Sep 29, 2012

Burgundy Harvest Blog 5 - September 28 - Finally sunshine after all that rain

Finally sunshine after all that rain. It has been a very rainy harvest season in Burgundy. Honestly you could say that we had not seen a cloud which did not rain on us for the last five days until yesterday.bIn Gevrey-Chambertin, it has rained in all of the last five days except today which is a remarkable difference to last years harvest where it rained in only one day.

Only light rain showers yesterday though when we harvested Chambertin-Clos de Beze grand cru. The grapes were good with only limited selection in the vineyards was needed. In each of the grand crus harvested thus far, the quality and health of the grapes is higher than in village appellations, which in addition to the terroir aspect speaks for the higher market price of the products. The raw material is just better. 

However the real story of the day is the quality of Drouhin-Laroze's grapes for the entry level Bourgogne red. The grapes used in the wine were in such good health that people in the winery were astounded with the quality, which rivaled that of grapes from grand cru vineyards. The domaine's 2012 Bourgogne red should be kept in mind when released.

Today it was beautiful sunshine the whole day. Also part of yesterday when Clos de Beze was harvested. Tomorrow we will harvest the last remaining grand cru, Latricieres-Chambertin and the premier cru of Lavaut St. Jacques which is among the coldest premier crus in Gevrey-Chambertin and thus usually harvested among the last vineyards harvested in the appellation, for allowing grapes to mature the longest. 

Tomorrow is the last day of harvest and the harvest-ending party with the team. This years harvest was 10 days. 

Sep 24, 2012

Burgundy Harvest Blog 4 - September 24

Another rainy morning in Gevrey-Chambertin turned into a sunny afternoon. Our work was done before lunch though as we decided to harvest white grapes for domaine's other, negotiant wines.

To recap the harvest thus far, we started with harvesting grand crus in Chambolle-Musigny (Le Musigny, Bonnes Mares) and part of village appellations during the first days. The original plan was to harvest all grand crus first as grapes had matured so well. However the plan was changed to harvest village as rain set in during the third day and forecasts seemed to deliver more rain in the next days. The fourth day was sunny and we harvested premier crus. The fifth, today, was again rainy in the morning so chardonnay was harvested and pressed. The pressing of white grapes cut the capacity of the winery and pickers were given rest if day off as no red grapes could have been processed in the afternoon. Pinot noir is again harvested tomorrow. Grand crus within the Gevrey-Chambertin village area, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Latricieres-Chambertin and Chapelle-Chambertin are still to harvest.

Burgundy Harvest Report 3 - September 23

Welcome to the best upper and lower back training session in the world, grape harvest in Burgundy. Not only do you get in great physical condition working here for 1.5 weeks, you do the exercise in the most outstanding of surroundings, in (or looking over) grand cru vineyards in Cote de Nuits.

On the vineyard you work either as cutter or a carrier. If you are a cutter, your job is to select only good grapes to your 6kg basket, i.e. cutting out the bad ones from the grape bunches to be sent to the winery. Basically you are constantly bending your lower back, kneeling down or sitting in a squat position for 8 hours each day. Needless to say, it is especially strenuous on your lower back.

If you would like to exercise your upper back, then be a carrier. As a carrier, you carry a basket holder on your back which is  specifically designed for this purpose, weighing some 5 kg empty. And your basket is filled every 4 minutes by 4 or 5 cutters, each throwing you 5-6 kilos of grapes (total 23 kg) which you then walk from the vineyard to the road where the tractor waits, i.e. on average 150m. So you either walk with 5 kg or 28 kg on your back for 8 hours a day. I can personally guarantee you this is a much better workout than your average gym workout.

Drouhin-Laroze places great emphasis on gentle handling of grapes at the harvest before destemming. Using only small 23 kg baskets, grapes are not kept under significant weight, i.e. they are not crushed already in the vineyard unlike in larger baskets used by certain other producers. If grapes are placed under too heavy weight and are crushed, there is a risk that yeasts and micribes on top of grape skin begin to react with grape juice, allowing fermentation to begin too early and not in a controlled environment. Intact grapes where grape juice is kept within the skins allows the wine maker to control the process and eliminate unwanted chemical reactions which might lead to unwanted off-flavours in the wine.

No rain after yesterday morning. Grapes were dry and the sun came out in the afternoon after a cloudy morning. We continued with Village wines in the morning while Premier crus were picked in the afternoon. Better quality in the premier crus. Drouhin-Laroze owns vines among Gevrey-Chanbertin's premier cru sites of the Craipillot, Au Closeau, Clos Prieur and Lavaut St. Jacques (most other domains write that Lavaux St, Jacques by the way).

Tomorrow we will collect white grapes for the Drouhin family's daughter Caroline's negotiant wines. It will only be a half day tomorrow, we will work only until lunch.

Sep 22, 2012

Burgundy 2012 harvest blog 2, September 22

Greetings from the very, very muddy Burgundy.

It rained almost whole night and the rain stopped just before start of harvesting in the morning. Thus the day was a very muddy one to say the least, earth getting stuck to the legs of the rain coat clad bunch of pickers today. The rain water on top of grape bunches had not had time to dry before picking, so we decided to continue with village appellations of Morey St. Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin. Part of Gevrey-Chambertin village apellation was harvested also on Thursday, the first harvest day. We will most probably continue harvesting Grand Cru vineyards tomorrow as it has not rained a drop since 7.45 this morning and grapes have enough time to dry before work continues early Sunday morning.

Again today's grapes were in such good condition, healthy bunches which were relatively easy to pick up, with less problems with mildew for pickers than in 2011.

Good early reports from Piemonte, Italy,  too as a friend of mine harvested his barbera grapes simultaneously near Barbaresco and was very happy with the quality of the grapes there.

Early morning yet again tomorrow as the domaine wants to collect as much as possible before the next rains are forecasted to reach the area, which is most likely on Monday. So Monday will be a shorter day for us with half a day off.

Sep 21, 2012

Burgundy harvest 2012 blog 1, September 21

It is a very special time of the year, start of wine harvest in Burgundy. And the Laidbacksommelier is reporting to you from Gevrey-Chambertin again this year.

Gevrey-Chambertin is the northernmost village in Cote d Or which has Grand Cru vineyards, and her wines are widely considered as more masculin, powerful yet elegant compared to most wines in Burgundy. While Chambolle-Musigny might be the queen, Gevrey could be the king.

In Gevrey-Chambertin, harvest started on September 20th in perfect conditions and early reports from the vintage are promising. The few weeks leading to the third week of September were favoutable for grape ripening and Grand Crus are picked at optimum ripeness. Further,  this vintage is characterised by lower yields however with higher grape quality. Last year Grand Crus were harvested the last howeverr this year it is first Granc Cru then the other appellations. In 2011 we had to leave Grand Crus in the vines last  as their grapes were allowed time to fully ripen. This year ripening is not an issue.  

In the morning of September 21st, the sun shined from a clear sky as we harvested Grand Crus of Clos de Vougeot and Bonnes Mares. Musigny was harvested already on September 20th. Grapes in Clos de Vougeot were, like in 2011, very healthy indeed and so easy to pick up, almost none selection of grapes had to be done in the vineyard. You are able to taste a round silkyness from the grapes themselves, it is very exciting to see what the actual wind will be like when released. Domaine Drouhin-Laroze owns 36 rows in the higher part of the Clos de Vougeot grand cru vineyard which is regarded as more prestigious than the lower part of the vineyard. 

After finishing Clos de Vougeot, we headed to Bonnes Mares, the legendary grand cru vineyard which lies on both sides of the border of villages Chambolle-Musigny and Morey St. Denis. The lower part of Bonnes Mares, representing majority of the vineyard,  has significantly smaller size of grspe bunch than usual in Burgundy vineyards, also offering a striking difference to average bunch size in Clos de Vougeot. The upper part of the vineyard includes unhealthy grapes and nearly half of grapes are cut down to preserve quality. 

The above phenomenon implies a meaningful commercial view point to making wine. When grapes are healthy, it is kids' play to perform the harvest. However when grapes are not in perfect condition, it takes considerably more time to do meticulous selection of only good grapes in the vineyard, thus taking more time, labour hours and more qualified grape pickers than on a good year, costing more money. So not only you are able to charge a premium.price from wines of a good vintage, your labour costs are likely to be lower too. 

Time to get a good rest before tomorrows challenges. Rain surprised us during the last half an hour of harvest today, and it has been raining the whole evening so tomorrow will be very wet conditions on the vineyard. 

Peace and out 

From Burgundy with love,

The Laidbacksommelier

Sep 20, 2012

Off to Burgundy for harvest 2012... Texts from Summer Tour of Valpolicella to come... and much more


August and September have been very busy for yours truly, and there is a large backlog of wine blog texts awaiting to be published. Tasting notes from the Valpolicella Tour in summer, Josko Gravner's and Miani's wines, vintage Brunellos, Comte de Vogue white Musigny, Dolcettos and Barolos from 1970-1980s, vintage Bordeaux from 1970s to 1980s, and many others.

And now it will get even busier, as I head to Gevrey Chambertin in Burgundy for 9 days of grape harvest at Domaine Drouhin-Laroze. Another great chance to learn wine making, how to operate a winery and vineyards first-hand. I will certainly try to post texts to my blog from the harvest work.

More to come!