Cardinal de Berry, a seventeenth century protégé of Madame de Montespan, served only fine Meursault at mass, pour ne pas faire la grimace devant Le Seigneur. He was quite concerned about the royal family accidentally grimacing at their Lord and Savior from a poor communion wine. Meursault sits in Burgundy beside its more famous neighbor, Montrachet. It produces mostly white wines. Although it has no Grand Cru, its reputation for excellence goes back hundreds of years. Meursault wines are notable for the taste of hazelnut. It has been described as a sensual wine of finesse and frankness.

My first trip to Meursault was on one of those dark, wet and somber European afternoons when an over-imaginative mind worries that our friendly-foursome might make faces before God soon unless we find a Meursault double quick. Aprille, the designated driver, has been white knuckling touring in a cloudburst long enough. Since we know nothing about the village, we stop at the first dégustation sign that we see.

A statue of St. Vincent holding grapes and surrounded by grape vines from the church in Lavardin, France.

As we enter the gate, a young man in orange rain gear directs us to the tasting cave. We enter a narrow room claustrophobically full of wine cases. At the bar in the back I see an American couple trying the Cardinal's grimace killers. I know that they are Americans immediately. They are tall, well-dressed and bright-eyed. They possess that particularly American nervous energy. The man serving is definitely French. He is relaxed and ready to pour for the world as it is presented to him. Brian and Catherine Potts from Boston have tasted a glass of petit Meursault from the cellar of Monsieur Guy Bocard and are ready to leave. They have a schedule to keep and have no idea that M. Bocard expects them to try about nine different wines and he is saving his best for the last. He could care less if they actually buy a bottle. It is show time and all he wants is an audience. Brian asks me to explain to him that they can buy his wine in Boston and that they have to leave.

I explain the situation to Monsieur Bocard who isn't really listening because he is warming up to his enlarged audience. Mitchell, Nadine and Aprille are oohing and aahing over their first glass. Brain agrees to try one more glass of the oohing vintage but Catherine says no because she is driving. She tries to hand back her glass and finds it refilled instead. This is the first of the Premier Crus and the start of a liquid Babette's feast. By the time we get to the third glass no one is protesting and everyone is talking about fruit, vanilla and character.

Monsieur Bocard asks if we would like to see his cellar and we all descend into a cave full of oak barrels stacked four high. The room is quite warm for a cave on a cold wet day. He explains it's the heat from the fermenting wine. There is a light sweet smell of fermenting grapes. He is obviously pleased with our interest and answers all my questions with enthusiasm. He invites us to return to the tasting room where we try one last bottle.

His piece de la resistance is a bottle of Les Charmes Premier Cru, and as the wine is poured somehow Catherine's glass doesn't get filled. Brian automatically starts to tell Monsieur Bocard she doesn't want any more but a laughing Catherine already has her glass under the bottle. They wind up buying three bottles after seriously considering a case. Our friends buy three more. The six of us run through the rain to our cars and our schedules. It is still dark, cold and somber but everyone is grinning from ear to ear. Cardinal de Berry would be proud today.



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