Friday, January 24, 2014

This is a map of Burgundy

Really. Of course you must ignore the wooden porch steps, and in your imagination transport the six stones inside the borders of France. Place them in order in a small region in the east central part of the country, just down and to the right of Paris. Then you may proceed.

At the top left, the white stone represents Chablis, home to fine crisp chardonnays, held in stainless steel and not oak. The red and green stones down and to the right represent, together, the Cote d'Or, comprised of the Cote de Nuits (red) and the Cote de Beaune (green). The little white rock next in line is the Cote Chalonnaise, which is quite small on real maps. Next, the larger white stone is the Maconnais, producer of everyday good chardonnays -- famed Pouilly Fuisse comes from here. And last, the red stone somewhat in shadow stands for Beaujolais. This is the area that makes easy quaffing gamays -- appropriate that it should be in shadow, in fact, since its wines are so different from Burgundy's fine pinot noirs and since Beaujolais often is not thought of -- or discussed in wine books in the same chapter as -- Bourgogne.

When forming a mental picture of Burgundy, do put this in the forefront of your thoughts:

for the heart of Burgundy is the Cote d'Or. The name is either a contraction of Cote d'Orient ("east slope"), because all the vines face east to catch the sun, or it means "golden slope" because the vines' foliage turns golden in the fall. Wine writers don't agree. Regardless, these two sections, the Cote de Nuits, producing almost entirely red wine, and the Cote de Beaune, producing about 70 percent reds and 30 percent whites, are the source of the sublime things that conoisseurs collect, and that movie oenophiles from Claude Rains to Paul Giamatti rave about happily. Grace Kelly, too. Montrachet (chardonnay) comes from the Cote de Beaune, Romanee Conti (pinot noir) from the Cote de Nuits.

If you like history and especially like reading about medieval dukes and queens on long summer days -- so much easier to imagine jousts and pilgrimages and fluttering pennons now, than when the cold wind is howling and the snowplows thundering down dark winter streets -- you might know other mental pictures of Burgundy. Something like ...

...they are not necessarily all Burgundians, but they lived and posed when the dukes and other grand folk in Burgundy were served by artists whom Renaissance Italy could well envy. (All the images come from Olga's Gallery.) And note the background: do we see grapevines? Perhaps not, but it is summer.

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