Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to best serve young Fourrier Burgundies, with advice I received from Jean-Marie Fourrier

Fourrier flower petals

Recently, I helped out at the La Paulee Verticals Tasting, which is a great event that you should definitely attend if you have the opportunity to do so. The format of the Verticals is that many several Burgundy producers bring three different vintages of the same wine and present them side by side for you to taste, often with the person who made the wines standing right behind the table for you to talk to. It is a really congenial way to get a true sense of a wine. And the producers involved are some of my favorites, with names like Mugneret-Gibourg, Dauvissat, Lafarge, Leflaive, Roumier, and Rousseau. The last two years that this event has been held I've poured Roulot wines, which was a big friggin' deal to me. 'cause, whoah! This year I got to assist Jean-Marie Fourrier, which was just a superb experience. The man is patient and friendly, and just right there with you the whole way. I don't think I've met someone better at explaining obscure winemaking concepts than Jean-Marie Fourrier is. It really is cool to see it happen. Like you sense how cool it is right there as it is occurring. 

Jean-Marie brought along three vintages of his Vougeot 1er Cru Les Petits Vougeot to taste, a 2007, a 2009, and a 2010. He said that the 2007 is in a happier drinking place than the 2008 at the moment, so he brought the 2007 and skipped a year in the sequence. But these were some fairly young wines. In fact I think we were the only table showing a red 2010 at the tasting. Which makes sense in terms of the winemaking, because Jean-Marie really avoids racking the wine in his cellar, and that means he maintains a lot of the primary fruit that is just so ravishing in a young bottle. But it also makes sense in terms of my experience tasting young Fourrier wines. Or tasting young Fourrier wines that Jean-Marie Fourrier is pouring, I should say. Because I have definitely had amazing wines poured to me by Jean-Marie, for instance a run of 2008s at my first La Paulee, that inspired me to go back to the restaurant and open bottles that in actual practice weren't quite the same. Jean-Marie would pour me wines of crystal clarity and perfect poise. I would try to repeat the practice on my own and would find wonderful wines that seemed to slouch a bit. They were a bit dull, or browned, at the edges. This is something I ascribed to unresolved carbon dioxide gas in the wine, which you can tell is present because of the sensation of spritz that you get sometimes when you drink young Fourrier wines. I had the sense that the gas was acting like a layer of gauze between me and the pure expression of the fruit. But I didn't know what to do about that except wait for the wine to mature. Or decant the bottle. My suspicion was that Jean-Marie knew from experience just how far in advance to double decant the bottles, and that this was what he was doing to make his wines taste so great when he was the one doing the pouring. But I had it a bit wrong.

What Jean-Marie actually does is shake up the bottles. He puts his thumb over the top of the open bottle and then gives the bottle a few quick up and down moves in the air. You can see the result in the pictures below.

The carbon dioxide gas bubbles up into a big froth.

And then the bubbles pretty quickly dissipate.

Until the wine starts to return to how it looked before. Except now the taste is different. The gauze is gone, and now when you taste you get all that pure fruit character that Fourrier expresses perhaps better than maybe anyone in Burgundy. By shaking the bottle Jean-Marie provides a catalyst for the CO2 to be released as gas. Why is this more of an issue with Fourrier wines than with other wines? Well, it goes back to the racking. Racking is when you move the liquid from one vessel in your cellar to another vessel. Usually when you rack, the CO2 gas goes away into the air as you move the wine. But Jean-Marie doesn't like to rack. And so the carbon dioxide stays in the finished bottle of wine. Jean-Marie is cool with that, and in fact he prefers to use the carbon dioxide to protect the wine from oxidation instead of the alternative, which is sulphur. In the end the carbon dioxide is retained because the aim is to add very little sulphur.

When you think about it, we are usually drinking young Fourrier wines. You don't see much of his dad's wines in this country, and when Jean-Marie took over it was 1994. The first vintage that he released commercially was 1995. There aren't many bottles produced, and what is out there is quickly snapped up. So we are usually drinking the wines somewhat young. If you find yourself in that situation, perhaps remember Jean-Marie's technique for bringing the wines along.


keithlevenberg said...

This is exactly what I've always done, but I didn't have anything to call it besides the Mollydooker shake. I'm very happy I can now call it the Fourrier shake.

Steven said...

Have been calling this move The Farmer Decant since I adopted it. Raises eyebrows.

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