by Paige Donner
Just the mention of Burgundy wines gets most wine lovers' taste buds salivating and their minds conjuring up those exquisite moments when they've tasted these delightful wines.
Burgundy wines are most certainly beloved around the world but the complexity of the region, a self-described mosaic of patchwork "climats" or micro-terroirs, can leave even the most devoted connoisseur feeling a bit, well, swallowed up.
Thank goodness then for the willingness of the region's wine board, and its affiliate Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne (wine school), to educate those who express a sincere interest in learning more about these wines and the often painstaking effort that goes into making them what they are.
This most recent Atelier hosted by the Burgundy Wine School had a focus on Burgundy wine and food pairings. Participating with a group of mostly French wine trade connoisseurs it was fascinating to see the diversity of opinion among a group that one might imagine would all fall into line in terms of taste. But, no! While there were commonalities among the group, the big take away from the lessons was that while there are wine and food pairing guidelines to follow, in Burgundy there will always be exceptions to those.
Take for example the wine pairing with foie gras. In France foie gras is often paired with a sweet wine. However we were asked to savor the pairing chemistry with not just a sweet wine (from the south part of Macon) but also a dry slightly tannic red and a dry white. The foie gras had a slight seasoning of black pepper on it and one slice had a dab of fig confiture. These refined details altered the pairing choices immensely. We were then asked to find a harmonious pairing with each type of foie gras (with pepper or with fig confiture) and then to find the contrasting pairing. A round table Q+A with the 29 participants revealed diverse palates and tastes. Surprisingly, at least to me, there was one French sommelier who found the fig confiture and foie gras dish too sweet to pair with the sweet wine - a sentiment that I shared precisely but thought I would be alone in that opinion.
The Wines (mentioned above):
Mercurey, Le Clos du Roy 2012 - Chateau de Chamirey
Mâcon Igé, La Cra 2013 - Domaine Pierre Yves et Olivier Fichet
Mâcon Villages Héritage Vendanges tardives 2006 - Domaine Michel
The takeaway from two days of tastings, food pairings, cellar visits and walks through the Beaune vineyards? If Burgundy wines are something you appreciate, you must go there and take your own series of classes to further appreciate this complexity and refined grace in a glass.
Luckily the Burgundy Wine School is happy to work with groups and tour providers to help coordinate seminars and wine classes, even focused ateliers be it on food and wine pairings or learning more in depth about the Climats de Bourgogne. Contact them for details and pricing quotes. Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne