From the rock-covered fields of Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the hail-prone slopes of Burgundy, the French plant vines in the most unusual places. And no location makes a vigneron’s life more complicated than the strikingly steep slopes of Côte Rôtie -- too steep for tractors. Growing and harvesting grapes here is so difficult that the entire appellation covered just 175 acres until the 1970s.
We often speak about Jean-Louis Amiot’s wines as “wine-drinkers’ wines.” It’s not that everyone won’t enjoy them; rather, they inhabit a traditional place that’s increasingly distant from the New World’s oak-heavy, fruit-driven trend. Today’s wine, Amiot’s 2010 Morey-St-Denis 1er cru “Aux Charmes,” is a classic -- red Burgundy the way it’s meant to be.
Sommeliers often tell us of their search for a by-the-glass Chardonnay to please everyone. Chardonnay is both easy to like and ubiquitous, but the styles range widely from soft and buttery to crisp and mineral. “A glass of Chardonnay” can mean a dozen things to a dozen people.
As the world warms, wine grapes have become easier to ripen fully by the harvest. This trend has helped an “international” style of winemaking: very ripe fruit, soft tannins, new oak, and high alcohol. For us, these wines are too often palate-fatiguing and lacking a representation of place -- there’s nothing quite wrong with them, but they’re not very interesting either.
In the early 12th century, the monks of Burgundy began to organize their vineyards. Drawing borders according to shifts in terroir, they set out a ranking system based on quality and character. Most of these lines are in place nine centuries later, and today the elevation in status of a Burgundian vineyard is rarer than bottles of ’49 La Tache.
Winston Churchill reportedly once told his cabinet: “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne.” We share Churchill’s affection for bubbles, and are excited about our visit to Champagne this June. We look forward to a closer look at the chalky soils, and new sparkling ideas for your cellars.
Several years ago archeologists unearthed an ancient limestone wine press near Montpellier. Dating to around 425 BC, the press marks the earliest evidence of French winemaking, and makes the Languedoc the country’s oldest winegrowing region.
As Burgundy devotees, we drink a lot of Pinot Noir. Most comes from the golden hillsides of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, but not all of it. For many years we’ve enjoyed Francis Muré’s Alsatian take on the grape: simpler, juicier, more floral and less earthy than Burgundy.
We’ve always enjoyed experimenting with making things from scratch. Some (ice cream, bread, sauerkraut, french fries) are more successful than others (yogurt, kombucha, hummus, cider), but the process is always half the fun. Pizza from scratch can be time consuming, there’s something satisfying about pulling a pie from the oven that’s so hot you have to wait a few minutes before touching it.
If Vosne-Romanée is the paragon of Burgundian sophistication, then neighbor Nuits-St-Georges has the humbler charm of a country gentleman. Spread across five miles of varied terroirs, the wines of Nuits-St-Georges range from spiced and elegant to meaty and rich.