January 29, 2012

Ode to Burgundy

WICE Wine Afficiondo, Jennifer Jedda
Some of us are cat people; some are dog folks. Some are night prowlers; some are perky greeters of the morning. Some are Bordeaux fanatics; some are Burgundy lovers. (Of course, some love it all!)

But if you prefer Burgundy, you join a community of wine lovers who truly appreciate the elegance and range of the ethereal Pinot Noir grape.

Burgundy reds (with one tiny exception) are made from 100% Pinot Noir. (Not like Bordeaux, where the reds are usually a blend of at least two of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.)

What makes Burgundy wines so unique is the strong relationship of the Pinot Noir grape with the terroir (soil, sun, wind, temperature). This grape, more than any other, lets nature speak through it. However, Pinot needs constant care and attention to bring it to its fullest expression. The wise Burgundy winemaker knows to let the terroir and grape do the talking—to create wine with no winemaker ego, no dominating "style." And, as Miles said in the film Sideways when he made Pinot Noir a star, "Its flavors ... they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ... ancient on the planet."

In the first WICE wine tasting of 2012, a lively group of loyal wine lovers studied wines from the Côte de Nuits region of Burgundy. The best red burgundies come from the Côte d'Or, a strip of land where the terroir elements come together perfectly to host this sensitive grape (as well as its white counterpart, Chardonnay). The Côte de Nuits is in the north of the Côte d'Or, and the Côte de Beaune is in the south.

We smelled and tasted the differences in the wines made from vines grown in limestone-rich soil (more feminine) and those grown in the more clayey soils (more masculine). We learned to tell the difference between a Chambole-Musigny and a Nuits-St-Georges and decide which we liked better and why. We reviewed the good recent vintages (2006, 2007) and the underrated (good value!) vintage (2004). We studied the range of red fruit that can present in the flavors of Pinot—from darker reds like cherries to those fruits that sing with a higher voice, such as raspberries and strawberries. We learned how to pronounce Vosne (Vone) Romanée and how many months it will take us to save our money for a bottle of wine coming from the vineyard called Romanée Conti, considered one of the best Burgundy wines.

WICE Wine Instructor Tom Boothe
Most of all, we came away with a new appreciation for wines from the Côte de Nuits. The evening was so special that we are repeating it for those who couldn't get into the first tasting. (It filled up fast!) Join us ... and become a Burgundy lover.

The repeat of the Burgundy Côte de Nuits tasting is scheduled for February 17. There are also spaces left in the newly announced Comparative Earthinesses tasting on March 16 and in the Provincial Geniuses tastings on April 5 or April 13. Coming up in May and June, we have a Chardonnay tasting and a rare German wine tasting. Come and join the fun!

Photos and post by Meredith Mullins.