Friday Rant: Contemplating Divorce

I am not one to publicly air his dirty laundry in public, but this past Friday, while having dinner with my wife and some good friends, an issue came up that has been a problem for quite some time, but frankly, up until this point I have largely ignored.

Let me back up as some perspective is necessary if you are ever to come around to my side.

We first met on one of my bike trips in Europe several years ago. Leading up to the trip, I was advised that she would be there, but I was determined to treat her like any other–I was a high school teacher at the time and I was well practiced in the art of not playing favorites.

She was not on the first two weeks of the trip through the Loire Valley and then Champagne, but she showed up during the third week through Burgundy. At first, I did not understand what all the fuss was about–sure, she was attractive and even alluring, but there was all that pretentiousness, clearly she would come with a rather steep “price-tag.”

After a few dinners, though, I became enthralled. She was not only vivacious, but multi-layered and as far as I had experienced, nothing else like her in the U.S. She was clearly bright, but after getting by that initial impression, there was always more beneath the surface, which only encouraged me to dig deeper and spend more time with her.

At the end of the trip through Burgundy, she left, but she was always there on my mind. During the subsequent weeks in Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany I would occasionally call her, and I was instantly reminded of the time we had spent in Dijon or Nuits-St. George.

Once I got back to the U.S., I instantly reached out to her and we met. I thought that she would not be quite as seductive as those nights in Burgundy–such encounters in France almost always have a more mystical feel than they do in the U.S.

But she was.

Perhaps even more so since we were afforded more time to get to know one another, at a slower pace, with more intimate surroundings.

Over the years, we remained close and despite the occasional flare-up, almost all of our “meetings” were memorable.

That all changed, perhaps forever, this past week and now I am likely going to seek a divorce from my loving marriage…

…with White Burgundy.

As I mentioned, some good friends were coming for dinner. In a few days, they would be leaving for a trip to Burgundy and they asked me to give them a bit of an overview of the region–what to do, places to visit, and wines to try.

I thought about the evening for several days, wondering how to showcase the region’s cuisine and wonderful wines in just one night. My wife agreed to make her wonderful Bœuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy) and her incredible Tarte Tatin and I would select four wines: two whites (both Chassagne-Montrachet Premiers Crus from the Morgeot Vineyard) and two reds (both Louis Latour Corton Grancey Grands Crus). For both the red and the white, I bought a newer vintage from the state-controlled wine store to pair with an older, aged version from my cellar.IMG_4125

The thought was to show what happens to great Burgundies over time.

I know, a brilliant idea, thank you very much.

We opened the 2012 Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot and it was fabulous–exactly how a young White Burgundy should taste: vibrant, deep, enticing. In my mind it was a bit too young since the acidity was far too prominent, but that would calm down with some cellar time.

Not one, but two...

Not one, but two…

Then I opened the 2004 Blain-Gagnard Morgeot; I had bought four of them in Burgundy back in 2006 and had them shipped over.

Oxidized.

That happens from time to time, particularly with older Burgundies, so I went down and grabbed another bottle of the same wine.

Oxidized.

Determined to show our friends what a “good” aged White Burgundy tasted like, I went down and grabbed a different wine. This time, it was a 2004 Vincent Girardin Meursault Les Narvaux.

Oxidized.

Ugh.

Ugh.

At that point, I was done. I thought about all the older Burgundies I had and feared they all might be goners. Then I thought about all the time and money I had spent. I started to feel a bit ill. I then made the mistake of postulating out loud that the wines were likely fine a few years ago, but that I had waited too long.

At that point, my wife chimed in with an “I told you so” (she frequently laments the fact that I like to hold on to wines far too long).

Rock bottom.

There are a ton of theories about pre-mature oxidation (sometimes called pre-mox): poor corks, too much stirring of the lees, even climate change, but no one really knows how or why it happens. Since the 1996 vintage it has been a real problem in Burgundy–one without a real solution thus far.

Frankly, White Burgundy has just become too expensive and too risky. I hate to say it, but it is just not worth it. There are far too many quality domestic Chardonnays to be constantly rolling the dice with Burgundy.

So for me, after I get through the nearly four cases or so of decade-old White Burgundy in my cellar, I am done–I am severing ties with a wine that I have loved from the very first time I tasted her.

Anyone want to help me go through them?

Oh, and by the way, the two bottles of Corton?

Both were corked.

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Burgundy, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Wine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Friday Rant: Contemplating Divorce

  1. Beth says:

    Not sure if I should like this post! How disheartening! I do agree that there are some great, domestic Chardonnays available, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for Burgundy even though I don’t buy them often. If I were closer, I help you part ways. I’d bring some Passaggio Chardonnay to help you bridge the gap.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beth says:

    Um, I’d help. Ha ha. I need a drink already. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. sallybr says:

    You did not fool me! you did not fool me! 😉

    I read it smiling all the way waiting for the twist… and there it came! 🙂

    awesome post, though… LOVED IT!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. boozeguru says:

    Led Zeppelin’s “I Can’t Quit You, Babe” was playing in my head as I read this. Quitting White Burgundies, for me, is as likely as quitting White Chateauneuf… Never gonna happen!

    I feel your pain, though. Similar sadness has happened to me. (There’s no sadness like pouring a bottle of 2007 Domain Paul Pernot Puligny-Montrachet and having it come out dark amber…)

    Like

  5. Jenny says:

    Working for a wine importer, I am hearing this more and more, and also experiencing it for myself! It’s a real shame, and my close, wine collecting friends are either drinking many of their white burgs young or selling them after years of aging them. But when you find one that has aged gracefully, how you are rewarded for patience! Drink on, Drunken Cyclist 🙂

    Like

  6. talkavino says:

    so three oxidized wines and two corked wines in one evening? I think I would switch to water forever after such an ordeal – terrible! Sorry for the dumb advice, but I would write to the Louis Latour and ask them to replace the bottles… This would probably be unsuccessful, but still…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fiona says:

    OMW! Horrid experience! I’m afraid that wine doesn’t last too long in our house 😉 The one thing about living in a wine-producing area is that one has the honour and sometimes distinct misfortune of tasting new vintages – too early – particularly of whites. I think, though, in fairness, some of that is because wine festivals “force” the wineries to release wines sooner than they should. Bottle shock is real and I think that even whites benefit from a little “lie down” – but not too long! So what have you been drinking to drown your sorrows?

    Like

    • I think the wineries, in most cases, are the ones driving the release time. I understand why–they need the space and money for the next vintage–but it is unfortunate. Now that I get sent a fair amount of wine to sample, I always think the same thing–“if I were buying this wine, I would not open it for a while.” But, alas, that is not what the wineries/marketing firms want–they want me to taste (and write about it) now….

      Like

      • Fiona says:

        On reflection, you are quite right. And I should have remembered frpm my brief foray into the industry. Just yesterday (playing truant) we went to another favourite winery in the Paarl area, and about which I may (unauthoritatively) write, and which was running specials for its “club” members – to get rid of what is now really good wine, now. At really ridiculous prices. We bought 18 bottles of really drinkable wine for less than $3 a bottle. Better that?

        Like

      • Same type of thing can happen here (although not that cheap!)–particularly when it comes to whites and rosés–Americans think that whites should be consumed within a year or two of the vintage year, and rosés even sooner!

        Like

  8. SAHMmelier says:

    Boo on the wine but three cheers on the personification and intro. Excellent piece as usual.

    Like

  9. That is by far the definition of a horrible wine evening. I couldn’t even imagine how upsetting that had been. There may need to be group therapy to help you feel better!

    Like

  10. Ouch, ouch, and extra ouch. Sucks. You know that that will only encourage your wine cooler friends to rub it in…;)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. LOL, I knew you weren’t divorcing your wife. Sorry about the whites gone bad. ‘Tis a shame.

    Like

  12. What a messy and expensive divorce. Shame!

    Like

  13. chef mimi says:

    Ah, I wish my husband could write about me in such a beatiful way as you have. Was she living in France? I know she’s a doctor, I’m just curious. Oh, and sorry about the wines. terribly sad.

    Like

  14. What a bummer! I guess it’s time for the next chapter. Good luck!

    Like

  15. Oh, excellent post!! I am afraid that this might happen if I try to serve some of the older vintages in my wine closet.

    Like

  16. linnetmoss says:

    Great set up for the post–I had to keep reading! Oh so sad about the wines though.

    Like

  17. beduwen says:

    Great post! Another reason to drink those wines and not let them sit so long!

    Like

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