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.
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.
Then I opened the 2004 Blain-Gagnard Morgeot; I had bought four of them in Burgundy back in 2006 and had them shipped over.
That happens from time to time, particularly with older Burgundies, so I went down and grabbed another bottle of the same wine.
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.
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).
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.