At Domaine Regnier in Gevrey Chambertin, the early part of the year was marked by excitement surrounding the installation of the new wine press. Purchased from Gaillot in Beaune, a screw mechanism turned manually exerted pressure on a wooden platform, which in turn pressed the grapes beneath. No more splashing around in bare feet! It was the talk of the village.
The Regniers had devised a method of classifying the quality of the vintage - applying descriptions ranging from Very Good to Very Bad. There were eight in total - Tres Mauvais (very bad), Mauvais. Pauvre, Mediocre, Moyenne, Assez Bon, Bon and the best, Tres Bon. The 1863 vintage was deemed to be ‘Pauvre’.
Whilst in 1893 the harvest started on 31 August, applying a broad average, the harvests today are at least two weeks earlier than they were 100 years ago. In this context it is interesting that this weekend two of our guests at Les Deux Chevres were part of the Barnes family from Biddenden vineyard in the village of the same name in the English county of Kent. They used to grow apples, but in 1969 started planting vines. Every two years they tour the main wine making areas in Europe, tasting wine and collecting information which they apply to improve the quality of their own wine.
Climate change is benefitting the nascent wine making industry in the UK, and this year more than 1 million new vines are expected to be planted in British soil. Many of the winemakers are names that do not yet have international recognition, however not so in the case of Taittinger, who in 2015 purchased land in Kent to create a new marque which they will call Domaine Évremond, after the French writer Charles de Saint-Évremond. They are aiming for a production of 300,000 bottles a year from their 60 hectares in the village of Chilham, about half an hour by car from Biddenden.
For the next 100 years, each vintage was faithfully recorded on two charts around the press, describing the quality, and the date of the harvest. The earliest chart is still in its original condition, proudly looking down on the renovated press at Hotel Les Deux Chevres.