Topic of the Week 3/5/18 - Advanced

Thank you , , and for chiming in last week on Roasting & Malting

This week: Burgundy Winemaking

Discuss the winemaking differences in “Traditional” and “Modern” producers in Burgundy.

  • In Burgundy, harvest is usually in September and the grapes themselves tell the winemaker when they are ready. Traditional winemakers will taste a bunch of the grapes as a way of deciding if the sugar and alcohol levels are where they need to be.  Once that decision is made the grapes are most likely hand-harvested with little to no assistance from technology.  The traditional approach pretty much leaves the grapes alone on the vine to impart the characteristics of the terrain, occasionally pruning and taking watch but very little is manipulated in the vineyard nor during wine-making.  There is nothing added to the wine as it is suppose to show the truest expression of their vineyard.  Modern styles are newer, more new world winemakers use this approach, but some Burgundy and old world younger producers have adopted this style. The use of temperature controlled rooms during fermentation, mechanical devices during harvest, and instruments are used to determine sugar levels. Oak is more often used to impart and manipulate flavors and aromas.  This modern style allows for more consistency among vintages and warm regions with long growing seasons can usually make good wine from one year to the next.  Some winemakers are combining the styles to keep some tradition but take advantage of the abundance of modern technology.

  • When speaking red modernist, I guess one have to mention Henri Jayer, who was an inspiration to many of todays greatest Bourgogne winemakers. In that context I believe it is not entirely true to say that traditionalist add less to the wine than modernist. Surely the oak impact can be more prominent in the modern wines, but when speaking vineyard work, I believe it is on the contrary modernist work more natural and clean - the lines on this have become blurry with the increased attention to the damaging effect of pesticides etc. Just as well with the natural yeast which has won in popularity. 

    Henri Jayer was advocating temperaturecontrole, full destemming, cold-soaking, more extraction and unfiltered wines in the vinification. In the vineyard lower yields and plowing to control weeds as opposed to chemicals. All in all with intense, perfumed, and softer tannins as a result which I guess sums up a more modern style well, with the traditionalist needing time to soften and show the elegant aromatics. He became a symbol of a transition in the Bourgogne winemaking from being sort of a "simple peasant" production into a more high technological era. As Darla says, most producers stand with a leg in each camp