France-Otago trainee exchange turns 10

Cromwell winemaker Lucie Lawrence, admires a pinot noir at Aurum Winery. PHOTO: JONO EDWARDS
Cromwell winemaker Lucie Lawrence, admires a pinot noir at Aurum Winery. PHOTO: JONO EDWARDS
Central Otago winemakers are bound for one of pinot noir's spiritual homes, in Burgundy, France, to celebrate the relationship between the regions.

The Central Otago Winegrowers Association has organised a trip for 19 people from the area's wine industry to travel there for three days in the middle of next month for the 10th anniversary celebrations of a trainee exchange between the two regions.

The trip will include lunches, tastings and a visit to historic wine-making Abbaye de Saint-Vivant, built in AD890.

Every year, student winemakers travel each way on month-long exchanges to hone their skills and learn about the sister areas.

It was created following a conversation with friends Nick Mills, of Rippon winery in Wanaka, and Sophie Confuron, of Burgundy winery Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron.

Aurum winemaker Lucie Lawrence, of Cromwell, is from Burgundy and honed her skills there before moving to Central Otago 14 years ago.

The exchanges, which she also helped create, were largely cultural, she said.

``They also learn about the soil and the climate. There is a very dry climate here, but there they have very much a continental climate, much wetter. We're brought together by pinot noir, which works in both regions, despite them being so different.''

The trainee winemakers always came back ``very energised'' from hearing people familiar with wine talk about their craft, she said.

The regional wine connection extended beyond the exchange. Central Otago's wine industry has made donations to help the restoration of the Abbaye de Saint-Vivant and Burgundy's industry gave some old and rare wines for auction and raised over $40,000 for the Christchurch earthquake appeal.

Central Otago Winegrowers Association general manager Glenys Coughlan said the exchange helped New Zealanders gain insight into the history and tradition in Burgundy, while French winemakers benefited from the lack of constraints in Central Otago because it had less detailed geographical and political overlays.

More than 80 trainees have travelled on the exchange since its inception.

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