Anyone can drive or walk through this hodgepodge of some of the world's greatest terroir. The great vineyards in the Côte de Beaune, for example, are almost all on the west side of the main road, in the mid-section of gentle slopes. There are a few impressive chateaus in Burgundy, but these are much more rare than in Bordeaux or Napa Valley, and they tend to be in the flatland, because the slopes are too valuable to put buildings on.
I can stand looking at Premier and Grand Cru vineyards and not really know what I'm seeing. Visually, Burgundy is just like its wines: not something that wows you with flash and power. It's a farmer's land, gentle yet historic: one that takes perspective to appreciate.
Americans almost always write wine names listing the producer first; i.e., Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. There are minor style differences between retail stores, publications, and wine lists; some would write Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2005 and some would write 2005 Jordan ... etc.
What you never see in the States is the way wines are described everywhere in Burgundy (and in most of France): Region first, vineyard name if there is one, then vintage, with the producer last -- if at all. On wine lists, you see something like "Pommard Clos des Epenots 2005 (producer name)."
|Wine list in a bistro in Ampuis in the Rhone|
This is unimaginable in the US. An obvious reason is that we have to tell the grape varieties: a red wine listed as "Russian River Valley" is likely Pinot Noir, but could be Zinfandel or Merlot.
But even accounting for our system of planting everything everywhere, I can't imagine a wine list reading merely "Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon, Ballard Canyon Syrah." Yet I'd estimate that more than 75% of wines by the glass ordered in Burgundy are ordered just as I did: with only a place. Some Americans talk about terroir, but all Burgundians believe in it.
This post is the epilogue to my week of live blogging from Les Grands Jours in Burgundy, a biannual event where importers, retailers and journalists from around thew world come to evaluate new releases. It's an overwhelming week, with the opportunity to taste hundreds of wines every day, and it was challenging to write something coherent every day when it was tempting to simply say, "I drank all this great stuff!" But I had a blast, and will let you judge whether what I wrote transcended that overall accurate summation.
In case you missed any of my posts, here are some links:
Burgundy vintage '09 vs. '10: Voluptuous vs. sinewy
Rully white wines deliver grand-cru quality at working-stiff prices
Cremant de Bourgogne: one of the best values in sparkling wine
Clos de Vougeot 25-year vertical tasting (read it and weep)
The world comes to Chablis
Tomorrow I'll return to the wider world of food, wine and spirits with a visit to a topless steakhouse. But for now, please enjoy the picture above from the Banée de Meursault, a great party where I drank all this great stuff.