Monday, March 23, 2009
Our guys in the trenches
(Marc Ollivier of the Domaine de la Pépière wrangles tasters)
Last night, I had a great conversation with Eric Nicolas of the Domaine de Bellivière. Not only did I have the unusual chance to bring him up to speed with the latest cutting-edge news about New York wines (eh, oui!), but we discussed a little about the winemaker's multifunctional role.
Turns out, Eric, being a Renaissance stripe of person, enjoys what has always seemed to me to be a crazily dispersive element to the job of vigneron. How, I always thought – all the while loving the non-commercial, passionate aspect of visits to domaines – can one person do the work in the vines, the work in the cellar, and then – ooh! presto-chango! – turn around and suddenly be greeting visitors, pouring wines, selling them, doing trade shows, traveling, talking the talk, etc. All the activity of a salesman, in its cold, clear-cut-ness – which most of the passionate vignerons I have visited, obviously, do not have as part of their natural fiber.
But Eric, far from frowning on or lamenting the need to get the wines tasted and to meet the (potential) hoi polloi, was enthusiastic about that element of the winemaker's life. In fact, he opined, it helped broaden horizons. It helps, he said, to leave the plots of land and the cuves.
And I couldn't help but be reminded of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who always thought that a long, three-league walk through the Lake Counties was the thing to jog the poetic spirit and get the juices flowing afresh. A change of pace, brought on by a contrast of activity.
Though he did think that laudanum was pretty good, too.