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Timeless Burgundy

The Paulée of San Francisco 2012

Jean-Marie Fourrier, Eric Asimov and Etienne de Montille

Importer and wine purchase manager for Daniel Boulud's restaurants, Daniel Johnnes, madly found of Burgundy wines for nearly 30 years, had the idea to recreate the Paulée of Meursault in the United States.

The Paulée is a traditional banquet gathering winegrowers and wine lovers to feast the end of the harvest every year in November in Meursault. The custom is that each one brings some bottles to share them with his table neighbours. Daniel Johnnes has decided to export this beautiful event to New York in February 2000. He invited some friend winegrowers like René Lafon (Comtes Lafon), Jacques Seysses (Dujac), Patrick Bize (Simon Bize) or Jean-Pierre de Smet (Domaine de l’Arlot) for this first Paulée that gathers 175 wine lovers. The event will quickly grow, now it takes place alternatively in New York and San Francisco. In 2012, it assembled 600 persons in California for the Grand Tasting and 340 for the gala dinner during which 1,200 bottles have been opened! But beyond the spirit of feast and sharing, this event also gathers the greatest experts of Burgundy who host high level tasting-conferences.

An international expertise at the service
of the terroirs of Burgundy

In 2011, Jasper Morris, writer and Master of Wine, decoded the terroirs with the excellent specialist Peter Wasserman who is in charge of the follow-up of the American customers for Becky Wasserman Selection. The journalist of the Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni, surprized all the tasters with a blind comparison between Italian Barolo and Burgundy Pinot Noir. It is sometimes impossible to distinguish the two varietals!
In 2012, it is Eric Asimov, the famous journalist of the New York Times, who came to San Francisco to present a conference on the weight of the traditions and the changes in Burgundy. Winegrowers David Duband, Jean-Marie Fourrier and Etienne de Montille shared their experiences and feelings.

Family successions always complicated

For Eric Asimov, the change of generation is one of the most interesting moments in the life of a domain, but also one of the most dangerous. Nothing is decided for the son or daughter who takes over the reins, and numerous difficulties accum­ulate.

David Duband, from the epo­nymous domain in Gevrey, has had an easy transition: “For me it has been easier to succeed my father, he did not make wine! But I met other difficulties: I was young, I had trouble finding my style, and I had no marks.” His father having always sold his grape to a cooperative since the late 60s, David recognizes he struggled to convin­ce him to better work his vines. “As for the purchase of a sorting table, he said I was a fool but I must admit that after 15 years, he stopped looking over my work as he could see the result”, he confides in a smile.
That was not the case for Jean-Marie Fourrier (Domain Fourrier in Gevrey-Chambertin) who tells how difficult it has been to take over the domain. “It was terribly frustrating to be unable to exchange with my father. For every tiny little change I operated, it was the same old story: he kept repeating ‘we've never done the things this way!’”. Jean-Marie Fourrier decided then to take some distance and went for 8 months to Oregon. “To have new prospects with Pinot Noir has been very enriching. My father was so afraid he would never see me come back that, when I did in 1994, he completely gave me the reins of the domain... Still, as long as I let him drive his tractor… This is still the case by the way!” Jean-Marie Fourrier points at another big difficulty: “When my great-uncle bought Clos St Jacques in an auction in 1956, he could pay his debts with his first vintage, whereas today 40 to 60 years at least are necessary! With 33% taxes, the domain has to be bought every three generations, it is absurd.

Etienne de Montille: his inheritance, a real challenge!

For Etienne de Montille, from the Domain De Montille in Volnay, the succession has been particularly complicated, has showed by the film Mondovino by Jonathan Nossiter. Hubert de Montille, former lawyer, charismatic winegrower and emblematic personality of Burgundy, was tough with him in it. Etienne prefers to laugh of it: “Certainly, I did not lack critics!” And he insists on the quality of his father's work. “Wine needs continuity; inheritances are rarely revolutions but
rather evolutions. Concerning vinification, I did not change anything the 5 first years, and then it has been progressive. It is only from the 1998 vintage that I can say there is more Etienne than Hubert in the bottle!
” To make wine in a historical region, internationally acclaimed and where speculation rages for certain crus, can reveal to be quite difficult for a young winegrower. “Your predecessors challenge you, and your vision of the wine is not necessarily the same than theirs” Etienne de Montille states.
Find a style while respecting the elder's work, the transition to a new generation seems to be, in all domains, a moment full of emotions.

Claire Morin-Gibourg

Eric Asimov, David Duband, Jean-Marie Fourrier and Etienne De Montille.