2011 Burgundy Growing Season + Update

| July 1, 2011 | 0 Comments


2011 has been an amazing growing season! No, I wouldn’t say it is amazing in the sense that everything has gone to some sort of plan. Rather, it forces one to watch in awe, in amazement of just how varied the weather can be here in Burgundy. We closed out October with quick and sudden dustings of snow, with so many locals amusingly certain that it would be a a really warm vintage to follow.

Over the next few months, I would hear things, odd things, such as, ‘ah, you know it’s too warm, tomorrow we will be rained out!’. I’d look at the sky and think to myself, ‘what kind of weather are they used to here’? In California, the weather seemed to drift lazily from cold as death, to unmercifully hot, but this was a gradual thing. You could easily see which direction things were going most of the time.

In Burgundy, they could have dry weather, those abroad comment on it, and the locals say to grab an umbrella, and quickly. It never ceases to amaze me how tuned http://gradeessaywriter.co.uk/ in people are to the weather here. People feel the weather here, they know it. I’ve grown accustomed to picking up more reliable weather forecasts in the street than on the TV.

So, back to the critic’s take on the ‘scorcher’ of a growing season. We ended up coming out of ‘winter’ quite early. This is to say that things were only officially cold (surprised we don’t have an official table for this here, since everything else is regulated) for a short time. Starting early January, we were back with comfortable weather. No one would get used to it really, how could you? All of the older people warned about the rains that come after hot spells. As it turned out, the comfortable weather pressed on. This wasn’t the type of heat which forces you to wear shorts and the whole kit, but you could see odd signs, such as red cherries coming in early April.

Suddenly, it dawned on everyone that we hadn’t really received much rain. Fortunately, the vines here usually have sufficient vine age affording them consistency when near-drought situations threaten a groin season. With this said, once temperatures approached the point of being uncomfortable, roughly 35-38°C, we were treated to consistent rain for roughly a week starting on June 6th.

From this point, the weather would increasingly rise, and once temps seemed to reach the same level as in early June, the rains came back at the end of the month. When these rains come, they arrive with densely packed, unending winds from the East that aim to tear your house apart. I admit to being excited enough to show my enthusiasm (and amateurish glee) by honking my horn with reckless abandon. At one point, I felt foolish, only to have a few vignerons honk like crazy at me while passing be. At times such as these, you aren’t worried of being a fool, you are just a part of something incredible and beautifully incapable of being described. It makes sense that something so special and pure would wish to remain elusive to the pursuit given by the written word.

This past week, we were treated to two days which pushed us past 40°C, with a few berries coming out sun tanned in Volnay, despite no leaf pulling being performed previously. While shocked, the count was in the range of 50 or so berries on two rows, all on the West side of the row. In most cases, this light blush was displayed on perhaps 4-5 berries in the whole of the cluster. If my 2nd grade math is still holding, there were maybe 10-11 clusters to have been effected. After this intense heat which cooled considerably once the sun went down at a respectable 9:30-10pm with strong rains pouring in throughout the night, into the next day, with pockets of showers popping up throughout the Côte de Nuits, as well as the Côte de Beaune. Since the heat and rains of last week, the temps have settled into highs of around 23°C.

The leaves are looking great in the vineyards. Thankfully vingerons know all too well to leave the shades on for protection, though some are still planning to let a bit of light in around the 15th of August. This is what I have been told by other growers, not those which I source from. The berries have been looking nice, a bit more plump than last year near this time, with just a bit of millerandage (a big 2010 marker) mainly hanging on the older vines. From what I have seen, clusters are looking tightly packed, and clean. With the heat and moisture coming late, there is an increased level of mildew pressure. Though, I believe the sharp winds have worked a bit of a trick thus far in clearing it all out.

Now, of course, we won’t get into whether or not it will be our 6th Vintage of the Century. Let’s be serious for a moment. It is much too early to tell such a thing. Be patient. I will be giving my ratings on the vintage in perhaps a week or two. 😉

Until then, thank you for reading!


UPDATE  JULY 10, 2011

As we get closer to harvest, a few things are coming into play. Due to early worries of drought along with an early exit from the little amount of winter we actually encountered, many here attempted to leave a fair amount of excess vegetative growth (along with keeping excess clusters), looking to retard ripening. As we move through the growing season, we have encountered on several occasions, a series of days with long showers lasting several hours.

Similar to other regions, Burgundy can shift it’s momentum and make a drought year water-logged at the end of the season. To this end, many of the growers that were initially against any effeuillage (leaf pulling) fearing burned berries are now setting dates in early-mid August to pull leaves and cutting excess growth. I can’t speak to the timing of these actions, as each grower has their own plan of attack and the variables which are factored in are many.

As for weather, we have rested around 21-24°C here the last week in the daytime with temps dropping to 11-14°C at night. We received a fair amount of rain over the last 2 days, with a generous amount of humidity. The clusters are looking quite happy at the moment, as they have throughout the season, aside from some reports (and photos) of burned or sun-blushed berries. We are seeing a good many berries, with tightly packed clusters as the norm with the level of millerandage between 2009 at the low end and 2010 at the top end. It bears noting that with each stage of rain, we are getting intense winds to match.

The forecast over the next few weeks has been promising more damp weather, for what its worth. Of course we cannot choose which side of the fence the weather decides to shift toward, but I still prefer cool and wet to hot and dry if it were an option. Both present challenges, though I have my biases.





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Category: All Roads Lead to Burgundy - Maison Ilan's Blog, Burgundy Wine

About the Author ()

Ray Walker is originally from Northern California. After working in Sonoma County for 2008's harvest, he set out to France to pursue his dream of producing Burgundy. With no formal training, he is happy to rely on observation, intuition and luck. Being a natural history geek, he collects and reads old books written in French, focused on Burgundy to intimate himself with the region, culture and history of this beautiful region. Together with his wife, Christian (who also helps with Maison Ilan) and daughter, Isabella Ilan (the winery was named after her) they have lived in Nuits-Saint-Georges throughout the year since 2010. Their winery, Maison Ilan is a micro-négoce, buying 100% in grapes, with multiple fruit sources dedicated entirely to Premiers and Grands Crus reds.

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