Monday, December 27, 2010

BURGUNDY: Overpowered by small Possessions

Within its vineyards are 116 AOC appellations, and 33 prestigious Grand Cru's. Today, Burgundy produces only just about .05% of the world's wine, yet it remains the enduring standard for the greatness of wine. It's long wine-producing history still today remains overpowered by its small possessions, the uniqueness of it's vineyards, the terrior.

Chablis to Dijon, the Cote d'Or south to Macon, we know that the vine was in Burgundy as early as the first century AD, but its prized soils and sub-soils were created over more than 250 million years. From the Middle Ages, this regions vineyards were influenced by the Monastic dominance of the Benedictines and Cistercians for more than four centuries, followed by more than a century of a succession of the high living, well traveled Dukes of Burgundy.  Today's Burgundy was created as a result of the French Revolution, when the prized lands of the Church and expansive lands of the nobility were fragmented in small parcels to the common Frenchman.  Inherited lands were split still further, when the Napoleonic Code, divided property assets equally among surviving sons.

As a result, even a divine Grand Cru, such as the 900 year old Clos de Vougeot, has today over 80 owners! In the village of Vosne-Romane'e lies one of its six(6) Grand Crus', Richebourg. Farming slightly more than 18 acres of Pinot Noir, this esteemed vineyard itself has ten owners, producing just about 2,000 cases of what can become some of the best wine in the world!  A narrow land, spanning the sunny banks of the Sao^ne River in Eastern France, here noble grape varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dominate. South of Dijon in the Co^te de Nuits region of the Co^te d'Or, 24 Grand Cru's produce the world's standard expression of the PInot Noir grape. The Co^te de Beaune lies south of that city, with 7 of its 8 Grand Cru's producing great Chardonnay, even as most of the regions production is from the noble red variety.

Over the centuries small growers began to sell their grapes to negociants, still today a dominant force in Burgundy, who would marry many vineyards together.  As an alternative to Burgundy's controlling quantity wine producers, growing numbers of small vineyards formed cooperatives under the singular name of their commune.  Recent decades have seen a resurgence for small producers willing to try their luck bringing their diminutive  vintages into the thirsty marketplace through the hands of an importer. Throughout it all, Burgundy remains about the power of the site of each vineyard, unyielding quality and the small amount of special wine produced there.

Unlike Bordeaux where large 18th & 19th century estates(chateau) have long dominated their wine trade(along with brokers), in Burgundy the power and influence lie with the small possessions(domaine), making tiny quantities of wines that keep us wanting more!


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