Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Notes on the Grands Jours, Day 2

During day two of the GJ, we did the Côte d’Or. Unlike my first Grands
Jours day two, we went from south to north. We started in
Nuits-Saint-Georges, had a snack in the Château de Clos de Vougeot, skipped
through Chambolle, whose tasting is in an old barn, and finished in
Marsannay. The first time I made this trip, I was overwhelmed by the grands
crus. I wanted to be able to say I’d tried Chambertin and Bonnes Mares and
all that stuff. Since that was over, I tried to get around the lines at
grand cru barrels and search more for the character of the places. I still
got around to trying a couple St. Vivants and the Clos de Tart, just to
make sure they were keeping up.

The wines are all wonderful. I’m a wimpy wine reviewer, but I was really
happy with the heart of Burgundy, even though most of it was from an
off-vintage. The quality creates the legends that abound in this place.
Myths abound, too. The storytelling is fun, though, because this is where
wine lovers all congregate, and it’s the people who really care that
perpetuate and inflate all these stories. My head was filled with the
stories. I think I came out with two points that seemed real, anyway, and
were reflected in the aromas and palates of these wines.

The first was that the tannin character of the wines tends to be high at
the ends, and low in the center, like a suspension bridge. Nuits and Fixin
have plenty of tannin, and it smooths out as you get closer to Chambolle. A
writer named John Gilman (
pointed this out to me, and I found him to be right. Is it that the terroir
naturally makes the wines this way?

Probably to a certain extent. But another thing I heard when my friend
Stephan was talking with another winemaker was the word “Americanization.”
It was in French, so I didn’t understand the whole conversation. I asked
him about it later and he said that it was the word that described modern
winemaking, and it seems to be characterized by more fruit flavor, less
tannin, less acid—in a word, less of everything that helps a wine age, but
helps a wine taste better initially. In a way, this could also mean that
the wine is more controlled to produce these attributes and therefore has
fewer flaws and more factory corrections.

The defenders of the faith demand that if a wine is made this way it’s
flawed. This isn’t a wine flaw we covered in class. As the culture
influences me, I’m beginning to lean toward enjoying the wines of Nuits and
Fixin. They are more tannic, rustic, and real. We tried lots of
ten-year-olds made in this style, and they're fascinating. And they’re a
lot cheaper.

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