Integrity and instinct drives Burgundian winemaker François Bitouzet. Here he explains why, in Burgundy, forward-thinking winemaking isn’t about making new discoveries, it’s about getting closer to nature
“My wines are all made with the equal amounts of concentration, and with the same love and the same seriousness,” says François Bitouzet. “You might prefer a particular piece of land because you have the best view, or a nice landscape – but from the Bourgogne rouge to the Premier Cru, we make the wines with the same application, energy and concentration. They are, I suppose, like your kids.”
As we speak, François has just brought in his 2020 harvest – “the hardest of my life,” he says. Like all Burgundian producers, he has an encyclopaedic recall of the details. He recounts the precise rainfall, humidity, temperature and soil conditions – and this year, he was closer to it all than ever before. “Covid meant that I did all the ploughing myself,” he explains. “It was good for my head to have to focus on the land.
“I had to finish the winery too; this is a very great pleasure – a long held dream come true” he explains. “Covid meant that the building was running late, and I had to check that every detail of it was perfect before we were ready to harvest.”
This dedication to the details is typical of François’s meticulous winemaking. His relationship with his land is totally immersive and instinctive. It comes back to the details, and to the land. “I am not a flying winemaker,” he smiles. “I find it hard to take a holiday when other people do in the summer, I have to be in the vineyards to follow the evolution of the vines. You must connect to the land: it’s important to know the soil, the subsoil, and whether the maturation is going fast or slow. You have to be on hand to make quick decisions.”
The way he explains winemaking makes it sound incredibly simple: “respect the place where you plant your vineyard; use organic matter not herbicide; protect the vineyard and pick at the right moment. For me it is an art and the science – a meeting of those two things. You make wines with your nose, your mouth, your head and at the end you make them with your heart.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF VOLNAY
For François, the most important wine he makes is his village Volnay. “It is the best expression of the domaine’s identity,” he says. It is a blend of vineyards: 45 percent from lieu dit Les Echards, 45 percent from Les Aussy and 10 percent from Les Petits Gamets. “It is a lightweight wine; an expression of terroir.”
François explains that when you taste wines from Burgundy, you are tasting the identity of the place where the grapes were produced. The product of centuries of winemaking, expressed though a particular vintage.
“You have to respect nature; to respect the rules of winemaking,” François explains. “Here, we cannot discover new terroir – this land has been farmed for centuries by the monks; there is nothing new to find. Instead, we must work to understand nature better and to give the best possible expression of the land.”