Sunday, January 28, 2007

Steinberger's Love Story

Apologies to Professor Segal, but I didn't think Burgundian Laughter: The Search for Wine had quite the same ring to it.

Mike Steinberger might be one of my favorite writers on wine and the like. His piece on Slate about his quest for a 1996 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne is just such an example of his style. Now, this is my taste - pardon the pun - but he really seems to capture the joie de vivre of a hardcore oenophile. This passage seems to sum it up:

As I sat there sipping Romanée-Contis and Ramonets and silently suggesting to God that this would be a fine moment to take me if an early exit was the plan, I noticed, in front of a tuxedoed gentleman to my left, a bottle bearing a striking gold label: It was the 1996 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne. I'd never before seen a bottle of Coche-Dury's Corton-Charlemagne, which was not altogether surprising; Jean-François Coche, who resides in Meursault, produces the wine only in minuscule quantities, and most of the bottles are squirreled away in restaurants and private cellars the moment they are released. Coche is considered by many aficionados to be the finest white-wine maker in Burgundy—some claim the finest white-wine maker period—and his wines are among the most sought-after in the world, none more so than his Corton-Charlemagne, which he has been producing since 1986.

The few conversations that I have had with similar wine aficionados remind me of that sort of breathless prose. There is an excitement that those people have when it comes to wine, and I don't think that anyone else really has that energy. Maybe cigar buffs, but I can't even pretend to understand the patois.

No, I liked the article, but - to be fair - the opinion on the '96 Corton-Charlemagne isn't so universally positive. To wit:

A flight of Coche-Durys hence began the festivities, beginning with the 1996 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne. The nose was very fresh with great spice and was signature Coche all the way. Its great aromatics of white toast, kernel and sweet buttery fruit were perfectly balanced by its superb minerality on the palate. Beautiful, pretty, long and smooth, I found it to be outstanding, despite a touch of shyness in the mouth. Mark noted ‘a lot of smoky, toasty Coche qualities…a little closed and needs time, at a bit of an awkward stage’ (96).


Call it journalistic integrity, but I had to post a "dissent." Also another example of the excited, compact prose the wine folk get into when they start talking about it. Read Steinberger if you get a chance.

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