The Family Winemakers of Burgundy

Many of our friends and family in Burgundy are involved in the wine trade in one way or another. Burgundy is famous for its big wine houses, of course, the ones that most people have heard of like Patriarche, Champy, Louis Latour and so on. 

In my opinion though, the true lifeblood of wine production In the Côte D'Or is the small family-held Domaines.

My dear friend in France, Charlotte (who I renamed "Marie" in my book My Grape Village because our eldest daughter is also named Charlotte and two Charlottes was just too confusing for this here writer) supports her husband Marc-Olivier as he manages and runs his family wine Domaine in the picturesque village of Volnay.

I have witnessed first hand what back-breaking work it is to produce wine at a small Domaine. Unlike the corporate winemakers, the smaller winemakers have to wear many hats - vineyard labourer, marketing manager, President of Exports, accountant, Director of Vinification, salesperson, etc. etc. etc. 

However, the wine I have tasted in Burgundy which has truly surprised and floored me is almost without exception from these smaller so unexpectedly sublime and original that I have felt like dropping to my knees in worship. 

I have been privileged to taste the Domaine Buffet wine on many occasions. I remember at one dinner a few years back where we were drinking old, mostly unlabelled bottles to try to ascertain their age. I think the oldest one was estimated to be from around 1910. 

There is a personal touch, and an attention to the pure expression of terroir at Burgundy's smaller domaines that just cannot be replicated in a bigger structure that has to please a large number of global palates year after year. This is why it hurts my heart that the family domaines have been affected the most by the nasty curveballs Mother Nature has thrown at Burgundy's winemakers in the past four years. 

First there were several violent, destructive hailstorms. This year a late frost reduced many of Burgundy's grape yields in our area to 0-20% of what is normal. 

I am sending prayers up to the weather gods that the next few years will be kinder to winemakers in our little corner of France, so the family domaines can build up their stocks again and continue to perform their magic for the benefit of every wine lover. Burgundy would be so much less without them.