It works out beautifully when the marketplace determines that X = Good, and suddenly the vintners can make and sell more wine for a higher price.
The great modern day example is Sancerre. As any American wine merchant will tell you, any bottle that says "Sancerre" on it will sell very easily. It is a brand, and a very successful one. But are there downsides?
Tuesday, November 17
I had to great fortune to be invited back to Becky and Russell’s house in Bouilland for another gala luncheon and a vertical tasting of Grivot Richebourg. Thanks to a generous Burgundy collector we able to taste every single vintage of Richebourg that Etienne Grivot has made. We had 20+ vintages on the table that day.
MONDAY, November 16
I got up, made coffee, bought a croissant at the bakery across the street and I walked across Beaune. A gray morning, the clouds were low in the sky. Going to taste with the super talented Benjamin Leroux and two representatives of his NY importer. Ben was the winemaker at the great Pommard producer Comte Armand. Pascal Marchand was the regisseur, Ben was his assistant and then took over at the domaine. For several years Benjamin worked at Comte Armand in addition to running his micro-negociant. Last year he resigned from Comte Armand to work full time at his own business. He rents a fairly large winemaking facility not far from Bichot, Champy, Camille Giroud, Domaine des Croix, all in the center of Beaune.
SUNDAY November 15th
We were invited to a grand lunch at Becky Wasserman’s house in Bouilland. Her husband Russell Hone is a celebrated amateur cook who once worked for celebrated Richard Olney. He made a dish that he has become renowned for - leg of lamb with 100 cloves of garlic. Take a leg of lamb, generously salt and pepper, brown in goose fat, flame in brandy, add 100 peeled cloves of garlic, cover with Sauternes and cook at a low temperature overnight until the meat is falling off the bone. Lunch for eighteen people, young and old, mostly people in the wine business, some very early in their careers, some retired, semi-retired or just tired - like me.
SATURDAY November 14TH
Saturday the tragic events in Paris cast a pallor and sense of uneasiness over the celebratory mood. Some questioned whether the auction would even be held. Would the party at the Clos Vougeot be cancelled? The Paulee de Meursault? People responded in different ways, a somber tribute of music at one dinner, declarations of freedom and solidarity and patriotism.
Amber Waves of Taste
There’s been a lot of talk recently about “orange wines”: white varieties macerated and fermented on their skins, taking on an amber hue. The examples that exist are largely from “natural” winemakers and are usually sold to people interested in the novel or edgy bottles of the world. The truth is, however, that these “amber wines” (as they should be more aptly called) are anything but novel. At the foot of the Caucus Mountains in, what is known today as, the Republic of Georgia, this style of winemaking has been going on for many thousands of years. Yet, Americans are just beginning to discover them as the small country emerges from the oppression of Soviet rule.
The crux of what makes “traditional” Georgian wine different is the use of Qvevri. Qvevri is the proto-amphora clay vessel used in traditional Georgian winemaking which has been adopted by many western European winemakers. Qvevri are large tear-drop shaped vessels, anywhere from 1,000-3,000 liters in volume, made from clay and buried in the ground. Once harvested, red or white grapes are crushed under foot and the entire mash (seeds, stems, skins and juice) put into the Qvevri. The vessels are sealed using wet clay and a slab of slate, then covered with dirt or sand. Depending on the rate of fermentation (almost always spontaneous), the vessel might be unsealed for occasional punch down to prevent overflowing. Due to the shape of the Qvevri, the fermentation process creates a convection cycle which suspends the solid matter evenly through the liquid medium. As fermentation finishes, the cap naturally settles, effectively filtering the wine.
When this traditional method is employed for white varieties, such as Rkatsiteli, Chinuri or Mitsvane, the resulting wine is a rich amber color. Also referred to as “orange” wines, the style has emerged recently on the international wine scene from producers in Italy, France, and Spain and even from the New World. Gravner is largely cited as the first winemaker to use Qvevri outside Georgia, but others have followed: Paolo Bea, COS, Foradori, Vinos Ambiz, Bernhard Ott and Thierry Puzelat. Many argue that the skin contact and Qvevri fermentation increases the perception of terroir, while others say that it muddies it. However, given the coexistence of the Georgian varieties and the Qvevri technique, it’s hard to argue that these amber wines betray the place from which they come.
So what do we serve with these amber wines? These are rich and tannic wines that have aromas of tea, fresh and dried stone fruits, north Indian and Middle Eastern Spices (saffron particularly) and nuts. This is Silk Road cuisine wine... Afghan, Persian, North Indian, and some Chinese. The cuisine of Georgia largely reflects these Eastern influences with the use of spices and nuts as flavorings and thickeners. Though a world away, other cuisines that riff on the asiatic them work equally well. Jerk chicken, BBQ and Mexican all make good partners with wines like these as well as meals with a variety of flavors earthy savory flavors.
FRIDAY November 13, 2016
Friday morning was grey and foggy, it’s always like this during the Hospices week. We went to Vosne Romanee to taste with Louis-Michel Liger Belair. There was a large group of ten or so people. We met outside the iron gate of the Chateau de Vosne Romanee at 9:30. Louis-Michel was dapper as ever in his signature red pants. He came out to the electric gate with his gigantic dog Arak and ushered us into the courtyard of the magnificent Chateau du Vosne Romanee, the ancestral home. He then dragged a trash bin across the yard to get picked up. Even the Count of Vosne Romanee has to take out the trash.