Sep 17, '20
Featured in 4th edition of Luxeat Insider

Finding outstanding equality in Burgundy

By Thatcher Baker-Briggs

Canadian/American sommelier Thatcher Baker-Briggs has made a career of stepping outside his comfort zone, always pushing himself to learn and master something new. His professional trajectory boasts key positions in kitchens and dining rooms of some of the most influential restaurants in the world including then three-Michelin starred Saison under Chef Joshua Skenes, the highly regarded Takazawa in Tokyo, and at two-Michelin starred COI in San Francisco. These distinguished training grounds have given Thatcher the knowledge, tools and the reach to curate highly specialized wine services for collectors around the globe. He shares his pick of the wine women to watch in Burgundy.

The transformative qualities of wine are something that sadly, is often lost. Perhaps due to the fact that wine is often something that one merely drinks, at least in certain regions. The ability of a wine to encapsulate a moment in time and to showcase a year, a place, a person is truly something unique. For me the region that defines this quality is Burgundy. A place regarded as the greatest wine producing region in the world, where prices skyrocket to unimaginable highs, where the quantity of wine produced is sometimes only several hundred bottles and where the wines that are often the most sought after are often the most misunderstood. 

To be quite frank, there is nothing easy about understanding Burgundy. It is a place with such vast differences from vintage to vintage and perhaps a wine made within a 3 ft of one another can be as distant as you can imagine. There are many misconceptions in the wine world and especially about Burgundy. 

Today we read many publications about the inequalities in wine and lack of diversity, however we don’t see much about the most important region in wine being crafted by some of the greatest leaders in wine, ever: Women. 

It is fair to say that the world of wine is often seen to be led by men, however, there are some incredibly important women that took Burgundy and have made it relevant and the quality has never been matched. Who have turned farmers into legends and have carried unheard-of appellations on their backs and taken them to unimaginable heights of quality. 

Over the years these are the Women of Burgundy I will be watching;

Amélie Berthaut – Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet
Anne France  & Clarisse – Domaine Ramonet
Cécile Tremblay – Domaine Cécile Tremblay
Chisa Bize – Domaine Simon Bize
Cryrielle Rousseau – Domaine Armand Rousseau
Diana Snowden Seysses – Domaine Dujac
Marie-Christine and Marie-Andrée – Domaine George Mugneret-Gibourg
Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy – Domaine Leroy
Tomoko Kuriyama – Chanterêves

It would be hard to not first mention Madame, as in Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. Co-Director of arguably the most notable domaine in Burgundy, so notable that it is referred to as The Domaine. Madame shared the reins at age 42 of Domaine de la Romanée-Cont for almost two decades. Having taken over the family négociant business in 1955, she launched her own domaine in 1988, Domaine Leroy. Within a short few years, it turned into one of the most inspiring, transcendent, I don’t have words to describe it – producing domaines today.  She has inspired vineyard management techniques, winemaking techniques, bottling and distribution practices that are still considered cutting edge over 3 decades later. Today the wines are simply mesmerizing and at the age 88 she is still in the vineyards and domaine crafting these remarkable wines. 

To think of Leroy, you must often think about Martine Saunier, who was the first female importer in the US. She brought the world Domaine Leroy, Château Rayas, and perhaps known to be the grandfather of Burgundy, Henri Jayer. The gentleman, who quietly was changing the wine world until Martine came around. To think that Jayer was rather unknown and if not for Martine, how much later would we have had to wait until we were able to discover Cros Parantoux and Richebourg. Martine is a truly inspirational person, someone with such strength to take chances and act on wisdom and an understanding of greatness while most are unaware. Thank you Martine! 

Burgundy has always made great wines, with hundreds of years of production history. It has only been a mere few decades that the wines have been on the world stage and become as sought after as they are today. But, it was an American woman who arrived in Burgundy in 1968, who has shaped the largest market for fine burgundy today. Becky of Becky Wasserman & Co was able to not only learn from some of the most regarded winemakers, but use her charm, knowledge and perhaps excellent cooking skills, to become what is now one of the leading exporters in the region.

We move to more modern times and, as I write this on a gorgeous day in Burgundy, the landscape is changing. I couldn’t be more excited. A domaine that is so close to my heart, certainly not only due to their gracious nature, but their wines are absolutely perfect! Marie-Christine and Marie-Andrée of Domaines Georges Mugneret-Gibourg, where the family history of winemaking stems from the 1920s, have stepped in to make wines that I often cannot think of words to describe other than – just perfect. I am not sure what the future has in store, but I can only imagine that if Marion, Fanny, Clemence or Lucie, who all possess the same charm as their mothers, would only help to extend the length of brilliance in this domaine.

In the Côte d’Or, the areas you hear most often are Vosne-Romanée, Chambertin or Meursault. These famed terroirs are often making the greatest examples of Burgundy, but to say they are the only ones, I’d say, you have yet to meet Amélie Berthaut. A recent trip to the humble Fixin, which sits just above Gevrey-Chambertin, where the legend of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze, often overshadow this small village. Amélie Berthaut from Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet has taken this relatively unknown, often quite rustic appellation and has transformed them into wines etched with purity and elegance. She took over the domaine from her family in 2013 and within a couple of years has brought so much energy and excitement into the wines, that I have been unable to stop drinking them.  We tasted the 2019s from the barrel and I was astonished by the qualities! They dance, they sing, they are really an uplifting experience. She tells me how right before giving birth to her son Léon, she was also crafting these beautiful wines and rushed back days after. Something to me that not only shows the dedication to making incredible wines, but exhibits the same strength to take Fixin (although, I did tell her that the Echezeaux is incredible, she really had me at Fixin) and turn it to something truly remarkable.

I couldn’t be more excited about the future of wine and to continue to watch the landscape of Burgundy evolve. 

Here are some of my favorite wines from Burgundy.

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Domaine Berthaut Gerbet Fixin 2017

Domaine Berthaut

Gerbet Fixin 2017

A small, often overshadowed appellation just north of Gevrey-Chambertin.  The domaine sits in the small town of Fixin. This wine, a blend of 4 different lieux-dits, of vineyards that Amélie along with her Fiancé Nicolas Faure are working towards absolutely beautiful farming. It is resulting in a wine that far exceeds expectation. Think of crunchy and bright red fruits and florals with acidity that uplifts you when you drink it. You will want to take sip after sip. A real up and comer! While the vineyards of 1er Cru and Grand Cru level often are sought after first, It would simply be a mistake to miss out on this incredible wine.

You can purchase it here.

Chanterêves Chassagne Morgeot 1er Cru Morgeot 2017

Chanterêves Chassagne

Morgeot 1er Cru Morgeot 2017

Tomoko-san, originally from Japan, is bringing a lot of influence to the region. After working in Germany for some time, she is one of a small group in the region to really highlight the importance of the happiness of their vines. Myself, after living for sometime in Japan, I see how she brings the attention to detail that is so important in the culture and implores it in the glass. I and Tomoko-san both agree that the 2017 is the best vintage she has made of this wine. With an almost nonexistent amount of sulphur the elegant and brightness of the wine is truly something to mention. A beautiful balance of both citrus qualities and the savory spices that Chassagne can exhibit.

You can purchase it here.

Domaine d’Auvenay (Lalou Bize-Leroy) Auxey Duresses Les Boutonniers 2011

Domaine d’Auvenay (Lalou Bize-Leroy) Auxey

Duresses Les Boutonniers 2011

To think that this wine is a “village” level wine, makes me often wonder how no-one else can hit the highs of this wine. Often in blind tasting amongst various Grand Cru wines – Madame’s Les Boutonniers often prevails. From vines that were planted in the 1920s, these represent some of the oldest vines, and while no means are the wine priced like any other Auxey-Duresses, it does represent one of the greatest values from Domaine d’Auvenay. The wine takes the vintage like 2011 which can often have searing acidity and embraces it with white cherries, and stone fruits to create an unbelievable balance and a finish that never ends.

You can purchase it here.

Domaine Dujac Chambolle Musigny 1er Les Gruenchers 2017

Domaine Dujac Chambolle

Musigny 1er Les Gruenchers 2017

A historical domaine in Burgundy, the wife of Jeremey Seysses – Diana; a very thoughtful, charming and incredibly knowledgeable Californian who fell for Jeremey’s charm and great jokes decided to never leave Burgundy (And Jeremy of course), is making some gorgeous wines. Dujac – known often as a domaine to lay down and age, the 2017s are charming with crunchy fruits and elegant tannins. The Gruenchers, often my favorite vineyard along with the Clos Saint Denis. Diana and Jeremy have taken this wine along with the very old vines, and charming qualities of the vintage and turned it into a wine that you can open now or age for 30 years. A wonderful example of a vineyard not spoken of enough. Roses pour from the glass along with a finish of savory olives, chocolate and bright red fruits.

You can purchase it here.

Domaine George Mugneret-Gibourg Vosne Romanée La Colombière 2018

Domaine George Mugneret-Gibourg Vosne

Romanée La Colombière 2018

Often referred to as the “Sisters”, Marie-Christine and Marie-Andrée make some very notable vineyards such as Ruchottes-Chambertin, Échezeaux and  Clos de Vougeot, but in 2018 they have decided to release a Lieu-Dit from Vosne-Romanée and bottle it separately. Many may call this “just vlllage”, it was my highlight of the tasting last year from barrel. The wine exhibits all of the classic spice qualities of Vosne-Romanée, with focus and the perfume that makes me very clearly understand why they would bottle this wine separately. The black tea, orange and rose petals remind me of a very classic and elegant style of Burgundy. It will be hard not to drink this as soon as I can get my hands on a few bottles, however I would be patient as this wine can keep for quite some time!

You can purchase it here.

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