SIPS . . .
Once upon a hill in Burgundy........
On an inconspicuous hill behind Gevrey Chambertin, a Burgundian dynasty was born and died, a fairytale chateau with 14 towers was built and demolished, lived the owners of the DRC vineyards Romanee St Vivant and Romanee Conti...
On the little hill of Vergy behind Gevrey Chambertin, in the Hautes Cotes de Bourgogne, events took place which you would never guess when looking at the hill from below. The story includes the downfall of one of the most influential and powerful families in France; the construction and destruction of an impregnable fairytale chateau with 14 towers; the origins of Romanee Conti and Romanee St Vivant; and the first appearance of the Turin Shroud. And all on this little hill!
From about the 7c, the Vergy family lived in a fairytale chateau on the top of the hill. The chateau had 14 towers from which there were views in every direction. In uncertain times, Popes sought safety there. It dominated the skyline and was so secure, that a siege lasting 18 months failed to breach its defences. However, having survived the siege, and almost 1,000 years of history, the entire chateau was dismantled stone by stone on the orders of Henry IV in 1609 following the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants.
With some vigilance, it is possible to discern here and there the remains of the battlements. But walking through the trees along the footpath where the chateau once stood, it is hard to imagine what it would have been like all those years ago.
In the Middle Ages the monasteries that sprung up across Europe played an important role in wine making and the development of wine theory and practice. Nowhere more so than in Burgundy. Monasteries needed vines – to produce wine for the Eucharist, to serve to visiting dignitaries, the sick and the poor, and for daily consumption by the monks.
In 1232 Alix de Vergy donated vines owned by the family to the monks who in the 9c had built the Abbey St Vivant at the foot of the chateau. The vines included the vineyards Romanée St Vivant and Romanée Conti.
In the 12c, on the other side of the hill, a small church was constructed, known as Saint Saturnin. It still serves the local community today, but viewed from a distance, gives little clue to the dramatic history from which it escaped largely unscathed.
And the Turin Shroud? Jeanne de Vergy presented the shroud for its first public exhibition in 1357. More articles on Burgundy and its history can be found at www.lesdeuxchevres.com The Burgundy Guides
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TIPS & TRICKS: HOW TO TALK TO A SOMMELIER
From PASO NEWS
Tips & Tricks: How to Talk to a Sommelier
Brought to you by Christina Turley of Turley Wine Cellars
Don't be intimidated (or worried about pronunciation)!
First off, don't worry about trying to pronounce "sommelier." Most folks call them a "somm," or simply asking for "someone who can help with the wine list" is plenty!
Let them be your personal wine guide
Let them guide you, especially if you're at all adventurous. Tell them what you're ordering to eat, and ask if there's anything they're particularly excited about that might pair well with the dishes. If you have guidelines, by all means share them (such as a preference for red or white, full-bodied vs. lean, etc.), but trust: letting them run wild will often yield the best results, like new discoveries or hidden gems that you might have otherwise overlooked.
Take the awkwardness out of $$
To subtly indicate a price range, have the somm look over your shoulder at the open wine list. Let your finger drift to the price of a bottle within your budget and ask for something "along these lines."
If you bring a bottle, make sure it is something not already on their list. Most restaurants have a wine list online, or you can call ahead. It is always nice to order a little something extra (like a glass of sparkling or a cocktail to start), since most restaurants don't make money on food sales alone.
Finally, you want to know the real secret? Be generous. Share a glass with the somm or your server. Leave the rest of the bottle for the chef and the kitchen. Send a taste down to the reservationist, who's sweating it out on the phones in the basement and helped you get that last-minute table. You won't soon be forgotten; after all, wine is meant to be shared, and the more the merrier!