Leave your brain aside, follow your instinct. Here a subject that is often omitted when dwelling on wines and spirits: animals. While men and women certainly have their part to play, the fauna may well be a serious contender to who’s got the greatest influence on a wine.
Let’s face it: animals are much more around vineyards than we are. While you are quietly asleep or simply in the city, nocturnal and diurnal creatures are either stamping on the soils around the vines or even nesting on the leaves nearby the grapes. Such is the work of Mother Nature and it takes people close to the terroir to understand and domesticate this part of the wine-growing cycle.
Burgundy is a territory famous for its wild nature and its animals. Deers, rabbits, snails, butterflies or other living beings inhabit nearly every piece of land. At the heart of Burgundy, 1831-founded Albert Bichot is a wine house somehow born out of this noble animal genesis. Bichot, which stands for petite biche in French, means young doe, or female deer. The name speaks for itself in this six-generation family and beauty and delicacy of its wines.
Gracefully hosted in Albert Bichot’s kingdom, we wandered across their 100 ha vineyards in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Pommard, Mercurey and Chablis. In the winemaking room we were reminded how this House respects the natural gravity when processing grape juice. And as we migrated from the outdoors towards the cellars, we passed a tiny wooden door, moist stonewalls, and became the happy preys of an underground wine tasting of Clos de Vougeot, Vosne-Romanee, Mercurey…
Feeling the humid fences next to the barrels acquired from the Beaune auction, smelling the delicate aromas of the multiple terroirs, and preciously ingesting some of Burgundy’s finest wines in this hidden den is an experience one cannot forget. It belongs to the memory of the senses, not the reason. You may discuss floral and fruity notes, but thumbs up to you for mentioning the animal nuances too. After all, Albert Bichot’s Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes 2005 has been well described with a ‘touch of animal’.
So don’t be afraid – animals are a core part of wines -and spirits- and most often the sign of a vineyard’s good health or a cellar’s right conditions. Did you know Bacardi’s bat symbol is anchored in its rum vaults? Or that Glenfiddich’s deers populate the forest around the distillery? Or Smith-Haut-Lafitte’s sculpture reminding us that hares were associated to Bacchus? And horses, and bulls… Well, on your next winery visit, we wish you the best and pleasant animal encounters!