Harvest and winemaking 2021 by Yannick Champ

It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the domain’s new wine cellar, which we have been using since the 2017 vintage. We’re now about a month away from the end of 2021’s winemaking, and as you can see the cellar is far from being full. This past year’s conditions have been difficult to deal with. We’ll end up with half the usual harvest, at least globally, with some plots having better results than others. I’ll talk more about that later… The year had a difficult start. Firstly, with severe frost in the spring, not sure we can call it a spring frost, because usually spring frosts only go down to -1 or -2°C. but this year it went down to -6°C, which gave us no means to counter it, whether with wind turbines or hay fires… Those sorts of things. At -6°C, we just can’t fight it… So we lost a huge amount of the grapes, especially the whites, which had budded prematurely. But we also had damage among the reds, and with big differences from one plot to the next. So frost was one thing, but we also had significant rainfall, I don’t have the exact figures yet, but probably rainfall similar to 2013, when we had 1300mm of rain in one year. A normal year for Burgundy has 800mm, So that was a good 50% more than usual. It’ll probably be about the same in 2021… having repercussions for the vineyard, concerning the ripening of the grapes, as well the development of disease. We had to sort the fruit a lot, during the harvest because of crop mildew… particularly in some of the plots. We started our grape harvest on Monday September 20th. We had an additional problem added to the frost and rainfall: a huge lack of personnel… Considering the domaine now covers over 21 hectares, we need a crew of at least 100 to 120 people, and we were more like 50 or 60… We started the first harvest with only 27 pickers! So needless to say we had a severe labor shortage… This had very obvious repercussions. This involved prioritizing certain varieties of grape. One significant resulting loss… was not being able to harvest the Gamay. It grows on a little plot of 0.3 hectares. and when it was time to harvest it, the pickers were busy on other plots… for the premier cru or grand cru. So by the time they were free to be able to begin work on the Gamay, it was too late, mildew had ruined it all… So in some ways… we were “lucky”, to only have half our normal yield, because with the available labor we had, if we had had more grapes growing this year, we’d have needed to sacrifice other varieties than the Gamay, which would have been really terrible… But, the harvest still went well. We had a small crew but they were a lovely group. They were great to work with. Harvesting this year took us 10 days. That’s the same we managed to do it in last year, in 2020, except in 2020 we were 120 workers. So to have the same length of time to complete the harvest, shows that we truly only had, half our usual yield, available to pick. It went relatively fast, relatively well, but we had to sort the fruit a great deal, as I mentioned, because of the weather, mildew made it necessary to sort a lot… We do not ever compromise quality, we remove everything necessary for this. We only keep the grapes which are perfect. This is because, as you know, we work without sulphur in our vats, and so we need grapes of perfect quality for our wines. Or at least as perfect as possible… in the grape quality, which we put into our vats. In terms of winemaking, it was not a big challenge, it was rather a pleasant year, in terms of “stress”. This because we followed the vintages of 2018, 19, and 20 which were very hot, and so having high alcohol content. This causes problems for conserving the natural yeasts. But this year we had between 11.5 and 12.5 degrees, and yeasts develop best at those degrees of alcohol and temperatures, than what we get with a very hot vintage. So our harvest, or rather the winemaking was fairly simple this year, especially as half of our vats were empty. Thus giving us more time… extra time for monitoring all of the vats. As always, we had some nice surprises: our Savigny plot gave us a great yield. It’s in the Hauts de Savigny, “Dessus les Gollardes”, and the frost spared us there, as if it had slid away down the hillside. It was our best yield this year, around 40 hecto-hectares, which is quite simply incredible for the 2021 vintage… It’s very satisfying because it’s a plot we started up again 3 years ago. We worked very hard in the vineyard developing it. Resulting in very small harvests in 2018, 2019, and 2020. So 2021 was really the first year of a true production for this plot… and it spoiled us! It was a very nice surprise… We also had “not-so-good” surprises, like at the Clos des Varoilles, the domaine’s brand new plot. the Gevrey première cru monopole, It covers nearly 6 hectares. So the poor yield at harvest for that plot hurt us significantly. We ended up with only 14 hecto-hectares… Which isn’t really… It isn’t neglible, but not far from it. The Clos des Corvées, on the other hand, is a tough one! It finished with more or less 25 to 28 hecto-hectares, which for the vintage, is reasonable. We’d always like to do better, but things weren’t in our favour. Here too, this year we had to sacrifice the initial harvest picking… So we won’t have a millerandage for our Clos des Corvées this year… because we didn’t have the labor, as I mentioned earlier… we weren’t able to take the extra two or three days, which was necessary to manage an initial earlier harvest. So along with 2016 and 2020, our 2021 vintage… will blend the entire grape crop, to create a single cuvée, to be called: “Clos des Corvée Vieilles Vignes”. Here we have a row of Clos des Corvées. We have a second row next to it, but we ended up with a good third of the harvest missing… from the plot. Over here we have the Hauts Maizières, Les Clous… and the Goillotte… which unfortunately only take up a single row, So we have a huge deficit of the Vosne-Romanée. And a part of the Clos de Bèze over here. There too there was quite a small yield, with only about 20 hecto-hectares… Which basically means only the bare minimum for 2021! It’s obviously too early to know exactly how the wines will turn out, but we can expect a vintage typical to Burgundy, so we won’t have wines between 14° to 14.5° of alcohol, instead a more classic vintage with more freshness, more finesse,… and with a bit more acidity. This will be a vintage, I think, which will really be very nice… It will probably surprise many… who have forgotten the classical Burgundy freshness… The last vintage that was this fresh was in 2013, so we’ve had quite a few vintages with much warmer wines in Burgundy… and so now we are returning to our Burgundy roots… which makes me very happy. As I was talking earlier about changes in wines over the past few years, and in particular the degrees of alcohol, along with higher alcohol contents… comes very dark, and very dense colours, and now we’re back to the former Burgundy colours, which is not a problem, from my point of view. But the result may shock, or surprise young wine amateurs… as they may only know warmer vintages from visits to Burgundy in recent years. It’ll be a big change! The vineyard crews did a remarkable job during this year’s horrible conditions, and it’s truly satisfying for me, to know that we have a solid team, capable of adapting to any situation. Particularly for this year! In fermentation, we had a stellar team as well. We’ve gotten to know some newcomers, like Benjamin and Mélanie, who are our taskers in charge of the Clos des Varoilles in Gevrey. They joined the winemaking team. This was good way to spend time with new arrivals, and have an opportunity to get to know them better. It’s not an easy job, because emotionally, when half of your vats are empty… the mood doesn’t really become festive, it was an opportunity to spend time together, and it was a genuine pleasure working with everybody this year. Tonio, our wine cellar head, took matters into his own hands for the fermentation this year. I really enjoyed “passing it on” to him, while working alongside him. but more as simply an observer, and to watch him blossom like that, and lead his team really masterfully. As the manager of the domain, I’m happy to see the teams flourish, and see some new leaders being made… The stability of the domain is ensured, and that’s a great satisfaction.