…coming from our new friend, Mr. Laurent Juillot, owner of Domaine Michel Juillot. A jolly man who’s face reads passion. Passion for his property, his grapes and the end result, his wine. Proud of his heritage, but open to much of what the rest of the globe has to offer him in the way of experience. Rare for a French man (really).
We met Laurent yesterday at the Macon tasting, sipping his Cremant and excited that he was one of few that actually spoke to us in English. His travels over 20 years ago had taken him on an internship to Sonoma of all places. He said he didn’t know a word of English when he arrived to the U.S. and learned all of his lingo through the guys in the American cellars. He told us a story about how he rented a “big” car – one with, you know…”muscle” he says…a 6 cylinder, and travelled the U.S. in a big circle. From Sonoma, up Hwy 1 to the Redwoods, over to Las Vegas, hit the Grand Canyon and even visited Yosemite Park. His eyes were wide as he told his story. He talked like a kid in a candy store telling of his adventures in our country. I looked at my husband in one part of the conversation and said, “We do have a beautiful country.” Feeling proud of my heritage, my roots and my beginnings to what got me here at this magnificent tasting in (today) Chalonnaise. He smiled back at me saying “I know”.
Pride and compassion are the things I felt today.
“Terroir” Laurent said, “is the place I can drive you to. Yes, I make these wines from Mercurey, Givry and Rully…but! I can drive you to the ‘place’. A place that smells and speaks of this wine.” His eyes bright, wide and smiling with every word.
WOW. How often do we (in the U.S.) speak of ‘the winery’, ‘the winemaker’, ‘the label’ in the U.S.? In my opinion, too much. ’Terroir’ is not just the soil, as I learned in Oregon a few years ago, but the season, the weather, the ‘vintage’ (everything that happened in that year). It is a ‘place’ – yes, of course – but also where these grapes live a life each season. How they experience their year, as a grape, before vinified.
Like Laurent said, in Bordeaux, you drive to the Chateau ‘the house’ and all the grapes are there on that property. You are there to visit ‘the house’, but in Burgundy…you taste a winemaker that may share one piece of property with 20 other peeps. It is all how the winemaker then puts his/her hand on the wine when it comes to their facility. Laurent’s ‘hand’, I can tell you first hand, is minimal. He is a true Burgundian. He is proud of his wine. When he speaks of his grapes, he uses his hands to show you the power or the elegance he is trying to describe. Really, kind of like me. When I teach…I teach trying to get that compassion across to folks (with my hands). Again, I hate to reiterate my point…but to ‘tell the story’.
Terroir, Terroir, Terroir. We abuse the term in the U.S. There are so many posers that ‘teach’ this without ever having been to these places, shake the hands of those who produced it and speak to those of the region that drink it daily. It should mean more to ‘us’ in the U.S. Kind of like it does still in places like Oregon and small parts of Washington. Or, to some of those little growers down there in California. Terroir is a word that means to me, ‘expression’ of all things felt (by the grape). And let me tell you, the grapes that come to Monsieur Laurent’s pad…they see some L-O-V-E in their life of TERROIR!
France is an interesting place. It’s not like I remember it over 15 years ago when I travelled here alone, with a backpack and just a baguette in my side pouch. It has a different meaning now. Being upfront, close and personal with ALL these winemakers really does have so much more meaning than it did when I was drinking the local juice for pleasure. Here at these tastings – all in one spot, I’m able to taste 50-60 winemakers, taste each of their expressions with their plots of land and share a ‘story’. Most don’t speak an English and they just stare at you while you’re tasting, but some…they want to share a conversation with you in their broken English. It’s great. And, it’s compassionate. It has meaning and it is something that I will not forget.
I’m soft again. See? I knew that after leaving Paris and getting back to the countryside that I’d feel ‘soft’. Or, maybe it’s just the wine speaking? Oh well. I say this as I’m sipping, still, Chassagne-Montrachet. My giant French window open to the Chassagne-Montrachet vineyards, and the night birds just beginning to chirp. Not a bad gig, as I say in class. ”Not a bad gig.” Bon Nuit.