Rhone River Travel Journal—Day 9

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Youri teaching us in the vineyard

“I am the true vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5.

Today was supposed to be a day for wine tasting. It turned out to be so much more.

The Wife in her brilliance and good judgment booked us with Youri Lebault of Bourgogne Gold Tour, who besides providing us with tastings of some of the best wines of the Burgundy wine region, also provided us with an education.

We thought we were getting a driver for this tour, and instead we got a teacher, an author, and a man passionate about wine in general and Burgundy wine in particular.

Our education began as soon as we got into the car. Youri began by asking if we knew the four classifications of wine in Burgundy. The Wife surprised him with the correct answer.

Our education continued at our first tasting, where Youri pulled out his maps and taught us for 30 minutes before we were permitted to drink.

Youri said it is the climate—not the “climate” as the English word denotes but the soil on the particular plot of land that is like a human fingerprint and may be different from the plot of land only ten feet away—that makes the wine in Burgundy. He had us taste wine from the same grape varietal that had come from vineyards literally ten feet from one another and they indeed were different. It is the soil, Youri said, that made the difference.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed.As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matt. 13:3-8.

Youri told us the vines at the bottom of the slope with the richest soil and the most water do not make for the best wine. Unless the vine suffers stress, Youri said, it will not produce the complexity in the grape necessary for great wine. The vine suffers stress higher on the slope where its roots must struggle to find nutrients from amongst the limestone and semi-rocky soil, and that is what produces the complexity in the grape.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4.

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Corton Charlemagne, Grand Cru, 2012

The Wife continued to impress Youri with her knowledge and with her French, which he noted, she spoke with little or no English accent.

Perhaps it was our general enthusiasm for the subject, Youri’s passion for teaching it, or a combination of the two, but at our last stop, Domaine Debray, Youri arranged from us to not only taste wine from the glass, but from the barrel and from the vat.

Not surprisingly, Youri saved the best wine for last—a Corton Charlemagne, Grand Cru, 2012, still young but probably the best white wine I had ever tasted.

The wine derives its name from the fact that the grapes are grown on a hill once owned by Charlemagne. The irony of this was not lost on us either, and it seemed a providential and appropriate transition from our study of the early Church along the Rhone to the Reformation in Geneva, where we go tomorrow. GS