The rolling hills of Burgundy’s Mâconnais region are particularly celebrated for vibrant Chardonnay, but there are also excellent Pinot Noir and Gamay vineyards here; some of which are home to treasured old vines. In comparison to the Côte d’Or, it’s generally a little more rural here — vineyards are bordered by herd of goats — and although you’re an hour further south, the additional elevation in some areas means freshness is harnessed.
One of the winemakers who found himself enamoured by this microclimate is Peter Gierszewski, of Domaine de Thalie. Previously a chemistry student turned wine merchant, when the opportunity arose to delve in headfirst to the world of farming and winemaking, there was no turning back.
People: Peter Gierszewski
Place: Mâcon, Burgundy
Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Syrah
Farming: Biodynamic with aspects of geobiology
Did You Know? Peter works with petit-lait (whey) in his sprays to combat powdery mildew, sourced locally as a waste product from goat farmers.
The diverse landscape of Mâcon — Peter describes some of the vineyards as rather wild — enables him to ensure his vineyards thrive, given an extra helping hand by his practice of biodynamic methods. He also did an internship in the subject of emerging area of geobiology in the Auvergne. This field of work studies the interactions of electromagnetic forces with living beings. He says,
“It’s a way of listening to the living.”
He says it’s sometimes unfairly dismissed as witchcraft, and we find ourselves nodding — but out of frustration (we don’t think it’s witchcraft, either). That’s the thing with biodynamics, too — people may dismiss it as esoteric, but ultimately, if the person using it finds it beneficial to their vineyards, isn’t that the most important thing? We ask him how he, as a scientist, responds to people who are sceptical of biodynamics. He pauses, thinking.
“Not everything can be explained, but the truth is… it works. Some things we can show through studies — such as the acid / alkaline of certain teas, which can help the vine to fight against disease. But we can also see it from the structure of our soil. When people doubt it, I just say, come and see the vines. That’s the best way to show people, and to convince them. You can simply see the difference in the soils, and in the wines.”
And with regards to geobiology?
“Geobiology is quite esoteric, but it’s also something we’ve used for thousands of years to construct churches and houses — and to communicate. Some things are just hard to prove. We’re in a period of time where we’ve forgotten to listen. We’re not listening or using our senses. We need to open our eyes.”
It’s this return to using our senses that inspires Peter; he uses local plants, such as...