Harvesting in Burgundy with Patrick Burke
As most of you know, Patrick Burke, our French Portfolio Manager is living the year in Lyon. He spent the past couple of weeks harvesting the rounds with our producers in Burgundy before heading to Barolo for Barolo Camp with Greg Reeves, our Italian Portfolio Manager, and a few reps. What follows is Patrick’s (#ExPat) report from the field. Merci Patrick!
Last week I was in Burgundy for a couple of days of picking and tasting with Didier Delagrange, Roger Belland and Jean-Michel Gaunoux. The weather was amazing, albeit hot, for this time of year. Last week saw the warmest temperatures they had seen in the area since early June. Generally speaking people are happy with the fruit that is coming in. The yields are very low. Even in vineyards that didn’t see hail there is very little juice in the grapes. The cool and wet month of July made it so that the grapes developed a meaty pulp. There just isn’t much juice to press out of them. As for the hail of May 28th the majority of the damage lies in the vineyards of Pommard and Volnay. For Didier Delagrange, he received a bit of luck to compensate for the 80% destruction of his two parcels of Pommard 1er Cru Bertins. His village Pommard and most of his Volnay vines were spared major damage. Bertins however, is another story. I picked two rows of it on Tuesday morning and there were very few intact clusters. Some only had 4 or 5 grapes left on them. It was a matter of doing some very selective picking and triaging in the vineyard. Fortunately there was no rot to be seen and so the dried up grape nuts that had suffered the hail were easily dusted off the clusters. Essentially, there will be about two barrels of 2014 Bertins.
Tuesday afternoon, following a hearty meal served by Helene Delagrange and her parents who had driven from Armagnac, we were taken to the Clos des Chenes vineyard in Volnay to harvest a much better looking crop. Here the clusters were in great condition and tasting great. Just from tasting the skins I can tell that this year’s Clos des Chenes will have silky tannins. Didier’s crew had begun harvesting on September 15th and were going to finish on the 20th. Five quick and intense days.
A quick trip to the hotel was necessary in order to clean up and drive to Roger Belland’s place for a little catch up session over a few bottles from his cellar. Roger and Julie had spent the day in Santenay Beauregard and the winery was in full motion. The one comment Roger made that stuck with me was that the sunshine from the last two weeks coupled with the abnormally hot days during harvest was going to make reds with great color but not especially aromatic wines. Roger and Julie were making every effort to pick in the morning or to chill the must as soon as it was pressed to tank in order to preserve as much of the phenolics as possible. The mood at Belland was very good because there was very nice fruit coming in. As of last Tuesday evening they were about 50% done with harvest.
Wednesday morning I visited with Jean-Michel Gaunoux. As usual he began harvesting his 6ha of vines early than most and was therefore finished. The winery smelled of fermentation and the CO2 levels in the cellar were dangerous. Every time Jean-Michel went down for some more bottles he came up winded. The main purpose in visiting was to retaste a series of vintages to see where everything was at before selecting for the fall inventory. JM very generously opened 2007, 2008 and 2009 from every vineyard we purchase. It was phenomenal to see how different 1er Crus tasted from various vintages. In addition to these JM selected bottles of old vintages where he had the possibility of supplying me with a small allocation. I found two bombs! Keep your eyes peeled for the offering I will send out in a day or two. Hint: 2004 Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrieres and 1998 Pommard Les Perrieres.
That’s the Burgundy report for this week. I will be tapping the Tortochot cellar next now that Chantal is done with harvest. Stay tuned.