Friday, September 19, 2008
Grand Cru Cut
Its hard to discern the vagaries of wine, but we'll try. But first another glass. Ah....very fine.
On a sojourn through the hallowed vineyards of Burgundy we are wrapped in myth and surrounded by a veil of mystery, so a few crucial ruminations.
Of all the wine from France, Burgundy is the most cherished, the most expensive and accounts for only 5% of all the output in France. Of that 5% only a fraction is Grand Cru, the most acclaimed, the most exquisite, and of that Grand Cru one single parcel may have a dozen shared owners or more, each making their own version of Corton Charlemagne or Puligny Montrachet. It makes it all incredibly complicated, a delightful puzzle that may cost you thousands of dollars to adequetly explore.
With this as a base of knowledge lets discuss topography. The wines of Burgundy are essentially a ribbon of joy about a mile wide and 55 miles long, from Nuits St. George in the north through the marketing capital of Beune in the center to Chassagne Montrachet in the south. Within this ribbon are ONLY 33 Grand Cru parcels of land, 24 in Cote de Nuits, 8 in Cote de Beaune, (and 1 in Chablis). Most are red wines, Pinot Noir, 7 are the golden Chardonnay, deliverer of translucent glory. Grand Cru is 1.5% of Burgundy production, the elixer of dreams, the lost treaure of the French Andes (to coin a phrase), and while Premier Cru can be fabulous, and frequently is, with 5072 plots designated Premier Cru, the truth in math is that Grand Cru is dwarfed in numbers and volume and therefore wrapped in myth....frequently deservably and desirably so.Confused...I hope so. So then get on a bicycle and pedal your way through the vineyards outside of Beaune (thanks to the incredibly knowledgable Sarah and bike tour operator Detours in France) through the notable village of Mersault (with its epic City Hall) to Puligny Montrachet and the legendary outpost of his serene highness, winemaker Olivier LaFlavre. This genial master of oeneology is 73 years old, an accomplished guitar player, fan of Eric Clapton, and good friend of Pink Floyd's Richard Wright and the Rolling Stone Bill Wyman...oh, and by the way, a master winemaker whose family antecedents go back unbroken to the 1630's.
We dine in the courtyard of his Maison (a beautiful hotel) and delight in a range of his wines, from "village" (common wine from the flatlands) to Premier Cru. He makes a number of Grand Crus, all white (chardonnay), including a notable Corton Charlemagne. It is a delightful afternoon in the company of the master, and a chance to put a face on the ancient tradition of Frances most renowned wines, before peddling off through the golden vineyards in the afternoon sun with a full stomach and a mind full of joy.