Thursday, January 12, 2006

Burgundy High

In her delightful memoir Tasting Pleasure : Confessions of a Wine Lover, Jancis Robinson describes her fascination for Burgundy and her relentless pursuit of the Burgundy High:

”Burgundy of both colors reaches parts of you that other wines cannot. Great burgundy is the ultimate sensualist's wine, but it is even rarer than great bordeaux, at a much, much riskier purchase. This makes one treasure bordeaux's somewhat plodding predictability, but when burgundy succeeds—which it can do for me at all price levels, even some of the most modest appellations can be a real, heady, flirtations joy—it brings such singular pleasure that it spurs me on to keep trying [...] I see a pathetically obvious, relentless pursuit of the Burgundy High. Like a drug addict determined to duplicate the seminal experience at whatever cost, I track myself continuing to choose burgundy from the lists of restaurants and wine merchants in the often futile hope that this will be the bottle.“

Well, I recently experienced my own Burgundy High. We were celebrating the New Year with our close friends Catherine and Pierre when Pierre decided to open the oldest bottle of his collection, a 1983 Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Brulées Domaine de la Poulette given by his father-in-law a long time ago. Pierre has an excellent underground cellar room and the bottle's condition seemed perfect. We opened it religiously and sniffed it. The nose was tight but very promising.

Nuits-Saint-Georges is one of the main appellation of the Côte de Nuits that produces big, strong wines that usually demand long bottle age. Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Brulées is a single vineyard designation in the Nuits-Saint-Georges village, although Les Brulées is not a Premier Cru. The 1983 vintage in Burgundy was considered overrated by the wine critics. The grapes had much thicker skins than in 1982 but many parts of the region suffered from hail damage followed by rot. Overall, the quality of the red wines ranged from excellent to poor.

After half an hour or so, the wine started to open up and exhibit a wonderfully seductive quality. In the glass, the wine had a bright brick-orange color and a headily perfumed nose of flowers, cherries and spices. On the palate, it was well structured with complex smoky flavors—burnt (brulées) flavors said Pierre—, leaving a long, lingering aftertaste.

For dinner, Catherine had made some delicious slow cooked braised beef short ribs. We were in heaven!

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1 comment:

Jack said...

I call this the Burgundy Epiphany. Until you have the Burgundy that's just showing perfectly, you don't get Burgundy. But once you do, you'll always be saying to yourself that you need to drink more Burgundy.