What wine did you have for Thanksgiving?
Sometimes you have to reward yourself. So, I chose the Faiveley Charmes Chambertin 1989 Burgundy for Thanksgiving just to check out how our cellar is aging. At 31 years old, one would wonder if it was still ‘in the bottle’ as wine connoisseurs say. The cork came out in three pieces. That was not a promising start. However, since Faiveley produces such a large volume of wines, it is common to see a large winery use basic, inexpensive corks. After all, ninety percent of all wine purchased is drunk within two days. The bouquet was enticing. Brown sugar, olives, and definite old cellar nuances were bounding out of the glass into my nose. I waited patiently to let the wine breath, the body had a super interesting collage of old time Pinot Noir tastes with a rambling delicious old wood and tobacco finish. The answer is the wines in our cellar are aging quite nicely.
How do you plan for a Covid harvest? Carefully.
It was also a Covid year. Vineyard and cellar workers had to be precisely organised: one-way systems in the cellars, and boxed meals being sent in rather than the convivial meals that make harvest fun. Moueix, of Chateau Petrus, would normally have two pickers per row, one on each side. This year they had just one, and to enable that picker to pick both sides of the row at once they removed the lower leaves – which are normally going yellow by then anyway – leaving just the canopy above for shade. "It worked well," Moueix says. With two pickers, "there is always a slow person, so we would put them with a fast person to hurry them up, but what usually happened was that the fast person just did more. This way they all worked at a similar pace."
Even so, a case of Covid could have been disastrous. "I had pre-booked harvesting machines in case we had to send pickers home; it would have been a nightmare," he says.
Sonoma Harvest Report
Although the 2020 growing season enjoyed near-perfect growing conditions, a mid-August lightning storm resulted in a dramatic turn for Sonoma County’s wine grapes. It was estimated that between 25% and 30% of the county’s grapes went unpicked this year, and it remains to be seen which wines will be made in 2020. However, many vintners are optimistic about the quality of the harvested fruit. Fortunately, as a result of this year’s early harvest, more than 15% of the region’s grapes had been picked before the LNU Complex fires began and 90% had been harvested by the start of the Glass fire.
(From the Wine Institute Report)
November In Sonoma
I asked one wine maker in Sonoma this week if his harvest was over. He just laughed and said
“ Finally”! That is pretty much the sentiment of most wine folks here. With two sets of fires, Covid concerns during the harvest, and an uncertain political future, the harvest in Sonoma was just plain strange. My grape management buddy said he had 160 tons of wine that never got picked. They just left the grapes on the vine. When they start pruning this winter, the unpicked grapes will be added fertilizer. Hobby vineyard owners in the 2-5 acre size had the same problem. There are lot’s of vineyards for sale. And, some even for lease. With 35,000 acres of grapes overplanted in the State of California, maybe now we will even out the previous two year glut. Leslie Hennessy
Sauternes: The Ultimate Aperitif
In the United Kingdom, by tradition many hosts pop open a bottle of French Champagne when guests arrive for a dinner party. In the USA, aperitifs have a wider range.
Yet in Bordeaux, it is customary to open a chilled bottle of Sauternes to serve as an aperitif. The bottle is attractively displayed in a bucket of ice, and guests are poured small amounts in appropriate glassware (white wine or digestif glasses).
Though enjoying a sweet wine at the start of the meal may sound curious, the vibrant acidity of Sauternes in addition to the residual sugar does indeed whet the appetite. Many Bordeaux hosts also have fresh oysters on hand as the appropriate food pairing.
Vintage 2020 Update
Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers “We estimate between 25% – 30% of the Sonoma County winegrape harvest will go unpicked due to the pandemic and fires. We are also still waiting to learn what wines will be made this year. So far, we have identified approximately a $150,000,000 loss to growers which will have a ripple effect on the County’s local wine and tourism industries which can contribute up to $13.4 billion annually to the local economy in a normal year.”
The 100 Day Dictum in Burgundy
The old rule of thumb was that Burgundians could count 100 days between flowering and harvest. Burgundians could basically plan their vacations based on this. The key to the precocious harvest dates lies with the previous winter of 2019-2020. Relatively warm with little winter frost, the vines were hydrated and raring to go by mid-March. So, the 90-100 day band began incredibly early.