Hermann Buring and Australian Wine Making
One of the most respected names in Australian winemaking. One branch, through T.C. Hermann Buring, in partnership with Carl Sobels, established the ‘Quelltaler’ establishment, south of Clare, in the South Australian Clare-Watervale region. The word ‘Quelltaler’ may be roughly translated as ‘Springvale’. The company make respected white wines and are proud, according to the authority, Len Evans, that it was one of their wines that was the first Australian wine to be served at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, at London’s Guildhall.
A cousin of this branch, Leo Buring, started a distinguished career in wine at Australia’s Roseworthy College, going on to Geisenheim in Germany and Montpeller in France. His first commercial success was with a rather sweet white wine, ‘Rinegolde’, made near Sydney. In 1945, he bought and rehabilitated a vineyard and winery in the Barossa Valley, which was to become known as Chateau Leonay (sic), although Leo Buring died in 1961 before the work was finished. The winery is now a large-scale producer, owned by Lindeman’s Wines since 1962. Burgundy Region in the east of France where wine has been made since at least 600 b.c. It includes Chablis, the Cote d’Or and southern Burgundy – the Cote Chalonnaise and the Maconnais. Some wine lists put Beaujolais in with Burgundy, but as the grape is different and as the different wines of the Beaujolais deserve separate appraisal in their own right, the trend now is to keep Burgundy and Beaujolais apart. The English-speaking countries tended to be late in getting to know the wines of Burgundy, both because the Dukes of Burgundy were the allies of the Kings of France and because for three centuries the English crown had domination over the Bordeaux region. But nowadays Burgundy is enormously popular, the drawbacks to its world-wide fame being that there is never enough to satisfy demand (the area is small compared to Bordeaux), so prices are very high.
The majority of the public have a totally erroneous idea of what fine Burgundy, red or white, is really like when genuine. The whites are dry – Chablis very much dryer than the average drinker sincerely enjoys – with great delicacy and, often, fullness of body. The reds should be elegantly fragrant, with a velvety, balanced flavour. Too often the public get the impression that white Burgundy is just ‘light and dry’, the reds ‘big and full’. There are commercial Burgundies of this type but even if, nowadays, their souped-up style owes nothing to their being ‘stretched’ with fatter southern wines; they are poor, untypical and commercialised examples of one of the world’s greatest red wines. The naming of the wines also presents some difficulty to those who know little and care less about the subject.
The Pinot Noir is the only grape used for the finest red wines. The Chardonnay and the Pinot Blanc are used for the finest whites, and the Aligote’ for white wines of everyday character. Bourgogne-Passe-Tout-Grains is the name that must be used for wines in which the Pinot Noir and the Gamay (the grape of the Beaujolais) are mixed, at least one-third being Pinot Noir. Because of its northerly situation, the wines of the Burgundy vineyard are helped in their fermentation by the addition of some sugar to the must, according to the chaptalisation process. The sugaring is strictly controlled but, as sugar can mask imperfections in a wine, a possibly indifferent red Burgundy can be made almost too ‘rich and velvety’. True red Burgundy should be a fragrant but fresh supple wine, never assertive or treacly. However the ‘real thing’ can never be cheap, because of the demand and because the vineyards are small.
Burgundy vineyards are not like other big wine estates. They are much smaller and each vineyard within its named parish may be divided up into different sites or climats each with its own name. The situation is complicated still further by the fact that each site may have several different owners and there will certainly be many different owners in each vineyard. As each of these owners will gather the grapes and make the wine from their particular ‘patch’ (for the areas concerned are really more like market gardens or even allotments in size), there will be a corresponding variation between the products of all those who are concerned with making the wine, even though it bears the one name, even in the same vintage. Even when someone does own the whole site, unless the owner bottles all his own wine, variations will occur (as with wines made in other parts of Burgundy) when the various shippers buy and handle the wine. If the wine is not bottled on the spot, then even more variations may occur when it is bottled by those who buy and bottle it in export marketing. This need not essentially affect the quality of the wine, although it does explain why it is of the greatest importance to know the name of the shipper, and also the source of supply if this is not the same. The wine of company A will be different, however slightly, from that of company B; even when the wine name is the same and the vintage the same. Both wines can be good, but they will be different. This is why those who are interested in wine like to see the name of the shippers in the Burgundy section of a wine list – they will, in the course of gaining experience, have come to form personal preferences about the style of wine made by Company X as against that made by Company Y. It also explains why prices can vary so much, because one establishment may have very high standards about the way they handle their wines, another be not so conscientious. Because of the smallness of the vineyards, too, buyers of the wines usually pick cask by cask when selecting their purchases. Growers’ wines and those that are domaine bottled are another – and special – category, usually expensive.
The way in which Burgundies are named is rather complex, but in general the fine wines, named alone, are superior to those which add on the name of the village to the name of the fine vineyards. For example, Le Musigny and Le Corton are great vineyards, and wines simply bearing their names will be superior to those labelled Chambolle-Musigny and Aloxe-Corton. There are also vineyards which are allowed to add their names on to the name of the great vineyard of the area. For example, Charmes-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanee; and among the white wines, Puiigny-Montrachet and Aloxe-Corton. But, just to complicate the issue still further, the white Corton-Charlemagne is superior to the white Corton. (The whole question of Burgundy site names, place names and A.O.C.s is one that can only adequately be dealt with at length: see Bibliography.) All this will have shown why the person who says ‘I don’t know anything about wine, but I like Nuits-St-Georges’, has given himself away as definitely knowing nothing at all about wine!
In addition to the vineyards with their own Appellations Controlies, which are shown in detailed maps of the Burgundy region, there are also many fine vineyards which merely use the words Premier cm, plus the name of the relevant village, on their labels. This is for the very good reason that to have a more detailed nomenclature would increase their tax rating.
The Cote d’Or. which runs from Dijon to just south of Beaune, is divided into the Cote de Nuits. and the Cote de Beaune. The Cote de Nuits, so called because of Nuits-St-Georges being the chief town, is famous for its red wines which are among the greatest in the world. A very little white is also made there. The rose wine of Marsannay-la-Cote, made solely from the Pinot Noir, is an outstanding example of a pink wine. The Cote de Beaune makes some very fine red wines and the finest white Burgundies of all. with the sole exception of Chablis, which is north-west of the main Burgundy region, and which makes white wines only. The Cote Chalonnaise and the Maconnais produce both red and white wines, of which the Maconnais makes slightlv more white than red, and Cote Chalonnaise about three-quarters red. Extensions of the Cote d’Or vineyard planting now include the Haute Cotes and the ‘Villages’ A.O.C. wines. They enable the budget-conscious drinker to afford Burgundy.
Red and white Burgundies tend to mature more quickly than the great red Bordeaux, although there are also notable exceptions. It is not usual in France to decant the great red Burgundies, although drinkers elsewhere can do as they wish if the wine has thrown a deposit. The use of coupes monstres (gigantic glasses holding a bottle or more each) for fine Burgundy is also something often encountered in France, and in the type of chi-chi restaurant elsewhere that caters for the sort of customers who ‘drink the labels’. But this is disliked by most serious lovers of wine, as the exaggerated aeration of the wine can distort its whole character. Red Burgundy that is balanced, with the elegance that this fine wine should possess, is at its best in a thin, clear, tulip or goblet-shaped glass of fair size – as is any good wine.
Some people believe that red Burgundy is ‘stronger’ than other red wines. Because of the way it is made, it may certainly be a degree or a degree and a half higher in alcoholic strength than, say. some clarets, but I should be surprised to hear that this affects the drinker to any marked extent. What most critics mean by ‘stronger’ is that the beautiful smell of Burgundy gives an impression of importance (a souped-up commercial Burgundy will caricature this) and they therefore assume that this wine, ‘big’ in character, is going to make demands on the consumer. Of course it does – a great wine is obviously going to make more of an impression and possibly exercise the senses and mind more than a commonplace wine. But this doesn’t mean the wine is ‘stronger’.
As for the arguments about the merits of red Burgundy against claret, these are likely to go on until the end of time – praise be! I would merely suggest that, in my opinion, the appeal of most fine claret is cerebral, that of the fine red Burgundies to the senses. Red Burgundy needs to be enjoyed in the context of a meal; claret can be magnificent with only bread, butter and cheese (of the best quality, of course). It is perhaps fairer to say that most drinkers
begin by loving red Burgundy – which makes an immediate appeal and, as has been said, to the senses – and possibly come later to the appreciation of claret when experience has been gained and they are prepared to use their minds on a wine. But there can be little argument about the magnificence of white Burgundy – it is, to many, the world’s most all-purpose wine, because certain examples are of sufficient weight and body to accompany meat, even game, as well as all types of fish, shellfish and Crustacea and, as far as the subtler wines are concerned, to be as much of a delight to explore as the red wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux put together! but the great white Burgundies from the Cote de Beaune and Chablis are rare and wonderful experiences to drink – and one has to pay for them. Care should always be taken never to over chill such wines and lose the beautiful, complex bouquet that many reveal. They are, additionally, difficult to know and, at least for me, almost the most taxing wines of all to taste, because of their delicacy and complexity. The white wines from the southern part of the region are more straightforward and possibly easier to appraise.