Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Year in Burgundy: Part 1 Picking Decisions

I'm honored to introduce to you our guest blogger, Eric Lecours, a dear friend and a person whose passion and palate for wine, particularly Burgundy, I admire.

Eric is in Burgundy studying oenology at the prestigious Lycée Viticole in Beaune. Part of this intensive study involves actual work in the vineyards and cellars and apprenticing with established vignerons. I asked him to share his personal experience and his reflections in this forum as I value his thoughts very much. This started out as a casual communication among friends, hence I probably caught him off-guard when I asked him to contribute his notes to this blog! Yet, the spontaneity of it all is what makes his notes so honest and brilliant.

In his debut post, Eric gives us insights into the 2007 vintage and he describes the unique winemaking approach of the highly regarded vigneron, Etienne Grivot of Domaine Jean Grivot in Vosne-Romanée. As an aside, I mentioned to Eric that for winemakers like Grivot once they learn the rules of winegrowing they throw them out the window!

Picking Decisions

I thought I'd shoot off a quick note to you, as thoughts are still fresh in my mind. I met with Etienne Grivot this morning at 10 am to discuss his approach in general. One thing that is truly remarkable to me is he uses no analysis whatsoever of his fruit in deciding when to harvest. I must have asked him two or three times. He is convinced that you can't take samples that are representative of a vineyard. The only way you could truly do this is to sample from each vine, which is practically speaking impossible. His general marker is the date of flowering. Harvest is roughly 100 days later. There are a number of factors but basically he tastes through the vineyards, chews the skins, seeds, looks at how the skins color his saliva. He watches the barometer, temperature. Observes the health of the grapes.

He tries to pick during the waning moon. 100 days landed around August 24th. He waited to start picking until the 4th. Many started picking on the 25th or 26th, Saturday and Sunday. He chose to start on the 4th to ripen the grapes further and to pick with the waning moon. Further, he chose to start picking on a Tuesday to prepare the team, the cuverie, etc. on Monday. He doesn't like to start on the weekend as each year there is a learning curve. It is better to start slow and steady. The order of picking is generally the order of quality of the parcels. Thus he starts with the white, then the bourgogne red, the village, etc. Richebourg was picked on the last day, September 10. It was perfect. It hung to achieve 13.4% potential alcohol and a pH of 3.3. There is a general order of picking as I noted but if clouds were on the horizon, the order would shift with the Grand Crus coming in first. Regarding the picking date, he doesn't want to hear what his neighbors are doing. His decision is made by him and him alone. (This reminds me of wine tasting. I can't truly evaluate a wine if I hear what others are thinking about it first.) The last day of picking quality wines was September 10. There was a new moon on the 11th. He finished with some Gamay he sells in bulk.

Regarding 2007, this is a vintage of the vigneron. In 2005, everyone in Vosne made great wine. In 2007 if you farmed right, picked right, there is no reason why you couldn't have had long hang time, physiological and phenolic ripeness. In fact, without the overripeness found in some of the very hot years, the wines can truly represent their terroir with no lack of density. After exhausting him with questions, we tasted through the 2007's and the 2006's gc's. The Richebourg and Clos Vougeot are so different. The Richebourg is truly aristocratic while the Vougeot shows its GC power and Vougeot spicy chartacter. It's hard not to like the wine. The Suchot is a stand out as well, wow.

We finished off with a lunch in Chambolle and ran into Bernard Gros there. We had the 02 Echezeaux. Etienne asked me what I thought. I answered, that I thought the food was great. He was referring to the wine!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Eric. Please keep them coming! I'd be interested to know if other producers rely on rules of thumb like the 100 days, toward the end of a lunar month, etc.
    I would wager that only a producer with extensive experience with particular vineyard sites could make such an intuitive "read." Surely any newbies would have to take at least a few brix readings to get close, no?


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