Burgundy: A sommelier’s trip to France

This month I want to take you to France with Catherine Guo, a Japanese sommelier living in Vietnam who just spent a month there visiting some of the country’s most charismatic wineries. She spent three weeks in just Burgundy visiting almost 60 wineries.

Catherine has always been passionate about wine and recently graduated from the Court of Master Sommeliers last year in California. According to Catherine, perhaps the most remarkable characteristic about Burgundy, apart from the excellent wines they produce of course, is the people. Almost every single winery is a family-owned business and, for most people in the area, life is just about great wine and friendship. These traits are reflected by how welcoming they are with visitors to their cellars and on how much care they put into their land. Generation after generation of vintners, most of whom have just a small plot of land to grow grapes, have adopted biodynamic techniques in making wine to minimize any damages to nature and the environment.


The principal grapes grown in Burgundy are chardonnay (for white wines) and pinot noir (for red wines), however other grapes like gamay noir, aligote, sauvignon blanc, cesar, melon or tressot are also being grown in small quantities, and generally used to add complexity to the wines.
Geographically, Burgundy is situated between Dijon in the north and Lyon in the south, covering part of the geographic areas of Cote d’Or, Saône-et-Loire, Rhone and Yonne, leading to a great diversity and variety in its wines.
For Catherine, a pinot noir fan, the highlight of the trip was discovering the best pinot noirs: delicate, complex and very characteristic, which cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world; plus realizing that until you try a pre-2000 pinot, you haven’t really discovered what these wines have to offer. Catherine was also surprised by the large number of women making wine in the area, a profession that was historically dominated by men.


So what Burgundy wines can you try in Vietnam? Plenty! Let’s start with the most popular Chablis, ideally paired with many seafood-based Vietnamese dishes, or even raw oysters. If you are looking for something different, perhaps more complex, try some of the wonderful white wines of Ruly or from Macon Villages or, even better, Volnay.
Burgundy is perhaps the most terroir- oriented region of France: it has over 400 different types of soil, which results in different but amazing wines, even in neighboring vineyards.
What I’m drinking this month: Reserve de Vaudon 2011 from Joseph Drouhin. This wonderful Chablis offers a right gold color, full of life. The nose is smooth, bringing lemons, and a light scent of mangoes and nutmeg. The palate is soft with medium to long length, bringing lemons and a touch of vanilla, and rather flowery. Nice and a bit acidic at the end making it an ideal pair with prawn salad, steamed prawns, fish, oysters and seafood in general. Available from the Wine Warehouse.

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