Exploring Burgundy at Bistro Provence
by Whitney Babash, Dame de la Chaîne
Members of the Greater Washington, D.C. chapter of the Société Mondiale du Vin gathered at Bistro Provence in Bethesda, Maryland, on December 5, 2021, to learn about burgundy wines under the tutelage of “Wine Ambassadeur” Stevie Bobès. Mr. Bobès is an American who has made France his home and specializes in broadening knowledge of the wines of the Bourgogne region. This sold-out evening, exclusively for Société members, was a most welcome return to in-person gatherings, enabling friends to reconnect over fine wine and food.
Excited chatter turned gleeful when attendees were presented with a choice of two lovely crémants de Bourgogne upon arrival, a blanc de blancs and a blanc de noirs, which they sipped while enjoying the passed hors d’oeuvres. Two wines accompanied each of the dinner’s three courses, allowing diners to compare them and fueling much discussion regarding which they preferred with the dish or just to drink.
Among the details Mr. Bobès told the diners is that Bourgogne is one of the few, if not the only, wine regions whose name has been anglicized, to burgundy in this case. With only a few exceptions, white burgundies are 100% chardonnay, and the reds are 100% pinot noir. The wines fall under four classifications—in descending order of quality—grand cru, premier cru, villages, and regional.
- Grand Cruwines are produced by a small number of the best vineyard sites and make up 2%. These are wines to be cellared and aged for at least 5 to 7 years.
- Premier Cruwines are produced from specific vineyard sites that are still considered to be of high quality, but not as well regarded as the Grand Cru Premier Cru wines make up 12% of production and generally should be aged three to five years, through as with the Grand Crus, they can keep for much longer.
- Villages wines are produced from a blend of wines from supposedly lesser vineyard sites within the boundaries of one of 42 villages, or from one individual but unclassified vineyard. Village wines make up 36% of production and can be consumed two to four years after the release date, although again some examples will keep for longer.
- Regional appellation wines are those that are produced over the entire region, or over an area significantly larger than that of an individual village. Unlike the other levels, which comprise only red and white wines, some of the regional appellations allow the production of rosé and sparkling wines, as well as wines dominated by varieties other than pinot noir or chardonnay.
At a typical Chaîne event, wine is selected to pair with the chef’s cuisine. For this dinner, Chef Yannick Cam started with Mr. Bobès choice of wines and crafted a menu that highlighted each wine’s distinctive qualities. The result was a dinner of sophisticated French cuisine that delighted attendees. Chef Cam’s love is sauces; he worked his way up through the brigade system in France to become that ultimate in the kitchen, the saucier. He demonstrated that skill in each course. The delicate flavors of the turbot with tarragon white wine sauce married so well with both of the white wines that diners at one table were split as to which was the better pairing. The same happened with the two red wines and the roasted duck breast, boudin truffe, and the flavorful juniper and marjoram sauce. To conclude the dinner Chef Cam and Mr. Bobès collaborated on selecting the brie and camembert to pair with both a red and a white burgundy. Sampling two very different wines with the cheeses sparked much discussion over which was the better match.
Mr. Bobès presented the following wines and offered his selection of adjectives that capture the distinguishing characteristics of each:
Louis Picamelot Crémant de Bourgogne « Jeanne Thomas » Cuvée Blanc de Blancs NV
- Delicate, aromatic, corpulent
Louis Picamelot Crémant de Bourgogne « En Chazot » Cuvée Blanc de Noirs NV
- Lacy, sophisticated, vinous
Domaine Tawse Ladoix 1er Cru « Les Gréchons et Foutrières » 2018
- Fragrant, fresh, saline
Domaine Hubert Bouzereau-Gruère & Filles Meursault 1er Cru « Charmes » 2018
- Elegant, ample, juicy
Au Pied du Mont Chauve Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru « Les Chaumées » 2015
- Balanced, refined, complex
Domaine Moissenet-Bonnard Pommard 1er Cru « Les Epenots » 2017
- Fruity, focused, crisp
Domaine Cornu Corton Crand Cru « Le Rognet et Corton » 2017
- Powerful, edgy, persistent
Domaine Philippe Leclerc Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru « La Combe aux Moines » 2018
- Fleshy, smooth, appealing
As the evening concluded, Bailli Judy Mazza and Vice Conseiller Culinaire François Dionot presented Chef Cam with a Chaîne plate as a token of appreciation for his creating such a delicious dinner to complement the wines.
They presented a Chaîne wine coaster to Mr. Bobès, thanking him for leading such an informative and entertaining event. Attendees had the opportunity to purchase their favorite wines from the evening, and as a final treat, Mr. Bobès surprised guests with a bottle of Burgundian crémant for each to take home as his gift to them.