JMIB October Newsletter October 25th, 2023

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Dear all,

Summer is over – at long last! We continued to have proper summer weather, almost unpleasantly hot in the middle of the day, all the way through to Saturday 14th October, when we also saw the first rain drops in quite a while. The river at the foot of my garden is very nearly dry, lower than I have ever seen it even at the height of summer. The remaining leaves on the vines have crisped up, so may not give us the usual autumnal golden display this year. Vignerons are out in their vines, pulling out individual dead vines for replanting, or in some cases pulling out whole plots. There is quite a patch of Montrachet which has just bitten the dust.


Over the last few weeks the website has been adorned by two reports from me, and two from my colleagues covering other pinot and chardonnay regions, Steve Pritchard taking a look at the 2009 Champagne Vintage, and Jane Skilton MW, who has made a stunning debut with a 2023 Vintage Report from New Zealand, along with her guide to the key regions for pinot and chardonnay. Steve and I also had a chat about the recently completed 2023 harvest in Burgundy, and in Champagne.

My own reports were on rather less expensive wines from Burgundy. The Côtes du Couchois, just to the south of the Côte de Beaune, can be an interesting hunting ground for those in search of affordable bottles – we unearthed three or four domaines which are well worth taking a look at. It will be more difficult to source any David Clark bottles, alas, these days, some ten years after he ceased production. Nonetheless, a retrospective of the wines he made between 2004 and 2012 showed his skills to great effect.

What’s happening in Burgundy

While much attention has been paid to the purchase of Bouchard Père & Fils – in fact all the Henriot holdings – by Artemis Domaines, there have been a number of other transactions which have come to my attention recently.

Domaine Albert Morot in Beaune has been sold to investors. Pierre-Jean Vila, experienced winemaker in both the Rhône Valley and Burgundy will be in charge of wine production.

Domaine des Terres de Velles in Auxey-Duresses has been sold to investors. Fabrice & Sophie Laronze, who have managed the vineyards and made the wines for the past decade remain at the domaine.

Among may activities in Pommard, Château de la Commaraine have taken on the fermage of 1er Cru vineyards in Pommard, Volnay and Meursault, while their sister estate, Domaine de Belleville are doing the same with a number of Monthelie vineyards. In separate developments, Pierrick Bouley has gained five hectares of vineyards (from 2023) from a retiring vigneron, and Domine Jean-Marc Boillot has purchased a vineyard planted in both pinot noir and chardonnay in Monthelie, les Sous Roches, from the 2022 vintage.

Domaine Lucien Jacob (Echevronne). On the retirement of Jean-Michel Jacob, most of the vineyards have moved to his cousins at Domaine Fery in the same village, with some also going to Domaine Regis Forey in Vosne-Romanée.

Should we read anything in to this activity? Maybe not, as given the existence of 3,000 plus different producers across the whole of Burgundy there is bound to be a certain amount of turnover. Even so, I do have the feeling that there is a little bit more happening than usual at the moment. Sometimes it is a question of a vigneron reaching retirement age with no evident successors. Others may be feeling unequal to the struggle of the very significant challenges posed by global warming. It is also incredibly difficult to recruit vineyard workers these days, especially the more qualified ‘tractoristes’. We live in interesting times.

Forthcoming Activity

While I continue to be out from dawn to dusk with my nose in glasses of 2022 Burgundy, I will also be gearing up for the annual Hospices de Beaune auction, when the entire 2023 crop from the Hospices vineyards will be sold, barrel by barrel. I am going to taste all the new wines at the very end of this month and should have tasting notes available in the very first days of November.

By then, I shall have nearly completed my Côte de Beaune visits for tasting the 2022 vintage, and will be about to embark on the Côte de Nuits. In any spare minutes I shall be fine tuning some of the various reports from tastings and events which have already happened. There is much more waiting to be delivered before the end of the year!


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