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Ready to Pick in Burgundy

Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac plans to start picking in Echézeaux and Bonnes-Mares.

Posted: Sep 26, 2008 3:49pm ET

By Jeremy Seysses

Posted by Jeremy Seysses

Right. It's decided. We will begin picking on Saturday. Another two days and we are throwing ourselves into it, a decision that was a long time coming. But first, let me give you a quick summary of the story so far.

The season here in Burgundy's Côte d'Or has not been an extreme or unusual one. The flowering began normally, but perhaps dragged on a little more than usual, over a period of three weeks. This led to some coulure (a condition where some berries don't set and drop off not long after flowering) and millerandage (when berries in a bunch are uneven in size, some small and some large). In the end, both will be a blessing and no doubt one of the elements that will drive quality.

The first part of the summer was warm, with occasional rains, which intensified during the month of August. We had very significant pressure from both mildew and oïdium, and keeping the canopy and the grapes healthy required very careful, attentive work in the vineyards. Our vineyard manager, Lilian Robin, and his team made themselves very available during those critical moments, and the vineyards are looking surprisingly good. A few judicious decisions such as pulling leaves on the north side of the rows allowed for more airflow, the best prophylactic defense against fungi, while not seriously hindering the important photosynthetic activity of the south-facing leaves.

Nonetheless, the damp month of August and first half of September have taken a toll. I am not yet convinced that we have lost too much in quality, but post-sorting, quantities should be significantly down. More in a few days on that front.

During the night of Sept. 13, the wind started coming from the north and has been with us since. The northern wind has brought dryness, sunshine and cool temperatures, halting the botrytis in its tracks. The sugars have gone up since, as much through concentration as through photosynthesis.

Jeremy Seysses, brother Alec, and vineyard manager Lilian Robin pass through the vineyard to check ripeness and decide when to pick.
This morning, we did our final sampling and the grapes are starting to look ripe. I use a variety of indicators for ripeness beyond the traditional analysis of sugars, acids, etc. I also look at the woodiness of the stems, the seed color and texture, skin tannins and chewiness, pulp, etc. Essentially, things are beginning to look ripe to me, even though the sugars are still on the low side, comparable to vintages like 1993, 1995 or 2007, but with high acids comparable to 1996. The structure of the grapes, however, looks considerably better than last year and all those millerandés berries will make for a good skin-to-juice ratio. The coulure has made for looser bunches and no doubt we would have more rot at this stage had the flowering been faster.

Météo France is forecasting nothing but dry weather for the days to come, with a possible change in the weather starting Wednesday, Oct. 1. We are going to count on the strength of our willpower to alter that forecast and make the clouds fly straight over us.

We will begin with the Echézeaux and Bonnes-Mares vineyards, moving on to the Charmes-Chambertin and probably Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Beaux-Monts. Ripeness seems pretty even across the board, and the choice of where to begin is not easy or obvious. The choices above are partly a reflection of our visits, but also of past experience with these vineyards, which tend to hit ripeness in a rush at the end of season.

Bruce Sanderson
New York —  September 29, 2008 8:40am ET
Jeremy, Interesting and comprehensive analysis and thanks for the update.

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