In #KulTour DRINK we are going exploring to look for the most wonderful drops the world has to offer. Wine, brew, spirits and everything in between that is worth drinking.
This time we are traveling to one of the most famous wine districts in the world: Burgundy! Here some of the most famous wines ever are made. So many in fact that we can’t cover them all in one episode. So today we will focus on the bubbles from Burgundy, the Cremant the Bourgogne. We are going to meet producers, look at the wine making process and finally do a tasting and to give you some tips on what to put in your shopping basket.
Burgundy stretches from Chablis in the north and almost to Lyon in the south and we find many famous wine districts here. Cremant is produced both in the north and the south, but it has always had a “small-brother-complex” over it’s more famous bubbles in the neighbouring Champagne. But Cremant de Bourgogne CAN be fantastic!
Before our first meeting we stop in a golden wine field just outside the charming village Nuit-Saint-Georges. The autumn colours give us a spectacular view of one of the most famous wine places in the world. But Burgundy is a mine field, as my good friend Rasmus always says. And what does he mean about that? That there are so many producers in one vineyard that will charge vastly different amounts for their wines, even if the stocks are right next to each other. Here, name and history is important.
And you would be forgiven to think that the best vineyards, the Grand Crus, are the ones that are situated on the slopes that run on the side of Burgundy with a perfect gradient and sun exposure, but that is not always the case, even if I did say so in the story we made. But I was unprecise, you see some, like the famous Romanée-Conti, lie on a slight slope with perfect sun exposure and drainage, but that is not so for all Grand Crus. More are actually lying flat, like the imposing and grand Clos de Vougeot. As with most things in life that are great, Burgundy is not easy …
Francois wants to show us their cellar and winery so we get back in the car and head for Montagny-lès-Baune. On our trips around the world we have almost always chosen the small producers. Not only is it nicer with smaller places, but the direct contact you get with the winemakers has given us a thorough insight in the philosophies and methods. And we Norwegians are traditionally farmers and fishermen, so we look for the smaller, local producer. On this trip, however, we will visit three of the bigger producers, that focus on delivering quality and quantity. So this first trip to Veuve Ambal is going to be exiting.
Situated next to the Autoroute du Soleil the winery and cellar of Veuve Ambal is huge and imposing. It is quit far from the romanticised picture we have of wine production. Often we want it to be a family that does everything by hand. But demand makes a difference. A lot of people want Cremant and humans are always thinking ahead. They are thinking about innovation, modernity, new buildings, how to be more efficient. And this is the result of that thinking.
Just a week before we had been to the Jura and visited the cellar of Domaine Pignier from the 13th century. That seems like a lifetime ago when you walk into the gigantic cellar of Veuve Ambal. Millions of bottles are stored here ready to be shipped across the whole world. And this vinery is also readying themselves for tourism. A nice area for the visitors where you can taste before you buy is in place and you can also walk above the winery to see all the machines in action. One thing you see when walking high above the action is all the people working here. Wine is a lifeline for so many people, especially here, and have been for hundreds of years. Before they were working in the vineyards and were farmers now they are more factory worker. But they don’t complain or romanticise. Work is important no matter what you do and there is still a pride in what they are making. A superb Cremant de Bourgogne!
We say goodbye to Francois and head out for our next meeting. They have asked us to find the spectacular Clos de Vougeot, one of the most famous Grand Crus here. Their brand new wine field lies just next to it! Here we meet Frédéric Brand, chief oenologist for Louis Bouillot, another large producer of Cremants. But even if they are big, the focus is on quality, as becomes apparent when Frédéric talks about their new wine field.
When you walk in these legendary wine fields one must get down and dirty and try to comprehend just what is it that makes this place perfect for making wine. I pick up a handful of soil, terroir if you like, and smell. It smells of … dirt. I am no oenologist it is safe to say. But I do understand that terroir by itself is not enough, although having this quality terroir is a great start, at some point the farmer and oenologist has to come in and make his or her mark on the wine.
We leave the wine field and head for Louis Bouillots spectacular Imaginarium! A wine store, tasting room and museum all sat in front of their massive winery and cellar. It lies on the outskirts of Nuit-Saint-Georges and is unmissable when traveling. Frédéric takes us into the back area where the newly pressed grapes are fermenting as we speak. He explains the pressing process for us.
- We separate the juice in three parts. First part is Auto pressurage, five percent only. It’s low quality. The most part is cuvée. It’s high quality. There is more acidity, more sugar and more finesse. And after, taille (the tail), little bit less acidity, more tannins and structure.
From the press the juice are put into big tanks and left for fermentation. The 2016-vintage is still fermenting but we get a special treat, to taste straight from the tanks. The juice is fresh and acidic and of course very juicy. All the juice is fermented separately so we get to taste the different kinds of grapes by themselves. We now get to taste what the different grapes will give to the wine. It is so educational, but most of all it gives us a sense of just how good the oenologist must be to know how much of this grape and how much of the other each wine should have. And to think this changes every year, for every vintage. Sometimes it is good to just be the one who enjoys the wine!
And this leads us to the next room, something more out of Star Trek than a classical French winery, the tasting room in the Imaginarium. It is specially made to enhance the experience of tasting wine and has considered lighting, air flow through the room and temperature. For a science nerd and lover of all thing Science Fiction this is a dream place for tasting Cremant.
The next day we head for the last stop of this tour of Bourgogne, we stop in Buxy and talk with Olga Reznik. She introduces us to the Cremants of Andre Delorme, which oddly go under the label Paul Delane in Norway. Olga was the perfect host and gave us an introduction to the history of the winery. They began during the 2nd World War. Having been injured in combat, André Delorme left the front and returned to Rully in Burgundy. Upon his return in 1942, André Delorme founded his own company. Today they produce Burgundy reds and whites, but we are here for the Cremants. This is our last day in France for now so we have to say goodbye to the delightful Olga and head to Lyon. We have to taste the wines we have with us! You can see the results of our travels in Bourgogne in the video under. Be sure to stay until the end where we stir up a bit of controversy!