- 24 Jun 2015 -

Seeing is Believing: A Wine Student's Trip to Witness the Significance of Terroir

I thought my study trip to Burgundy would all be about the study of terrior and I felt a bit guilty when I got side tracked as I started digging into the history of the places I was visiting. But it was in this trip when I am reminded that learning about the history and culture of a place is just as integral to my study of wine as it is only when I learn about the history and heritage of a place, how people lived, where they come from, am I able to fully appreciate the whys and the hows of what exist today. And let's face it, the people and stories gives wines more context and makes it more interesting and memorable!    

I had always admired the mosaic roof of the Hospice de Beaune, it wasn't until I see it in broad daylight am I able to fully appreciate the contrasting colours and textures which is a real feast to the eyes in broad daylight.

In the historic wine cellar of Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune, I learnt about the origin of Cuvee Maurice Drouhin auctioned in the annual Hospice de Beaune wine auction and bought back by Frederic Drouhin (Veronique's brother) every year. The wine is made from two hectares of 1er cru vineyards in Beaune donated by Maurice Drouhin to the Hospice as a gift to thank them for giving him a place to hide from the prosecution of the Nazis during WWII as he was the liaison officer for General Douglas McArthur. We traced back the passage way Maurice took through the (now) famous Door of Freedom from the wine vault in the Maison which led to the Hospice. Apparently Maurice continued to run the business from afar by passing instructions via the Mother Superior of the Hospice to Veronique's grandmother who continued with the winemaking and managing the business.

One of the oldest wine estate and definitely one of the largest in Cote d'Or is Bouchard Pere et Fils. The cellar has a famous collection of bottles dating back to pre-phylloxera days. Although the estate is now owned by the Champagne House Joseph Henriot, the cellar remains the property of the family.

I came across this cute depiction of Vosne Romanee...

To many wine lovers, this stone cross marks the holy grail of all Burgundian wines - the Grand Cru vineyards of La Romanee Conti.

I think there is no better way to learn about wine than getting some hands on experience. Short of working a vinetage, I recommend at the very least going on a vineyard and wine cellar tour to get some in person interaction with winemakers and producers. One such tour is offered by Peter and Olivier Leflaive with their sommelier to walk in their premier and grand cru vineyards in Pulligny Montrachet. They were most welcoming and gracious hosts, happy and eager to answer all sorts of questions about the terroir, harvest, their winemaking techniques, and even bottling! Check out the emphatic Olivier below with his gadgets in the winery explaining cap management techniques!

No visit to Burgundy is complete without a visit to Chablis to witness the soil and understand how the terrior translates into the style of the wines. The auditorium of Domaine Jean Marc Brocard was cleverly constructed underground so visitors can see for themselves the different soil composition of the land. 

Our guide gave us a fascinating explanation of biodynamic farming techniques used in the domaine...Preparation 500 - cow horns and manure was a common scene!

I continued my quest to explore Burgundy and its wines by driving to Rully and Mercurey in Cote Challonaise and Pouilly-Fuisee in the Maconnais district. Instead of showing a photo which depicts the famous 500m limestone escarpment "Roche de Solutre" located at the heart of the appellation towering over the vineyards below, I would rather showcase this photo here which depcits different elevations of vineyards in Pouilly-Fuisse which contributes to the different qualities of grapes and wines... not dissimilar to the concept reflected in the classification system in the Cote d'Or.

; Hong Kong International Top Tasters Competition 2016