The Dirt on Dirt: Seeking Out Terroir & Value in Burgundy

Spring in Nova Scotia is a favourite time of the year for all of us at Bishop’s Cellar. Temperatures begin to warm, frowns turn into smiles, and new arrivals start to hit our shelves at the shop. Over the past several years we have built an excellent relationship with famed importer Kermit Lynch; travelling to their wine shows, forging relationships with their producers, and continually offering their expansive portfolio of artisanal wine producers to Nova Scotia.  We love the wines they bring to North America for their elegance, balance and purity; wines that truly express an identity and sense of place.  

This past winter I had the incredible opportunity to join members of the Kermit Lynch team on their annual buying trip to France for a 14 day wine experience of a lifetime. Dubbed “wine camp” by our group- a colourful mix of importers, retailers and buyers from across the United States as I was the only Canadian – we travelled every wine region of France (5000 km by van); visiting over 100 wineries and tasting well over 1000 wines. From the Loire to Champagne, Alsace to Burgundy, through Beaujolais and the Rhone, down to Provence, weaving through the Languedoc and finally ending in Bordeaux – the producers of each region all spoke a singular language: “Terroir”.

Terroir

The excellent online resource, Wine Folly, defines terroir as how a particular region’s climate, soils and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of wine. Some regions are said to have more ‘terroir’ than others.”  To me terroir speaks to all aspects that contribute to a wine’s unique identity and sense of place. Think of the salty/briny characteristics that can be found in Muscadet produced near the Atlantic Ocean, mineral-laden Sauvignon Blancs from Sancerre, eucalyptus scented Cabernets from Margaret River, and on and on. We love to think of wine as the ultimate canvas to tell a story: where it’s from, its journey to the bottle, the countless decisions that were made to produce the resulting wine.

Nowhere can this be found more distinctly than Burgundy, where a wine produced using the same methods, grown just meters apart, can yield such drastically different profiles.  These differences were discovered centuries ago by Monks who worked the land and, through their tireless efforts,  identified the vineyard plots/areas and developed a division and classification that still stands today.

Finding Value on the Boundaries

Burgundy’s most challenging are the high prices that these sought-after wines demand. A string of weather challenges over the past few years have left producers with limited supply, booming demand from around the globe, and a restricted area of vineyard production – meaning prices continue to rise for wines from Burgundy. As a result, our purchasing team at Bishop’s Cellar has shifted our attention to the boundaries, or the edges, of many of the great vineyard sites. Think of it as buying a property that borders a beautiful development. You have all of the great views and you can tell your friends that you are next door to “Montrachet Heights” – but you only have to pay half price for your little slice of heaven.  To me, this is the key to exceptional value Burgundy: sourcing wines from a quality producer in a lesser known appellations/villages that borders famous vineyards.

The wines from Domaine Larue in St Aubin are the perfect example of this phenomenon. After finishing up a 9 am tasting in Chassagne Montrachet with Bruno Colin, our travelling caravan of wine merchants hopped into our vans and weaved our way through Chassagne Montrachet vineyards for a few brief moments until we arrived in the neighbouring town of St Aubin at Domaine Larue. A new addition to the Kermit Lynch portfolio, it didn’t take long to see the exceptional quality and value in the bottle as we tasted through the wines for the first time. Many of Domaine Larue’s vineyards border the famous Chassagne Montrachet vineyards that fetch exorbitant prices. These favourable vineyard sites combined with precise winemaking and a deft touch in the cellar, results in gorgeous, mineral laden Chardonnay & silky, structured Pinot Noir.

After a few quick swirls in the glass and the first mouthful of Chardonnay, the room lit up with excitement and energy. Picture a live auction with wine buyers using their hands as auction paddles & bellowing out orders as soon as the wine hit their lips. In just a few minutes every bottle of wine available had been purchased! Bishop’s Cellar was lucky enough to secure a few cases of several different wines from Domaine Larue that will arrive later this summer so be sure to keep your eye out for these exceptional wines at incredible value.

More to come

Stay tuned, as this will be the first of many posts that dig deeper into the dirt behind the wines of Kermit Lynch.