Feeling a little glum? Storms, politics, all the rest? The San Francisco Wine Center, with the help of Christie Dufault, suggests trading those blues for white. That is, for what can be persuasively called the best white wines in the world--the majestic Chardonnays of Burgundy. Ms. Dufault is the Lead Wine Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and former Wine Director of award-winning San Francisco restaurants Quince and Restaurant Gary Danko. She recently led an eager class of Burgundy lovers through an amazing lineup of Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines from such legendary producers as Leflaive, Coche-Dury, Sauzet, Brocard, and Bonneau du Martray. Here’s a taste of what we learned…
If you had only one word to describe the wines of Burgundy, “complex” comes closest. Unlike Bordeaux where the classifications are ranked by producer, in Burgundy they are ranked by vineyard site. So within Burgundy, the highest classification is Grand Cru which is produced from the very best vineyard sites. Just below that is Premier Cru which is produced from vineyard sites that are still of considerably high quality, but just not as highly regarded as Grand Cru. That being said, not all Grand Cru wines are created equal. This is where the importance of the producer comes in. Now although Grand Cru Burgundy wine is called that for highly valid reasons, it is not completely uncommon for the wines of an extraordinary producer using fruit from Premier Cru vineyards to be of noticeably better quality than the wines of a good producer using Grand Cru fruit. This is a prime example of how classification systems in Burgundy typically are, but won’t always be, the final say as far as quality. A lot to take in, we know. Yet despite Burgundy’s intricate systems, one simple fact holds true. There are legitimate reasons why the world has always and still does truly love Burgundy. And those reasons, complicated as they may be, are all right there in the bottle.
--by Brian McGonigle, San Francisco Wine Center
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