Sep 9, 2011

Burgundy 2011 harvest blog 6

Finally, on Friday the harvest ended at Drouhin-Laroze! It is time for celebration, and the village of Gevrey-Chambertin was full of happy people as other domaines celebrated the end of harvest during the same day! A lot of great moments and hard work behind, it is a bit sad to leave these very nice people and go home - although I am heading down south to French Riviera after the week, to enjoy beach & sun for a couple of days!!!!!!!!

We gathered for a team picture during the last day at Drouhin-Laroze. The owners of the estate, Philippe and Christine, are in the forefront - who I would like to thank a lot!

The international body of the team consisted of two Swedes, one English and two Finns, while the rest were French grape pickers. Two fellow Finns, friends of Hanna-Mari, had already left home before this picture was taken. You can find me in the top row, 15th counted from the right.

Sep 8, 2011

Burgundy 2011 harvest blog 5

Again working at the cellar, where there is a lot of action. And a lot of cleaning. Cleaning is really important here, taking a lot of the time. However clean production equipment is very much needed for producing top-notch wines as the winemaker does not want any off-flavours to his or her wine due to poorly maintained equipment.

The sorting belt is some 5 meters long, we are two men pouring the belt full of grapes and 2-3 women / men sorting the unripe or rotten grapes from the belt.

After the sorting belt, the grapes are put through a destemmer into large vats, they are cooled with dry ice and the grapes are lifted to the fermenting vats with the dry ice for cold materation. The heat will be controlled in the fermenting vats and the actual alcohol fermentation will begin when desired.

Sep 7, 2011

Burgundy 2011 harvest blog 4

Today I worked at the cellar at the sorting table, both at filling the table with grapes as well as sorting the bad ones out (the ones left after initial grape selection on the vineyard). This is the quality assurance before the grapes are destemmed and put into vats.

Some white grapes, i.e. pinot blanc, are in the mix with pinot noir grapes, which is not unsual here as some mutations have occured in the vineyard. They are ok to be put in the same tanks as pinot noir grapes we are told. The very presticious Musigny grand cru was 40 baskets, i.e. some 920 kg of grapes. Clos de Vougeot grapes were really good too, while Bonnes Mares generally good grapes with some unequal bunches.

Sep 6, 2011

Burgundy 2011 harvest blog 3

Early in the morning we did village Gevrey-Chambertin crus and later the Chapelle-Chamberin grand cru, followed by Clos de Beze grand cru. The grapes especially in Chapelle-Chambertin were of excellent health, only a few bunches with rot. Thus the grape-picking goes a lot faster, as there is less need to cut out the bad grapes from bunches.

The catering is so nice here, after the 7.15 breakfast we get bread, cheese, charcuterie, water, beer or rose wine at 9.30am, a three-course lunch with wine at noon (2hr break), again bread, chocolate, beer and rose wine at 3.30pm, then after the work day is over, a three-course dinner with wine at 7.30pm. You are really kept well in these circustances.

The nights end really early, everybody is at bed at 9.30pm, so tired and ready to get some well-earned sleep. Good night everybody.

Sep 5, 2011

Burgundy 2011 harvest blog 2

Wake-up at 6.45 am, followed by breakfast with the team at 7.15am, be sure to be in a truck at 7.45am and at the vineyard 8am.

We work in teams of one "porteur", i.e. grape carrier, per 5-6 grape pickers, with the porteurs' 23 kg grape basket getting filled with grapes every 4-6 mins. We were 6 porteurs today, and 32 pickers if I counted right. Worked mainly in Gevrey-Chambertin village crus today. The porteurs' grape basket fills every 4-6 mins with 23 kg of grapes, which have to be carried to the truck waiting on the road. The grape basket itself weights some 5kg. Hard work, very hard work. The health of grapes is uneven, with meticulous work on cutting away the rotten grapes before taking to the winery.

Sep 4, 2011

Burgundy 2011 harvest blog

This year, it is Burgundy.
Participating in the grape harvest in is always a fun experience. In 2011 I had the chance to do harvest work in the other favorite wine production area of mine, Burgundy (France), after participating in the 2010 harvest in Barolo (Piemonte, Italy). I hopped on a plane from Lisbon, Portugal where I had been in a corporate event needing my presence and arrived at Lyon-St. Exupery on Sunday 4th. After taking a train to mid-town, then to Beaune and another to arrive at Gevrey-Chambertin, I was ready to go work in grand cru vineyards among the best pinot noirs in the world.

The estate is one of the largest and well-known producers of the area, Domaine Drouhin-Laroze. And it will be very interesting to work at grand cru vineyards. Drouhin-Laroze owns 11.5 ha of vineyards while also purchasing a small amount of grapes from other producers for the Laroze de Drouhin line of wines which are made by their daughter Caroline. An impressive 5.2 ha of them are Grand Cru vineyards. The Grand Cru vineyards include the prestigious Le Musigny Grand Cru (0.12 ha, only two barrels made each year), while Drouhin-Laroze is the second largest owner in Bonnes Mares (1.5 ha). Grand crus located in Gevrey are Chambertin-Clos de Beze (1.5 ha), Latricieres-Chambertin (0.67 ha) and Chapelle-Chambertin (0.52 ha). Finally, the domaine owns vines in the upper part,of the large Grand Cru of Clos de Vougeot, also know as "Des Papes" (1.0 ha). Click to see a map of the vineyards:

The team had already done two full days of grape picking before I arrived, so I joined in on the third day (Monday). The team includes 40 persons this year in addition to the 7 normally working at the domaine.

The pinot noir grapes ripened were significantly earlier in 2011 than in 2010 when the harvest was conducted as late as early October. More posts from harvest work to come soon...

Aug 2, 2011

1964 Chateau Batailley (Pauillac)

One of the wine experiences of the year. Chateau Batailley's 1964 was in excellent condition, the wine has survived until this date in a remarkable fashion from a vintage hailed as not great, but rather mediocre in Bordeaux. The vintage was more favourable on the right bank, however this left bank Pauillac is still a relevant wine and totally enjoyable at 47 years of age. Actually, it could still be stored for some time as it shows no signs of getting "old", however for all you hedonists out there, this one is for you to enjoy right now.

Having bought the bottle from my favorite wine shop in Lyon, "The Flying Sommelier" (, one of the better if not The Best wine shop on earth, we could hardly resist opening it. And in the end, we were really glad they had it in stock, as we would have been short of one big experience on this trip.

Brown colour with an almost yellow hue (ok, orange, however light). Mature bouquet is dominated by figue jam, turning into coffee which I personally love. Plenty of acidity here, the mature red wine still has rich fruit content which, together with acidity, created a mouthfeel of sweet liquor-like nectar although the wine is totally dry. Long aftertaste, hints of figue on the palate and after 1.5 hours of decanting, coffee flavours emerged. Tannins could still be felt. From very ripe grapes, the wine was potentially really heavy and full-bodied when young, however now developed into a charming mature full-bodied wine. It has aged beautifully, turning into fuit liquer, no leather nor animal notes here. Excellent.

Jul 30, 2011

2001 Guy Castagnier Bonnes Mares Grand Cru

I bought this Guy Castagnier's Bonnes Mares 2001 from the "Magnum" wine shop in Beaune which has an extensive collection of old vintage wines and is definately worth the visit if you visit Beaune. Magnum is located on Rue Carnot, check also the website

The wine was already a little turned from garnet to brownish in the glass, showing some age. Nose was like sticking your nostrils into a basket of nice freshly cut mushrooms and dried black and red fruit, all mixed together. Vintage 2001 was not a good one in Burgundy and it shows here with fruitiness being a little submerged under the underbrush and forest-floor notes. Usually in a not-so-good vintage, the "green" notes of paprika, stems etc. tend to show in wines, and so did in this one too. A pleasant bottle and priced at €60 was not too bad for the money.

Jul 28, 2011

1989 and 1993 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, Concha y Toro, Chile

Wow. The 1989 Don Melchor represents the great winemaking tradition in Chile. In tasting one of the leading estates in Chile, Concha y Toro's, leading wine, the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor, it was wonderful to see how well these wines were made in late 1980s and early 1990s and how well they mature and develop with age.

We have so few of these older vintages of Chilean wines available in Europe - however it's Wine&View bar to rescue.

The Wine&View at Helsinki Airport offers mature wines per small amounts (per cl), thus you are able get a tasting of really great and mature wines with a relatively low cost compared to buying a full bottle of mature wine from the internet. At the Wine&View bar, price of a small wine glass of 4 cl ranges usually from €7 to €22 or higher depending on the wine, however the cost is peanuts compared to the amount of effort, risk and costs involved in purchasing a similar bottle (75cl and far, far more expensive) from internet - if you are able to find what you want, that is.

And the mature Chilean wines are harder to get than mature European wines. Fortunately I was able to taste these two great wines, of which the 1989 stands superior. The 1989 Don Melchor was from a vintage of above average temperatures thus including significantly larger amount of alcohol (13.9%) and fruit ripeness than in the 1993 (12.2% abv.). Aging in french oak seems to suit these wines in long aging, as it had beautiful aromas of red fruit and chocolate while tannins were totally integrated. The 1993 was a good expression of the aging potential of these wines, and would be really worth a blog post in itself, however it was overshadowed by the outstanding 1989 in this tasting. Where could I find more? Please let me know if you read this blog and have an idea where to purchase from.  


1997 Chapoutier Le Meal Blanc & 1997 Chapoutier Cote-Rotie

Northern Rhone in 1997. Chapoutier produces his Le Meal Blanc on the slopes of the Hermitage hill, the very same hill yours truly and my friend Vesa are going to conquer in a week during our wine trip to Burgundy & Northern Rhone. So it pays to get acknowledged of the mature Northern Rhone wines before the trip. Having tasted several red wines from the same slopes, this was the first time I tasted a mature white wine from the Le Meal.

The wine had a mid-intensive yellow colour with a soft and round nose of apricot and fruitiness, however some notable oxidation indicating that the bottle should be drank very soon. The palate was also soft and round with medium alchocol and acidity and dominated by apricot jam and minerality. This was a well produced wine.

However, the 1997 Cote-Rotie's fruitiness was not up to bar with the tannins and alcohol content, as the wine tasted more of maturation elements than substance in the form of fruit. I would say this was one-dimensional and overly tannic in fact. The wine is past its peak, as according to other sources, the wine was rich and full in palate when young - so I would recommend to drink yours quickly if you have them stored. This was somewhat dissapointing to experience, as otherwise the wine looked nicely matured in the glass by its colour and held promise when sniffed from the glass, with notes of leather there.  However, this could be explained by bottle differences - how well you store it can have a significant difference in the life span of a 14 year old wine.

Mar 22, 2011

2006 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-St-Vivant & 2004 Denis Thomas Echezeaux Grand Cru

The most prestigeous domaine in Burgudy. Some of the best pinot noirs around. One of the most sought-after wines. Need I say more? Tasted with friends who were as intrigued as yours truly about a Romanee-Conti.

2006 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-St-Vivant (Burgundy)
Romanee-Conti has 5.3 hectares in Romanee-St. Vivant vinyeard with average age of wines 34 years andannual production of 1,500 cases.

Five hours of decanting. Colour is a medium purple. Nose is charming and medium intensive giving you black cherry, perfume, lingonberry, even apricot and toffee, turning to some meatiness after long decanting.

Palate is medium/full bodied, very silky and soft with higher than usual acidity, well-integrated tannins, dominated by cherry fruit and lingonberry in the front palate, turning to meatiness in the mid-palate. After long decanting, notes of oriental spices (turmeric and saffron) develop and integrate nicely with the cherry. Very long aftertaste, stays in the mouth over 1min. Gives warmth, however only medium alcohol content. More one-dimensional than what the nose gave, but shows signs of developing nicely. The Romanee-St. Vivant 2006 is a meditation wine or enjoy it with bird game meat. Although the wine was approachable, needless to say it should develop for years which is the recommendation.

2004 Denis Thomas Echezeaux Grand Cru (Burgundy)
Denis Thomas is a small producer located right next to the Domaine de la Romanee- Conti estate in village of Vosne-Romanee. He was kind enough to stop his lunch for my visit and showed the cave. Bought two bottles from im, one of which was corked. This bottle was also unusual.

The colour is ruby however already sligtly developed thus browner than that of the Romanee-Conti - this is two years older. Redcurrant, musk, meat notes dominate supported by violet and mint, and with long decanting, the fruit turns sweeter and almond notes emerge.

The palate is full-bodied and has trademark cherry with clove, with meatiness and cigar box notes. However the fruit is slightly subdued. This bottle was not in a prime condition either.

Which one did the tasters prefer? One preferred the Denis Thomas, five the Romanee-Conti.