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Of course there are many more people who live with and from wine in Burgundy than the two I met. Of course there are many more good wines in Burgundy than this one bottle that I met rather by chance. And there are certainly - I don't deny this - more famous wines, more famous people, better-sounding names and probably even better winemakers.

Morey Saint Denis - a small commune in the heart of Burgundy - with a vineyard area of around 280 hectares

I know all this. If I didn't know it, I would be reminded of it again and again. Even now, at this moment, on the 200 or so pages in the new "Grand guide des vins de France" by Bettane and Dessauve, a "ham" well over 1,000 pages thick that is lying next to my computer right now. It tells me in words and numbers, with notes and comments, which are the best wines and winemakers and what I should think of Burgundy. Nevertheless, it is not the many meticulously compiled facts and judgements that bring me closer to Burgundy. Rather, it is two people and a wine, perhaps even coincidences, that pique my interest, that make me familiar with the wine region.

This finally landed on the floor in the hotel room after one of the night's tastings

The first of the three encounters: a winemaker in Cassagne. He greets us with the remark that he doesn't speak French, only Patois, his dialect. I immediately ask myself whether I will understand it? But he doesn't give me time for real doubts, because he immediately wants to know how much time we have. It's our last appointment of the day! Then he beams, "Every encounter with wine needs time. Come with us to the cellar, the wines talk to us there. But, like me, they speak patois, which means the language of the vineyards: Caillerets, Chaumiées, Chenevottes, Champs-Gains, Grèves......" My head is spinning. A single vineyard, a good nine hectares of vines, nine different white wines and eight reds. How am I ever going to get them all together? Write them down, note them down, evaluate them, enquire about them, discuss them.... I have a hard time even understanding the names - spoken in patois - let alone writing them down correctly.

Jean-Marc Morey comes from a dynasty of winegrowers in Chassagne and cultivates about 9 hectares of vines.

I quickly put the notes away and just listen to the winemaker. He tells stories about his wines and his relationship to them. My notes suddenly seem pathetic to me, a colourful jumble of facts and opinions, of what I have learned and what I have perceived. When asked about his wine philosophy, he only says: "Philosophy, what is that? I am simply happy when I can create something from a few berries that gives pleasure and enjoyment, that enriches our senses and in the best case remains unforgettable." At this, he beams so much that I finally pocket my notebook. For not only the winemaker, but also his wines now begin to talk. They talk about the terroir, about their existence in nature, in the vineyard, about the weather, the pests, the waiting for the moment when they are allowed to give pleasure in the glass. Finally, our perfidious question: "Do you still stand by the wine you made 27 years ago when you took over the winery from your father?" His simple answer: "Judge for yourself!" He reaches into a small shelf where, entirely dusty, a few ancient bottles are stacked. "1981, a weak year, my first. I haven't tasted the wine for years. Let's see!"

He opens the bottle and offers his first own wine, proud and modest at the same time: "You can still drink it!". You bet you can drink it, not just "just drink it", you can enjoy it, with its ripe tones, its playful but still present fruit, with the well-integrated, slowly fading acidity, no trace of oxidative tones or even fatigue. It is the most expressive wine on this Burgundy journey. By the way: the winemaker is called Jean-Marc Morey, comes from a great winemaking dynasty in Chassagne, he is not mentioned by name in the great wine guide Bettane/Desauve.

Critical visitors - satisfied winemaker

The second formative encounter does not come about entirely by chance either. At lunch in Beaune, we order - on the recommendation of our Burgundy expert - a Morey-Saint-Denis from Charlopin-Parizot. Not a Premier Cru, not even a Grand Cru. Only a communal appellation, a "village". It's the second wine that has stuck with me on this trip and will probably define my wine memory for a long time to come. Maybe it's just the circumstances that make this wine stand out from the many I've tasted: the right moment, the right food, the momentary mood, or simply a newly discovered taste in wine. I don't know. But since my fellow diners share a similar opinion, it must be the wine. The discussion about whether this is a typical Burgundy, whether it has too much acidity, too little fruit, is served too warm or cold, goes well with food or is simply good value for money is of little interest to me. At this point, I am only interested in the pleasure and what the wine tells me. It is, again, a story; the story of certain vines, growing in a certain soil, in a certain location, and finally being turned into an excellent wine by a certain winemaker. Whether there are better wines in Burgundy is of little concern to me at this moment. Yes, even if the same winemaker produces even better wines, I don't care at all.

Lunch in Beaune - looking for the right wine

What I have in my glass and am allowed to drink is simply a good wine, the best for the moment, for a certain time, at least as long as I can remember it sensorially. This encounter strengthens in me the conviction that the hunt for the tops - also in Burgundy - is an exciting game, but often has little or nothing to do with real, experienced wine pleasures.

I also have to report on a third encounter. The place of the encounter: the underground cellar world of the trading and production company Maison Joseph Drouhin. Here one can no longer speak of a winemaker and his cellar, but rather of a producer and his empire. The company is still owned by the founding family, but the term large company is certainly not wrong by Burgundian standards: 64 hectares of vineyards in Chablis and on the Côte d'Or, more than 90 vineyard sites, ownership of a large winery in the USA, production of around four million bottles per year. Although the company also has a good reputation in wine connoisseur circles, it is not a place I make a pilgrimage to when I am already in Beaune.

Cellar of the Joseph Drouhin company in Beaune

But the programme includes a visit to Drouhin. That's how the third encounter came about. It was an executive of the company. The question about his name ended with a hardly comprehensible cascade of words, just like the question about his function. But he leads us through the company and its wines (8 wines to be tasted were ready) with so much charisma, conviction and commitment. There was nothing of mere learned knowledge, of daily repeated routine. He makes the philosophy of the house his own conviction, the wines his own children. An "old hand" in Burgundy's wine business, he is also a storyteller. He does not let the wines themselves tell the story, there is no time for that. It is enough for him to tell, the eight wines are only the confirmation of his stories. I have the impression of having learned a lot, but I could not recognise a single one of the wines tasted. Without a notebook, I wouldn't know a single name today.

Presented with dedication - red wines at Joseph Drouhin's house

And yet: this encounter also convinced me, brought me a good deal closer to Burgundy and its wines. I think it is precisely through these three encounters that I understand a wine world better than before. Even if I still have to look up the vineyards and their names, the most important winemakers and their wines, or learn them at some point (like ABC once did), Burgundy now has at least three "faces". These blend with what I already know and will learn about Burgundy, with the many Burgundy wines I have already tasted or drunk. They are all now embedded in the stories of two people and one wine.

Peter (Züllig)

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