Aaah, Burgundy, the region that has stolen my heart (and wallet) and gives me shivers of joy that seem to touch my soul. How is it that this little valley, stretching for 100 miles from Dijon in the north to Lyon in the south, can produce wines that make grown men weep and turn philistines into poets? How can Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from this land make one believe that not only is there a God, but that he wants us to be happy?
The other night we tried to answer that question by looking at one of the villages in Burgundy, Morey St Denis. It is situated between the better-known towns of Gevrey Chambertin to the north and Chambolle Musigny to the south. The others are slightly more famous, and it's relatively easy to define them: wines from Gevrey tend to be more powerful and spicy, while wines from Chambolle (my fav) tend to be lacier and more feminine. So where does that leave Morey St Denis?
Well, with some damn fine wines, frankly.
A small group of intrepid tasters gathered at Cookshop on Manhattan's far West Side, bottles in tow, and palates thirsty with the desire to explore this town. A note on the food and service: all of my dishes were delicious (I opted for several smaller plates as opposed to a main course), and more importantly, not over-salted. Service was excellent and gracious, despite our propensity to carpet our table with wine glasses. So kudos to Cookshop!
But what about the wines, you ask?
We had many bottles, so I'll just list them with conclusions at the end. Easier to read that way, and it won't be too geeky...
-1991 Champagne Philipponnat Clos des Goisses (starter - very shy and not really showing well)
-1991 Louis Jadot Bonnes Mares (technically not in Morey, this slipped through the cracks by virtue of a small plot that crosses the town line)
-1998 Dujac Clos St Denis
-2001 Dujac Clos St Denis
-1998 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche
-2001 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche
-2001 Clos des Lambrays
-2000 Rousseau Clos de la Roche
-1993 Drouhin Clos de la Roche
-2004 Truchot Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Clos Sorbes
-2003 La Tour Blanche Sauternes
The wines were fantastic, just soul-stirring renditions of their vineyards. It was particularly interesting to compare two different vintages of the same wine from the same producers (the Clos St Denis and the Clos de la Roche). In the Dujacs' case, the 1998 was rounder and softer, while the 2001 was precise and pure, a crystalline showing of Pinot grown in that Grand Cru plot. For the Ligniers, the two were remarkably alike, though again the 2001 was more precise. The Rousseau was fantastic, though the Drouhin smelled better than it tasted. And the Truchot offered a weird funky note that quickly blew off, but didn't make me a believer in 2004 red Burgundy.
For dessert, we had the 2003 La Tour Blanche Sauternes, thick and ripe and viscous but deliciously young, a beautiful sticky from that part of Bordeaux.
So what can we say about Morey St Denis wines?
Well, in the right hands they are classic examples of gorgeous, haunting Pinot Noir. OK, that's obvious. What else? Does it have the power of Gevrey or the laciness of Chambolle? No. What it does have, the one thing I found in common, was a certain high-tone on the nose, a sort of slap to the nostrils that woke you up and said "Pay attention to me, I'm special". How cool.
In the end, though, the love of wine is the love of conviviality, and this evening my friends and I were the pure definition of that. A great way to end a Tuesday night...