A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



Burgundy... A Sense of Place


Upon returning last week from a trip to the vineyards of Burgundy, I find myself inspired and even more dedicated to creating wines with a sense of place.  To many wine lovers, Burgundy has an allure about it like no other wine region in the world.  Of course, great wines are made around the globe, but just what is it about Burgundy that sets it apart from the others?  Volumes have been written about this, but I offer these thoughts based simply on my observations and subsequent reflection on the people, the place and the wines created by that union.

As I wrote in some of the earliest entries in this blog, the grandest hope for our project of  planting the Burgundian grapes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay high on a mountainside in Virginia was that the grapes grown here would create a wine unique to this place; that the wines would become a tribute to this soil that feeds the roots, to the angle of the sun's light, to the breezes the flow over Chestment Ridge to our north, to the relative altitude and slope to the valleys below, to the density of the plantings, the care for the vines in the vineyard and for the juice in the winery.  All these elements are intricately woven together into what is known as a sense of place.

In Burgundy, this sense is defined as no other.  The most important distinction to the various "designations" of quality in Burgundy is in the vineyard soil.  The soil composition can change meter by meter, and many "individual vineyards" are comprised of only a few rows within a larger planting of new and/or ancient vines. There are four levels of appelation heirarchy, or presumed and historical quality of wine.  In order of increasing quality and designation, they are the regional "Bourgogne" (typically the valley floors), the more defined "Villages" (usually a little higher on the hillsides), the more refined "1er (Premier) Cru" (even further up the hillsides) and the finest appellation being the "Grand Cru," which are typically found near the upper levels or wherever on the slope the soils are the best suited for the Pinot Noir or Chardonnay growing there.

This image is one I took of a photo hanging in the wine cellar of Domaine Lucien Jacob and shows one of their cleared vineyards awaiting replanting.  It clearly displays a strip of limestone (calcareous) soil in the upper part of the slope where typically the Premier and Grand Crus are grown, in this instance, Chardonnay.  Without getting too technical or getting into the geology of wine growing regions, suffice to say these many areas of distinction create wines that beautifully represent the place where they are grown. The ages of the vines play a huge role in the quality as well.  These vines below are decades old. Compare them to five year old Ankida vines at the top of the image. We can only imagine the quality of the fruit our vines will give us once they dig their roots down deep and mature to this grand old age.

But what are the intrinsic qualities that add to this sense of place?  If a vineyard was divided in half and in one half it was all tended by the hands of a person passionate about the vines and in the other half no human set foot in it, everything being done by machinery, would there be subtle (or not so subtle) differences in the quality of the wine and the enjoyment of the person drinking the wine?  I know of no studies that have researched such a theory. If all matter is energy, all vibrating at different frequencies, would the frequency of a human carefully nurturing the vines create a subtle difference to those removed from such care; an interesting question which I would love to determine through scientific studies.  Until then, I do hold a suspicion that the passion and energy field of other life forms amongst the vines do play a role in a wine's quality. And in Burgundy, generations of families have passionately tended to their vineyards, caring for them to hand down to the next generation.  Is this part of the allure, the mystique one feels while walking the vineyards of Burgundy or sipping wines crafted by generations of families?  We met so many wonderful folks who welcomed us in their vineyards and cellars and shared with us their wines and their passion for what they were doing.
It's a hard life, but a good one.  So a thank you and cheers to our many counterparts in Burgundy!

With father and son at Domaine de la Cadette!

And I want to take a moment to wish all our readers the most joy filled of Thanksgivings.  We have had so very much for to be grateful for this past year.  We hope you all were as blessed.

And hopefully you will celebrate your holiday meal with one of our delicious wines.  Today we learned that DCWineWeek.com named Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir as their top Virginia red wine pick for Thanksgiving!! Cheers to that!

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!


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