2020 Harvest Notes September 8th, 2020

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Harvesting Beaune Pertuisots 2020The grapes are almost in now, with just a few diehard late harvesters and occasional plots from backward vineyards still to be picked. It is quite a bit cooler now thanks to a short burst of the fresh north wind, but beautifully sunny again. The rainfall on Friday 28th August and the morning of Sunday 30th certainly seems to have done some good, softening the skins of the grapes without changing the basic sugar and acid balance. Those who held out to wait for some rain in 2019 lost that gamble, but in 2020 it seems to have paid off. 

Everybody loves their whites and many are enormously enthusiastic about the reds too. Early pickers will need to manage the tannins, though the parallel is more with 2005 than 2003. Several producers have mentioned their choice to control fermentation temperatures in their vats of pinot this year, so as to maintain the fresher feel in the grapes, which certainly seems to be there this year.

Here are a few views from the winery floor:

Côte de Beaune

The grapes ripen earlier in the Côte de Beaune and activity was evident as early as Monday 17th August, with significant numbers at work with their picking teams by Thursday 20th. It was hot going, but sugar levels were rising quickly and the risk was that acidity would start to fall. 

Dominique Lafon, Domaine des Comtes Lafon, MeursaultLea, Dominique and Pierre Lafon in the cuverieDominique Lafon tends to start early and finish late, if need be stopping in the middle to allow the later sites to finish ripening. In 2020 he opted to start on Tuesday 18th and finished on Saturday 30th. He is very excited by the whites, and ended up being a lot more pleased with the reds than he thought he would be at the outset – it will just be a question of managing the vinification to avoid excess tannins. 

Frédéric & Clothilde Lafarge, Domaine Michel Lafarge, Volnay

Of all the vignerons I visited in the Côte de Beaune, the Lafarges seemed the most serenely happy, reporting better yields than most others, between 35 and 40 hl/ha in red. Everything was healthy, ripe and balanced. See also Rossignol-Trapet in the Côte de Nuits section for a similar reaction. As they have been doing since 2016, the top vineyards were destemmed by hand in 19th century fashion.

Ludivine Griveau, Hospices de Beaune, Beaune

There are close parallels between the Hospices de Beaune and Domaine des Comtes Lafon for harvest dates and impressions of the vintage. A full Hospices de Beaune harvest report will be published separately.

Benjamin Leroux, BeauneBenjamin Leroux Meursault Blagny goes to pressBenjamin leroux Blagny La Piece Sous le Bois 2020Reds and whites were coming in at the same time throughout the harvest in Benjamin Leroux’s winery. I was deeply impressed by the work rate and instinctive understanding of what needed doing when of Ben’s six year old son, Oscar, who appears ready to take over full control in another couple of years! Benjamin has been able to pick up one or two more suppliers, as he notes that some of the major Beaune négociants seem to be cutting back on their external contracts this year.

Jean-Yves Devevey, Demigny

Jean-Yves began picking on Tuesday 1st September and was pleased to have waited. In any case his methods, including pruning as late as possible, tend to mean that his grapes ripen a little later than others, but certainly the gamble in 2020 seems to have paid off with last week’s light rainfall that seems to have freshened up the vines and possibly filled out the grapes.

Jean-Yves now farms all his vineyards biodynamically. He is very pleased that he was able to get through 2020 without using any copper at all in his treatments, just sulphur when needed. 


Côte de Nuits

As a rule, vignerons in the Côte de Nuits were pleased to be picking a little later than those in the Côte de Beaune, which enabled them to benefit from the slight rainfall which fell between 28th and Sunday 30th August. Yields however seem to have been much more variable in the Côte de Nuits. There were also reports of attacks of oidium, though I did not see much evidence of this, either walking in the vineyards or at the wineries.

Maxime Rion, Domaine Michele & Patrice Rion, Premeauximpeccable 2020 Nuits-St-Georges, Domaine M & P RionMaxime reports tiny yields, though one can never be entirely sure until after the grapes are pressed after fermentation. They began on Saturday 29th August through to the following Thursday. They have got the grapes from their share of the Daniel Rion inheritance this year, though officially only under the négociant label in 2020. Vinification is with 25% whole bunch throughout the cellar this year.

Sylvie Poillot, Domaine de la Vougeraie, PremeauxThe longest sorting table, Domaine de la Vougeraie, Vougeot Clos de Prieure 2020When you have as many vineyards as Domaine de la Vougeraie you need to start picking early and finish late! They have the longest sorting table I have seen in any winery, but had little need to staff it fully this year. They are thrilled with the white grapes and happy with the reds, though yields are low in some vineyards – it is not an even picture. 

Michel Mallard, Domaine d’Eugenie, Vosne-Romanee

Always one of the early ones, Michel Mallard began with a couple of plots on 20th August then started in earnest 24th and was finished on Saturday 29th when others were just thinking of starting. Low yields, but great potential quality, though he does not know yet if it will rival the 2019 which he thinks is first class. 

Mathilde Grivot, Domaine Jean Grivot, Vosne-RomanéeVosne-Romanee Beaux Monts 2020 Domaine GrivotIn recent years Domaine Grivot have preferred to pick a little later than most, and this was again the case in 2020 when they started on Thursday 3rd September, picking the plots in Nuits-St-Georges, which had been slightly hail affected, or those where the drought had been most in evidence. They were pleased to find much less damage than expected at the sorting table. On day two, they could start in on the main crop and are thrilled with the results which have really benefitted from the rainfall the week before.

Nicole Lamarche, Domaine François Lamarche, Vosne-Romanée 

When I dropped by on Friday 4th September, I found a happy Nicole Lamarche, who had finished picking the previous day. She thrust a glass of embryo Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 2020 into my hand. She was all smiles, with decent yields, good acidity and nothing excessive on the sugar/alcohol front. A great vintage in store.

Mark Haisma, Vougeot

Installed in his winery in Gilly-les-Citeaux, Mark Haisma was happy with the quality of the grapes he has been able to buy, but because volumes are small, some producers have not been able to supply him with his usual quota of grapes, especially for the grander appellations.

Christophe Roumier, Domaine Georges Roumier, Chambolle-MusignyDomaine Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses 2020Christophe began on Saturday 29th and was expecting to go through to Thursday 3rd September. The rainfall has softened the skins nicely, but the berries are so small this year that yields will be very low. I arrived just in time to see some tiny, but perfectly formed bunches of Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses flow across the sorting table. As elsewhere, it was just a question of removing a few grilled or wrinkled berries and a leaf or two. 

Jacques, Jeremy & Diana Seysses, Domaine Dujac, Morey-St-DenisJacques SeyssesDiana SeyssesThe family were at work in harmony at the domaine, apart from Alec Seysses, who was directing picking in the vineyards. The plant material at Domaine Dujac ripens early so picking began here at the same time as the Côte de Beaune. Ideally they would have loved to have waited, but when needs must… The sugar levels and acidity readings were just right, but they have slightly eased back on whole bunch proportions to avoid the wines being on the tannic side.

Nicolas Rossignol, Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Gevrey-ChambertinThe beaticfic smile of Nicolas Rossignol, Domaine Rossignol-TrapetI can only describe the expression on Nicolas Rossignol’s face as beatific. Not only have they got magnificent looking healthy, ripe and tasty grapes this year, but they have plenty of them! No oidium treatments needed after 1st July, though others were suffering around them. For Nicolas, 2020 looks as outstanding as anything he has ever seen in 30 years at the domaine.

#jaspermorris #Burgundy2020Harvest #insideburgundy

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