I am just back from a very fleeting visit to a small number of estates in the Côte de Nuits. I am extraordinarily grateful to all those growers who received me as I suspect they needed my visit like a proverbial hole in the head…
To date, 2012 has produced some of the most testing growing conditions many of the growers can remember. The initial dry and relatively mild spring in the early part of the year caused little concern. In fact, the only worry was of very advanced budding and vulnerability due to a late frost. Things however, as they did in the UK, really started to change from flowering onwards. Temperatures noticeably dropped at this time causing flowering to slow down and the initial set back of potentially much reduced yields. Since then, conditions have been cool, damp and very irregular, highlighting the importance of strong viticultural management to reduce disease risk to a minimum.
To make things worse, at the end of June the vineyards of Meursault, Volnay and Pommard and certain areas in the Côte de Nuits were hit by a serious hail storm which in some areas will reduce yields by as much as 50%. The next two months will be crucial. Harvest is currently set for the 20th of September and everybody is hoping for a long, warm, sunny stint to help ripen the grapes to a maximum and produce a small but good crop. Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed.
A more positive note was the tasting of some lovely 2011s. At the time of tasting the 2010s last year, en primeur growers were quite reticent about talking about the harvest. Nine months on, most of the red wines have completed their malolactic fermentations and I tasted some delightful wines. They are elegant and approachable with quite soft acidity. This is not a big or powerful vintage, but it has made open, flattering wines which highlight the lovely purity of Pinot Noir and its early drinking charm. We will be doing a thoroughly comprehensive tasting of the vintage in November this year, but my initial impression is that these will be lovely wines to drink ahead of the 2009s and 2010s, but will undoubtedly give both Burgundy and Pinot Noir lovers a huge amount of pleasure.
As I head of down to Cornwall for two weeks I have everything crossed for sun and dry weather, let’s hope they get the same in the Côte d’Or!