The harvest in Costieres des Nimes was nearly over when I started up the Rhone Valley this past weekend where the growers were scouting the vines to determine when to start cutting. I took time for a four-hour dinner with Anne-Sophie Pic (whom I have known since she was a toddler) so I could see for myself why she is the world’s finest chef. Please note, I did not say finest woman chef.
Backing up her unbelievably appealing taste sensations were old Champagne from Taittenger, four-year-old Beaucastel Chateauneuf-de-Pape, and youthful Condrieu; Anne did not let my wine experience idle itself.
As we continued northward, marveling about how well the French use and care for their rivers — in this case the Rhone and the Saone — the temperatures cooled a few degreees even with the sun still bright. In Julienas’s deconsecrated parish church, now a wine cooperative, the consensus was that the harvest could start later this week, but those plump Gamay grapes were hanging so low I felt they should already be cut.
This morning in Meursault, the hope was the picking could begin in a few days. Northerly is still cooler than southerly. Vintages do matter. After comparing 2012 Beaujolais Grand Crus with those of 2010 in Saint-Amour, we became believers that the Gamay does profit from time in bottle.
While I did stroill into a couple of vineyards, I confess that my wine research these days is done in dining rooms and parlors. I can taste just as well on a flower-bedecked terrace as I can in a musty cellar, and an hour’s conversation with a fourth-generation producer does more for me than does a walk past a succession of fermentation vats.
So for the rest of the week, I plan to assess the current state of wines in the Maconnaise, Alsace, and the Cote d’Or in the company of Marc Haeberlin and Georges Blanc. After all, the purpose of wine is to enhance cooking and the enjoyment of it. Bon appetit!