Drinking Burgundy by Youngman Carter (1966)
I like to buy older books, not only are they very cheap 🙂 they give a (sometimes) usefully different context and insight into a region. This is a thin – only 90 pages – hardback which brings many smiles. Dated, certainly but with that ‘period’ BBC newsreel grammar. Here’s a selection of cool quotes, ones that make me smile:
” ‘Burgundy at it’s best overtops Claret at its best.’ This is the last word on the subject by the greatest of all wine writers, Maurice Healy. He goes on to say that a really great Burgundy is a rare thing, possibly a once in a lifetime experience, but fine old Claret is not hard to come by if your pocket permits.”
“…beware of restaurants who offer elaborate wine lists without mentioning the shipper. ‘Beaune 1959’ has precious little meaning but ‘Beaune De L’Enfant Jésus (Bouchard Père et Fils) 1959’ is a specification of a fine product. No man in his senses if buying a car would consider ‘A drop-head coupé 1959’ without inquiring if it had been made by Anon & Co. or Rolls-Royce; yet the restauranteur is presenting precisely the same invitation to buy blind.”
“A mile and a half south of Chenôve lies another little town, Marsannay-la-Côte, a community which has made great efforts to regain its lost prestige by displacing the invading Gamay and restoring the Pinot. Unfortunately, the cost of the original project was not recoverable, for the market for cheaper Burgundies has been lost to Algerian imports.”
” ‘Grand Chambertin’ is as meaningless as ‘Gevrey-Chambertin’. Maurice Healy calculated that in 1940 in London alone three and a half times as much ‘Chambertin’ was drunk as could be produced by those historic 70 acres in a twelvemonth and the consumption has been increasing steadily in the last quarter century. It comes, of course, from the adjoining vineyards of Gevrey, whose owners or their grandfathers, were astute enough to keep up with the Jones by adding a hyphen”
“They [Clos de Tart and Clos des Lambreys] are fine, full-bodied fellows who reach maturity slowly, from five to ten years, and keep well, sometimes up to fifty years, generally improving with age. This is very rare in Burgundy. It is, however, still considered ‘a ladies’ wine’.”
“Le Corton and Corton-Charlemagne are in the hands of expert vignerons and can be bought without fear of disappointment. The terrian is not for idlers, for the slopes are steeper than any on the entire Côte and the soil must be constantly protected against erosion by water from the wooded hills above and replaced if the winter torrents succeed in sweeping it away. The wines have the liveliest ruby colour in all Burgundy and mature in about seven years.
The crus here take Corton as the first name, the vineyard itself following, as in Corton les Bressandes. Eumenius, the Roman rhetorician of Autun, who visited these parts in 311, thought highly of the vineyards, which he regarded even then as ancient. So did Voltaire, who boasted, privately, that he kept Corton for himself and served Beaujolais to friends.”
“Beaune. Here the vines run in a continuous belt west of the city and form the largest acreage of first growths in all the land, producing an average of 86,200 gallons a year of Têtes de Cuvées. They can be drunk when comparatively young, since they have a shorter fermentation period than most, but never so young as the French would have you believe. Allow at least three years.”
“The best of Volnay and the largest vineyard, 36 acres, is indisputably Les Caillerets: a connoisseur’s wine, which is not to say it cannot be appreciated by ordinary mortals. Maurice Healy recalls a bottle of 1889 as being the finest he ever drank. It was over 30 years old then and surpassed even La Tâche 1904 and Richebourg 1923, the companions in his great triumvirate of perfection. They are, curiously, all Burgundies, though his main devotion was to Claret.”
” ‘Divine Montrachet!’ it has been called, and for many of us it is the world’s masterpiece as a white wine. In her incomparable presence Yquem becomes a dumb blond, relying on curves and diamonds, and the most expensive of the Germans an overscented Valkyrie. She is Millament played by Edith Evans: Fonteyn outbidding Nureyev.”
Some things change, some things don’t, and is that last quote the first ‘bling’ connection to wine?! Whatever, it is priceless. I shall now be on the look-out for works by Maurice Healy.