2011 Burgundy Growing Season

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 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.

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