On Friday, February, 12th, the Burgundy Wine Board hosted a wine tasting at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The aim was not only to showcase wines from more than 20 exhibitors across four levels of appellation, but also to delve further into the story of wine production in Bourgogne and to highlight the lives those who own and operate these wineries. They presented a full day’s program complete with a training session in the morning, followed by the actual tasting in the afternoon. Esi from Dishing Up Delights was also at the event, so it was going to be an entire day of wine tasting with a partner.
As many of us know, the French are very serious about maintaining and cherishing their culture, and they pride themselves in producing some of the world’s best wines. The wines produced in the region of Bourgogne only make up 0.5% of the world’s wine (and only 3.3% of French wine), but they have a high reputation for being some of the best. There approximately 4,000 wine growers who, between 2008 and 2009, contributed about one billion dollars in revenue. The numbers–all of which was new information–are astounding.
We started the morning in the press room, nibbling on the savory and sweet foods on display. We were advised to get our fill of food before filling up on wine, which is key and important advice before a tasting. Although this was a wine tasting, it is important to remember that food bloggers will first and foremost always notice what you have on the table to offer when it comes to comestibles. Our eyes were drawn to the specially devised menu for the afternoon:
Cold pressed “Chicken Coq au Vin” with Toasted Country Crostini, Red Wine Mustard and Pickled Mushroom
Carpaccio of Beef Tenderloin with Truffle Aioli on a Parmesan Crisp
Fresh Shucked Belon Oyster Fennel and Cucumber
Charred Prime Beef, Arugula, Shaved Radish and Grilled Mini Baguette
Ahi Tuna Tartar with Capers, Fine Olive, Sesame and Sea Salt “Caramel”
Artisinal Cheeses with Dried Fruits, Wild Flower Honey, Grape Terrine, Quince Paste and Pear Paste
Fig & Almond Cake, Toasted Walnuts, Dried Fruit and Walnut Baton
Italian Taleggio Cheese and Truffle Focaccia Crisp
We sat down and had a couple of plates, chatting with several others in the press room. We conversed with three women who work in the industry in Los Angeles, including a woman from Bourgogne who frequents wine tastings across the city and at the private homes of friends. She was obviously quite a connoisseur of Burgundy wines and promised us a very fruitful afternoon. No pun intended.
Once we ate, it was time to move into the tasting room. Nelly Blau-Picard, Export Marketing and Communication Manager, for Burgundy Wines gave us a personal walking tour through the exhibitor tables. With her guidance, she moved us through the crowd to some of the best exhibitors at the event and talked about the make up of wines from Bourgogne. The subject of AOC or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée is a very important as it pertains to the agricultural regulations, geographical protections and key characteristics of a product based on its place of origin or terroir. The AOC label extends far beyond wine; you will find cheese, poultry, honey, butter, etc. with their own AOC determinations. But on this day, we were discussing wine, and within the Burgundy wine family, there are four levels of appellation–Regional Appellations, Village Appellations, Premiers Crus and Grands Crus. The Grand Crus wines are at the top of this tiered divide coming in with 33 AOC but only 2% of total production.
Madame Blau-Picard mentioned the make up of Burgundy wines, which usually consists of a one variety of grape, so they typically have a very distinct and pure flavor and aroma. The top two grape varieties are Chardonnay for white wines and Pinot Noir for the reds. Gamay and Aligoté come in third and fourth, respectively, followed by a small percentage of others. More than two-thirds of the wines from the region are white, which includes the sparkling Crémants de Bourgogne–the sparkling white wines. We weaved through the tables as our personal guide offered continuous tidbits of information and each wine propriétaire splashed our glasses with a new taste.
There were two tables with the top award-winning red and white wines for tasters. If you did not want to meander from table to table and chat with every exhibitor, all you had to do was prance over to the exhibitors’ choice table and pick any one (or all) of the selections with special distinctions. People approached the table for sips of the bronze medal Pouilly-Fuissé, the silver medal Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and the gold medal Chablis Clos Béru. Interestingly enough, we had our fair share of Chablis during the afternoon. Chablis is not the typical French wine that most Americans tend to order at restaurants or purchase from their favorite wine shop. It does not have a poor reputation here, but it has not developed the same level of distinction as other Burgundy wines.
There were many wine producers of Chablis who were looking for American representation or distributors on the West coast in an effort to make more wine drinkers aware of the beauty of the Chablis. We discussed the ‘plight’ of Chablis with Pierrick Bouquet, the State-side representative for Domaine Christophe et Fils. The aroma and flavors of Chablis range from fruity to floral and even along the lines of honey and whey, which make them perfect accompaniments to fish, chicken, rabbit, cheese, fruit and breads for example. If you are looking for a new wine to try, ask for it.
Walking out of the Beverly Hills hotel, we were abuzz from glasses of wine and also heads full of new information regarding Burgundy wines. A special thanks to our friends at Fleishman-Hillard and the Burgundy Wine Board for coordinating the afternoon’s event and offering an invitation to take part.