"You have eyes, but you fail to see...Ears, but you fail to hear!" Nicole and I sat at a table with two others, a charming pastor and his lovely wife from Brooklyn, NY, for a wine tasting at La Cave de l'Ange Gardien in Burgundy. But the pastor did not preach today. Instead, Saint Pierre, as Nicole and I have taken to calling him in the day's since, held court.
We tasted twelve wines over the course of four and a half hours. Yes, four and a half hours. Pierre, a sparkling-eyed, white haired, older French gentleman spoke for approximately four hours and twenty-five minutes of that time.
It began innocently enough. Saint Pierre proselytized against the modern day wine "trade," a.k.a., those large merchants and wine producers more focused on their own profit than delivering pleasure to their customers' lips. Two-thirds of wine today is undrinkable. "Undrinkable!"
From there, we learned to taste wine. Over the years, Nicole and I have admittedly become sloppy in our protocols. Pierre whipped us back into shape. We observed and discussed the color, the drip-drop of the "legs", smelled first with one nostril, then the other, then both. Actually drinking was almost secondary. Pierre quoted Mark 8:18, above, to prove his point that, although I may have been smelling the wine in the past, I hadn't reeaallyy been smelling.
For each wine, Pierre walked us through the smells and tastes we should discern. For one wine, on the nose: "artichoke, celery leaves, fennel, spinach, cabbage, peppers, and brocolli" -- and that was using only our right nostril. It went on from there.
"Another wine, another story," Pierre said as he uncorked another bottle. Husbands and wives; the French and Anglo-Saxons; even medical advice (drink wine, not too much, make sure it's French), Pierre's stories touched upon it all. The four of us sat entertained and enthralled. By the time Nicole and I walked back to our Airbnb, Saint Pierre had physically exhausted us. I went to bed early, with a smile on my face.
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This is why Nicole and I came to Burgundy! With all do respect to the Loire Valley, no one there is going to spend nearly five hours lecturing a table of four Americans about the superiority of the wine (Pierre mocks California and its terroir-destroying irrigation methods -- he punctuated this point by informing us that only one of the world's top 50 most expensive wines, Screaming Eagle, is from California). We have entered the holy land.
A Few Very Quick Background Facts
- The Wine Folly provides the best overview we've seen on Burgandy and its wine. You can read it here.
- With some minor exceptions, there are two main grapes: Pinot Noir for the reds; Chardonay for the whites. No mixing.
- Domaine de la Romanee-Conti is Burgundy's most famous producer; Known as "DRC" to the wine faithful, its bottles sell for thousands of dollars if you can find them. Apparently unaware of the growing clout of the Meserve Reserve, at press time, DRC has not returned our calls for a private tasting.
- In France, it's Bourgogne (boor-gawn-yuh), not Burgundy. Our French-speaking Airbnb host in the Loire Valley, who, as I kept saying "Burgundy," could not understand where we were headed next until I showed her Bourgogne on Google Maps, expressed concern for us should we ever need to stop and ask for directions.
Wine Tasting In Burgundy
After spending two weeks in the Loire Valley, the first thing we noticed about Burgundy: wine rules. The second: it's expensive.
For our first wine stop, we visited Domaine Joilet near the village of Fixin. Right away, upon pulling up to its stone chateau, built in the twelfth century by monks, we knew we were in a different place.
The winemaker/vineyard manager, who lives at the premises and couldn't have been nicer, wasted no time telling us that his were some of the most special vineyards in the world. We believed him. Then it was down to the caves, where the 12th century wine press originally used by the monks sits, though is no longer used. The three wines we tried were all excellent. Fruity and well-balanced. Nonetheless, the 55 euros we paid for a bottle of his premier cru wine would have bought us a half-case in the Loire Valley. We weren't in Kansas anymore!
After that, it was on to Domaine Gerard Quivy. There, we tasted our first ever Burgundy grand cru (the very top Burgundy classification). Frankly, we liked some of the winery's lesser offerings better, but that could change in 30 or 50 years when, we were instructed, the wine might be ready to drink. At 175 euros per bottle, we did not leave with one.
Overall, we couldn't be happier touring this wine mecca. And this is after only a few days in, more to come!
Like this post? Want to read more about Travis and Nicole's travel adventures? Check out Bicycling The Voie Des Vignes From Beaune To Santenay: A MUST DO When In Burgundy....
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