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Sunday, October 30, 2005

La Bourgogne, j'adore


I came back to Paris yesterday, after six glorious days in Burgundy. When I boarded the Paris-bound train that morning, the strongest imprint on my mind was not the gorgeous, radiant yellow leafs that painted golden swathes on the slopes, ardently true to the name the Côte d'Or. The far more profound mark was left by the new, abiding respect for the people, their collective love of the land and the terroir, and, of course, the astounding wines they make. Although, they would be the first to tell you that the wine is far less a product of their own making than simply the inevitable result of their stewardship of the land.

It should tell you something when perhaps the best compliment one could give to a Burgundian vigneron is that his wine is true to the expression of its terroir. Laurent Ponsot went even further, explaining to me that even the cépage, the Pinot Noir grape itself, was practically inconsequential. The Pinot Noir was merely there as a conduit entre le sous-sol et le vin, between the ground underneath and the wine it makes. Despite how fanciful that statement sounded, it was difficult not to take him seriously. How could I, when each wine, each made from the same grape, by the same wine maker, using practically the same method, aged in the same cave even, yet each tasted different, even to my amateur palate? The only determining variable appeared to be, as all Burgundian wine makers would gladly tell you, the terroir.

And have I got tales to tell from this trip, embarrassing ones too! At Leflaive, I refused to spit out Le Montrachet '04 that Pierre Morey was so kind as to let us taste -of course, after he herded out other less-worthy visitors. There were only two barrels of that wine for this year, and a damn amazing year for it too. Alexandre Dumas once said of Le Montrachet that one must drink it on bended knees. (Il faut le boire à genoux!) So, damn me if I was going to spit that stuff! And I would have finished the glass too, but for Pierre Morey who gently, but firmly, took the glass away and poured the heavenly liquid back where it belonged, in the barrel where it would continue on its way to the sublime. What an embarrassment I was! What an amateur too! I have a feeling I'm not going back to that cave next year...

Another one I resolutely refused to spit was the '04 Clos Saint-Denis at Laurent Ponsot. It was made from vines that were over a hundred years old. I was completely speechless when I tasted it –and between you and me that's saying something. The intense rose petal scent in that wine stayed with me long after I -ahem- spat -ahem- it out.

There was also a disappointment or two, the most unbelievable one was at Coche-Dury. Despite the reputation of the domaine, I found practically everything I tasted there to be underwhelming. The '03 Corton Charlemagne figures in my note with one little word: icky. I know, I know, icky is not exactly in the professional taster's vocabulary, but it pretty much sums up my opinion on that wine.

I'm off to Lausanne tomorrow, and Nice on Wednesday. David is finally joining me, even just for a week. Yippee! This is his first time off from work since April. We are going to Crissier near Lausanne, to have dinner at Phillipe Rochat, and then to Nice where we will be shopping and cooking with our friends for four days. Oh, right, and there is a dinner at Le Louis XV in there somewhere. Luckily I will have internet connection in Nice, so I can tell you more about Burgundy and all the embarrassing things I did there. I also took hundreds of photos, in the caves and on the vineyards, hopefully they will all be up on my Flickr soon so you can sneak a look in with me.


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