Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Les Petits Monts - ballerina of wines

We wine writers can be justly accused of taking flights of fancy when it comes to describing wine.

Disclaimer: I will do nothing to improve that questionable habit in this post.

Instead I want to propose a metaphor for the 2008 Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru Les Petits Monts from Domaine Robert Sirugue a Vosne-Romanee. We often speak (to the confusion of "regular people") of wine being feminine or masculine. I'll go one better. Not only is this wine feminine, but a certain type of woman. No curvaceous earth mother here. This wine is a ballerina - elegant, lean, balanced, and ethereal. And, with the fame Burgundy enjoys, she dances on a world stage.

She looks thin - tilt the glass and you'll see the translucent ruby of Pinot Noirs from this chilly climate. But she is not weak - while lithe, there is an inner strength. She knows who she is. Premier Cru Burgundy doesn't want to be big and brash--in certain vintages it is exquisitely delicate. Imbibers who regularly pour California or South American reds may have no appreciation for the restraint she shows. That's a shame, because just as a ballet dancer communicates deep emotion with the smallest turn of her wrist, Burgundy such as this is expressing profound Pinot Noir flavors, but in a delicate way.

While most people will acknowledge the grace of ballet, it's not everyone's thing. And so it is here. But for those people who appreciate subtlety and a centuries-old tradition of beauty, the ballet and this Burgundy are most satisfying.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Just how good was the wine at Cana?

File:Cana-01.jpgToday Catholics heard a gospel reading that is surely one of my favorites - the tale of the Wedding at Cana.  This gem of a story makes me happy for a number of reasons.  First of all, the New Testament doesn't have many parties, but this is one of them.  Secondly, it was Jesus' first miracle - that gives our favorite beverage tremendous klout from a religious point of view. Thirdly, I love that Mary plays the role of nagging mom and Jesus is the seemingly uncooperative son.  After she nudges him to solve the problem of the wedding party running out of wine, he shrugs her off, "Woman, how does your concern affect me?" And yet, just like many sons, he ends up doing what mom wants anyway, asking servants to fill up jugs with water and then, when they are presented to the wait staff, they have become wine.

But not just any wine.  The headwaiter remarks with surprise that usually the best wine is served early at the event, but they have saved the best wine for last.  I love that normally the degree of how inebriated the guests are is inverse to the quality of what's being served.  But who hasn't experienced the phenomenon of wine, beer, cocktails, or anything tasting much better after the first few drinks have been consumed?  I'm sure it's a technique still used by hosts today, although I like to drink "the good stuff" all night if I can afford to.

I like to fantasize about what the wine at the Wedding at Cana tasted like.  I like to think it was more elegant than what was being made in the surrounding vineyards at the time.  Would it have the finesse of a Burgundy from the best years, perhaps a preview of Domaine Romanee Conti?  Perhaps the masterful power of a first Growth Bordeaux from a legendary vintage?  Once I had a 1973 Riesling that still was as fresh and youthful as a new wine - my dinner companion declared, "This wine just makes me happy!" It could have been a white, after all.

In the States, our puritanical zeal for a "drug-free America" often lands any alcoholic beverage in the same heap as the hardest drugs. But I like to remind anyone who thinks this way that wine is mentioned hundreds of times in the bible, and never more fondly than at the Wedding at Cana.