Young winemakers of the Côte d’Or gathered on Maxim’s gently rocking canal boat yesterday to present the 2007 vintage, many little more than a week in bottle. Last week Alsatian vignerons claimed that great burgundies had inspired their conversion to biodynamics and I was eager to talk to the “jeunes talents” about sustainable viticulture and what that means on their vineyards. I was a little disappointed to find that only six of the forty-two domaines had any formal tie to organic or biodynamic practice.
Instead, I heard a story familiar to tasting rooms everywhere. I trained with a biodynamic producer, but it doesn’t work here. We’re using less and less herbicide, but we keep it on hand for tough years. We have very small plots- we removed ourselves from certification because our neighbors were spraying vigorously. And a point I come across often and find most troublesome: a small amount of carefully selected artificial fungicide is less harmful and leaves my ecosystem much faster than copper. Gavin Quinney drew my attention to the copper problem while I was harvesting at Chateau Bauduc in September, and some strong opinions on all sides have impelled me to start making enquiries.
The stand-outs of this tasting were not bio. Domaine Michèle et Patrice Rion‘s Nuits Saint Georges 2006 <Les Terres Blanches> was a plump, lightly oaky, slightly spicy, lemon-scented chardonnay for which I had layers of appreciation. Maxime Rion’s Nuits Saint Georges rouge, the 2006 <Clos des Argillières> was a very charming strawberry pinot, if still quite hot. An anti-mildew treatment is used on the domaine that is permissible under Swiss and German organic certification guidelines but not in France; the Rions fall into the wide ‘almost’ organic category. Domaine Coche Bizouard poured an appealing baked apple 2007 Meursault from their high, flat lieux-dit <Les Luchets> and a bright, strongly likable Bourgogne AOC chardonnay from the same vintage.
To be honest, I had tried so many chardonnays and aligotés by the time I started on the Bourgogne rouge that my palate was slacking off and I’m sure I left many gems uncovered. This was my first adventure in burgundy, on a barge by the Champs de Mars, apart from a few magical bottles here and there, enjoyed before I knew much about limestone or Charlemagne. I’m diving into this terroir of myths and legends next month, joining an all-female wine jury in Beaune and interviewing a painstakingly selected group of winemakers. I’m welcoming suggestions for domaines to visit with something original to say, particularly those with nuanced interpretations of biodynamics.
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