Following a very early spring with unusually warm temperatures and dry weather, the blooming got a head start. In 2011, it occurred mid-May. If you add 90 to 100 days, it will give you roughly the date of harvest. The good weather continued through June and everyone was aware that it might be like the 2003 vintage that started from Mid-August on. Winemakers then decided to take their family vacation in July.
The months of July and August changed everything. The weather was overcast, cool, rainy, and slowed down the maturity of the grapes and furthermore, brought mildew. When I arrived in Burgundy August 16th, 2 inches of solid uninterrupted rain created more problems for the growers. Then, within three days, the temperature became unbearably hot with temperature reaching the 100F and rot was rampant.
The winemakers were stressed trying to figure out when to start. Listening to the weather forecast, heavy rain and thunder storms were predicted as of Thursday September 1st. Fortunately, it never materialized, and only a light rain occurred as of Saturday night. It was over by Sunday noon.
Lalou Bize-Leroy managed to bring in all of her Grand Crus by Thursday. Arnaud Mortet started on September 1st, and Emmanuel Rouget on September 3rd. A real gamble…
Only the village of Rully was 90% destroyed earlier on. A little bit of hale affected Beaune and Chorey- les-Beaune.
Walking through vineyard in Cotes-de-Nuits and Cotes-de-Beaune, I noticed that older vineyards (from 50 years old on) and organically or biodynamically cultivated, with weeds between rows, were looking much healthier, the water being absorbed by the grass rather than the vines with deeper roots. The leaves had not turned to fall colors. Specifically, the appearance of Domaine Leroy vineyards was noticeably better due to the fact that they are trimmed in June. Mme Leroy had changed all her stakes, and replaced them by new ones a foot taller; therefore she could curb their long branches and tie them up in half circle attaching them to the double wire. A tedious job that prevents the apex from being cut off.
Arnaud Mortet, I also noticed, was trimming his vines lightly in June. He has also some very old vines in Champeaux and the display of bunches was remarkable.
I concluded once more that good vineyard management is crucial.
I tasted grapes from different vineyards. They had a very thick skins, good for color. Sugar levels differed from blocks to blocks according to the micro climate.
The harvest started first in the Mâconnais. Chardonnay had done better than Pinot Noir. Lovely golden grapes. Dominique Cornin, certified biodynamic, had avoided mildew and the juice coming out of the press was spectacular. He started August 25th with the Pouilly-Fuissé Les Chevrières for the Hospices de Beaune, stopped over the weekend, and continued on Monday.
Cote Chalonnaise with Danjean-Berthoux had suffered a little bit from rot, but altogether was very happy with his crop, mentioning that the chardonnay was very good.
In Cotes- de-Beaune, the Morey –Coffinet’s had fantastic healthy golden grapes, great sugar, great acidity, but small crop, similar to 2010.
In Chorey-les-Beaune, Michel Gay & Fils struggled with a hail storm that damaged their vineyard but it was localized. They had to sort out the grapes from all their vineyards very carefully and discarded 20 to 30% of already a small crop.
Christophe Perrot -Minot was hands on at the sorting out table with, together with his wife, discarding any suspicious bunches. His father Henri was in the vineyard surveying with eagle eyes the pickers work. As for Jerome Gay, their oenologist, he was testing little bags of grapes (400 grammes ) from different vineyards, putting their juice in centrifuge, then in a new computerized apparatus that will in 3 minutes report on the computer screen a complete analysis of the wine….No margin for error in our modern time.
Mme Leroy with her 30 plus pickers assigned to her 2 sorting out tables, with herself at the last post, was thrilled not only with the quality, but the quantity. Her 2010 crop was minute, but 2011 she claimed 22 hectoliters per hectare! Almost a normal crop for her. Now that her crop is secured in their casks waiting for malolactic fermentation to occur, she is very pleased. With great acidity and color, the wines are aromatic with silky tannins. She expects to have an excellent vintage.
Although the wines now have finished their first fermentation and are resting in barrel waiting for their malolactic fermentation to take place, it is fair to say, that red burgundies will have good fruit, good color and great acidity for the wineries that have the knowhow … It is again a small crop, but I feel we are going to see some good wines. 2011 will be a great vintage for Chardonnay.