Melon de Bourgogne de Bourgogne (a sunday night dinner post)

It’s always mildly depressing to read wine writers who should know better write things like “there are two grapes allowed in Burgundy, one white, one red” or “champagne must be made from only three grape varieties.” Of course the reasons for doing this are clear from an editing standpoint, but my point still stands. Explaining barely planted champagne varieties no one has ever heard of requiring even more explanation or trying to fit St. Bris into a snippet on Burgundy is perhaps too much information for the casual consumer, but perhaps this reductivist thinking is part of what led to the global branding of a very limited number of grape varieties.

Melon de Bourgogne actually made in Burgundy is one of these topics that even wine books with some depth pass over easily. Sure aligote makes kir so it can be included as an aside, sauvignon blanc is mass market friendly so maybe we’ll include it, people have heard of pinot blan and pinot grisc (or at least it sounds as though they have because of the “pinot”), and gamay is fun enough to mention, but tiny plantations of melon de bourgogne?

Now, if you’re a long time reader and hence probably a wine geek, you know that melon de bourgogne is most famous outside of Burgundy, all the way over in Muscadet where it is the only grape used in the famed white from that region (in my experience there are a great many people who believe that “muscadet” is a grape, and that it is related to, or actually is, muscat. Try explaining to people that muscadet is not sweet, nor aromatic). In 1709 a great frost hit France and killed off almost every vineyard in Muscadet (along with thousands of people in Europe) which were then replanted with melon de bourgogne because of it’s noted heartiness in the face of extreme cold. At some point (i can’t find the exact date, so if you’re Claude Kolm, help) melon de bourgogne was banned from the region that gave it it’s eponym because of god knows why but probably somebody influential hated it.

Some 300 years later French vignerons interested in getting back to truly terroir driven wines started to replant melon in Burgundy, mostly in the small region Bourgogne de Vēzelay (thanks to Wikipedia on this one), to see perhaps why it was originally planted there. One such wine is Domaine de la Cadette “Melon” made entirely from the grape. On sunday, having just visited the Kermit Lynch shop in Berkeley, i popped open a bottle of this with some summer squash, chorizo, and tuscan bread soup.

Now, of course, the question will be how was the wine vis-a-vis muscadet, the only reference point for this. i should take the cheater’s way out and say “muscadet by way of burgundy” which tells you nothing while seeming like it does. The two wines are entirely similiar in that snappy, salty way that makes people drown themselves in oysters and muscadet. There are no obvious clues as to how much difference there is (granted this is my only experience, but if the pros can toss out nonsensical scores based on 3 seconds of a wine, i feel me sipping a bottle for hours is good enough) between two. If you pegged the wine as Muscadet (albeit a fat muscadet, but not outside the range) i would have no problem with that.

i’m going to go ahead and declare this “the summer of Burgundian muscadets” i liked this wine so much. of course this means so far i’m limited to this one wine.

Pics from sunday:


~ by Cory Cartwright on June 2, 2010.

6 Responses to “Melon de Bourgogne de Bourgogne (a sunday night dinner post)”

  1. The google ad beneath your final photo:

    Ads by Google
    Red Wines Special
    Official Site- Join Now & Save $120 On a Case of Hand Selected Wines.

    Just inane…as if every other wine club uses Machine-Selected Wines. And, it’s good to know that this is the “Official Site”, as there’s been a lot of WSJ wineclub impersonation sites popping up lately. I still don’t get the “Red Wines Special” part.

    Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program…

    Oh, and I await your celebration,next month, of dry muscat. (Dirler Grand Crus do it for me.)

  2. The google ads are an unfortunate side effect of using wordpress. I can’t pick them, and I receive no income from them. Sucks, but is simply too expensive.

    Guilhaume will be doing the “summer of muscat”

  3. (Just to be clear: I wasn’t at all criticizing you/your blog for having Google ads. Just dissing the ad that happened to come up.)

    I am glad Guilhaume is seizing the day.

  4. What’s the soil like in this part of Vezelay?

  5. It’s not an editing problem (though it’s that, too) so much as it is an issue of saying something that writer, editor, and publisher can agree is useful in a limited space. For example, you just typed 412 words before you even mentioned the name of a wine that someone could go out and buy. At one of my former columnar gigs, that leaves you another 88 words, give or take, to say something about that wine that would encourage the reader to buy it…assuming that’s your intent. (Your job is even harder since you’re going to try to do so without writing a tasting note. ;-) )

    I’m no fan of reductionist writing either, and I’ve certainly ranted enough about it on my own blog, but heading in the other direction brings problems of its own. In this piece here, for example, among the things an editor or nitpicking blogger might question: what’s St. Bris? What’s aligoté? What’s kir, and what does aligoté have to do with it? Who plants the other pinots, or sauvignon blanc, in Burgundy? What are the other grapes in Champagne, and who plants them? Muscat, despite your suggestion, isn’t always sweet. And so forth. We’ve already obliterated your remaining 100 words and about 200-300 of their brethren (assuming heroic brevity on your part), and now you’re going to have to figure out what to cut. I bet you can guess what you’re going to choose.

    The better choice, and the one I think you’ll find the better writers actually making, is to hedge and handwave to get to the core matters more quickly. “The majority of Burgundy is made from chardonnay or pinot noir,” “Champagne is usually one or more of the following three grapes,” and so forth, ignoring minutiae and the completist impulse to allow the majority of the words to be relevant to the actual subject. Minutiae and the completist impulse are fine for blogs and the Oxford Companion, but not so great for print.

    Oh…and the wine’s terrific.

  6. I write a weekly wine “blog” for the website of a print magazine (that has nothing to do with wine) and as Thor explains–I have to get to the point quickly and stick with words like “majority” “generally” “often” etc. because they view it as a “columnar gig” and they want me to “get in and get out” in less than 500 words. I generally love my editor because he leaves me alone but there are times where I have gone about explaining things in a very precise manner and they get deleted or one word is changed that means something altogether different than what I intended–because my editor is not a wine guy. I now try to mitigate this by sending an e mail with the copy to explain why certain things have to be left untouched. Whether or not he has time to read the e mail is another matter entirely.

    And thanks for the wine recommendation. Will have to look for it on this coast.

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