When you think of Burgundy, it’s most likely that your mind jumps to the hallowed grounds of the Côte d’Or, or you may also dream of the delightful, linear expressions of Chardonnay found in Chablis. Nestled geographically next to Chablis, yet contextually closer to the Côte d’Or, you find the vineyards of the Côtes d’Auxerre — home not only to Chardonnay, but also to Pinot Noir, Aligoté and Sauvignon Blanc. It is a unique little jewel of an area, which we’ve been excited to explore further in recent years.
Here, the Goisot family have been tending their vineyards for generations. Their life and work revolved around family, compassion, community and plant-friendly farming. And luckily for us, the wines that are born from their efforts are some of the most compelling wines we’ve had from this part of the world; bottles of purity and transparency.
People: Guilhem and Marie Goisot, and Guilhem's parents Jean-Hugues and Ghislaine
Place: Northern Burgundy — they produce wine from the appellations of Bourgogne, Côtes d'Auxerre, Chablis, Irancy and Saint-Bris
Varieties: Chardonnay, Aligoté, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir
Did You Know? The Goisot family works with their own massal selection (the process whereby a vineyard is planted via propagating the plant material of several mother plants, as opposed to a single clone, thereby preserving genetic heritage). Their current key focus is tagging and mapping certain vines that seem to deal with climatic hurdles better, as well as those which don’t. By ensuring that they reproduce diverse vines that have collective health, they will hopefully ensure that next generations are protected from the difficulties that the future might throw at them — whether disease or climatic.
Guilhem was fortunate to learn from biodynamic specialist Pierre Masson. Together with him and a fellow group of students, they visited several biodynamic growers in Burgundy. He says,
“Pierre would show us the difference in the structure of the soils of the biodynamic growers to their conventional neighbours. It wasn’t to say that the neighbours were doing it wrong — not at all — but rather it was to simply demonstrate how different they were. Then, we’d discuss what we thought about them, and which one inspired us.”
The biodynamic soils were full of life, spongy and light. It was enough to convince Guilhem to start trials in 1999. He learnt how to work with a horse, and he started biodynamics on certain plots — to see how it affected certain soil types and their four varieties (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Aligoté and Pinot Noir). He decided to continue simply treating some plots organically next to the biodynamically treated ones, in order to be able to compare. He noticed a stark difference, saying,
“The most visual change was how the 501 (the biodynamic preparation of silica, which enhances the effect of sunlight) affected the orientation and shape of the foliage. Usually, the foliage grows very vertically, but after the silica, the foliage became wider and more aerated, allowing for better air flow. Plus, the 500 (concentrated manure) made a big difference in the soils. Before, it was difficult to pass through the vineyards after it had rained, because there’s a lot of clay. But since applying 500, the soils have become spongier, so the water drains into the soil better. It’s like the 500 reorganises the hummus and the clay in the soil and permits it to better function. Then, it creates a water reservoir in the soils, and the water circulates better.”
He also notes that the grapes are more homogenous when it comes to harvest time: