“Women in Wine” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 29, 2018 – Tuesdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Designer Armani black ensembles speak a higher currency language compared to a sports shirt with ventilation suitable for lawn-mowing and fishing.  A modish young couple clad in the newest clothing trend was buying wine in grand quantity and receiving attention from a knowledgeable staff.  When the elderly couple stumbled on the scene, the senior fellow was taking the lead wearing baggy jeans, Sketchers suede shoes and a Columbia relaxed-fit shirt, designed with a mesh-lined vent at center back.  The other-half, or better-half, as she is affectionately known, wore black, skinny-leg jeans with a black and pink tee-shirt from Nordstrom Rack, decorated with a sparkly Eiffel Tower in sequins.  The wacky couple thought in unison that they were dressed stylishly, especially the other-half!  All eyes were centered on the Armani duo.  Their commanding presence left the oldsters alone in the shadows. The small-town pair with their small-currency wallet bumbled around the large lobby with the lady snapping photos with her Canon at everything on display including the walls and floor.

Finally, a young sales lady broke loose from admiring and encouraging the flow of euro exchange in the other room and pointed the way for the seniors to the wine caves down the stairs.  After the second time of explanation, the old couple finally got it and made their way without falling, or damaging anything.  No wine barrels were overlooked by the roving, old lady photographer.  She got them all and to record the moment she posed for a photo at the cave entry before ascending the stairs with the old gent following as rear guard.  Eventually, they left the premises of the Chateau Chassagne Montrachet.

Surprisingly, the lady in glitter writes a blog, and the lovable fellow can tell a fine story while he cooks a delicious meal.  Black Armani could learn a thing or two from these travelers.

Continuing on our way after the grand tour of the wine cave – doing it our way – we followed the Route des Grand Crus.  Grand cru wine ranking originates from the Wine Classification of 1855 by order of Emperor Napoleon II who believed that wines of recognition and long-standing should have a certain classification.  This classification of a vineyard is for maintaining a consistent reputation of producing quality wines.  Grand Cru status focuses on the vineyard and the uniqueness of terroir.  In some regions, the Grand Cru status can represent the best of an entire region.Wine production has been primarily dominated by men, but women are entering the scene.  One of those is Amélie de Mac Mahon, the Duchess of Magenta.  You may remember this name from the blog story “On Golden Pond” where I dropped a strong hint that the name would appear again.  The Duchess has a twenty-two acre domaine – the vineyard planted by Cistercian monks in the 1100’s.  Marcia DeSanctis, author of 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, shares this interesting information about the Duchess: “It is she who runs the estate and all the operations for producing eight different wines and, in that capacity, belongs to Femmes et Vins de Bourgogne – the Women Winegrowers of Burgundy – now thirty-six members strong, aged twenty-one to sixty, all of whom you may visit with an appointment.  The group formed in 2000, not simply in recognition of their mutual womanhood, but as like-minded professionals who shared the desire to run successful businesses and make the best wines possible.”  Amélie took charge of the vineyard when her husband died.  She says, “As women, I suppose we feel as though we need to look after our grapes and our wines as if they’re our children.”  Considering the stories I have read about producing wine and caring for vineyards, I would say that they require almost as much hard work and attention as child rearing.   Further along the Route des Grand Crus a young woman with expressive hands had the attention of the tour group alongside the road, except perhaps one young man who looked my way quizzically when I snapped a shot of the scene.  The monument at the edge of the vineyard had my attention since it bore the name of a lady vintner who died in 2015.  Anne-Claude Leflaive was 59 when she died from cancer.  An article from 2015 in The New York Times stated: “Anne-Claude Leflaive, who presided over one of Burgundy’s most storied white wine estates and was a fervent, influential advocate for environmentally sensitive forms of farming, died on Monday at her home in Gilly-lès-Cîteaux, France…”  The article went on to explain the importance of good terroir: “In the world of Burgundy, no quality is as prized as much as good terroir, a mystical term that refers roughly to the combination of the soil in which the grapes are grown, the vineyard’s microclimate, altitude, angle of inclination and exposure to the sun, as well as the people who tend the grapes and transform them into wine.  Domaine Leflaive’s holdings represent some of the most precious terroirs in the world for the Chardonnay grape, including legendary grand cru vineyards like Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet itself, which potentially makes the greatest and most expensive white Burgundy of all.”  Ms. Leflaive had the distinction of being named the best maker of white wines in the world by Decanter magazine in 2006.  Her passion was the land, and she had a great commitment to environmentalism.  She was not the first of the vintners in Burgundy to go biodynamic, but she had a strong conviction and drew much attention for her dedication as a high profile vintner.  In 2008 Ms. Leflaive helped found a school, École du Vin et des Terrors, with the purpose of exploring production of wine from an environmental and humanitarian point of view.Gray clouds were hanging around overhead, threatening to drop a wet blanket on our vineyard tour as we continued to the next town.  Meursault was a beautiful town, a nice stopping place where we were drawn to the Hotel Restaurant Le Chevreuil, formerly known as Restaurant de la Mère Daugier and established in 1866.

The famous La Paulée de Meursault was hosted here at the beginning of the last century.  Originally, the celebration included only winemakers, cellar workers and the surrounding community and in my opinion that would have been the celebration that I would have enjoyed.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that cave!  Today La Paulée de Meursault has grown to international fame, and is one of the three key events referred to as Les Trois Glorieuses which take place the third weekend of November to coincide with the Hospices de Beaune auction. The third event is the Confrérie des Chavaliers du Tastevin at the Château du Clos Vougeot.

We peeked into windows from under our umbrellas in the touristic town of Beaune on rainy Monday the previous day, and I said I would return for sun and an open tea shop.  Our next stop on this Tuesday where sunshine had appeared was Beaune with many open shops and delightful window displays.

But my favorite tea was not available in the tea shop, Les Comptoirs Thé Café .  Notice the photo for the name and seller of my delicious tea.  If you are a tea drinker, by all means try it!!  You will need to wait awhile for an explanation of where I finally found this wonderful tea.

Women have what it takes to make wine, and in my case the tenacity to find a favorite tea!  I will keep searching for some of the delights in life and all of the important things in life.

Y’all come back next time for goats, a mule, two chateaus and a friendly, warm vintner.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

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All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.