Friday, June 5, 2009

Burgundy Report Part 1

I have just got back from our annual trip to Burgundy, which will require a few posts to cover. I thought I would start with some general views on the state of the market in general and the 2007 vintage which was mostly what we tasted. I am not a great taker of notes, to my shame, but I will battle to read my largely illegible scribbles to at least record what we tried over the 2 days.

The vines were in flower while we were there with perfect weather so, all going well, the harvest should happen around the middle of September. The rule of thumb is that you count 100 days from the end of flowering and that is when you should harvest. Ideally they will have the same weather as we had this week - warm, sunny and a slight breeze to keep the grapes healthy - and if that happens, 2009 is looking like a very good vintage indeed. Early days, however, and we have 2007 and 2008 to get through in the meantime.

2007 was a difficult vintage for Burgundy with a cool, wet summer. This, in the past, would have resulted in wines that, at best, lacked concentration or, at worst, were ruined by rot. The key is to deal with good producers who know what they are doing. This means going out into the vineyard and cutting out bunches affected by rot, managing your vineyards carefully and rigourous sorting when the grapes arrive in the winery at harvest time. We tasted nearly 100 wines over the couple of days and I was amazed by the quality - no problems with concentration at all and, for the most part, they were very charming and true to their origins.

The vignerons themselves were a touch downbeat (who isn't?). Exports have fallen through the floor, the negociants (large brands such as Latour etc) are reporting drops in sales of 30% and more, bulk prices are falling which means they will be earning less money and they have just put in 2 very difficult vintages in a row (2007 and 2008) in which they had to work extremely hard to make good wine and save the vintages from the vagaries of the weather.

Luckily, they all believe in their terroir and they believe in the quality they can achieve and, if they have to take a hit for a couple of years, well so be it. They still believe that focus on quality is paramount and I am with them on that one.

Details will follow...

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