Friday, June 4, 2010
*Notes on the Grands Jours, Days 3,4,5*
Days three, four, and five were just as action-packed as the first two days.
Day three was the Beaune tasting, and it included cremant, haute-côte, and Macon producers along with the lesser-known villages north of Beaune.
The wines were thoroughly enjoyable, and this was the spot for finding affordable wines. I’ve heard that Beaune’s Aloxe wines (which didn’t include the Corton wines here) are good deals for pinot noir, but the pinots of Savigny, Ladoix, and Chorey are pretty good, too. Of course the producers vary, and I’d have to look through notes to remember which ones I liked the best, but there are wines with great complexity and seriousness. Claude Rateau’s spring to mind.
There was a twenty-foot-long table of Macon wines set up for attendees to serve themselves, and I went through tasting Pouilly-fuisses. I’m not an aficionado of Macon chardonnays, but I did find it interesting that Pouilly-vinzelles, which was also there, was of equal quality to some of the Fuisses, and I had never heard of it before.
This exhibition hall in Beaune was a sea of wine. If I were an importer, this is where I would start. The wine was fine and affordable and not laden with fame.
Day four brought us down to Mercurey to the barrel factory of Mercurey to taste the Côte Chalonnaise. Buxy, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny are the big names but God help me if I could make out any vast differences between them. One of the big names here is De Villaine, who makes a famous aligoté in Bouzeron.
In the Côte C, they grow white and red, and the difference in producers, like in Macon and Beaune, seemed to make a bigger difference in wine quality than the magic of terroir. That’s probably the big lesson of the Wednesday and Thursday sessions of the Grands Jours.
The truly fun thing on Thursday was the lunch—a huge buffet with salads, meats, cheese and desserts of all kinds to pair with the wines. I saw a guy eating a huge plate of runny white cheese for dessert. The after dinner coffee was good, the sun came out, and our tasting team including Peter Julian and Stephane Kat (former salesman at Camile Giroud) cracked up about the French nasal laugh, which made me feel like I was at summer camp.
On the last day we made it to Meursault, Pernand, Chassagne, and Pommard. At least I think we did. I know we were in Pommard and up on a hill near Corton, and that we tasted some Bâtard-Montrachets. The fatigue almost made me sick of wine tasting, but with the famous names and the incredible
scenery of the hills and the Chateau de Pommard, I was able to make it to the finish line this year. The big disappointment of the day was that some of the Corton-Charlemagne producers did not do too well with their ‘07s or ‘08s, but that is a general statement when some were wonderful. Volnay seems
to produce a wine with more oomph and interest, and Pommard with less. One producer in Pommard was great—I think it was Moissenet-Bonnard. He gave me his tarif (price list) since I showed an interest, and they were all pretty expensive. I guess I’ll have to keep working.
The overall lessons for Illahe after all this tasting were: A) Burgundy is a different animal from Oregon wine. Oregon wine, even when made in Illahe’s completely natural style, is less tannic and more palatable than most of Burgundy’s at the expense of complexity. The more modern-style wines were similar to what I’m used to tasting here. There’s no reason to want to make Burgundy, but we would like to make wines that are palatable *and* complex, so we’ll work in that direction. B) There’s no reason to grow Chardonnay here unless
you love doing it, and C) we have excellent prices.