I just returned from a freezing trip to Savigny-lès-Beaune. One of the days I was there the thermometer in my cuverie had a maximum of -6ºC! Uttering the very Burgundian expression ça caille (literal meaning – it curdles) was well and truly appropriate!

Luckily in February it is too early for budbreak and late enough that all of the sap will be in the roots of the vines thus the vines are pretty safe from these tough conditions. In December of 2009 Burgundy got a big cold spell like this but since all the sap had not descended many vines died; some vineyards saw 25-40% mortality rates and one in Beaune died off in it’s entirety.

In the cuverie, the cold made the wines very difficult to taste so I had to revert to using a hair dryer to warm up samples for some visiting importers! The benefit of all the cold weather is that any unstable tartaric acid will have precipitated out of the wine. In Australia or the USA, one would have to use refrigeration to hold the wine below 3ºC for a couple of weeks to achieve the same result to avoid the risk of “wine diamonds” appearing later in bottle.

Both the red and whites have not finished malolactic fermentation (where lactic acid bacteria turn the hard malic acid into the softer lactic acid) and as such they are still works-in-progress. I am particularly excited however by the Savigny-lès-Beaune blanc which is taut and mineral but since November it has put on some body and weight to balance the wine’s acidic backbone. I still think 2011 is going to be a stunning year for Savigny-lès-Beaune blanc. Lucky I have 9 barrels!


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