As I work through my WSET Advanced book, my stack of notecards grows. Alsace now has 17 cards as vinification did not want to fit on the same card as viticulture. The grapes on the slopes are handled so differently than the ones grown on the plain! And Gerwurztraminer (without ‘umlaut‘, we are in France for god’s sake) could not possibly blend with Riesling–it is too spicy! too oily! It has so much to say; it needs its own card!
I slogged through Bordeaux – 48 cards high. It was very tedious and unfair reading about the 1855 classification without having ever tried even a Fifth Growth. Then I come to find out the châteaux, rather than the parcel, are classified yet the actual lands are always in flux. I think it also felt like a slog because it feels a bit superficial: the vintage charts, the scores, the Classification, the fakes…Still, I can’t wait to try one.
I turned the page and suddenly we had moved from Bordeaux to Burgundy and I close my eyes and imagine Pinot Noir so gorgeous, so perfect that it makes your toes tingle and your heart flutter as only exceptionally prepared food or wine can do (Krispy Kremes when the hot light is on are also toe tinglers). I’ve just received my red Burgundy tasting invite to Berry Brothers & Rudd in London next month, which I am very much looking forward to. We have a certain kindred spirit in Oregon with those in Burgundy because we make Pinot Noir in much the same climate and with the same attitude as in France. Many Burgundian winemakers have established satellite wineries in the Willamette Valley. Others come to help or advise during harvest. I love that in Burgundy there are 100 appellations of origin to Bordeaux’ 60 and with only a third of the area under vine. But that’s not all: most lieux dits vineyard sites have several owners producing different wines.
I thought I might clear my head from so much studying by heading out on my bike through the vineyards of Ribera del Duero. It is helpful to put the place to the names, letting the notecards come alive in some way. It is a pity, but even though I live right in Valladolid, which borders Ribera, Cigales, and Rueda (with Toro and Rioja not far), I don’t know all the wineries. Everyone knows Vega Sicilia and Pesquera, but there are so many more. We are at nearly 800m here in Valladolid and Ribera and endure some brutal weather with extreme hot and cold. They sometimes have to deal with frost in the spring and early fall. Though it is looking like a near-perfect, muy bueno harvest. You can see the chalky soils in the photos. So much white along the rolling hills. Ribera del Duero means riverbank along the river Duero, and that’s exactly where we went.