An atypical and confidential cuvée, “épistemê”, is the result of a collaboration between Armand Heitz, winemaker from Chassagne-Montrachet, and Olivier Mauhin, student at SWSB. The first test evening took place at BSB on Tuesday 26 April.
Founded in 2013 by the Burgundy School of Business (BSB), the School of Wine & Spirits Business (SWSB) continues to develop its reputation in the wine world, both locally and internationally.
Among the various actions, a collaboration with a wine estate makes it possible to anchor the school in particular in the Burgundian terroir and to harvest what can become a specific medium of communication.
Since 2020, the Armand Heizt estate in Chassagne-Montrachet has been welcoming a student who participates in all stages of wine production. In consultation with the winemaker, the student defines and vinifies his cuvée based on the estate’s capabilities in terms of grape varieties and plots.
After Anne Marc who drew the 2020 vintage, student Olivier Mauhin unveiled the 2021 vintage on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
“Our students get better at the product year after year”
After visiting the SWSB premises, the director Jérôme Gallo joins the reception for the launch ceremony of the “episteme” cuvée itself in the presence of BSB students and graduates.
An evening hosted by Valentin Cotton, social media influencer for Wine Poetry and purchasing manager for Parisian star chef Mathieu Pacaud.
“Our students get better year after year, especially on the product. Wine management is no longer a program for juniors”, explains Jérôme Gallo.
So, in addition to the commercial, marketing or management aspects, students are increasingly interested in wines. Several have therefore applied to include a new teaching experience in their curriculum.
Vine management inspired by biodynamics and permaculture
The director commends “the pleasure of conveying” shown by Armand Heitz who “shows the way of what the viticulture of the decades to come” should be, in particular through his commitment to biodynamics, an accentuated version of organic viticulture. Valentin Cotton, for his part, calls “a fantastic winegrower” who has “fifty ideas a minute”.
After acquiring leases in 2013, Armand Heitz contacted agronomy schools to develop partnerships, but his permaculture-inspired approach did not fit the training programs of these establishments. The winemaker, who also runs a mixed farming business, then turned to the SWSB to “bring modernity and youth to the world of wine.”
“I was looking for the most sustainable way of farming. (…) Obviously I started with biodynamics. I realized that clearly wasn’t enough. (…) I want to give my children something healthy and lasting that they can continue to work with,” says the winegrower.
Signatory of the cuvée “episteme 2020”, Marie Marc, a SWSB 2021 graduate, is now responsible for business development for the Armand Heitz estate.
“Transforming our theoretical knowledge into applied knowledge”
After a selection based on a short presentation, Olivier Mauhin was selected on the basis of the criteria ‘knowledge and maturity’. “Armand’s Philosophy [Heitz] is very important to me”, the student confides, “he has many ideas, values, and he affirms them without any complexity, in full transparency”.
“This project enables us to convert our theoretical knowledge into applied knowledge. I knew the wine processes, but had never practiced them before. I had harvested some, a little dismayed, but I had never vinified. Vinification is a profession. We are limited by nature”, develops Olivier Mauhin.
“In the basement we are overtaken by nature”
“2021 was a pretty complex vintage,” recalls Olivier Mauhin. The buds came out relatively early and the south of the Côte-d’Or was hit by a polar fracture in mid-April, which caused the young shoots to sear. “The season has been tumultuous, there have been quite a few illnesses.”
“We don’t pick everything in the basement. We are overtaken by nature, by time. You have to manage the staff,” the student recalls. “We have to make decisions quickly,” emphasizes Armand Heitz.
The virtue of episteme
Looking for a cuvée name that “sounds good”, “cool”, “easy to pronounce” and “vector of values”, Armand Heitz, who appreciates ancient languages and patois, chose “episteme” to convey values of ” share” and “send”.
Of Greek origin, the word refers both to scientific knowledge and to the virtue of acting as a scientist. A derivative of this word gave “epistemology” in the 20th century to evoke the philosophy of science.
An atypical wine
The 2021 cuvée is the result of a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Aligoté. Sauvignon, the dominant grape variety in the Loire Valley, is occasionally grown in Burgundy; Armand Heitz planted his Sauvignons in 2017 in Corpeau, near Puligny-Montrachet.
The cuvée is made without sulphite during vinification and has therefore benefited from a very short maturation. Bottling took place last March. The sulfur dioxide content (free SO2) is 8 mg/l.
The winemaker uses hemp to mulch the sauvignons, hence a label on the neck of the bottles with a photo of a hemp leaf, not to be confused with the cannabis-producing version of the plant.
The winemaker and the student have produced a piece of “episteme” or 294 numbered bottles that are not for sale.
The vegetable aroma of Sauvignon, the vibrancy of Aligoté
During this launch, the winemaker and student taste the wine for the first time since bottling. “During vinification, the wine is not as tempting as in the bottle. (…) Tonight is the real tasting”, Olivier Mauhin launches to the delight of the students present.
“For a recent update, it’s already well in place, it’s ready,” says Valentin Cotton. “He found a bit of wisdom, (…) it’s less brutal than I could have imagined. (…) We find the vegetable aroma typical of Sauvignon, we also find the lively, floral and even apple juice side, in a positive sense, of Aligoté. The wood has found its flexibility. In the mouth it is lively, tense. (…) They both work very well together, it’s very greedy”, explains Olivier Mauhin.
The ceremony ends with a Burgundian ban before opening the buffet composed by the caterer Chez mes frères while the tasting of this 2021 “epistemê” cuvée continues.