Photo by delphaber/Flickr CC
For the wine enthusiast, a trip to Burgundy can change everything. It's arguably the most revered of French wine regions and, also arguably, the most picturesque. It certainly was a game-changer for me. I set foot on hallowed Montrachet Premier Cru ground; I explored the labyrinthine cellar of Maison de Champy, with its dusty bottles, some a century old, with the gruff winemaker Dimitri Bazas (who spent much of my visit berating Americans for such crimes as infanticide: drinking wines too young). All fun. But what changed the game was tasting my first natural wines.
These wines--at times sparkling with the funk of fermentation, always redolent of the earth in which their grapes were grown--tasted like nothing I'd ever had. They were alive, literally. And, more than any wine I'd ever drunk, they communicated that most elusive of wine terms: terroir.
My first brush came at Eric de Suremain's biodynamic winery. His elegant, expressive wines were made, in some cases, from grapes he stomped with his feet. His Rully Blanc 1er Cru had a savory, mineral, almost briny quality that stood out from the fruit-and-flower-noted wines I'd had in the region.
Soon after, I was introduced to Alain & Julien Guillot, a father-son team that makes funky wines in a ramshackle house in Macon-Cruzille (not to be confused with a Guillot cousin who also makes natural wine down the road). Julien showed me their 150-year-old press--now defunct, but only as of the 2007 vintage--as he explained that his family went natural because his grandfather was "allergic" to sulfites.