I have always been drawn to Burgundy: the place, the wines and the people. Some of the best and worst wines I have had have been Burgundy wines. I always found it interesting that such a place could create something that could give me either an immense amount of pleasure or enormous amount of pain. There is nothing more tragic than expecting magic, only to receive disappointing, unpleasant reality – like searching for someone to love.
Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine
That is why I was very intrigued to watch Rudi Goldman’s film, Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine. I was wondering if it captured that complicated relationship that comes with a love affair with Burgundy. And certainly, through intimate interviews with not only many of the wine producers, but also those who are involved in other professions that relate to wine, it did.
Burgundy is a place that is not for the faint of heart. It has some of the most unpredictable climatic conditions, such as hail storms that randomly destroy one vineyard while leaving its neighboring vineyard untouched. Burgundy is located near the 47th parallel, which is a borderline area for ripening red grapes, yet their red wines are viewed by many as the best Pinot Noir wines in the world.
Strict Rules = Creativity and Nuance
Alex Gambal, winemaker/owner of Maison Alex Gambal, is the consistent voice throughout the film that helps to keep us on a journey. In the very beginning he talks about the “tight, rigid” rules of Burgundy saying, “Within those very strict rules there is a certain amount of creativity and nuance.” And throughout the film, I saw the evidence of extremely creative people who were forced, by the confines of their local appellation laws and the less than ideal weather conditions, to focus their artistry to such a point that when Mother Nature did spare them with a decent vintage, they made some of the most exquisite wines on this planet.
Burgundy and New York City are Magnetic
It was perfect to end the film showing a party held by many of the wine growers/producers in Meursault with one of the most famous Sommeliers in New York City, Michael Madrigale, formerly of Bar Boulud, Épicerie Boulud & Boulud Sud, because it showed how Burgundy was addictive just like New York City. While Madrigale is surrounded by producers singing and twirling their napkins in the air with utter abandonment, he says, “There is something magnetic about Burgundy that brings you here.”
And in that instance, I remember all the times I sat on the subway, on a stoop, or on sidewalks, sobbing because of the harsh realities of living in a tough city that had its own rigid lifestyle. So many times I thought about living an easier life in another place that gives a person a chance to breath. But then I think of all the creativity, the characters, the energy that is like no where else. I would feel like I was not living if I was not in this crazy urban jungle. And that’s when it makes sense – why Burgundy, a place where many small family wineries are barely getting by, where there is so much uncertainly with every harvest, speaks to me. It is the sort of place that pushes humans beyond their limits, almost bringing them to their knees, only in the end to show them they have a lot more to offer than they could have ever imagined.
The love affair with Burgundy, like New York City, never promises to be an easy relationship, but it is one that the heart never forgets.
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)
2014 Maison Joseph Drouhin, Laforet Chardonnay Bourgogne, Burgundy, France ($13): 100% Chardonnay. Drouhin is one of the most famous names in Burgundy, and even though they certainly have incredible Grand Cru fine wines, they also offer wines that are affordable to drink everyday. A wine that has delicious lemon comfit flavors with spice and honeysuckle notes. This wine allows us to live with the “passion” of Burgundy everyday.
Special Occasion Wine (from $15 to $50)
2010 Maison Alex Gambal Chorey Les Beaune, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France ($46): 100% Pinot Noir. While the 2010 vintage in Burgundy was known for incredible white wines, some of the reds can be charming. This is not only a wonderful example of the pretty reds available during 2010, it is also a wonderful example of Alex Gambal bringing the best out of the terroir, i.e. place. Chorey Les Beaune has a modest reputation for quality yet this is certainly one of the better wines from the area with pure red cherry flavors and a touch of forest floor, carried by a solid structure. In my experience, the “passion” of the producer comes first in Burgundy and then the place comes second.
Fantasy Wine (over $50)
2001 Domaine Anne Gros, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, “Le Grand Maupertui”, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France ($119): 100% Pinot Noir. My husband and I bought this wine during one of our trips to Burgundy in 2009. We paid a lot less than the $119 but this is the earliest price available on wine-searcher.com that shows this wine’s pricing in the US market in 2011. Currently this wine will only be found through auctions costing significantly more than its original US market price. 2011 is the type of vintage in Burgundy where they didn’t think that highly of it at first, but through time the reds have greatly improved. So it was an opportunity to buy wines at a relatively reasonable price considering the great increase in value that eventually happened with most of the fine wines. Anne Gros is the first to admit that she was lucky enough to inherit great vineyards (“Le Grand Maupertui” notates a superior section of this Grand Cru vineyard) but most Burgundy lovers will credit her with bringing her father’s vineyards and wines to an even greater level of quality. This wine was singing with cardamom and dried thyme, but overall it gives pristine raspberry fruit that is intense yet focused. This is the type of wine that one will remember for years to come, and the memory of this wine will fill us with the ultimate “passion” that Burgundy has to offer.