A Weekend in a Wine-Nerd's Paradise

It is not everyday that you get the opportunity to spend time with a winemaker, in their appellation doing their thing. Thanks to Twitter, and good ol’ Aussie/Burgundian hospitality, I was offered a free night’s stay at le gîte du Grappin – the vintage base of Andrew Nielsen (Le Grappin Wines), at Comblanchien.

(Comblanchien, a commune in Côte-d’Or)

What was to follow was a weekend of fun & amazing experience in a wine-nerd’s paradise!

I arrived in Paris (there officially for a work trip) early on Saturday morning, and made my way, via the high-speed TGV & the slower TER trains, to Beaune. From then, for 1.5 days, I was able to do & experience so many things that wine-nerds would enjoy doing. Andrew took me to examine the vineyards where his grapes come from,  e.g. Beaune 1er Cru “Boucherottes” is a plot with a form of light clay with plenty of limestone rocks, while his Savigny-les-Beaune Chardonnay are grown on whiter (more chalk) soil on a slope just above the village.
Beaune 1er Cru “Boucherottes”

Andrew showed me the brand new cuverie that he is sharing with a wine-making couple. Guillaume (German, schooled in the arts of Burgundian wine-making) and Tomoko (Japanese, extensive  wine-making experience in Germany) also run a micro-negociant: Chanterives. We visited them at their house to pick up some stuffs, and bumped into a visiting wine blogger from the USA, who was in Burgundy to check out wines.
Over the 2 days, we drove around the many villages of Cote de Beaune & Cote de Nuit, checking out the famous communes of Chassagne-Montrachet, Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanée, and the many vineyards around. The vineyards was all same but different. Same, in that we were looking at rows after rows of vines, all carrying fruit being ripened, waiting for harvest. Different, because each vineyard can be differentiated from the next, by its own unique micro-climate and soil profile, what is commonly known as “terroir“. And, of course, we went to see God’s land: Romanée-Conti.
At the Grand Cru of Romanée-Conti

In addition, I got the opportunity to taste some amazing Bourgogne rouge. In the village of Chassagne-Montrachet was a caveau that showcased many wines made in/around the village, with a decent selection for daily tasting. Andrew and I tasted through a lot of Chardonnays and some Pinot, of which 5 were 1er crus! On Saturday evening, Andrew organised to meet his fellow expat-winemaker Ray Walker (Maison Ilan), and to rendezvous with Nayan, an experienced itinerant winemaker who is in Burgundy to help Andrew in the coming vintage. Ray explained his wine-making history & philosophy, walked us through barrel samples of his 2011 wines, and told anecdotes. Ray had us do an interesting tasting of same wines from different barrels. Talk about vintage variations, there’s barrels variations too! We tasted a 1er cru and 5 grand crus, including those from Le Chambertin and Charmes-Chambertin. That was an amazing experience!
Hard at work…

The 2 days in Burgundy were marked by 2 superb meals. No, we didn’t eat at some fancy restaurant, but we had Nayan, who previously worked as a chef. Dinner on day 1 was wonderful: duck breasts cooked to perfection, roast potatoes, salad, and 2 bottles of 1er cru I had bought from the caveau at Chassagne. Lunch on day 2 featured bounty from the local farmers’ market : baby radishes were tossed together with baby carrots in a light dressing; superbly ripened and sweet tomatoes, sliced and drizzled over with olive oil and young shallots; goose rillettes made by the locals; sausage and fresh bread. No cooking required, but hearty as can be for 3 hungry men. Good food, good wines, great company with 2 wine-makers! Oh, and I was introduced to pastis… bang!
On the morning of day 2, I helped Andrew do some work in the vineyard where his pinot noir come from. We spent 3 hours going through about 16 rows of vines, cutting away the 2nd crop, and removing bunches that won’t ripen in time for vintage. The vines had put out a 2nd batch of grape bunches, and these would suck up precious resources from the vines. By removing this 2nd crop, we’re making the vines concentrate their energy into the existing ripening berries. The removal of slow-to-ripen bunches would help to prevent under-ripe tones in the resulting wines. I didn’t think the work would be hard, but it was not easy. So, when you taste the 2012 wines by Le Grappin and detect no under-ripeness, that’s my doing! 😉
After 2 wonderful days of doing less-than-touristy things in Burgundy, I made my way back to Paris. As I sat in the train, rushing away from the countryside, I look back fondly on the experiences I had thoroughly enjoyed over the past 2 days. And, I’m sure I’ll be back, perhaps with a couple of #SgWine dudes to help Andrew with 2013 vintage for Le Grappin!
Special thanks to:
– Andrew (@legrappin) for his fantastic hospitality and generosity,
– Nayan (@vinosity) for the food enjoy & for sharing about his experiences
– Ray (@maisonILAN) for the really enjoyable tasting

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