suffering from coulure or millerandage. with a noted acidity behind. Optimistic producers are
the ﬁnest producers who wanted to pick before the September, it looked as if the ﬁne weather had Then, on June 24, after a couple of heavy, humid and thus inclined to say that ’08 combines the best of ’06
official start date, so as to avoid overripeness, having returned for the duration of the harvest. The promised hot days, the wind turned more to the north-west and and ’07. The wines are deﬁnitely attractive but I do not
taken detailed samples of their grapes. This was the north-east wind (le vent de Rameaux) appeared from delivered a week of beautiful sunshine, warm and dry sense the inherent balance necessary for long-term
case in 2006, so in 2007 the authorities instituted the September 10, but bizarrely it brought clouds with it – without excessive heat: the sort of weather that never ageing. The reds are harder to pin down, because here
Ban de Vendanges exceptionally early – and have the bad weather that had gone round Scotland, north of appeared through the middle of the 2007 summer. it really depends on how the vineyards came through
thereafter discontinued the practice entirely. the anticyclone over England, came back down the July was promising – again an improvement on the tribulations of the growing season. I can see no
North Sea and into France. The weather turned grey 2007 – until a hailstorm at nearly the end of the month obvious pattern – be it geographical along the Côte, or
The Vintages and cool during the week of Monday 14th, but with no (Saturday 26th) that damaged vineyards in Volnay, indeed up and down the hillside in any given village –
2009 more than a touch of drizzle – and that mostly in the Pommard, Meursault, Beaune and especially Savigny. to success or failure. Everything depended on getting
This ﬁrst assessment is written when the wines have Côte de Beaune, where the vintage was more or less There were some hot days in the ﬁrst half of August, the vineyard management right.
been in cask for just a few months, before their over. Picking started in the Mâconnais from around unfortunately including a hailstorm in the Mâconnais
malolactic fermentations (mostly), and before any September 2nd, in the Côte de Beaune from the 5th on the 7th; but then a pattern of repeated westerly 2007
tasting of any signiﬁcance has taken place. The hype and a few days later in the Côte de Nuits. It continued fronts set in, with frequent showers and temperatures I overheard a Frenchman saying to his friend at the
has been running already however, albeit less in in Chablis and the Auxerrois through the middle of the mostly below the seasonal average. A deluge on the Gare du Lyon in August 2007: ‘Do you know, we
Burgundy than Bordeaux: it is clear that there will be month, in glorious sunshine. 12th was not, fortunately, accompanied by hail. By the haven’t had a single day of sunshine since we elected
620 Reference & Index Vintages 621