The Meaning Of Christmas In Wine

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - December 14, 2011
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Yay! Christmas will be here soon. I am reminded that Jesus is the “reason for the season.” And I got to thinking about some special wines that have something to do with the Christ theme he is credited with turning water to wine, after all. There are many special wines to be drunk at our Christmas celebrations, and these are just some of them with some particularly interesting names and stories behind them.

There is a wine produced in Burgundy by Bouchard Pere et Fils that goes by the name of Vigne de l’enfant Jesus, which translates to “the vine of the infant Jesus.” It is made from a single Premier Cru-classed vineyard (second only to Grand Cru) named Greves in the village of Beaune and is made entirely of Pinot Noir. There is a legend that says when the Carmelite nuns who cared for the vineyard made wine from it, the result was so soft and creamy, like the “little buns of the baby Jesus,” they gave it this name. But that is pure legend.

The true story does begin with a Carmelite nun by the name of Marguerite du Saint Sacrement, who was tasked to pray for Louis XIII who was yet childless, to have a child to inherit the throne. This is at a time when France was vying with Spain to dominate Europe, yet he had no heirs. Nine months after her official mission given to her in December 1637, on Sept. 5, 1638, the future Louis XIV was born. As her story spread across the kingdom, her order became quite wealthy and was given a chapel named L’Enfant Jesus adorned with a wooden statuette of the baby Jesus. Later the vineyard Beaune Greves was bequeathed to the Carmelites, who then gave it the name Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus. The wine today is quite nice and always one of the best of the village.

This next wine may not have as much history, but it is indeed quite special. Domaine De Montille produces a wine from another Premier Cru vineyard by the name of Malconsorts in the village of Vosne Romanee. I should say they produce two. One is simply named Malconsorts for the name of the vineyard. The other is named Cuvee Christiane (as in Christlike). This wine is named after the current proprietor’s mother. The reason why this cuvee is so exceptional is because it comes from a part of the Malconsorts vineyard that is within the boundaries of one of the most famous (and expensive) vineyards in all of BurgundyLa Tache. The great Grand Cru of La Tache, considered by many as the greatest Grand Cru in Burgundy (even above Romanee Conti) is actually made up of two vineyards, La Tache and Les Gaudichots. Malconsorts is its immediate neighbor and the portion of the vineyard De Montille owns actually indents the vineyard of La Tache. So if you ever have the opportunity to taste this wine (production is tiny), it is a peek into La Tache and at a substantially lower price.

And if the production of Cuvee Christiane is tiny, the production of the next wine is microscopic. I once had the opportunity to taste the 1996 Louis Guntrum Cristallo Eiswein, of which there were only 300 bottles produced. The reason is that this wine was harvested entirely on Christmas Day. I remember Louis Konstantin Guntrum recounting the story to me that, despite it being Christmas Day, their neighbors, family and friends all helped to harvest the last grapes on that cold December morning in 1996. Everyone was happy and joyful to help, asking nothing in return. It was magical.

The wine was quite magical too: remarkably sweet and rich with waves of complexity.

May your Christmas be filled with joy, health and great wine.

More recommendations: 2009 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay ($49) Nervy and tightly wound with minerals laden with vanilla. This wine really penetrates your palate with a terrifically intense flavor and aftertaste. It has electricity that should be tasted to be believed. Lovely. NV Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blanc ($49) Oh yes, elegance, finesse and supple Champagne flavors that everyone longs for. It has gorgeous fruit and aromatics but what really gets me is its sinewy, silky texture and flavor.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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