We caught up with Burgundian winemaker Pascal Marchand recently when he was in Australia to mark the 10th anniversary of Marchand & Burch – a collaboration with Burch Family Wines of Howard Park and MadFish fame.
Marchand’s got a colourful backstory. He is from Quebec and aspired to be a poet, studying literature at university. He describes himself as “half a woodsman and half an old seadog” reflecting a stint in the merchant navy. After working a vintage in Burgundy in 1983 his dream changed to making great wine.
He was part of a new breed of winemakers in Burgundy. As Marchand puts it, “There was a changing of the guard. Guys were taking over from their fathers. They had studied abroad. They spoke English. Things were moving to a more open-minded style.” Marchand embraced biodynamics in 1988. “It was a very selfish thing for me. It was not for the people who buy the wine. I was a city guy and biodynamics helped me observe nature and understand her rhythms. Now about 10% of the wine in Burgundy is biodynamic.”
He turned around Domaine Comte Armand over his 15 years there and then moved on to the larger Domaine de Vougaraie before setting up his own business. Pascal first met Jeff Burch when Burch was in Burgundy, tasting his wines in the cellar of Domaine Armand. They immediately struck up a friendship. When Marchand finished at Domaine de Vougaraie, they established Marchand & Burch. Their mission was to bring together the best of Old and New World winemaking.
Marchand selected Great Southern in Western Australia for the Australian wines. He also brought in some innovative ideas for the time such as whole-bunch pressing, the use of solids and natural fermentation. The objective was to make more “upright and fresh wine” as Marchand puts it, rather than the buttery chardonnays of old.
Recently Marchand & Burch went through the painstaking and expensive process of getting new Burgundian vine clones through quarantine to further improve their Australian pinot noir. Despite the successes there have been lows. “Frost and hail wiped out 80% of production in 2016 in Burgundy,” Marchand says. “But you had to go out in the vineyard, working it even though there was nothing left. You had to believe that nature would be generous again. So she was in 2017.”
Marchand & Burch offer an Australian collection comprising chardonnay and pinot noir from the Great Southern region and a French collection with regional Burgundies through to Grand Cru level wines. Recent additions to the range include a new Rosé (A$26) and a Villages Chardonnay (A$39) to the Australian collection and a Crémant (A$37) to the French collection.