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Save a Kiwi, Eat a Frog

Mike Wing reports on his exchange visit to France.

In France Four Central Otago boys in Eperna. Still standing. Merci Moet!

I have returned from the land of great cheap cheese and endless wine to superb cheap homebrew beer and endless rugby world cup media.

It was definitely no holiday as people back home kept implying. During harvest there was a period of three weeks without a day off and sleep was just as rare. The lack of sleep was due mainly to the snoring French pickers in my dorm above the winery. But I have to admit that the work included "arduous" jobs like cellar visits to other domains where you might be barrel-tasting wines from all over the Côte de Nuits or Côte de Beaune. 

The French are a hard working bunch and they have the same enthusiasm for eating and drinking. Everything is planned and monitored down to the last decimal point. Lunch could be one hour or two and you may work from breakfast until lunch or in between “it could be possible to have a beer,” as Alain would say. Maybe I lost some of the planning in translation but the whole process seems to flow with very few hitchs and the grapes just gently evolve into a wine.

France Another Confuron vineyard 80k from home. Absolument charmant. Merci beaucoup Confurons!

After my placement at Domain JJ Confuron, I met back up with the other three exchangees from Central Otago and about 20 other international stagier for one week of tuition and field trips at the viticultural school in Beaune. We received lectures on the AOC on how the appellation system was formed and works. We also studied the numerous regulations imposed on the producers. Just before our heads were to explode from an overload of wine politics combined with the ongoing hangover headache from the evenings at one of the many great bars in Beaune, a perfectly timed bus would arrive to take us on a field trip.  We visited a lot of large negociant wineries in the week which gave me an revealing new view of Burgundy. One negociants wine cave was 4 km long with over 3 million bottles in stock.      

After being there for five weeks, it was great to return to Redbank and take in all the sweet smells of spring. After seeing many examples of winemaking and vineyard management in detail, I became confident that we are on track here at Two Paddocks. The best examples for me were small producers who knew their blocks well and respected their individual differences allowing those differences to truly express their site.

-- Mike Wing

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