Experts + Insiders:
Who better to explain the grapes of Burgundy than a native Australian?
Don’t let the accent fool you: while Jane Eyre-Renard may not have been born among Burgundy’s vines, her pedigree is beyond reproach. The confessed Pinot Noir obsessive with nine years under her belt at the esteemed Domaine Newman took time to chat with The Slow Road about the harvest process, the unique appeal of Burgundy and the grape to which she’s so devoted.
The Slow Road: After working in a wine store in Australia—a country that’s no stranger to the wine industry—you originally moved to Burgundy to participate in the harvest and learn more about the industry. Of all the world’s great wine regions, why did you choose Burgundy?
Jane: When I first became interested in wine I decided to do a harvest in Europe to see if I actually liked the work before enrolling in a university degree. I didn’t know anything and it just happened that a friend had contacts in Burgundy. That was back in ‘98. I had a great time and came back every year since then for harvest before moving here permanently in 2004.
Can you take us through the harvest process at Domaine Newman?
Domaine Newman consists of six hectares ranging from Village, 1er cru to Grand Cru vineyards. Chris Newman is very particular about the quality of the fruit, which means small yields in the vineyards and everything is picked by hand to ensure that only the best quality fruit makes it into the winery. It takes around 25 people six days to pick the vineyards. Chris, myself and a couple of cellar hands work in the winery and we also have a vineyard manager who oversees the team during harvest, making sure they don’t accidently pick the neighbours grapes (it happens!!). There is one small vineyard of Chardonnay and the rest are Pinot Noir.
How does the harvest in Burgundy differ from other wine regions in the world?
Of course every region has a different climate and different soils, which affect the style and quality of the fruit. Burgundy mainly consists of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and so the harvest period is relatively short. I have worked at wineries in New Zealand and Australia where the varieties made varied greatly and the fruit would come in from different regions, so harvest could go on for a couple of months and a large range of different wines were produced.
Burgundy is famous for only using Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites. Why does the region only use these two grapes?
Each variety has its own climatic requirements and Burgundy is a fairly cool region, which suits Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Try to grow Cabernet Sauvignon here and it would never get ripe.
And finally, after you moved to Burgundy, you stayed. What is it about the region that has kept you there?
I became a little bit obsessed with Pinot Noir and really only wanted to make it in Burgundy, so I packed my bags and moved here and never left. Burgundy is a beautiful part of the world, very central, and the area has more than its fair share of great restaurants. Due to the wines I also have lots of friends from Australia passing through, which stops me getting too home sick.