25 April 2012
When vignerons ask me about my blog, I tend to become Mitt Romney. "It's a blog about ... wine in Paris," I'll affirm, and the descriptor that goes in the elipsis depends entirely on my audience.
People are touchy about it. Since pretty much every vigneron considers what they are in the habit of doing to be 'natural,' I find that many choose to take the term as referring not to wine itself, but rather to vignerons who seem to attract a lot of attention using the term. This is paradoxically sort of anathema to the intent of the appellation system;* nor is it helpful that "natural wine," like any brand, invariably gets associated with its most visible or colourful proponents, who can themselves be anathema to more conservative personality types.
Anyway, I felt welcome enough hanging around with the Burguet brothers in Gevrey-Chambertin, Eric and Jean-Luc, to express my particular interest in low-sulfur, minimal-intervention wines, and Eric suggested my friend J and I go see a friend and former roommate called Yann Durieux, who had just begun making wine in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. Eric being the scrupulous Oscar of the Burguet Odd Couple winemaking team, he would only tell us that Durieux's wines were "très speciale," which I took to mean he thought Durieux was bonkers.
23 April 2012
The guiding principle of the Bro-gundy road trip my caviste friend J and I took last fall was thrift. It's like this with most of the trips we take together, because I'm congenitally broke, and he's tactful, and neither of us are very fussy about accommodation. We usually sleep on floors. The point, after all, is the wine: learning about the wine and where it's made and about the people who make it.
But J and I also share an inclination towards targeted profligacy, particularly at those moments when splashing out will tick-off some cultural landmark or other. Internally I categorize these times, which occur with alarming frequency in certain regions, as a sort of sociological expenditure.
This is how I rationalised doing a bro-lunch with J at Le Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet's famous formerly-Michelin-starred restaurant-hotel, a staidly ritzy place that would otherwise seem better suited to couples renewing their wedding vows.
16 April 2012
Years ago, at a fine-dining Italian restaurant where we both worked, I happened to ask a sommelier friend how he'd typify Meursault. At this restaurant on the wine team we spent a fair amount of time daydreaming about all the French wine we didn't interact with. My friend replied that among white Burgundies Meursault was known for being pretty generous, buttery, appley, sometimes lightly mealy...
The description has held up fairly well. But it's funny how loosely it applies some of the most acclaimed stuff. Case in point was a visit my friend J and I made recently to legendary Meursault estate Domaine Guy Roulot, whose wines are perhaps so celebrated for how they tend to transcend the hallmarks of the appellation.
12 April 2012
It was pretty early in the AM when J and I arrived at the cellars of Côte d'Or rising-star Vincent Dancer. I had been up late drinking Corsican rosé the previous night with our friend / host C. A directionless mist of rain was falling or drifting through the air. I found myself recalling, as we pulled into Dancer's driveway, an early blog post where I'd accompanied a rave about one of his wines with a Youtube clip of Elton John singing "Tiny Dancer," and subsequently been questioned about my sexuality by some anonymous commentator.
We exited the car and waved. J was probably thinking 'How can I get this guy to sell me more wine?' I was thinking, 'I wonder if this guy thinks I'm gay?'*
I decided the odds were fairly slim Dancer had seen that post. It would take too much effort to explain. I just followed him and J down into his cellar and we all tasted a great deal of his glowy, precise wines while his cheery dog, barred from the cellar, watched us from the top of the steps.
10 April 2012
J and I had one last appointment at the end of day two in Burgundy, at the tasting rooms of Meursault star François Mikulski, where we were also to meet J's old high school friend C, who now works for Kermit Lynch in Beaune. Night had already fallen. I remember not knowing whose silhouette was greeting us, when J and I parked in Mikulski's lot beside the RN74, and it not becoming clear until some minutes later when we bumbled into the brightly lit shipping area and encountered a few smiling couples.
There was a German couple, longtime customers of Mikulski's, and a French couple, who were neighbors in Meursault. Then there was C and his wife L, and a young American student of hers. It was shaping up to be a crowded visit. My expectations weren't stratospheric.
But soon the French couple unveiled some delicious home-baked cheese loaf they had brought (what the hell was it called?), and it turned out C and L had just returned from Corsica bearing numerous dark reptilian-looking charcuterie crusted with herbs, which they installed on a central barrel-top. I could ascribe it to some magic inherent in Mikulski's wines, which can be magical enough, but the buoyant atmosphere that prevailed throughout the hour-plus tasting seemed rather the result of just a dice-roll of nice guests. (Then again, good hosts always make one feel that way.)