David Clark: innovation in Burgundy

David Clark’s previous life was as part of the Williams Formula One racing team, but he changed pace by moving to Burgundy in 2003, where he now has a small winery in Morey-St-Denis and a couple of hectares of vineyards spread over a number of communes.  There’s a nice profile of him over at Bill Nanson’s Burgundy Report.

What’s fascinating about David is that he tends his vines – from rather modest vineyard sites – with the sort of care and attention that others reserve for Grand Cru plots. Actually, there are many Grand Cru vineyards that are crying out for someone of David’s commitment and ability to run them.

He’s also extremely innovative. Read his excellent blog to see some fun examples, including three different vineyard buggy designs (the vines in Burgundy are trained so low that to work them from a standing position is very uncomfortable). What caught my eye, however, was his improvised bottling line.

It’s still common practice in Burgundy for bottles to be filled manually, straight from barrel or tank. Clearly, with such an approach, oxygen pick-up is not controlled at all. Whatever the style of wine you make, you can only lose quality by significant or variable oxygen pick-up at bottling. It is testimony to the quality of some of the wines that when they are bottled without any control of oxygen, they still end up being fantastic. But this sort of approach only helps to add an element of noise – bottle to bottle variation, usually blamed just on the cork – that isn’t a good thing. And the oxygen that the wine picks up will use up some of the protective sulphur dioxide.

David’s bottle filling machine doesn’t involve inert gas evacuation of the bottle, but it does fill from the bottom, and gently, which is going to help reduce pick-up of oxygen. It’s extremely innovative.

Someone should give this man a few Premier and Grand Cru vineyards – he’d be a great custodian!

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