Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Preparing to say goodbye

If I have any readers left, almost one year after my last blog post, then the content of this link may come as a shock to some of you
But it is true, after almost 10 years making wine in Burgundy I have decided this is the time to move on to pastures new.

There are many reasons for this choice, and it has been made more difficult by the incredible support I have received from so many friends and customers, but at the end of the day I am well, excited about a new future, and will leave holding no regrets.

I am storing wine for many customers and want to assure you that little has changed, since I plan to be here in Morey-Saint-Denis until January 2014. I will be delighted to see any of you who can come collect your orders, but otherwise I will ship your wines (cost free) this autumn. If for any reason this is not convenient please let me know and we will arrange some alternative.

I want to apologize for any surprise or disappointment caused by this news, but I hope you’ve enjoyed these good times as much as I have!

(And if any of you fancy becoming vigneron in Morey-Saint-Denis do let me know!!)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Barrels with drains

Recent visitors to the domaine have been amused by our new approach to racking barrels so I thought I would share our system publicly.

I’ve written before (here and here) about racking, the traditional method by which we separate clear wine from the sludgy lees that settle at the bottom of each barrel. We bottle without filtration, so it is essential that all of these lees remain in the barrel when we decant the clear wine in preparation for bottling. A typical barrel contains only about 1 litre of lees, but these lees are so light and easily disturbed that they spoil about 10 times their volume when the barrel is emptied and tipped (see here). We separate and settle the last 10 litres from each barrel and eventually add them to our Passetoutgrain, but it is obviously a shame to be converting Vosne-Romanée into Passetoutgrain, for example!

Hence our 2011s are ageing in barrels equipped with a new system which will hopefully reduce wastage. A threaded hole has been drilled in the bottom of every barrel, into which this stainless steel assembly is inserted.

When the adjustment nut is turned the racking tube is pulled downwards towards the lees. This way we will hopefully be able to draw clear wine right down to the level of the lees, and without moving the barrel. As the nut is turned further the racking tube drops flush with the inside of the barrel so the barrel can be completely drained and washed in situ, a huge advantage in my cramped cellar.

But the real excitement is how this system interacts with our bottle filler. However, that is a post for another day...

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Spray program

Last year I published a record of the fungicides we used to combat mildew and oidium during the 2010 growing season and since several readers contacted me with encouraging comments I’ve decided to make this an annual tradition.

2011 Spray dates and products

In Burgundy it’s a very rare year indeed which allows conscientious growers so much opportunity to reduce their chemical inputs and we are pleased to have taken full advantage of 2011’s favourable conditions.

April, May and June 2011 were exceptionally dry and remembering similar conditions in 2007 we decided to spray nothing until we observed the first symptoms of mildew or oidium. For an organic grower this isn’t as simple a decision as it sounds; the main organic fungicides are strictly preventative and most growers start spraying as soon as a few leaves have unfurled. I’m uncomfortable with such a systematic approach and prefer to spend time looking for the very first sign of disease. And here it is...

Somehow I’ve inherited an old microscope from my father’s days studying medicine at Edinburgh University (he tells me it was old even then!) and its 20x magnification is proving very helpful in making a definative early diagnosis. The photograph above was taken (down the microscope) on the morning of May 16th and by that evening our vines had received their first anti-oidium spray. For reference, by then almost all other vineyards, organic or otherwise, had received 3 to 5 sprays.

I believe that for the past two years I’ve been the first grower in the Cote d’Or to inform the Chambre d’Agriculture of oidium on Pinot noir (it has been pointed out that this isn’t necessarily a record I should be proud of!)

I didn’t observe any mildew until the 7th July by which time the grapes themselves were beyond risk and the temptation of an entire season without anti-mildew sprays (Copper) was so great that we decided to complete the season unprotected. It then proceeded to rain most of July and August which made the leaves look pretty tired by harvest, albeit without major impact on the quality of the wine!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring is on its way

I finished pruning today and coincidentally also saw the first sign that the vines are coming out of their winter dormancy; when the sap starts to rise the vines weep ‘tears’ as shown in this photo. This will typically continue for another couple of weeks before the buds start to swell and eventually burst into life.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tastings in Scotland

Just wanted to let you know that I will be pouring all five of my 2009 wines at the following events:

Friday January 14th 7pm at Peckham’s, 61 Glassford St, Glasgow. A talk and tutored tasting (tickets £15 from 0141 553 0666)

Saturday January 15th 4pm to 7pm at Peckham’s, 21 Clarence Drive, Glasgow. A drop-in tasting of all 2009s.

Friday January 21st 4pm to 7pm at Peckham’s, 155 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh. A drop-in tasting of all 2009s.

Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Direct sales to France and Scotland

Those of you who have visited the domaine will know that up until now almost every bottle we produced was exported to a handful of excellent wine merchants in the UK, USA, Japan, Netherlands, Canada and Australia.

However the 2009 vintage is both delicious and (relatively) plentiful so we have decided to set aside a small quantity for sale directly from the domaine. To facilitate the logistics we are setting up an online shop where you will be able to purchase these 2009s en primeur.

Our 2009s were bottled in December 2010, but after bottling we age all our wines, unlabelled, for almost a full year. Therefore, any wine that you order now will be ready for collection from November 2011 onwards. Note that full payment is required to secure your reservation.

If you are unable to come to Morey-Saint-Denis to collect your order we are offering free delivery to any address in France or mainland Scotland. Unfortunately we cannot ship to any other region.

Happy shopping, and don’t hesitate to if you have any questions.

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 Spray Program

I’ve written about protecting the vines from fungal disease before, but I thought some readers might be interested in what actually gets sprayed on the vines during the course of a year. But first a bit of context:

Grapevines are very sensitive to fungal diseases. In almost every wine producing region it is necessary spray fungicides to ensure a commercial crop. In Burgundy, with our rather damp summer climate, an unprotected vineyard would produce nothing most years. See below an intentionally unsprayed witness section of my Bourgogne vineyard; ravaged by Mildew and Oidium it will not make it into the wine!

More context: I have been farming organically since 2005. A significant implication of this is that it restricts the choice of fungicides to simple compounds which are assumed safe, because of their everyday nature. Since 2005 the only fungicides that I have used are: Sulfur, various salts of Copper, skimmed milk, whey, and Fenugreek flour.

Unsurprisingly these products are less effective than the synthetic fungicides available to non-organic farmers. In practice this means that an organic grower will spray more often to achieve the same result, and in a very difficult year (say roughly 1 in 10, in Burgundy) is likely to lose quantity and/or quality.

I am attracted to the effectiveness of the synthetic fungicides, but wonder whether we know enough about their effects on our health, and that of the environment, to justify their use? I have opened this blog to comments in case anyone wishes to voice an opinion.

In any case I feel more comfortable publishing this spray program than one which might contain molecules called dimethomorph, pyraclostrobin or tebuconazole!

I’ll leave you with a photo of the grapes as assurance that they are healthy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Solar powered vineyard buggy

Another year another vineyard buggy! (see 2008 and 2009 for previous models). However I am delighted to report that this year’s model has been a huge success and is definitely here to stay. The design team (Clark père et fils) will be able to move on to a new project next year!

The 2010 version straddles a row which obviously gives a much wider, more stable, wheelbase as well as leaving plenty of room for all the required motors and batteries. But the biggest advance is the addition of a solar panel which constantly recharges the batteries. Despite the twin 300 Watt electric motors I have only recharged the batteries once all year.

Here it is in action:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vines in flower

At last the vines are flowering.
So far this year we’ve ‘enjoyed’ a cold winter followed by a cool, cloudy spring so the vines are off to rather slow start. Today, June 15th, we've reached mid-flowering which puts us roughly equal with recent ‘late’ vintages like 2006 and 2008. A lot can change over the next 3 months, but at the moment I’d expect to be picking in early October. Generally a late harvest is promising for quality since there is a higher probability of the cool, sunny weather which seems perfect for ripening Pinot without cooking its delicate flavours and acidity. Unfortunately a late harvest also increases the risk of rain and rot so 2010 still has all to play for.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm back

Apologies for the long silence, but I am now back!

It’s taken me four months to migrate the blog to this new home ( but now that it is done I look forward to sharing our news on a more regular basis!