Nov 20, 2013

Burgundy harvest 2013 - Gevrey-Chambertin

Chambertin Clos de Beze vineyard in the background.
Photo from the outskirts of the Gevrey-Chambertin village
The Burgundy harvest was this year a month later than in 2011 and two and half weks later than in 2012. The timing of the grape harvest, first and second week of October, was similar to 2010 which is known for a vintage needing to develop for a long time with lower fruit and higher acids than 2009, which was a ripe year. However many Burgundy lovers seem to prefer the 2010s which resemble the classic style.

In 2013 the yield is smaller even than in 2010, so we are talking of a small amount of grapes here. After the difficult May flowering, which affected the yield sigificantly, it took extensive time for grapes to reach ripeness and some village and Bourgogne crus did not reach 11.8% abv. natural alcohol, so vignerons have to chaptalise or drain some of the juice out to increase the potential alcohol content in the remaining juice. 

It was cold this year at the vineyard, however
the team kept a good spirit
Cases of Musigny grapes ready for the sorting table
As far as quality is concerned, it was easy to see the difference between grand crus, 1er crus and village crus. Grand cru vineyards produced grapes with over 13% natural alcohol even in this difficult vintage, while some of the 1er crus reached grand cru levels in ripeness, namely Au Closeau and Lavaut-St-Jacques. It was remarkable to see some of the Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-St-Denis village cru vineyards have the same potential for ripening, which gives structure to the village blend made by Drouhin-Laroze as they are mixed with grapes from other vineyards. 

Thus, for wine purchasing, vintage 2013 is definitely labeled by knowing your stuff - knowing the vineyard and the producer - even more than in a normal or usual vintage to find wines where the grapes reached maturity. Wine purchasing in a ripe year, say 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2009, is easier however the cost is definitely higher. Sommeliers I have talked to say that they actually like to offer wines from off-years (i.e. not the most ripe years) as the wine is more affordable for the consumer and, since the non-ripe years usually have really good acidity levels, the wine supports food well, is easier to combine with different foods and it does not steal a center stage in the dinner over the food.

The morning at the cellar starts with punch down of grapes for the macerating wines. Each wine tank is given one punch down and one mechanical pump-over per day. We produced only one tank of Chardonnay so every other tank has to be punched down daily for duration of the 1,5 week cold maceration, 1 week alcoholic fermentation (with natural yeast) and 4-5 days warmer maceration period is over. The wine cellar and each tank are temperature controlled, however this year cold maceration was significantly aided by grapes coming into the winery at a very low temperature, at +4 degrees celsius (39 Fahrenheit) on couple of mornings, as nightly temperatures in Burgundy were really low. The aim is to keep them at 12 degrees Celsius and almost all of the grapes arriving to the winery achieved it. It was cold at the vineyards this year!

And it rained. Half of the days during the harvest were spent in rainy conditions, while during the other half soil was damp which means muddy in Burgundy. However the grapes seemed to dry up well after the rainy days, decreasing formation of rot and mold on the grapes. Vineyard selection was important again this year, though, however this year more from the point of recognizing unripe grapes than in previous vintages. The temperatures were much colder than in Condrieu which boasted a +26 degrees celsius four days before start of the Burgundy harvest (read my report on Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie harvest here)

Again, grapes from Musigny and Clos de Vougeot (both grand cru vineyards) were in outstanding condition, the vineyards are constant performers. Clos Vougeot is a large grand cru, its surface stretching all the way from the bordering prestigious vineyards of Musigny and Les Grands Echezeaux to the flat area adjacent to the A74 road (the Nuit-St-Georges - Dijon road) where premier cru and village cru vineyards lie. Thus Clos de Vougeot is a large grand cru island surrounded by premier cru and village cru vineyards. Within this area, Drouhin-Laroze's holdings within the Clos de Vougeot are in the upper part, i.e. located closer to other grand crus, and their quality resonates this fact. The grapes have been really good in each year 2011, 2012, 2013.

Looking forward to eventually tasting the wines from barrel next year. I expect a lot of acidity in the 2013s which is not a bad thing at all, and the grand cru and premier cru wines to include also ripe fruit flavors although less than in 2005, 2009 and 2011. All in all, the 2013 vintage wines are for long maturation in the bottle.

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