Burgundy - a star shining ever brighter?

Three reasons why Burgundy may be presently undervalued.

The ‘Leonardo’ Theory

Leonardo da Vinci apparently commented, (and my wife Jolanta strongly disagrees!) that to discover a new wine, is more exciting than finding a new star.  This however, is perhaps one of the main attractions of Burgundy, an attraction which is to some extent overshadowed by concerns about the ‘complexity’. The complexity is said to follow from there being too much choice - simply too many wines, producers, vineyards etc.  But the extent of the choice is the attraction.   The wines of Burgundy are a bit like an exhilarating cross-country horse ride, where new sensations and experiences are discovered at virtually every turn.  Enjoy it for what it is, a region of almost infinite opportunity for sensory experience and winemaking passion –which is what new wine enthusiasts visiting Burgundy are doing.  

The Trophy Asset Syndrome

Purchasers of trophy assets in Burgundy by ‘foreigners’ (broadly categorized as anyone who has not been here since at least the Revolution!), are still sufficiently rare to cause an almighty ruckus when they occur – the Chateau of Gevrey Chambertin is the most recent example (although now that there is a magnificent 'cost no concern' renovation in progress, the voices of discontent seem to have faded somewhat!)  Ownership of vineyards is passed down through generations – (over 30 generations in some instances), which makes it hard for purchasers outside the region to get a look in.   And when Domaines are for sale, there are a sufficient number of deep pockets among existing local landowners to satisfy most vendors’ requirements.    So the weight of money trying to get into Burgundy gets heavier, it being generally accepted that the more difficult the challenge, the more the challengers respond.

And even if this tight local control over the sources of Burgundy’s best wines did not exist, the scope for raising production to meet increasing international demand is non existent.  The areas where Grand Cru wines are grown are fixed.  So the quantities of the cult wines produced annually will remain pretty much where they are now.  If anything, yields are likely to decrease, as climatic changes have their impact, as they have over the past few years.  It is likely that an increasing number of young, talented and enthusiastic winemakers will move into the bracket of cult producers.  Will this have a material impact on demand?  It seems unlikely based on experience to date, and the relatively small quantities involved.

Back to our Roots

The roots of the vines travel deep down in search of moisture for the fruit on the vine.  And the reach of Burgundy’s vine roots, applies in a metaphorical sense to Burgundy’s culture, and the entire wine experience.

To apply a sporting analogy, wealthy fans buy football memorabilia because they want a trophy asset, but also to feel part of the history of a successful club and team – to feel as if they are a part of its roots.

If that analogy is applied to arguably the world’s most famous wine estate, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – very few people realize that a short walk from Gevrey Chambertin it is possible to visit a site which is an intrinsic part of the history of these legendary wines – where the owners of the vines lived in the first millenium, and where the viticultural practices used today were developed over hundreds of years. 

The following comments by James Ruggia recently featured on Linkedin in relation to US tourists visiting archeological sites in Turkey :

“While the European traveler sees Turkey as a Mediterranean beach holiday, the U.S. traveler explores Turkey for cultural and historic reasons. The top visited museums in the country include Hagia Sophia (Istanbul),……...

As Europe’s most powerful capital city for 1,700 years and spanning three civilizations, Istanbul’s historic riches are almost beyond comprehension. The city was recently placed among the “best of the best” at the 37th UNESCO World Heritage Committee session in Cambodia.”

Fashions, trends, and ways of thinking tend to be transient.  And when we tire of being told by social media that so and so has managed to make it through yet another work anniversary, where will Facebook and the like take us next? Well Linkedin actually has an example of the two juxtapositions –on one page we are invited to congratulate ….etc etc,  and on another we have some wonderful, carefully crafted and researched historical accounts from the discussion group for Medieval and Renaissance Art and Architecture.

The story of Burgundy’s great wines, it’s 2000 year history, its magnificent ancient ruins steeped in the antecedents of the regions greatest producers, has yet to come to the attention of the wine drinking world.  In 1098 Stephen Harding, a Benedictine Monk from Dorset UK, was one of the founding fathers of the Cistercian Order who established the Abbey at Citeaux, 12 km east of Nuits St Georges.  The Order went on to plant out Clos de Vougeot, which it owned and farmed for the next 600 or so years.  It appears to have been easier for foreigners to get into Burgundy in the 11c than it is today!


© Paul Thomas Les Deux Chevres 2015 -  Luxury Accommodation and Wine Tourism in Gevrey Chambertin