Unknown Legends of Bourgogne
And a few who might become household names for Burgundy fans. Here's Issue 7.
My late dear friend Josh Adler of Paris Wine Company used to do a funny impression of the archetypal Burgundy vigneron solicited by a new client. It involved covering his head with both arms and crouching under a desk like a tornado drill.
So established is the global demand for Burgundy - and so inconsistent are the harvest volumes - that the region can feel a little unwelcoming to anyone just beginning to explore it professionally, as we were in the early 2010s.
Issue 7 of the NOT DRINKING POISON newsletter is dedicated to the friends that have made me feel at home in Burgundy over the years.
One of them, Jon Purcell of Vin Noé, recently recovered the vineyards and cellar of retiring Saint Aubin vigneron Jean-Jacques Morel, whose peculiar career as a regional pioneer of no-till organic farming inspired this issue’s title:
UNKNOWN LEGENDS OF BOURGOGNE
“Unknown” is sort of hyperbole when it comes to stories from a well-examined place like Burgundy. But Morel’s story is only beginning to find its audience.
An intuitive, Fukuoka-inspired farmer and winemaker, his no-till, low-yield farming stood, for years, in stark contrast to the regional norms of highly professionalized, yields-focused agriculture. Even among Morel’s peers in early organics and biodynamics circles, there is no agreement about the wisdom of his approach, which may appear viable only on a tiny scale, when paired with a separate revenue stream. (One neighbor, a committed tractoriste, described Morel’s farming as “shocking.”)
But Morel’s work represents an interesting paradigm, at a time when frosts, dry spells, and mildew attacks are posing unmistakeable challenges to traditional organics and biodynamics amid Burgundy’s vineyard monoculture. And the results of his low-yield, no-till farming, his unsulfited vinification, and his patient élevage just leap from the glass, when you can find his wines. (His final vintage was 2019, but the wines are still out there.)
Inside Issue 7, you’ll find, along with an interview with JEAN-JACQUES MOREL:
A PROFILE and INTERVIEW of JON PURCELL of VIN NOE, Morel’s Californian successor and one of the most talented young vignerons of Burgundy.
An INTERVIEW with PEPITA DEL ROSARIO on the future of her Beaune natural wine institution LE COMPTOIR DES TONTONS. (Rest in peace, Richard.) (No paywall.)
An annotated PHOTO ESSAY by myself and photographer JADE QUINTIN depicting a BIODYNAMIC SPRAY TREATMENT with JULIEN ALTABER at DOMAINE DERAIN. (No paywall.)
A PROFILE of DOMAINE DIDON in the Côte Châlonnaise, where biodynamics veterans David and Naïma Didon explain how to employ JUMPER CABLES on a tank of wine.
A CELLAR VISIT with the dashing Volnay-based natural wine négociant BASTIAN WOLBER, a Bizot alum turning his skills to grape purchases from BADEN and BEYOND.
An INTERVIEW with SVANTE FORSTORP and LAILA AOUBA, chefs of enchanting Savigny natural wine bistrot LE SOLEIL, on their radical move towards a plastic-free kitchen. (No paywall.)
A GUEST RECIPE of ASPARAGUS, LABNEH, & BOTTARGA from the aforementioned thoughtful Moroccan-born chef LAILA AOUBA.
A FEATURE on the astounding new WILD ALES of Nuits natural wine négociant ORONCE DE BELER aka LA MAISON ROMANE.
A STROLL in the vineyards of DOMAINE DE LA COTELETTE, where wine dealer and ambient musician BENOIT KILIAN is reviving the former estate of VAL DE SAÔNE natural wine trailblazer GUY BUSSIERE.
I couldn’t stop there, so expect an Issue 7.5 on a similar theme sometime in the coming weeks. Burgundy lately is a dynamic place, home to a generous and mutually supportive circle of expats from many corners of the world.So many legends! So little time!
I’ve also updated my list of SPRING-SUMMER 2022 NATURAL WINE SALONS several times since its initial release, so be sure to check back there. (No paywall.) It includes a correction to the date of H2O Vegetal, which I initially got wrong by a month. Ho sento amics meus! 😳
Now I’m off on a short trip to Copenhagen, for no good reason. Many thanks for reading, as always! Here’s to a season without hail! And peace in Europe, the end of herbicides, affordable home ownership, etc.
The BIVB (Bourgogne Wine Board) announced last year it would cease to employ translations of the region’s name, in an effort to promote coherence across international markets. They didn’t mention search engine optimization in their press-release, but it would seem to be the motivation for the initiative. I have no feelings either way about the issue, employing both “Bourgogne” and “Burgundy.” I chose the former here because I liked the sonics of “Bourgogne” with “unknown.”
With a particular shoutout to my friend the négociant Chris Santini, who I first met through Adler, and whose uninsulated cellar in Auxey was for many years the crucial incubator of this influential scene. Santini kept a low profile in 2020 and 2021, taking a partial break from winemaking, but he’s back in the saddle as of 2022. Keep an eye out for his story in the next issue.