winter is coming

The other undeniable French connection with wine is just over the provincial border in Québec. There is a wonderful relationship between Québec and Bordeaux – I actually learned more about what Québec had to offer after I moved to France, as thanks to a particularly difficult inter-provincial flow of alcohol, there is little to no representation in the local monopoly stores. Frankly, it didn’t occur to me that it was even possible to grow grapes in Québec, as I assumed (as most people do about all of Canada), that it was too cold.

There is a beautiful quote that is often mistakenly attributed to Aubert de Villaine of Domaine Romanée-Conti, perhaps due to how regularly he references it:

“Il n’existe pas de vignoble prédestiné, il n’y a que des entêtements de civilisation.” – Pierre Veilletet

“There are no predestined vineyards, there is only the stubbornness of civilization.”

Aubert de Villaine, standing before the iconic cross of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. As a pioneer in biodynamic viticulture, he understands very well how to be stubborn. What else drives us to grow grapes on steep mountainsides like here in the Mosel, or in hot climates, like here in India?

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(ve)raison d’être

The yellow star is where I live and (mostly) work. This domaine has vineyard parcels as far north as Hunawihr and as far south as Thann, all in the Haut-Rhin.

I started sending postcards to my wee nephew the summer I walked the camino, ostensibly in an effort to augment his 5 year old view on culture and geography, but in reality because I was going to miss our bi-weekly skype sessions, and was terrified he would forget who I was. The postcards have now expanded to include my nearly-4-year-old niece, while I wrack my brain to write a) neatly and b) topically, or at least simply enough that they have an idea of what’s going on, on this side of the ocean. I am under strict instructions to send postcards with maps, by all parties involved, as it seems to be a fun pastime to try and identify where-in-the-world-is-Aunt Cat. With that in mind, I’m going to do the same thing for you, as I haven’t really written about the region of Alsace since the introduction to my stage search, and my February visit.

Frankly, it’s a little intimidating to write about this wine region as there are so many different terroirs (13, officially), a big range of grape varietals (4 white grapes – and a 5th exceptionally – and 1 red are considered Grand Cru worthy, although other white grapes are permitted), 51 Grand Crus (!), and many lieux-dit (‘named’ places that are recognized but not considered as high quality as Grand Cru).

I’m currently located in the Haut-Rhin, the high-Rhine, or the south of Alsace. The higher slopes of the Vosges confer better sun exposure and water drainage for the grapes, thus the best wines tend to come from the Haut-Rhin rather than the Bas-Rhin, or northern Rhine. The domaine where I work has vineyard parcels in 5 of the Grand Crus, and 6 of the 7 ‘official’ Alsace grape varieties; in white: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Muscat (no Sylvaner), and in red: Pinot Noir, in very small quantities. Read More