Eyre of pinot noir
If you were an Australian with a burning ambition to make wine in Burgundy, how would you go about it? How would you get hold of grapes in a region where top grapes are always in short supply, vineyards seldom come up for sale and when they do are impossibly expensive, and the locals get first choice anyway?
Jane Eyre is an Aussie who has managed it. She worked at the Prince Wine Store in Melbourne where her love of Burgundy was nurtured by people like Philip Rich and Michael McNamara. She made her first trip to Burgundy in 1998, then worked at the Prince from 1999 to 2003, at the same time doing a winemaking degree course. She worked in Burgundy every vintage and worked at the Prince in between vintages. She worked with Dominique Lafon (tastings) and Domaine de Montille (tastings). A three-month vintage became a year.
Then she was appointed winemaker at Domaine Newman and has been there ever since. She makes her own wines at Newman and at Lafon’s winery in the southern Burgundy region, Côte Mâconnais.
Benjamin Leroux, a Burgundy winemaker with many links to Australia, helps her locate fruit, and she lets the courtiers know she’s in the market for grapes. Courtiers are middlemen who link grape-growers with winemakers.
Having friends like Lafon and Leroux is a major help.
“You can’t just walk in and buy grapes,” she says. “It’s not a matter of having lots of money to throw at people. It’s especially hard with all the frosts we’ve had in Burgundy lately.”
She says it’s worth the 5% she has to pay the courtiers.
“They also give you security. It’s nice to know you have some protection at the other end.”
Jane Eyre recently released her 2015 red Burgundies in Australia (tastings), but they are already mostly sold, although you will find some bottles in the better restaurants for a while yet.
Jane Eyre also makes pinot noir in Australia, using William Downie’s winery (tastings). Her 2016 Gippsland and Mornington Peninsula pinots, which I tasted as unbottled samples, looked full of promise, as did a 2016 Fleurie, the Beaujolais cru, which she thinks is a much better option than trying to produce a decent Bourgogne pinot noir. Watch out for that Fleurie, it’s likely to be a ripper.
Today, Jane Eyre lives in Beaune. It’s a long way from Newborough, in Gippsland’s Latrobe Valley, where she was born and raised.
*Prince Wine Store’s importing arm Beaune & Beyond imports Jane Eyre Burgundies.