France

Arthur De Villepin on his Burgundy awakening

The wine and art entrepreneur describes how Burgundy reminded him to savour life

I first discovered Burgundy on the dinner table 15 years ago. We were in my father’s office – he was the minister of foreign affairs for France at the time. We had an amazing 1971 Domaine Trapet Père et Fils from Gevrey-Chambertin, a small appellation in Burgundy. It was so delicate, but at the same time so complex. It was a simple pleasure – but it also awakened something in me.

Seven years ago I visited Burgundy myself. I was with Thibault Pontallier – my partner in wine label Pont des Arts, which pairs wines from small producers in Bordeaux and Burgundy with artworks for the bottles – and his father. We rented a car and drove from Paris.

The first time I saw Burgundy, Arthur de Villepin

You come from a very urban place, full of crowds and buildings, and slowly you’re in the middle of vine-covered slopes, cobblestoned villages and abbeys. Our destination was Beaune, a town at the heart of the Burgundy winemaking region. It was early October, just after the harvest, which is a good time to visit because there’s a real buzz about the place. We met friends, toured vineyards, had lunch, drank wine.

In Burgundy, the terroir is so diverse. Each producer has their own style and their own story. They’ve been doing this for generations. You come to understand the history of Burgundy through these stories.

Since that trip, I’ve been back every year or two. In Hong Kong, we’re sometimes a bit too swept up with the pace of life and business. Burgundy reminds me what’s important in life. The land teaches people to be humble every day. You’re at the mercy of nature. It pushes each winemaker to respect their terroir – and the simple pleasures of life.

Arthur de Villepin is CEO of Art de Vivre, which includes wine label Pont des Arts and Hong Kong’s first outpost of contemporary art gallery, Carré d’artistes

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