Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cherbaudes: A Christmas Wine

Emily L. Turner, Talented writer sking Wine Industry Experience"Alors, you are looking for a Christmas wine." Lifting her cup of rosemary tea, Madame Sophie Boillot’s eyes dance over the rim inquiringly. It’s a gray afternoon in Dijon and the window shoppers peering into the Biscuiterie de Vergy are carrying their umbrellas, just in case.

Photo © Emily in the GlassInside, the smell of spice bread and herbs warms the tea house. Free-hanging light bulbs glow like fairies swaying above their sweet gourmandises. The young lady behind the counter ties individually wrapped gingerbread men with golden string. I’ve been here before – multiple times – but today feels otherworldly. Magical.

I’ll attribute a good bit of that magic to Sophie Boillot.

I was snapping pictures when she arrived with a boxed bottle of wine in her arms. “Are you Emily?” she asked in French, peeking around my shoulder as I lowered my camera. I don’t know how I found the words to tell her yes.

She could have been a movie star in her high-collared brown cape. Dark hair bounced effortlessly around her lovely face; rosy cheeks rivaled the sugarplums on the shelves. She smiled cordially and all of a sudden I knew the definition of ravissante. “Enchantée,” I said. And I really was.

I had called Domaine Lucien Boillot the day before, wondering where I could find their wine in Dijon. My internet search had come up dry, but I was sure a wine made in nearby Gevrey-Chambertin must be available for sale somewhere in the capital of Burgundy. Madame Boillot explained to me that in fact their wine wasn’t available in Dijon boutiques since they already had an established clientele and always sold all the bottles they could produce.

“Dommage,” I said, disappointed. “I am an American writer and wanted to try one of your wines for a Christmas article. Many of my readers will be American and I want them to be able to find your wine in the States. Since I know you export with Kermit Lynch I thought…”

“Oh! An American writer, how interesting!” she said. “Alors, attendez. I have some errands to run in Dijon tomorrow. Why don’t we meet for a cup of tea and I’ll bring you some wine?” Here we are, then, sharing tea and spice bread, when Madame Boillot invites me to explain my Christmas search.

“I’m looking for a festive wine,” I say. “Something a bit spicy and lush enough for a big holiday dinner. Gevrey-Chambertin came immediately to mind.” Madame Boillot nods, the corners of her lips rising demurely. “I spoke with my husband,” she says, “and he thought it would be a shame if you didn’t try this Premier Cru.” My eyes follow the motion of her hand as she taps the closed cardboard box affectionately.

“You had mentioned a Gevrey-Chambertin Villages, but we want you to have a 2008 Les Cherbaudes.”

Before I can manifest my delight, she draws a brochure and technical information sheet from her bag, pointing to a map of the clos, or plots, of their Gevrey-Chambertin vineyards.

“You see Les Cherbaudes here.” Having identified the small square plot, she traces the line of an adjacent road, labeled “Route des Grands Crus.”

“This vineyard is enclavé – surrounded – by Grand Cru wines. It is a wine with a lot of character and finesse. You can drink it now, or save it for fifteen years; but if you drink it now, you must remember that it will be just as powerful as it will be velvety.”

She squeezes her hands into fists before clasping them elegantly around her tea cup. I ask her what kinds of food she imagines pairing with the wine.

“At Christmastime in France we eat lots of game,” she says, closing her eyes for a moment to visualize the family meal. “Lapin à la royale, have you ever tried that?”

I shake my head no to the royal rabbit.

“Or deer.” She nods her head and lifts her shoulders. “Mmmm, ça peut être bon, ” she purrs.

“I think Americans eat less game than the French,” I say, hoping the wine won’t be too powerful for a turkey or roast beef.

“It could go well with turkey,” she replies, as if she hadn’t considered this most American of birds. “Or even fish! I can imagine it with perch or tuna steak in a red wine sauce.”

Evening is upon us now as we glance out the window at passers-by. Our cups are almost empty and our little sampling of biscuits and bread has disappeared. But Madame Boillot doesn’t make me feel as if she has anywhere else to be. Equally generous as she is passionate, she seems just as pleased as I am to have met here today.

“I’m so happy you found us,” she says.

“Found” being the operative word.

“I was a bit surprised that you don’t have a website,” I reply, smiling.

“Oh yes, we are a bit of a local secret. Not even a sign outside the tasting cellar. We export a lot, and other than that, most of our business is by word of mouth.” I nod, trying to imagine running a twenty-first century business by word of mouth.
“It’s like my husband says, ‘the truth is in the glass.’”

Later, when I read over the technical sheet and brochure, I will learn that “the truth” means the Boillots use traditional methods of viticulture, like plowing their soils instead of using chemicals to kill weeds, and fermenting the wines with their natural yeasts instead of filtering the life out of them. The vines are old, yielding smaller crops and, it’s believed, more concentrated, intense wine. Those that produced my bottle of Les Cherbaudes have been around since 1920.

When we rise from the table, I hand a few bills to Madame Boillot and the bottle of wine is mine. We exit the shop, filing past the glittering displays of dancing gingerbread men, and a shiver of excitement rushes through me. With a hearty handshake and best Christmas wishes, Madame Boillot is off, her sophisticated collar wrapped up beneath her plum-colored lips.

Making my way through the cobblestoned streets of Dijon, I cradle the bottle of Les Cherbaudes with care. It is like a fairy town this time of year, the shop windows decorated with festive holiday trappings, the smell of roasted chestnuts permeating the air, and Christmas music echoing from the town square. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, thoughts of my own family dinner fill my mind and Madame Boillot’s words repeat like a Christmas jingle in my ears: La vérité est dans le verre. The truth is in the glass.

*You can find Domaine Lucien Boillot wines, including their Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Les Cherbaudes, through Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in the United States.

Emily L. Turner is an American writer and budding photographer who divides her time between her old Kentucky home and Burgundy, France. She began her life in France as an exchange student in Dijon, then taught English to primary students for a year in Beaune, and is now pursuing her passion for wine. In addition to freelancing for several print magazines, she writes about her experiences on her blog, EmilyintheGlass and loves to hear from her readers!

by Emily L. Turner
Emily's blog: Emily in the Glass
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