Close to 4,000 miles separate the small town where we're tasting wine from the origins of the liquid gold poured into the glasses before us. We begin the evening with a pre-tasting, a 2015 Ferret Pouilly Fuisse, full of the citrus and mineral qualities derived from the limestone and clay soils of it's southern Burgundy roots. Like all Pouilly-Fuissé, the vines are influenced by the Mediterranean climate and the Mistral winds that blow up the Rhone corridor. Half fermented in enamel tanks and half fermented in oak barrels the true expression of the style comes through in a vibrant, energetic and well-balanced wine.
Coming from a palette more accustomed to New World Wines (California, specifically), I am pleasantly awakened to the elegance and subtlety of French burgundies. Perhaps one of the qualities of Old World wines I like best is the tradition of standards and restrictions imposed on these wines--guidelines that account for the distinct provenance of the grape with all it's unique properties, tied to the footprint of it's roots.
The region of Burgundy, in Eastern France, dates as far back as 312 A.D. The reds (Pinot Noir) are known for being rich and complex. The whites (Chardonnay) for being crisp and dry. The semi-continental region of Chablis is challenging geography for grapes. Summers are ideal but spring and fall can wreak havoc with frosts and rain. A good premier cru, like the 2014 Rene & Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis Vaillons we tasted had the juice and "chiseled lemon" flavors described int the tasting notes, though I failed to taste the menthol or wet stone on the nose. This was a nice wine, but with a bit more acidity than I like in my glass.
Bottle 2, a 2013 Michel Neillon, Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Vergers had rich pineapple notes, perfectly balanced with minerality. This wine comes from a village known for its textured and powerful whites and indeed this wine is concentrated, rich, and better yet promises to get even better with age.
Bottle 3, the one that made a French Burgundy lover out of me--the 2009 Henri Boillot, Les Charmes Meursault. This one was my favorite in every way. Like a fine friend, this wine has "grip and backbone," and a ripe elegance featuring notes of spiced pear and white peach. It's the white peach that stood out on my tastebuds, and a summer peachy fragrance that took my mind and memory to a Solebury orchard in summertime, those same lovely and elegant aromas.
Bottle 4, a 2010 Louis Latour Pommard Premier Cru Epenots comes from the famed negociant around since 1797 and currently operated by it's 7th Louis Latour. Pommard, the village, gets its name from the goddess Pomona, "divinity of the garden," and yields fruit that is full of finesse by the time it reaches the bottle. A richer, fuller wine, with definite notes of cherry and a beautiful mouth-feel, this is a wine guaranteed to be divine in full maturity.
Bottle 5, a 2006 Pierre Amiot Clois St. Denis Grand Cru was intense and displayed the full, powerful, "masculine" characteristics of the Côte de Nuits region that St. Denis is part of. At this point in the tasting I was growing tired and dehydrated, unused to drinking so much, nor staying up this late.
We started to disperse and my take-away was that I LOVE expensive French wine (no surprise there) and that a fine wine is still best described without fanfare or pretension, the way my grandfather said it best: "it sits well in the glass."