Wine enthusiasts who seek to unlock the mystery of terroir must start with Burgundy. Here growers and winemakers, mostly monks in medieval times, created exquisite wines that express the very spirit of the rocky soil from which they have coaxed for over 1000 years.
Terroir is the combination of soil and climate, but we must never forget that mankind contributes a lot to taste, texture and intensity. A wine farmer can prune to get a yield of 10 tones per hectare, or five tons. The taste of the fruit of the two will differ a great deal.
Then there are other contributing factors – slope, vineyard’s orientation, altitude, pruning, green harvest, shoot positioning, harvest time, selective harvesting, sorting of harvested fruit, crushing, fermentation, aging, blending, and filtration or not.
Each wine of pedigree should tell us something about the earth that we will otherwise not know, and it is not something visual, but you can taste it.
Burgundy soil, and the Burgundians do it!
Burgundy is a relatively small wine-producing region with eight sub-regions, i.e Chablis, Cote de Beaune, Cote de Nuits, Maconnais, Cote Chalonnaise, Haute Cote de Nuits, Haute Cote de Beaune, and Beaujolais.
Chablis produces exclusively white wines using chardonnay only, and a sauvingon blanc de St Bris.
Chablisienne rarely age their wines in barrels.
Cote de Nuits is revered for its well-structured and log-lived pinot noirs. The vineyards are steeper, and more easterly facing therefore absorb sunshine for longer periods.
Cote de Beaune is famous for its delicate fruit-forward pinot noirs suitable for mid-term aging. They represent good value.
Cote de Beaune is better known for its world famous whites i.e Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, and Montrachet, just to name a few.
Cote Chalonnais produces still red and white wines, but has become more famous for its sparkling wines – Cremant de Borugogne.
Haute de Beaune and Haute Cote de Nuits produce fine wines, but only from well-tended vineyards with low yield, and in the hands of quality oriented winemakers.
Beaujolais is best known for its light, quaffable red wines vinted using gamay grapes. In most cases consumers consider Beaujolais a completely different class of wine.
Burgundy wines have always been expensive, and many merchants and wineries have tried different techniques to increase yield, and/or got involved in fraud.
In Burgundy the name of the producer and his/her integrity are paramount to receiving quality. These people refuse to sell inferior vintage wines under their label, and sell it off in bulk to those who care less.
Now there are several young, university-educated Burgundians who either inherited vineyards or work for well-established wineries or are devoted to making wines that truly express the characteristics of the terroir. Michel Caillot, Nicolas Potel, Jean Durup, Michel Poitout both from Chateau de Maligny, and Chartron et trebuchet are only a few that come to mind.
Chartron et Trebuchet is a small negociant house that cares about quality as much as any winemaker.
Bouchard Pere et Fils, L.Latour, are very old and reliable negociants, and some own famous vineyard sites, but also buy grapes or wine to process further.
Here are some Burgundy shippers and wineries well known for their integrity.
Domaine Christian Moreau, Jean Marc Brocard, Domaine Laroche, Louis Michel at Fils, Domaine Simonet-Fevbre, Domaine William Febvre, and Jean Sebastien Dauvissat.
Burgundy – Cote d’Or:
Rossignol-Trapet, Doudet-Naudin, Patrick Javillier, Remoissenet, Frederic Magnien, Marc Colin, L. Jadot, Prince Florent de Marode, Domaine Tapenot-Merme, Domaine Geantet-Pansiot, Domaine Henri Gouges, Domaine Robert Arnoux, Domaine Laflaive, Domaine Thierry et Pascal Matrot, Domaine Guy Roulot, Domaine Marc Morey et Fils, Domaine Guy et Thierry Amiot, Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Bouchard Pere et Fils, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Domaine Michel Caillot, Domaine Tortochot, Domaine Vincent Gerardin, Nicolas Potel, Comte de Vogue, Michel Picard, and Chartron et Trebuchet.