Wine Lovers Masterclass #4 Terroir and The Burgundy Effect

“The Burgundy Effect” is a section in Oz Clarke’s The History of Wine in 100 Bottles and describes how in the 1960s and 1970s many winemakers around the world decided to rebel against the mass market production of Cabernet Sauvignon wines. What happened can definitely be called The Burgundy Effect because the two grapes that were chosen to front the rebellion were Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Chardonnay is the white wine grape of Chablis, Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, and Pinot Noir the red wine grape of Pommard, Volnay, Gevrey Chambertin ….. The foot soldiers of this rebellion were the Americans and the Australians. Great success was had with Chardonnay, despite the over-oaking of many, and the absolute success was achieved in 1976 when a startling Chardonnay from California, Chateau Montelena grown and vinified by Bo Barrett and his father Jim Barrett beat the socks off all comers in what has become known as The Judgement of Paris. But Pinot Noir is a more difficult animal to tame, the most difficult wine in the world to grow but which is ideally suited to the “terroir” of Burgundy, especially the limestone based souls and the cool climate. The problem for other winemakers around the world was trying to replicate the flavour of Burgundian Pinot Noir without the characteristics of the Burgundian terroir! But things have moved on and San Francisco Bay, Sonoma Coast, Santa Barbara in the US, Tasmania in Australia and best of all, cool, marginal but sunny New Zealand have all succeeded in making excellent Pinot Noir. They don’t taste like Burgundy, but that’s not the point, it was their drive to follow the Burgundy terroir effect that led them to produce high quality rivals of their own.

Now, to move into the realm of a Masterclass on The Burgundy Effect I recommend the feature length documentary movie “A Year in Burgundy”:

The film follows seven wine-making families in the Burgundy region of France through the course of a full year, and delves into the cultural and creative process of making wine, as well as its deep ties to the land. What lies within the rhythm of a year, from vines to grapes to wine? The film is in four season-sections, and plays out against that backdrop: spring showers, drought, heat wave, hail and storms, harvest moons and the damp cold of winter. Each vintage is a time capsule, a bottled piece of history of a very specific year, with its particular weather pattern, its crises and its triumphs. It all goes in, whether you want it to or not, and 2011 was full of drama”. (IMDB)

Even as a regular visitor to the towns and villages shown in the film I thoroughly enjoyed it and extended my own knowledge about “terroir” and it’s effect, especially on the ubiquitous Pinot Noir grape. My commonly used phrase “it’s not about the wine“ shines through as we clearly see the strength of family, community, history and culture that goes into every bottle too. Don’t worry about the trailer comments being in French with subtitles because the main narration is in English. To see where you can download and to read more click the image:


Categories: Masterclass, Wine

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1 reply

  1. Thank you, I shall watch this.


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