Mar 13, '23

Greg Love, a tale of wine and stars

 Burgundy & Piedmont wine-connoisseur, writer, sharer and lover

When Greg Love reflects on his childhood he talks of “a great sense of the adventure and wonder for the world” gained from travel from his homeland in Melbourne, Australia to Papua New Guinea for 4 years as a young boy, with a detour via the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, before returning to Australia. It is with the same sense of adventure and wonder that he discovers, shares and envisions experiences around the wines from the regions of Burgundy, France and Piedmont, Italy. 

A magical place 

After studying Law and Economics, and working as a Commercial Litigation Solicitor in Victoria, Australia, Greg left his comfort zone for a life shared between London and Paris. In Paris he explored the city, the food, the wine and around 1996, he visited a town that would change the course of his life.  “The moment I arrived in Beaune, which is the centre of the Côte d’Or region of Burgundy, I instantly fell  in love with the place. I just realised that something very special was going to happen there. And I didn’t know how it would play out or in what form it would manifest, but I knew that it was going to play a part in my life.”

Tasting in complex regions

It was through the world of wine that his love affair with Burgundy was established: He set about tasting wine in London for ten years with the top reviewers in the U.K. including Jancis Robinson, Charles Metcalf and Robert Joseph. He tasted tens of thousands of wines in London, over thousands of hours. 

That period and experience that led him to refine his tastes into a particular fascination and affection for the wines of Burgundy, France and Piedmont in northwest Italy. He found a commonality in the wines from these regions in terms of their complexity and the multiple details in each bottle. In both regions, he identifies the importance of the quality of  relationships with the vignerons and the importance of connecting deeply to the people in each place. 

A path based on lived experience

From October 2010, he lived in Beaune for 6 months and visited 190 different domaines,  tasting the 2009 vintage. He returned to Burgundy in September 2015 and lived for two and a half years in seven different villages in the Côte d’Or, staying with multiple different wine makers. On returning to the U.K. to collect his thoughts, the idea came to him to create a new walking path between Burgundy and Piedmont, called the “The Path of the Stars”. 

Known as Le Chemin des étoiles in France, and  Via delle Stelle in Italy, the Path of the Stars envisioned by Greg commences in Beaune, and journeys via the many villages of the Côte Beaune. It then passes through the Côte Chalonnaise, The Maconnais region and the Beaujolais.  It then makes a turn towards the east and heads towards Geneva.

In Switzerland, it ascends into the Alps and crosses over into Italy via the Grand St Bernard Pass. It descends from the Alps through the  Val d’Aosta region and enters Piedmont, where it will be the first path that touches all eight provinces of the Piedmont region. It finally crosses the Ligurian Alps, and ends at the Ligurian seaside. The Path of the Stars is designed in unique seven-day stages and there are twelve distinctive seven-day sections. People from around the world can enjoy the extraordinary hospitality, food, and wine culture and experience the many different places along the Path. When it opens, it will be one of the first long distance walking paths in the world where everyone walking or riding, plus our corporate partners, is contributing through a charitable funding pipeline, to fund the poor, particularly widows and orphans in places of real need.

Here are extracts of a recent conversation with this very exceptional wine personality.

Aiste: Burgundy is still surrounded by mystery for many people. Yet, they say that all the roads lead to Burgundy. Why is that?

Greg: “Burgundy is something you enter into through a process. Bordeaux has had a centuries-long tradition of connection between the UK and France, and there are other regions of France that might be readily discovered, such as Champagne. Yet when people finally get to taste Burgundy, it’s something else: aromatically and in terms of taste, there are the multiple layers, the exquisite fragrances, and the seductive quality of the wines. There are only two grape varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and those grape varieties are vectors, they’re mirrors of the place where they come from.”

“Burgundy has all these tiny fractional holdings, with multiple names. Plus multiple owners, who share the vineyards. It’s one of the few places in the world, we get to see how different men and women who share the same vineyard make such different wines. And I think that’s appealing to people who like detail. That’s appealing to people who want to have something which stimulates their mind as well as their palate. And it has a great history. It is unique in the French wine world. I think that it’s the ultimate place of connection.” 

“Gregory Gouges of Domain Henri Gouges in Nuits-Saint-Georges once said about Burgundy ‘they host you at tastings so that you can enjoy their wines, even when they have nothing to sell, even when they’re completely sold out, because they’re interested in your feedback and interested in your thoughts.’ And I think that wouldn’t happen in Champagne, or Bordeaux, the other great places. The Burgundians love to engage, connect, and find out what you’re thinking, and they love to see you coming back again and again. It’s very relational and I like that aspect. Piedmont also has it to a significant degree. They have that in common.” 

Aiste: As you mentioned, the vineyards in Burgundy are often sold out, or have very little wine. Why is that? Is it because the vineyards are usually much smaller than the ones in Bordeaux or Champagne?

Greg: “Yes, the size of the Côte d’Or is a 60 kilometre zone, which runs from the northernmost part just under the Dijon, all the way down to the southernmost part in what’s called the Maranges, below Santenay. We have the Côte de Nuits, which runs from well north of Beaune to Marsannay. We also have the Côte de Beaune, which runs from just north of Beaune, all the way down to the Maranges. So those two areas are very specific and limited in terms of size, as they run along an east facing strip, and then up the side of the hill, which is called the Côte.

Their fame has been reinforced over many centuries of people enjoying the wines.  Worldwide demand, particularly since 2010, has meant that a lot of the winemakers have  managed to sell out. Also over the last 10 years, in the Côte de Beaune, the equivalent of four vintages were lost due to frost and climatic conditions. So we have two generous vintages: 2018 was generous, and 2022, which is the barrel at the moment, was also very generous.
But a lot of the other vintages were very small, notably small in 2013 and  2016, which had a great black frost that dramatically reduced the yields of Chardonnay, and also for Pinot Noir. We also had the terrible losses due to frost damage sustained in 2021. With 40% less to sell over 10 years, you can imagine how it is.”

“Allocations, which is the amount of wine a producer can give to any one customer, have been chopped down from the days where it was easy to get a twelve bottle case. Then it went to a six bottle case, then sometimes a three bottle case and now, in very extreme cases particularly for the Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines, it might be only a single bottle available in some vintages.”

“There are new people popping up, who are coming out of the woodwork, particularly with the intergenerational change, which is gathering speed. This is where fathers and mothers have passed the domaine over to their sons and daughters. In the old days, there was an expression where you had to do 10 years before you understood what you’re doing. That’s what I grew up with in the 1990s when I came to Burgundy. Now, these kids are just going at it from year one.

They are absolutely well trained, very well travelled, and they taste competitively with their peer group. They drink a lot of bottles with a very clear idea of what’s in there and what to do to go about making good wine. And now, because there is money in the bottle, they’re thinking, ‘Wow, I can make a really good future for my life with this.’ In the past, it was often the son or daughter in the family who was less likely to succeed. Now, it’s a completely different story. There’s a very good living that can be made. In some places, when they travel the world, some of these big kids are treated like rock stars. People line up to see them as if Brad Pitt, or someone extraordinary has come to visit. That shows how much things have changed in the last 20 years.”

Aiste: What are your favourite up-and-coming producers in Burgundy that we don’t know?

Greg: “I’ll give you examples of where the transition has taken place. I certainly think Pierre Vincent Giaradin is on a really good run, as he’s making pretty incredible wines.

Theo Dancer is the son of Vincent Dancer. As well as making some great wines from Chassagne Montrachet, he is experimenting with some grape varieties from other areas as well. He is doing really really impressive work.

I think one of the names I commend to people is Etienne Julien of domaine Julian Gerard et Fils, in the village of Comblanchien. He is making some of the purest, the most refined wines from Nuits Saint Georges. I had lunch with him and his wife recently and took him a mystery bottle along and we drank what we call “blind”, which is where there’s no identifying label or anything giving it away. I poured it for him and his wife and the wine was what we call “really shining”. It was in a beautiful condition. They said, ‘Holy cow, that’s great wine! Who made that?’ I pulled the sock off the bottle and showed him. It was you!’ It was a 2014 Nuits Saint Georges Aux Saint Julien. It was utterly gorgeous and had all those exquisite Red Burgundy Pinot aromas. He’s very talented, is making wonderful wines and deserves a lot of support.

So there are three, and there’s lots of others. I would be happy to share, but as I said, I think it’s important people come down and explore. If they want to talk about those kinds of things face to face with me, that’s where I will do it. I’ll also share this young winemaker from the Beaujolais who makes incredible wines as well.

Greg Love with Federic Lafarge in Volnay

Aiste: Where is Burgundy going? How has it changed? Because you’ve been going there for decades now. How would you compare it 20 years ago to now?  

Greg: “I see a very good future for Burgundy, until 2035, despite the supply issues and prices. You might say, well, 12 years time, but I think there’s still headroom, in terms of demand and pricing. Mother nature continues to, in some cases, be generous, such as in vintages like 2022 and 2018. In other cases, like 2021, she takes a lot away. There is no other place like Burgundy. There is nowhere else in the wine world that offers this extraordinary amalgam of relationships, amazing wines, plus better and better quality services down here than there have ever been before.” 

“And of course, because I’ve got my own project, the Path of the Stars starting in Beaune. I’m convinced that as people come and explore walking through the vineyards and the valleys and the forests and see what a beautiful place this is, they’ll be able to enjoy the distinctive qualities of difference between the Côte de Beaune, the Maconnais and The Beaujolais. There’s so much to see and explore. Each of them has a different face, different identity, and different qualities, which people can enjoy.”

 “In terms of how this world has changed from 20 years ago, in the nineties, you were lucky to have two or three vignerons in one village who were making high quality wines. That started to move from about 2005 onwards, where you would often have four or five vignerons. And now, you can have as many as 20 or 30 in a village like Meursault. You could honestly go and taste the wines of  about 50 or 60 producers in Meursault and happily drink 30 of those without blinking an eyelid in terms of quality.

There is a lot of rising talent. There are kids who are popping up all over the place; taking over from what mum and dad did, which was rather low key. Suddenly, they are  saying ‘I know what to do, I know how to turn these vineyards around’. They’re going biodynamic, or  going full organic. It’s hard work, but at the same time they’re seeing the rewards. So it’s  constantly evolving. And these days in most villages, there are people who are making nuanced lines of constant joy in the glass.”

“Burgundy comes from a very great tradition. I’ve studied the history back to the fourth century. There was a time in the Middle Ages, where the kingdom of Burgundy was the greatest kingdom of Europe in that time. It extended as far south as Provence and as far north as Holland, and to the East almost to the German border. It was a very great and dramatic kingdom. So they have this deep understanding of what is to be grand.”

Aiste: “Thank you so much, Greg. And see you on the 20th of April on the tour “An Exceptional Deep dive into Burgundy“!”

Greg: “We’re going to have three extraordinary days. We’ve got great vignerons, amazing food, the Gala Omakase dinner, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy dinner and Paulée with the new Henri Jayer of Burgundy. This is something that doesn’t come around very often.

So whoever’s coming on the trip is really going to be blessed. Three amazing days combining the best of what Luxeat does with the best of what the “Path of the Stars” does: to bring a small audience from around the world to experience some of the great names, talking about their wines and their lives at the table. It’s a very rare thing to happen. And it’s a real honour for me to do it with you Aiste.”

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