So all the wine has finished ferment and is safely in barrel for winter. As I prepare to head back to London, here are some of my thoughts on 2011.

With regards to the weather, what a crazy year we had! Moderate temperatures over winter and a warm spring meant we saw one of the earliest bud breaks on record coupled with a very dry spring putting the vines in stress mode from the get-go. A hot June, a wet July and an indifferent August saw some very confused vines deciding to shut down for the year with the grapes not gaining any sugar accumulation from the last week of August onwards. From then it was just a case of hoping that all of the years hard work in the vineyard meant that the grapes got to phenolic and flavour ripeness before the leaves had completely turned colour.

Flowering was over very quickly and evenly, and without any wind like last year, we saw a very good fruit set and even ripening. Pinot clusters in Savigny-lès-Beaune were super tight like little hand grenades and thus pourriture was a constant threat all season and started to rear it’s ugly head in mid August. Those who did the necessary work opening canopies, dropping rotten clusters and doing a severe triage in the vineyard and/or winery will be the ones who got the most out of this vintage for reds. In my vineyard of Aux Fourneaux I saw some neighbours with up to 40% rot come harvest time! The hard work my mates did two weeks before vintage in cutting out the pourriture and doing a complete leaf picking in the fruit zone of the northern side of the vines saw us with less than 5% rot at harvest. Berries were definitely on the big side compared to 2010 due to the July rains but we saw great phenolic maturity (tannins were ripe and fine). Vintage was over very quickly as everyone tried to get ahead of the rot and the vines shutting down. There was a lot of “panic picking” by some vignerons – by the time I picked the Aux Fourneaux there was basically only myself, Benjamin Leroux and Chandon de Brailles still left out there amongst my neighbours in the villages section. I hope this is another year where patience pays off but it is still early days, being pre-malolactic fermentation and élevage.

I firmly believe that 2011 will be a stellar year for whites in the Côte de Beaune. Clusters were super open, allowing every grape to get to flavour and phenolic ripeness with no rot pressure at all. Some oidium started to set in on the top of the shoots from mid-August which probably slowed ripening a bit but luckily never spread to the fruit, again perhaps because of the open clusters. Flavours are super concentrated without losing the verve or minerality of great Burgundian Chardonnay. Tartaric and Malic acid levels were in perfect balance (compared to 2010 when they were in a 1:1 ratio, this year we saw the magic 2:1). Again, early days but could easily be on par with the cracking 2007s.

So definitely a challenging year for the first year of Le Grappin wines. I think my five years spent working in New Zealand, USA, Australia and Burgundy after quitting my career over a bottle of Dujac paid off as one really needed to think hard about how to vinify and best express the vintage and the terroir this year. I am very excited to see how the wine develops in barrel but I feel I captured the sexiness of Savigny Reds and the nervousness of the whites that 2011 brought. One can hope!

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