Aussie in Burgundy – Andrew Nielsen, Le Grappin wine maker

Burgundy, the sacred land of Pinot Noir. Where grape growers are humble farmers. A region most affected by land division with accordance to ancient Napoleonic laws. People deeply rooted in traditions and heritage, and birthplace for some of the most expensive wines in the world. Paying tributes to terroir, several foreign wine lovers have settled here to realise their wine making dream.

Andrew Nielsen, Aussie mate, spent his younger days on advertising career before growing grapes and making wines in Burgundy. Sounds like an unlikely twist for career change but he is certainly not alone in passion pursuit. Ray Walker, Maison Ilan, traded his career in finance for Pinot Noir (story featured in Bloomberg magazine). And of course our friend Tai-Ran (previously Goldman Sach) who is still seeking his plot of land.

Having traversed through many countries, Andrew revisited his foot prints on Singapore in August. Stopped-over while en route to Wagga Wagga (Australia), we met up with Raymond and Qing Yang for dinner (and beer!) at The Tastings Room. A casual man with anecdotal humour and (really) big hands, he littered the evening with jokes, wine making fun and experience in Savigny-lès-Beaune.

Commonly known as Savigny and in the (rather) northern part of Côte de Beaune. A region without recognised Grand Cru vineyards (top-level classification for Burgundy wines) makes it seemingly less famous than the bigger boys. Due to the small land area inherited by most grape growers, achieving economies of scale and decent profit by making wines in-house is difficult. For undeterred start-up wine makers, this is an ideal place for grape acquisitions.

Andrew Sharing Over Dinner
Full of delight with the Sous Vide Pork Belly

While enjoying the delicious “Sous Vide” Pork Belly, Andrew spoke vividly about the culture, climate and fun for an Aussie in France.

Having immersed in the country for considerable amount of time, mastering French remains a challenge for him. Phone conversation in French was mission impossible.

Nothing beats communicating in person, 15 minutes scenic drive is the way to have his simple question answered.

Of climate, hailstones hammered hard in early August and caused varying level of damage. Knowing nothing can be salvaged, a grape grower in a self-comforting tone said,  “at least I can save the money for de-leafing”.

I guessed in Andrew’s mind, perhaps it doesn’t seem that bad after all.

The highlight for the evening was fresh barrel sample flew from Burgundy in 50cl plastic bottle. Poured into the nicely crafted glasses, Andrew noticed the wine was “closed” (aromas were not showing). With a glass in each hand,  he performed a “vino tarik” (“tarik” means “pull” in Malay, read “teh tarik” here).

An amusing and unorthodox method. Whatever goes!

Wine decanting - Whatever goes!
Wine decanting – Whatever goes!

Freshly extracted from the barrel after Malolactic fermentation, the Pinot Noir exhibits soft notes of fresh, recently ripen bananas. Worlds apart from finished products on market shelves, with their cherry notes and subtle complexity.

For those who are curious, here is the good news. His wines will be making their way to Singapore in early 2013 at Caveau, as posted on Andrew’s twitter page.

As I finish up this note, Raymond is on his way (via Air France Business Class) to visit Andrew and Ray in Savigny for weekend fun in the vineyards.

Lucky ba***d.

About the author

Picture of Chan Wai Xin

Chan Wai Xin

Singapore based. University lecturer, wine educator, wine writer. Systematic, analytic, and at times pedantic. Mostly irreverent.

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