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Masterclass: Terroirs of Burgundy with Maison Albert Bichot

Thursday 11th July 2019

Presented by Delphine de la Fouchardière

The Oxford Wine Company Shop, 6 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DQ

For many of us the utterance of 'Burgundy' or 'Bourgogne' will make our knees quiver, some with delight and others with fear for the price tag. Fret no more! An evening with Delphine de la Fouchardière of Maison Albert Bichot will fill your heart with nothing but joy for the delicate attention to detail of these beautifully crafted wines. So, on Thursday 11th July, our enthusiastic tasters gathered for a night not easily forgotten...

Burgundy is one of the oldest, most highly esteemed and most expensive wine producing regions in the world and Maison Albert Bichot have contributed to that legacy. The family settled in Burgundy in 1350 (coming originally from Italy) and in 1831 turned their attention to the wine trade. Delphine has worked with this family for over thirteen years and talks warmly of how she has witnessed great progression during that time. Real care has been taken to understand all aspects of the craft of winemaking and as an example of this, the family practices sustainable viticulture and are close to completing the conversion of all their vineyards to organic.

Delphine welcomed us all to this evening of wine tasting with grace and style, explaining that the wines being poured tonight were new releases; an excellent opportunity for us all at The Oxford Wine Company to collate some worthy customer feedback before deciding which wines should become members of our catalogue.

"Shades of different expression", a phrase that glided from Delphine's lips on several occasions throughout the evening, highlights the family's obsession with communicating their culture, soil, climate, history and the personality of their wines. These elements come together to create the concept of terroir. Of course, the wines of Burgundy are made almost exclusively from just two grape varieties - Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites (as always there are some exceptions - Gamay and Aligote being two of them) so the identity of a wine is essential. Can you taste the different terroir? This is the craft of Maison Albert Bichot.

The first pour of the evening was Chablis Premier Cru Lys, Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2017. A classic Chablis with that recognisable zippy acidity, crystalline minerality, a saline character, lemon pith and melon fruit flavours. Great length and texture from the use of bâtonnage (lees stirring) with good aging potential. The vineyards in Long-Depaquit are of particular interest because Albert Bichot purchased them in the 70's and are only the third owner of these parcels since medieval times!

Next, Saint-Romain Blanc, 2017. A fatter, richer wine with aromas of white blossom, ripe yellow fruits, cooked pineapple, subtle vanilla and limestone minerality on the finish; smooth and buttery on the palate with balancing acidity and delicate tannin. 15% of the wine sees new oak which encourages these fuller characteristics. Many peaceful smiles took residence upon the attentive faces of our appreciative guests.

Our minds now fully captured by the individuality of the wines tasted and our feet firmly feeling for the soils of Burgundy we moved onto wine number three, which I know had caused much excitement amongst the crowd. Chateau Gris, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Terrasses, Monopole, 2017; a white Nuits-Saint-George! The room was spellbound by the elegance and complexity of this wine. On the nose aromas of melon, apricot, pineapple, gentle aniseed, coriander seed and nutmeg and on the palate bright acidity, pineapple, some delicate tannin which rounded the textures; a little white pepper and dancing acidity on the finish. This wine is only made in small quantities, on average 3000 bottles per year. Keep a look out for its arrival onto The OWC shelves!

Maison Albert Bichot own approximately 100 hectares of vines and also work closely with a handful of growers. They produce over 100 different wines from the most famous villages in Burgundy. While the main house of Bichot is situated in Beaune they also have châteaux in each of their production regions so that the fruit can be fermented and aged as close as possible to where it was grown.

Our fourth wine of the evening was a light, elegant Mersault Rouge from Domaine de Pavillon, 2017. This wines sees 20% new oak and had distinct aromas of cherry clafoutis! The grapes are cold soaked pre fermentation and receive no pump over to allow the true expression of the fruit to shine. There is, unsurprisingly, very small production of red wines from Mersault, this appellation being famous for its production of some of the most exquisite and expensive white Burgundies on the market.

The two final wines; Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Evocelles, 2017 and Chambolle-Musigny, 2016. Exceptional wines! The Gevrey-Chambertin was a real classic with strawberry and cooked cherry aromas, cooked mushroom and meadowsweet, followed by a silky yet structured palate with a real crescendo of warm, popping tannins and a flinty minerality. The Chambolle-Musigny slightly deeper and dustier with wild strawberry, warm soil, chestnut mushroom, liquorice and cooked pastry. Delphine put the question to the room, 'which do we prefer?' and the divide shone equal for each wine but it was agreed that though utterly delicious now, both would benefit from some more time in the bottle, with aging capabilities of five years and more.

An enchanting evening with the most sophisticated and knowledgeable host. The room applauded before settling to finish their wines and discuss each amongst the table, agreeing on one thing collectively: that the distinct individuality of each wine shone through, delicately communicating their unique terroir.

The Oxford Wine Company has been great supporters of Maison Albert Bichot for a time now and a few of the discussed wines will be appearing on our shelves in the near future (I slipped you a little preview with the Chateau Gris!) but we do already stock some beautiful and very affordable wines from Bichot. So don't be shy! Pop along to one of our shops and rediscover the pleasures of great Burgundian winemaking!