The Great Southern and Burgundy - United by fine wine
Pinot Noir vines were first observed in Burgundy two thousand years ago. The region is the originator and still the exemplar of this fascinating grape. Chardonnay has found a happy home there for many centuries. The allure of these noble varieties has seen them colonise the winegrowing world and thrive in Western Australia’s remote Great Southern region, over 14,000km away, where the first grapevines were planted in 1965.
The Great Southern, Western Australia
The Great Southern wine region is Australia’s largest delineated wine region by area, stretching nearly 200 kilometres both North to South and East to West along the isolated South Coast of Western Australia. Only a very small portion of this larger area is planted to grapevines, with the remainder occupied by forest or farmland which is unsuitable for viticulture. To bring some vinous focus to its vast remoteness, the five main wine producing areas have been officially classified into named subregions.
For the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines by Marchand & Burch, the Mount Barker and Porongurup subregions are of primary importance. These two adjacent areas stretch west to east and are 40 kilometres to the north of the Southern Ocean, with a cool maritime climate that is strongly influenced by the inland movement of cold ocean air. This moderates the temperature during the growing season to allow for longer ripening and the development of complex flavour profiles which then translate from grape to wine.
The vineyards in both these subregions lie above some of the world's oldest recorded geology, and imposing granite outcrops are a signature feature. With very little soil disturbance or erosion over many centuries even the soil material itself is highly distinctive. This striking contrast with Burgundy was particularly meaningful and exciting for Pascal Marchand and he convinced Jeff to focus their collaborative energy on these vineyards in the pursuit of an ultimate expression of “New World” terroir.
Burgundy, or Bourgogne to the French is a foundation stone of the world of fine wine, producing inimitable examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, varieties born of and inseparable from its historic wine landscape. It is the birthplace of the unique and abiding concept of terroir, the notion that fine wine can bear the distinctive imprint of its originating place, with the winemaker a conduit for the careful translation of soil, season and vine into an authentic sensory experience in the glass.
The region itself occupies a compact strip of Eastern France where favourable areas, characterised by limestone soils, are completely covered with vines, their dominance yielding only to a network of small, ancient villages which carry some of the most famous names in the world of wine. The climate is continental and highly variable with a relatively short summer. Vineyards are vulnerable to frost and hail and vignerons are constantly challenged by the vagaries of nature when growing and ripening their fruit.
The heart of Burgundy is the Côte d’Or; this “golden slope” of prized land is only two kilometres wide and stretches 40 kilometres from Dijon in the North to the River Dheune in the South. Its mosaic of vineyards has been completely classified into a hierarchy of quality over centuries by monks, farmers, family Domaines and Negociant wine producers. All the Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines of Marchand and Burch are from vineyards within its limits, and particularly the northern section, the Côte de Nuits, which is dominated by plantings of Pinot Noir.