Friday, February 12, 2010

On The Ineluctible Gravitational Pull of Burgundy

I am in a room with, quite literally, hundreds of wines from dozens of places. A smorgasbord of vinous delight is laid out in front of me. I have an empty glass and endless horizons of sensory delight defined by tables groaning from the weight of countless bottles, and hours to go before the doors close.

I wander. I sample. I reflect. I enjoy. I learn.

Australia, Chile, Argentina, California, Washington, Oregon, Italy, Germany, Austria, Alsace, Bordeaux, Languedoc, Loire...I try them all.

But all the while, I know, deep in my heart, there are a couple of Burgundies in the room. And I know that even as I wander and taste, I am slowly circling in, drawn by the irresistible pull.

Finally, duty done, I drop all pretense and head back to the Frederick Wildman table, where I spotted a couple of classics. Now, I'm not tasting. I'm no longer sampling. And I'm not interested in analyzing. This is Burgundy. I'm drinking.

First, Maison Christian Moreau Chablis Les Clos 2006

Years ago, a wine friend named Rahsaan was rendering a tasting note and uttered the now-famous descriptor "salty lemon oyster shells". No one was quite sure exactly what Rahsaan meant at first, but it made sense. Salty lemon oyster shells indeed: sounds like a spot-on descriptor for this Grand Cru Chablis.

If all Chardonnay were as good as this, I'd be drinking a lot more Chardonnay. It is the pure essence of the grape, absolutely transparent, with nothing masked or overly manipulated. A few truly fine wines have that special combination of saturated---but by no means over-ripe--- fruit and piercing acidity in perfect suspension with each other. This is one of those wines.

With one sip I am instantly transfixed by this Chablis, held in thrall, gently rolling the wine across my palate so I can relish the aroma, the taste and the texture. This is a wine of precision and elegance...does that sound contradictory? It's not. This is crystal to other wines' glass.

It's hard to give up even the small remnant of the Chablis from my glass, but I must if I am to get the next Burgundy, and so I sacrifice.

The next wine is Nicolas Potel Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Les Marconnets 2007.

Up front confession: I have always loved the light elegance of the Pinot Noir of Savigny; it's one of my favorites of the Cote d'Or. Where other plots and communes have force majeure (Corton), or are more sturdy and plain-spoken (Pommard), or are silky and rich (Echezeaux), Savigny is light, cherry-fruity, with gentle mushroomy earthiness. It just suits my palate each time I try it.

This one is no exception. It's a seductive little red and rests gently on the palate with it's soft cherry-berry fruit and just-so acidity and easy-going earthy, loamy, undertone. And true-to-type, it finishes long and warm and whispering.

This is a wine to linger over. It would shine with a meal, of course, but it doesn't need one; it is wondrous and satisfying all by itself, a fireside wine, a late night wine, or as the Italians say, a vino da meditazione. And with this wine, meditation would (sorry)

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