Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy (introduction)

The History, the Threats, and Why Terroir is Important   Terroir as a notion:  The notion of climate and terroir palpably began with the establishment of Clos de Bèze in 630 A.D.  And despite the countless changes of governments, laws, and ownership, the shape and size of Clos de Bèze have remained unchanged in the intervening 1384 years.  However, there were […]

Burgundy: the History of the Vignerons, Preface

by Dean Alexander The research for the series Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy led me to some very unexpected places, and that path was far longer and much more circuitous than I ever could have imagined when I first began. My trek of discovery led me to write in a “knee bone is connected to the leg bone” kind of […]

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy Part 4.5, Soil retention – the farming of Burgundy in the 1800s

Ancien Régime A historical explanation for Les Damaudes’ retention of clay   Changes in parcel division and parcel orientation While there is no specific information regarding the history of Les Damaudes prior to 1952, the cadastre map of 1827* indicates that the vineyard was planted to vine at that time and that it’s division and orientation was very different in 1827 than it […]

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy: Part 4.2 Erosion: fundamentally changing terroir

    Erosion is constantly changing the terroir of Burgundy, and in turn, it is altering the weight and character of the wines from virtually every vineyard on the Côte. How significant is erosion in Burgundy today? As mentioned in Part 4.1, a study during the late 1990’s measured the soil loss in unspecified vineyards of Vosne-Romanée to be 1 […]

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy: Part 3.3 The Upper Slopes

Shallow topsoil over hard limestone: a site of struggle As I touched on in the introduction of slope position in Part 3.2, there are significant variables effecting which vineyards can produce weightier wines further up the slope. However, as a general rule, the steep upper-slopes are far less capable of producing dense, weighty and fruit filled Burgundies that […]

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy Part 1.3: The Question of Amoureuses and Comblanchien

 by Dean Alexander And then there is the issue of Amoureuses.  Early last year, Decanter magazine published an article profiling Francoise Vannier-Petit, in which the geologist noted that the soils of Amoureuses have “only 10cm–15cm of soil above the subsoil”. It was in the context of another subject, so nothing was mentioned about the stone below, but given this lack of […]

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy: Part 1.2 Limestone: stress, deformation and fracturing

by Dean Alexander The first steps toward vineyard formation Burgundy’s story really is one of stone into the earth, and pivots on a cast of geological stress, sub-freezing temperatures, and the simple, transformative power of water. Just how the forces of nature may have acted upon the limestone and transformed it into the great wine region it is today, is […]

Understanding the Terroir of Burgundy Part 1.1 Limestone: formation

by Dean Alexander Limestone Formation and Types   As the Burgundy legend has it, it is the limestone that sets Burgundy apart, and makes the wine that comes from there so special. But what does all of this limestone really do? Does it impart flavor, as some people say, imparting a minerality, or does it […]

Winemaker Chris Howell, Cain Winery, and the Taboo Subject of Brett.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Cain Winery, and taste their wines with its longtime winemaker, Chris Howell. Chris has been at Cain for the past twenty three years, starting there as a consultant in 1990.  In the  past, I had dismissed these wines, as having muddied flavors, and rustic tannins, particularly from their […]