Travelling to the soul of wines


Vineyard tasks on the estate in spring

Blind champions

Travelling to the soul of wines

The New York Wine Experience

The harvest of hope

“Le vin est la plus saine et la plus hygiénique des boissons” Louis Pasteur

As Pepe Raventós always says, travelling helps you open your mind and gives you a different perspective about everything in life. Trips to Burgundy, Barolo, Champagne…, you see how things have been done well, and you gain a better understanding of the real path.

We travel, we learn and we realize that we have a thousand-year old history; we have the original Mediterranean viticulture climate; native varieties; a 150-year-old method. If we link this with a harvest respectful of its origin, we find this is where we can best do biodynamic viticulture, because it is where the vine is best adapted, in a natural way.

In order to keep the momentum going and because of our relentless desire to constantly assimilate, and because, after all, the purpose of life is to keep on learning, we arrived in Burgundy through Macon, passing through the roads of the Côte de Beaune and probably treading on the most prestigious vineyard in the world: the Romanee-Conti.

We entered the French region of the Jura, bordering Switzerland, in the small town of Pupullin – the authentic world capital of Poulsard – where there are 1,850 hectares of vineyard on mostly clay soils.

There, as it could not be otherwise, we will visit Pierre Overnoy. Because the best place to understand and taste the wines of a particular area is “in situ” and from the hand of a master. There are many reasons why he is one of the most highly respected people in the world of wine. Since 1968 he has been in charge of the family winery where, in just over two and a half hectares, he makes wine without using chemicals, neither in the vineyard nor in the wine. He claims to have retired in 2001, but it does not seem like it to us!

When we arrived at his home the first question we asked him was how he defines natural wine. And he surprised us with his answer by replacing the word wine for honey and vine for bees. Pierre speaks slowly and quietly, and we were all ears.

We leave you with a magnificent parallelism made in Pierre Overnoy to define the concept of natural wine: “Natural honey” is one that has no chemicals. But for there to be no chemicals in the “honey”, the “bees” have to be in a good condition to produce healthy “honey”.

Chemistry is good medicine. And medicine is for sick people, not for those who are in good health. We need to get “honey” in good condition and therefore the “bees” must be in good health. Neither the “bees” nor the surrounding flora must receive chemical herbicides.

Isn’t that great? In fact, he is a great connoisseur of the cause. Pierre, now retired from the wine yeasts, spends his time producing honey and bread. And he does it to merge with nature, to understand and collaborate with it through food. He revives tradition, history, culture, life and wine.

We had the great fortune to meet Emmanuel Houillon, his adopted son who is now in charge of the vineyard and the winery. They seemed to be two kindred spirits, only differing in age. They surprised us with a wonderful tasting, in their maison where we had the privilege of tasting natural wines from the last 40 years that he keeps in his cellar: Chardonnay 1990, 1997 and 2002; Savagnin vins Jaune 1985, 1988 and 1989; Savagnin ouille 1988 and 1989; Vieux Savagnin ouille 2000 and Poulsard 1976, 1990, 2009 and 2017.

And others that we didn’t manage to write down! The evolution of some unique wines where intervention does more harm than good is incredible. In the Jura, less is more! While we were finishing our tasting and dinner, Pierre was preparing the mother culture to make bread; our visit fell on a Thursday, and every Thursday he makes bread for the villagers.

Continuing our journey of learning we went towards Sicily, to the valley north of the still active Etna volcano, to visit a great friend, Frank Cornellissen. We love their biodynamic philosophy which says that man can never understand the complexity and interactions of nature, that is why they merely observe it and follow its guidelines. While we were tasting some of their reference wines, we could not stop listening and thinking at the same time, how we how we admire and share this work philosophy!

Making the most of being in Italy, we decided to visit the Piemonte, located at the foot of the Alps; it is one of the regions that hosts the most important wines of Italy and the world. In fact, this is where the name comes from: Piemonte: “Foot of the Mountain”. It is a region of mountains, lakes, hazelnuts, white truffles, good wine and it’s very cold, so much so that everything was covered in snow!

Their most important designations of origin are Barolo and Barbaresco, and their variety par excellence, Nebbiolo. Getting to know this region would mean getting lost in its villages, located on small hills as if they were vigilantes. The Barolo landscape is unique and these villages with their vineyards are its essence. Did you know that the price of Barolo grapes is about 5 € / kg? And that their wine must be aged for a minimum of 36 months? It’s a fascinating DO!

Visiting winemakers such as Bartolo Mascarello –who works about 5 hectares of vines with elegance and finesse–, Giuseppe Mascarello –who crafts all his wines as “single variety”– and Ceretto –who works organically and biodynamically. They helped us discover the Barolo wines from the area, to create our own mental pattern about Nebbiolo and Barbera and to be inspired with the crafting of a delicate, long and fresh Sumoll.

They are all local wines and have a high ageing potential where, probably, the key is the origin and finding the right balance of tannins. We were surprised by how each winery we visited gave us an explanation of the features of the area with the same map, and characteristics of the area of each plot. So, we knew that when we drank a Nebbiolo from the Barolo region, from the town of Castiglione Falleto and from the Perno plot, we were drinking origin.

We filled our suitcase with bread, honey, wine and above all a great experience and great friends.

We must keep travelling!

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