Alex Gambal Chapelle-Chambertin 1997
THE MOVE: In 1991-1992, I began to explore the possibility of living abroad for a year or two while our children were young. We had become interested in wine and it had become our major avocation.
In May 1993, my family and I moved to Burgundy, France to take a year off to work with and help manage a small wine export company based in Beaune, France. Our goal was simply to take a year's sabbatical from Washington but we hoped that if we and the children were content we might stay longer. We moved to a small village of 150 people just outside Beaune, in the center of Burgundy, put the children in French schools, and four years later we looked back on a wonderful experience that changed our lives.
FIRST STEPS IN BURGUNDY: When we arrived in 1993 the wine business was in the dumps because of the world recession and a glut of fine wine. As we worked our way through the recession I was able to taste a variety of old, young and great wines with some of the greatest winemakers in the world. In addition, because we lived, worked and had our children in French schools, we were not perceived as tourists and were welcomed into the hidden Burgundy as parents and friends. And thus had a unique and wonderful experience.
Celebrated as some of the best wine in the universe, red wine from Burgundy, otherwise known as red Burgundy, is Pinot noir. In fact Burgundy is the birthplace of Pinot noir and the source of the planet’s most sensual, delicate, valuable and sought-after Pinot noir wines.
Understanding and enjoying red Burgundy can stay simple, with a basic knowledge of its subregions, become more intricate by dialing down to the villages and vineyards or become a life-long passion, exploring climats (plots of vines), vintages and the post French Revolution land ownership laws. In any case, a fine red Burgundy will display refined nuances of black currant, red fruit, earth, spice, alluring floral aromatics and have great elegance, complexity and longevity.
Most famous, praised and collected of Burgunday are those from the Côte d'Or. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the area now called Côte d'Or was under a warm ocean whose sea floor has, over time, shifted and decomposed into various layers of limestone, sandstone and clay interspersed with ancient fossilized sea creatures. This is what is referred to as the famous escarpment upon which all of the highly sought-after Grands Crus and Premiers Crus vineyards can be found. In other words, from north to south, the best vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée, Flagey-Echezeaux, Nuits-St-Georges, Aloxe-Corton, Pommard and Volnay follow the path of this ancient sea bed.