Monday, May 30, 2016

Picnic In L.A. With The Hidden Gems Of Bourgogne

The term Climat is unique to Bourgogne, says their leaflet. It is the Burgundian expression of terroir. Weather, soil and exposure, combined with non-interventionist cellar practices is what make Bourgogne Bourgogne. It’s what makes Burgundy Burgundy.

Twenty centuries of winemaking have taught them a thing or two in Burgundy since the Romans first planted vines there. They claim that Mediterranean influences to the south, continental influences to the north and oceanic influences to the west make for a vast and varied wine region, one with which none can compare.

Of course, Bordeaux will take exception to that, as will the Rhône Valley, the Languedoc, Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes and the high plains of Texas. I mean, what kind of wine region would you be if you didn't think your dirt was the best?

Native Burgundian Amaury Devillard (right) comes from a family that has owned vineyards in the Mercurey region of Bourgogne since the 12th Century. His father got a comparatively late start, waiting until 1934 to produce his wine.

Devillard was in Los Angeles recently for a spate of tastings and met with me for a picnic in the park. He and Cécile Mathiaud (left), the head of PR for Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne, along with Sopexa publicist Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry brought wine, a fine spread and their magnetic personalities to brighten an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. Mathiaud offered a theme for the picnic when she said, "In France, food is as serious as wine." While Devillard and I moved to the end of the picnic table, where the wine was, to let the ladies set up the feast, she quipped, "Ah, as always, the women in the kitchen and the men in the cellar!"

Devillard was here to, naturally, extol the virtues of Burgundy. He put a fine point on his effort, though, and emphasized the "hidden gems" of the region. "The mark of Bourgogne is balance," he said, referring to the scales of ripeness, flavor and acidity playing against each other. But he also wanted to show that there is balance at the checkout stand. "People think Bourgogne is expensive, but it does not have to be," he said. "These wines," he waved over the picnic table, "are quite affordable, very affordable, and they are excellent wines. You get a lot for your money."

I always think of of Pinot Noir when I think of Burgundy. But actually, 61% of Bourgogne wines are white, Chardonnay. 29% are red, 9% are cremant and just a fraction are rosé. Two-thirds of the winemakers in Bougogne are small producers, says Devillard.

In France they have a term for a farming philosophy which allows "treatments of the vines only when absolutely necessary," says their info. It’s called called Luttes Raisonnées - an idiomatic expression that literally means "reasoned fight" in English. Why they don't just call it laissez faire, I don't know. Maybe some vintners have to duke it out every now and then to protect their biodynamic and organic viticulture practices

Schooled in France, Devillard made wine in South Africa and worked in Spain for a while before returning to France to sell wine barrels. He later moved to New York and represented the Bourgogne négociant Antonin Rodet and has been back in Burgundy for eleven years, watching over the family’s domaines.

Here are my thoughts on Devillard’s own wine, the Chateau de la Chamirey 2012 Mercurey. In the coming days, we’ll sample some of the other "hidden gems" of Bougogne that they brought with them.

The Chateau de la Chamirey is a Chardonnay that is 50% steel aged, 50% oak.  It sells for $30, which makes it one of the more expensive gems on the table this day.  The nose is rich and funky, with a wonderful earthy aspect that balanced the fruit perfectly. On the palate, the limestone soil of the vineyard comes though plainly, with a flinty touch that I find irresistible in white wines. Devillard pointed out the "increased greasiness" of the wine, which I translated as an oily character - full and round.

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