Friday, 25 November 2011

Burgundy Visit, 2011 - Day One

On November 21st, Bibendum’s Training Team packed up and headed to Burgundy for an educational extravaganza.
Why Burgundy? Simple, really: if you can understand Burgundy, then you can understand Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from all over the world. And November is an ideal time to visit, since the sun-seeking tourists are long gone, the harvest is completed, and the wine makers are still around making wine rather than on their annual pilgrimage to various wine shows around the world.
Our first visit was to the village of Prehy in Chablis, where we met with Bernard Legland. This enthusiastic wine maker took us immediately to a beautiful hillside from where we could view his vineyards. The panorama which unfolded was stunning, as you can see below:

Panoramic view of Chablis

He then showed us around the vineyards, and took the time to show us the pruning technique he employs to ensure the right amount of sunlight and air movement is afforded to his grapes. Moving into his tasting room - a wonderful cellar which I am extremely envious of - Monsieur Legland was kind enough to take us through a range of different vintages from the various parts of his 15 hectares.

The cellars of Bernard Legland

It was clear, even with my basic grasp of French, that for Monsieur Legland, Chablis is defined in the main by two things: acidity, and minerality. The terroir is so important in Chablis, and the best wine makers allow it to speak as clearly as possibly. I'm aware that I risk sounding like a wine-bore here, but it can be seen obviously when you look at his vines. 10 - 15 years ago, the vineyards here would have looked very different. The vines were the same (literally, the ones pictured above are 30-60 years old), but the spaces in-between have changed vastly, as a result of a change in viticultural practice. Herbicides and pesticides are a thing of the past now, so grass and weeds grow quite freely in and around the vines. The emphasis now is on interfering as little as possible, and simply allowing the ground and the vine to work together to produce great quality fruit (which is, obviously, all Chardonnay grapes since we're in Chablis). I say 'simply' somewhat inaccurately here: though the concept may be simple, in practice it is actually far more difficult! Bernard is an extraordinary chap, making extraordinary wines, and I'm very pleased that I am now familiar with both.
Bernard Legland will be in London displaying his wines at the Bibendum Annual Tasting on January 25th, 2012 - just let me know if you'd like more details.

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