September 18th 2017
It has been two weeks since I found out I passed the MW, and my feet haven’t really touched the ground since. For the past week I’ve been in Burgundy, helping out in the cellar at Comte Armand in Pommard. I had joined Paul Zinetti and his team last year too, and despite the excellent quality of the fruit, the cellar was a pitiful site with only half the tanks full as a result of the devastating frost in April 2016. This year, however, I am happy to report Pommard has experienced something of an annus mirabilis. Whilst temperatures did once again plummet in late April, the Cote D’Or escaped remarkably unscathed, though their neighbours in Chablis, Champagne and the Loire were less lucky. There has been widespread coverage in both the wine media and mainstream news that the volume of French wine produced in 2017 will be severely lower than that of a normal year, and will put pressure on prices and distribution across the board.
But in Pommard… well, in Pommard, we barely have enough room for all the fruit! A hot dry summer encouraged excellent ripening, and a splash of rain just before harvest was doubly beneficial, both reducing any drought stress the fecund vines might have been heading for, and plumping up the fruit perfectly in time for picking. It is just what this village needed after a sustained series of reduced vintages resulting from frost and hail damage. Mother Nature seemed to have picked out Pommard and Volnay for particularly severe punishment over the previous five vintages, but this year she has been generous.
We finished picking on Tuesday and since then the cellar team has been busy with pump overs, plunging, and analysis. The Volnay Fremiets is progressing well through its fermentation, and the Clos des Epeneaux has just begun after a week’s cold maceration. Pigeage a l’ancienne (in with your feet) is the norm here. With each day the experience becomes both more pleasant (as the temperatures rise) and more physically difficult (as the caps become harder and the carbon dioxide builds up).
This is my favourite time of year and I feel very lucky to be back in the heart of the action again. I learn untold amounts every time I work in a cellar, either from the new team I’m with, or from the new vintage we’re bringing in. Oh, and the Paulée is quite good too…