The Soul of the Wine
We drove through the Montrachet section of the Côte de Beaune on our way to the village of Pommard. Montrachet, pronounced Mon-rachay, is home to some of the world's most expensive dry white wines. A bottle of Grand Cru carrying the Montrachet name can set you back from 150 to 2500 Euros.
The first thing Nicolas asked when he picked us up was whether we'd had breakfast. Luckily we all had, and we soon understood why he asked. Our first stop was at the cellars of Jean Louis Moissenet-Bonnard at the Château de Pommard where we tasted 8 different wines. Jean Louis' family has been producing wine in Pommard for 7 or 8 generations, details were lost in the French Revolution and they may well have been there longer. He has vineyards in several places around the village, and all together he farms a total of 5.5 acres. He'd love to buy more, but Burgundy has the most expensive farmland in the world. His concern is foreign corporations coming in to buy the land. He feels that without the love and human touch, wine loses its soul.
We were ready for lunch after all that wine. And what a treat! Nicolas took us to Aloxe Corton for a tasting lunch at Comte Senard. We met the count, Philippe, and his dogs on our way to view the vines and cellar. Legend has it that Charlemagne planted the vines in this area in the first century. That would explain the name of Corton Charlemagne, a grand cru white wine. A better explanation is that Charlemagne's wife preferred white wines because they didn't stain his beard. The cellars, built in the 14th century by the Benedictine monks, were discovered by a gardener clearing land about one hundred years ago. The building above ground disappeared centuries ago-probably due to the plague when everyone in the village died.
Lunch was amazing. We started with Aloxe-Corton 2009 white, a village wine made with Pinot Beurot as Pinot Gris is called in Burgundy, and a 2010 grand cru Corton white. And because we had to eat, they served jambon persillé, a wonderful dish of ham with garlic and parsley. Next we had a 2010 Aloxe Corton village appellation made from grapes from 4 different plots-all vinified separately and blended -- and a 2010 Les Valozières made from grapes at the top and bottom of the slope. With those luscious wines, we had emincé de volaille with a sauce Époisses so delicious that Tina was looking for ways to carry some away. We learned that the French for doggy bag is doogie bag. We didn't know they even did take away from meals. The gluten free folk made out with duck confit and we all had potatoes Dauphinoise. The final installment was a 2009 Corton Clos des Meix, a grand cru monopole and a 2007 Corton Charlemagne grand cru served with three cheeses.
We read that all cars in France have to have two breathalyzer kits, and we asked Nicolas if he had one in his van. The law doesn't come into effect until July, but he did have one. Judy wanted to test her alcohol level after all that food and wine. The alcohol indicator showed inebriation at a shocking rate. The others found it amusing, but they didn't test their levels and she just might not have been alone.
We took a walk and a break, looking over the vineyards of Pernand Vergelesses in the beautiful sunshine, before heading over to Château Corton Andre.
Because we had a heavy lunch, Nicolas had them bring out strong, full wines. Five more wines later, we called it a day. Well, almost a day. A few beers and a couple of bottles of wine went nicely with our potato chips, chocolate, and cheese. Bon Appetit!