Learning About Fine Wine … and What It Costs.
I am now in Beaune, safely and comfortably settled in a very nice bed & breakfast called La Terre d’Or — literally the Golden Earth. It’s raining here today, occasionally rather hard, but mostly it’s a drizzle that turns into a mist for a while and then starts drizzling again. It’s an ideal day to kind of shut it down and loaf around, and after two weeks of traveling, I could do with a few hours of that.
A tour of the surrounding area has been scheduled, however, to be led by Vincent Martin, son of the owner of La Terre d’Or. Passengers include me and a mid-30s couple from Strasbourg here celebrating their first anniversary with a long weekend getaway.
Most of the land for several miles in all directions is covered with vineyards owned by a few dozen local families, and all producing some very fine burgundy wines. To say Vincent is knowledgable about wine is a vast understatement. I was particularly interested to learn that most of these wineries here are small and family owned … usually just a husband and wife and one the their kids. Why just one of their kids? Because those small parcels can only produce enough wine to support three people.
Because of the continuing rain, our tour skipped the usual stops in the fields themselves, but did feature visits to two local wineries. At the first one, standing among the oak barrels in the cellar, we met Anthony, the son of the owner, who poured samples of two whites and two reds, all of which had the designation Grand Cru. In other words, it was “the good stuff”!
Wines designated Grand Cru are always considered top-of-the-line, although some are better than others and fetch even higher prices. One of the red wines we tasted was so good — so extraordinary, in fact — that I weakened and asked the price for a bottle. It was 73 euros, which converts to a snappy $99.
But, said Anthony, since monsieur is traveling at the moment, they would be delighted to ship this wine to his home.
As I was mulling the reaction my wife would have to that, the young man casually added an oh-by-the-way: a six-bottle minimum is required for shipping.
Before I could react, he asked where the six bottles would be shipped. When Vincent told him I live in Hawaii, his face fell and he said, clearly with genuine regret, that they would not ship wine to Hawaii. Quel dommage!
I was so relieved, I forgot to ask him why.