Jefford on Monday: Mud Wrestling with the Bourguignons

Jefford on Monday: Mud Wrestling with the BourguignonsDid you realise that, with each glass of Meursault and Montrachet, you are drinking wine faeces? No, nor did I, writes Andrew Jefford in this column re-published from's archive and featuring his interview with renowned soil consultants Claude and Lydia Bourguignon in Burgundy. Claude and Lydia BourguignonThis sobering insight came my way back in Development 2012, when I sat down one evening to talk at length to Claude and Lydia Bourguignon.
“Acidity,” confided Claude, “is plant excrement. In ordinary plants like cereals, that excrement is evacuated via the roots, into the soil. But fruits evolved a system to propagate themselves by making fruit around a seed. The animal eats the fruit, swallows the seed and then propagates the plant, via its own excrement. If animals are going to find the fruit attractive, it must be sweet. The problem with sugar, though, is that it ferments. To avoid having that happen straight away, the plant sends its excrement, its acidity, up into the fruit. And we drink it.”
The Bourguignons are best known nowadays as viticultural consultants, but for much of their early careers they were involved in helping subsistence farmers in Asia, Africa and South America make a better living. They are in no doubt that wine, on which they now spend around 80 per cent of their time, is special. “Viticulture is the sort of agriculture which is closest to the consumer,” Lydia points out. “It’s also where what you do in the fields has maximum look. And you can in fact show that and talk to consumers about it.” Much of this implication, Claude adds, is due to the fact that “wine is fermented grapes. When you ferment, you have an exacerbation of perfumes, of flavours, of everything which has been inscribed in the fruit by the place in which it grew. You don’t have that with cereal growing: the trace is soon lost.”
The consensus surrounding terroir in English-speaking countries is that it is climate which is most vital in revealing (both aesthetically and economically) the propitiousness of a province, and that soil is secondary. Once a province has proved itself, of course, soil then becomes more vital in teasing out the differences between that province’s distinguished sites. When I place this theory to them, the pair bristle.
“It’s fake,” retorts Claude. “The soil comes previous to the climate. Why is Alsace overwhelmingly a colorless-wine province? The climate is warm enough for reds. It’s because it has colorless-wine soils. From the point of view of climate, you should be able to produce Burgundy’s best wines in Chalon and Mâcon, not the Côte d’Or. But the monks in Burgundy found that soil is vital, which is why the greatest wines come from the Côte d’Or.” “All the air gives you is sugar,” adds Lydia. “The atmosphere is responsible for 94% of sugar in the plant.”
They are now into their stride and, when I suggest that we might place soil first and climate second because soil factors are simpler to research and to measure than the significant minutiae of atmospheric conditions, they soon have me tackled. “What matters,” insists Claude, “is microbial activity in the soil, interacting with the vine’s roots, processing oligo-elements and stimulating enzymatic activity. If you grow fruits in a hydroponic regime, they don’t have any flavour, any aroma. It’s the microbes in the soil which permit the synthesis of the aromas. This has got nothing to do with the atmosphere. There’s no zinc in the atmosphere, no cobalt, no manganese. That’s why canopy management chiefly affects sugar levels in the grapes, and nothing else.”
My credibility now shot, I choose to see how far I can probe their espousal of biodynamics. I suggest, circumspectly, that it’s hard to find scientific support for many aspects of biodynamics, citing the use of ‘dynamised’ homeopathic teas as one example. Claude swiftly refers me to Jacques Benveniste’s controversial work on ‘the memory of water’ as counter-evidence, previous to unexpectedly adopting a more emollient tack.
“The problem is that pure knowledge is not excellent as embracing the complexity of living things. In wine, you don’t just have knowledge. You have art, culture, many additional things. The rational or scientific dimension doesn’t clarify everything. We have measured the biological activity in biodynamic horn compost, and found an giant amount there. For us, that’s not absurd. But if you question why it’s there, and you read Steiner, it gives you a fright, at least if you have a scientific mentality.” “We never reject a conventional client,” stresses Lydia; “quite the opposite. Our real challenge is to work with those who are practising conventional viticulture, and lead them towards organics. That’s very rational.”
And on that, we agree, chink glasses, and swallow a small more diluted plant excrement.
This article was originally published on 11 June 2012 and has been re-published and updated on 17 August 2015 as part of a celebration of Decanter’s archives in its 40th anniversary year. Andrew Jefford is away.
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Susana Balbo revamps Crios, her family wine

Susana Balbo revamps Crios, her family wineA promotion
Award winning Argentine winemaker, Susana Balbo, celebrates her son and daughter's role in the family winery by re-introducing Crios, her original toll wine to her children, with new range from the Uco Valley. A promotion
Susana Balbo has helped drive the quality and reputation of Argentine wine around the world over the last 15 years.
The country’s first female winemaker started building wine in 1981 and has been proud to break the rules and lead innovations in Argentine winemaking ever since.
But it is with Susana Balbo Wines, made at the Dominio del Plata winery in Mendoza since 1999, that she really made her name as one of the world’s leading female winemakers.
Crios – a toll to Susana’s children
Susana wanted to make a family winery that could be loved and passed down through the generations.
This family spirit lives and breathes with her Crios wine range. Crios in Spanish means “offspring” and was made in 2001 as a toll to her son, José, and daughter, Ana.
The wines, like her children, were full of energy, complexity and future potential. That thought of motherhood, family and childhood perfectly illustrated with three overlapping hands on the mark.
Both José and Ana have now grown up to become an integral part of the family’s winery. José as a key member of the winemaking team and Ana in payment of marketing, and exchanges.
Crios: re-launched for the next generation
It is, therefore, perfectly in keeping the Crios brand should mature in step with José and Ana’s own life and careers.
When the Crios brand was first introduced Susana ran a declassification system and only used her reserve quality wines in her Signature wines. The more youthful, rich fruit grapes went to her “offspring” Crios wines.
The new Crios range has been developed as a primary wine in its own right. A wine, like its core consumers, that has grown up to develop an identity of its own.
To help achieve that, Susana, from the 2014 Crios vintage, switched to a regional winemaking approach taking the majority of grapes from the icon micro wine province of the Uco Valley.
A family brand
At the heart of the new Crios range remains its inspiration. Its creator. Its mother. Susana Balbo.
Her spirit of innovative winemaking is celebrated in a ‘vintage, modern” mark design.
Each wine carries an inspirational thought that also represents either a milestone in Susana’s private and professional life or the tale about how the wine was made.
For example, the CriosMalbec carries the thought “Be Courageous”. The Torrontés challenges consumers to “Break the Rules” or “Look at Life Differently” to signify its Rosé of Malbec variety.
Importantly the new wine marks are simple to be with you with messages that engage with busy shoppers, says Ana. Each one also includes a food pairing suggestion.
But Crios subdue represents the togetherness of the Balbo family, encapsulated in the hand motif on the mark.
They are wines that offer reassurance, made by a family committed to offering quality and value to their consumers.
Susana’s wine family
Susana’s wine family also includes her flagship Signature Series and BenMarco brand. The Signature wines are made from the winery’s highest quality grapes.
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Grower Champagne: Marie-Courtin

Grower Champagne: Marie-CourtinRead about Champagne estate Marie-Courtin, for the key facts and wine to try from this organically farmed grower Champagne. Champagne Marie-Courtin's small plot of vines overlooks the village of PolisotRegion: Côte des Bar
Village: Polisot
Grape varieties: Pinot Noir – Chardonnay
Vineyard area: 2.5 hectares
Dominique Moreau’s 2.5ha of vines are all located within a single parcel in the village of Polisot, in the Aube. She has been building Champagne since 2006, and has also been farming organically since that time, becoming fully certified in 2010. Read more

Malibu Coast AVA back in court over planting ban

Malibu Coast AVA back in court over planting banCalifornia's Malibu Coast AVA has just turned one year ancient but growers continue to face court battles over the right to plant new vineyards. Could it be a case of the 'terrible twos'? Christy Canterbury MW reports. Malibu Coast AVA was made in 2014Malibu Coast growers recently returned to the courtrooms to secure a deal that vineyard applications would at least be dealt with on a case-by-case and must meet strict conditions, rather than be banned outright.
Around half of pending applications were approved to proceed and proposed 10 month extension to the ban was reduced to four months.
It represents a incomplete victory for growers. Vintners were hit with a ban on new plantings just six weeks after the birth of the Malibu Coast AVA in mid-2014, after surviving the slow, three-year administer for approval. It was quite a shock.
Most recently, Los Angeles County had wanted to extend the ban for 10 months to study the effects of vine planting in the Santa Monica Mountains. Water usage, soil wearing away and natural habitat topped the list of concerns, as was the seemingly odd possibility of ruining views.
A lobbying campaign ensued. John Gooden and Dan Fredman, president and public relations head correspondingly for the Malibu Coast Vintners and Grape Growers Alliance, developed an education plot for the county Supervisors based water usage and wearing away hegemony.
They met many times with various supervisors during June and July to educate them on grapevine physiology, sustainable farming methodology and vineyard and winery economics.
And, unlike last year, this time they were rather successful. After all, grapevines need precious small water, especially when drip irrigated, and vines’ roots prevent wearing away by anchoring the soil.
Education wasn’t the only key. An online petition to oppose the vote gathered 718 signatures, and there was also coverage in local newspapers.
Unexpectedly, county supervisor Sheila Kuehl presented a compromise that was across the world approved. Restrictions apply but are de minimis. Water applied to vineyards must come from municipal supplies rather than wells and can only be applied via drip irrigation. New plantings must have pre-approved wearing away hegemony plans, and no planting is allowed on 50% or greater gradients.
After the meeting, Fredman said that no one in the AVA can recall anyone contouring hills for planting, because there is simply no need. Furthermore, flood irrigation is impossible due to the slopes, as well as the local water shortage, and who would use lawn sprinklers anyway?
Fredman said undeveloped property might have been the real seed of the controversy. It is believed speculative developers requested permits in order to make their lots more attractive to potential buyers. Approvals were granted for 28 of the 51 pending permits.
For now, the nearly 200-year-ancient tradition of vineyards in the Santa Monica Mountains will continue, and should grow. Environmental studies will be brought back to supervisors toward the end of 2015.
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10 top grower Champagnes to try

10 top grower Champagnes to tryChampagne resident and expert Pieter Liem picks out 10 top grower Champagnes to try. Grower Champagne – where the wine is produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards – is growing in popularity, but gets much less attention than the more well-known houses. Peter Liem picks out 10 top grower Champagnes to try, with tasting notes and its drinking window. Read more

DAWA vice-chair: Andrew Jefford

Andrew Jefford is a judge and vice-chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA). DAWA vice-chair: Andrew JeffordAndrew Jefford is a columnist for both Decanter magazine and, Jefford has been prose and broadcasting about wine (as well as food, whisky, travel and perfume) since the 1980s, winning many awards – the latest for his work as a columnist.
After 15 months as a senior research fellow at Adelaide University between 2009 and 2010, Andrew is currently prose a book on Australia’s wine landscape and terroirs.
He lives in the Languedoc, on the frontier between the Grès de Montpellier and Pic St Loup zones.
Andrew Jefford has been a judge and vice-chair in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards since the launch of the competition in 2012.
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DAWA judge: Yin-How Wong

Yin-How Wong, managing director of Vintry Group of Wine Bars and Restaurants in Malaysia, is a judge in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA). DAWA judge: Yin-How WongA lawyer by training from the London School of Economics, Yin-How Wong founded Vintry Cellars in 2005. As managing director, he currently oversees the operations of the Vintry Group of Wine Bars and Restaurants in Malaysia, which carry an extensive wine list of over 1,000 wine marks at their four outlets. In 2010, he became the first Asian recipient of the AXA Millésimes Scholarship, which offers scholars hands-on experience at vineyards in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, Douro and Tokaji. Yin-How is currently studying for the Master of Wine and holds key roles as a committee member of the Malaysian Chapter of the International Wine and Food Society of Kuala Lumpur, and was the founding secretary of the Sommeliers Association of Malaysia. Yin-How Wong has been a Decanter Asia Wine Awards judge since 2014.
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DAWA judge: Gurjit Barry

Gurjit Barry, a sommelier and wine educator from India, is a judge in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA). DAWA judge: Gurjit BarryGurjit Singh Barry is a WSET Level 4 Diploma qualified wine-taster and one of the five APP’s (Approved Programme Provider) in India for WSET Level 1 and Level 2 courses (Level 3 to start soon). He is the senior faculty and runs India’s first and only wine school, the Institute of Wine and Beverage Studies (IWBS) in New Delhi.
Gurjit has handled prestigious accounts of major five star hotels, including The Lalit New Delhi as the resident sommelier and also the wine training programme of the full Lalit group; India’s most and the world’s second most lush train, Maharajas’ Express; award-winning restaurant Olive Bar & Kitchen Mehrauli.  He has also been responsible for wine education at TAJ, The Oberoi New Delhi, Radisson, The Ashok New Delhi, and the wine club at the Galaxy Hotel Gurgaon, as well as restaurants including The Wine Companionship at Cyber Hub in Gurgaon.  Gurjit’s early career took him to the UK, with stints with P&O Cruises as resident sommelier and a sommelier position at Alan Murchison’s L’ortolan.
Since 2008, Gurjit has helped in organising India’s first and only platform for budding wine professionals, the Indian Sommelier Championship, ISC. In association with the Indian Grape Processing Board (IGPB), Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOPFI) he has set up a three day certificate training and tasting programme on Indian wines for the trade, media and consumers titled Panorama of Indian Wine Tasting. Working closely with premium Indian wineries, Gurjit has also represented India’s top wines in front of an international audience at the international festival of Les Fêtes de Genève in Switzerland and has also helped in executing a European project to deliver wine education on Italian wines in India, below the project name UIV, Unione Italiana Vini.
Gurjit regularly conducts wine training workshops with corporate customers including HSBC, Citibank, NIIT, Audi, Accenture, and Yahoo.  In addition, he works closely with India’s wine importers to assess prospective international marks, as well as guiding budding wine importers on business strategies and product launches. His responsibilities also include addressing foreign winemakers on the scope of business possibilities in India.
Since April 2008, Gurjit has been an integral part of Wi-Not Beverage Solutions Pvt Ltd.  In his free time, he write a wine blog: and contributes to publications including HT City, Financial Express Mint and India Today Aspire.
Gurjit Barry has been a judge in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards since 2015.
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