I was raised with a family cellar of arguably good wine, but was never educated on what it was that I was drinking. I could simply express what was pleasurable to taste and what was not.
Then I started dating a young winemaker in Santa Barbara who produced in a Burgundian style and I became fascinated. His aspirations to become successful were addicting, but once again, I was never educated. I was a bystander in a contact sport, partaking in the pleasures but not in the dialogue. It was with a few mutual friends that took me under their wings and into their cellars that I initiated my affair with Burgundy.
Wine geeks say that the final destination in learning about wine is Burgundy as you can never know everything there is to know or really wrap your head around every difference of every vineyard. The more I researched and the more I tasted, I realized my approach to wine had been incorrect. I had created a platform for understanding wine through the lenses of a winemaker instead of that of a geographer, philosopher, economist or anthropologist. I was a classically trained historian and by shifting my thinking to one of the historiography of wine, I was able to re-articulate the vinous discourse.
My affair began, and rightfully so, as a rendezvous with terroir. The arguments over soil conditions and objective measurables were dispassionate debates and ones in which I could not engage. So I began to examine how terroir itself was an active, dynamic, social and politically driven entity of knowledge. Beyond the physical, what is the intangible and spiritual qualities of terroir? Terroir could mystify production and consumption and therefore naturalize social relations. Terroir was not just soil, it’s the people as well.
Wine is engulfed by traditions of the past and present, as evidenced by bottling practices, branding mechanisms and the power relationships between local growers, regional wine trades and global conglomerates. When areas in Germany and South Africa were examined, you were introduced to worn-torn landscapes with an intriguing mixture of winemaking traditions, politicized sentiments, vinticultural bungling and tourism which was amalgamated in a unprecedented nationalist project.
Of all the varietals, Pinot Noir made me weak at the knees. My love was Côte d’Or. This 15 mile strip of land contained vineyards that make the most famous Pinot Noir on earth. Becoming educated on Bourgogne wines was challenging with its localized, expensive, infuriating and complicated regionality yet it delivered paradise in almost every bottle. I have found a flirtatious banter with Échezeaux, particularly Domaine Dujac, with its delicate complexity, explosively ripe flavors and mineral underpinning. With an elegant and pure style, postured with poise, style and balance, this rendezvous rarely disappoints. It was full bodied with some pungency, a solid core and tight tannins.
There’s no telling where this relationship might lead, but like a one night stand, Dujac is hot as hell, totally thrilling and gone before you know it. Au Revoir.