JMW Turner, arguably Britain’s greatest painter, was inspired to paint his 1840 masterpiece ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’, depicting a steam engine of the Great Western Railway emerging from a maelstrom of elements, by his vision of the weather as a force of nature conspiring and fighting the industrial strength of humankind.
Weather versus Mankind – a kind of Tyson Fury versus Anthony Joshua, Sigourney Weaver versus the Alien, or Man City versus pretty much anyone.
Such was our annual Buying trip to Burgundy in November 2023, a hectic week in which we visit all our Burgundy domains en masse and taste the previous vintage, in this case the 2022’s, so that we can offer parcels of rare wines En Primeur, along with re-filling our cellars with much needed top family-domaine wines. This year the weather was pants. And I’m not talking small delicate frilly ones, I am talking Great Big Ugly Baggies.
We left Folkestone very early on Sunday, travelling across the channel on the Chunnel try painting that from a distance Mr Turner..), arriving in Calais to stair-rod effect rain, supported by fog, mist and cold temperatures. Several hours later we arrived in Beaune, accompanied by the same rain, fog and cold temperatures. Déjà vu, the French call it , us Scots call it dreich…Tres dreich..
Monday saw us start our week in picturesque Gevrey Chambertin with the wonderful Domaine Serafin, with majestic and deeply opulent reds (it rained there..), then Nuits St Georges with our old friend Alban Machard de Gramont (still raining, but a little colder and windier ). On the plus side Alban’s wines were, as always, absolutely singing, both white Puligny and Nuits, along with some of his 25 appellations of red. In 2022 the reds are wonderfully forward with a delicious fragrance and depth. The rest of Monday it rained…emerging from Lecheneaut In Nuits, and then Camus-Bruchon in Savigny les Beaune, the deluge from the skies just continued unabated. Shoes sodden, fingers cold from clasping glass, pen and notebook in chilly damp cellars. Exit stage left to hotel and a warm up.
On the (very ) plus side, the first day of tasting across the Cote d’Or showed the 2022 vintage is a very, very good one. Well-coloured, deeply fruity Pinot Noirs offering delicious balancing acids and well-toned minerality. Looking at my written notes from the tastings, the key word was balance throughout. Similarly the whites (2022 seems good for both colours – always a major plus for growers and drinkers alike) showed a remarkable level of ripe, decadent fruit balanced by a razor sharp, deliciously quenching acidity that was less steel and more citrus in style.
But, oh my, the vineyards of the Cote d’Or were drab, dismal, windswept fields of driving rain and hanging, cloaking mis. The sky never once altered from a dark, solid mass of sodden grey that suppressed both villages and people at any point of the day.
Turner would have loved it…