Monday, April 25, 2011

My Weekend with Clive

Owing to some very generous consideration by folks with cellars and pocketbooks quite a bit larger than my own, I was priviledged to attend a series of Burgundy tasting seminars with the famed Master of Wine Clive Coates this past holiday weekend. Really, I was thrilled and quite lucky to be there. One of the first books that really helped me early in my sommelier career ten years ago was Clives' Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France, which I obsessively read over and over. Actually, it is possible that I was the first person to read the Jura chapter of that Encyclopedia prior to 2009. If the Jura and Savoie chapters of the book had been a blog, they would have probably averaged about half a hit a year until three years ago. Quite busy now though, I'm sure.

Anyway, although I had heard many stories and owned several of his books, I had never met Clive before, and this was a big treat. To tell you the truth, the whole weekend was a treat, filled with just a lot of fun and good people.

It was sunny and beautiful the whole time
It was one of those kinds of weekends
It was one of those kinds of weekends

And the coolest part was, it turns out that Clive is a regular reader of my blog and was super psyched to meet me as well!
"Who did you say you are, again? Some sort of unemployed blogger type fellow? Hmmm, sounds right dodgy."
As soon as we got to talking, Clive got tremendously enthusiastic and happy! His eyes were bright and got wide, and it was like he was hanging on my every word! It was amazing!
"Do wake me when this person with an i stops babbling about nothing."
I had this inspired thought that maybe we should just scrap the scheduled Grand Cru tastings and sample instead a bunch of Givry, and Clive was beyond excited about that! He told me that it was the best idea that he had heard in a great while, actually!

"Right, well, this bloody Sommelier wanker better shove off from here right quick if he knows what's good for him!"
A lot of the other guests were similarly impressed with what I had to say.

"Wow, I'm about to watch this super dumb kid from Manhattan get his ass kicked by one of the world's foremost authorities on Burgundy! Rock on!"
After we all had a chance to get acquainted, Clive was able to start his seminars, which were truly amazing.
Here Clive reads from his treatise describing how to increase the rays of the sun by properly swirling one's glass of Bienvenue. Of course, the producer of the wine involved must practice biodynamic farming for this to work out quite right.
On the second evening Clive demonstrated the correct fist pump motion associated with Flagey-Echezeaux. A lot of people don't know this, but fist pump techniques vary a lot amongst males from different villages inside Burgndy's Cote d'Or. Indeed, as Clive told us, it is how the winemakers "represent." You'll notice an Americanized (West Coast) version of the same gesture displayed on the far left of this same picture.

As you can see here, the fist pump in Volnay is properly done as more of a rolling, open handed gesture.

While a fist pump in Aloxe-Corton is actually quite subtle and understated.

To be honest, there was a lot of wine, and I started to get a bit groggy towards the end of the evening. By the time Clive started to elucidate the proper fist pump of the Cotes-de-Nuits-Villages it became hard to maintain my focus on what he was saying.

But as I drifted into drowsiness and I stopped talking, it seemed to me that Clive became quite content.
"Finally, this idiot Levi fellow has shut up his trap and let well be! St. Nick has jolly come early to us today!"

Happy Easter Everybody!

NOTE: I truly enjoyed hanging out and learning from Clive, and in reality he was totally, totally cool to me and everybody else. I am just a terribly bad picture taker, and I only had these mostly dreadful shots to use for this piece.

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