I’m finding it quite difficult to put into words the feelings of my day with the Van Bergs as everything I type sounds over the top gushy (inspiring, soul quenching) or short of what it was (fun, interesting). The best I can do is to say that after saying goodbye and going separate ways I totally smiled out loud.
After a stellar breakfast we hopped into the Van Berg hatchback for a ride to the vineyards, all of which are within 15 minutes driving distance, where Judith and Bernard further explained their wine making philosophy.
After moving to Meursault and deciding on a life of vine, this retired couple found, one can guess by the graces of Dionysus, a seller who wished to part with his old old vines because they simply did not bear enough fruit. Cha ching. They acquired vines here and there and for each hectare of vines they ensured they had another free of vines. This leaves space for the other flora and fauna to flourish, and in doing so allows the vines a life as nature intended.
Wild vines abound. One day the couple brought out a chef (from Noma if I am remember correctly) and he was able to identify no less than 50 different edible plants surrounding the vines. With terroir like this…
In one field there is a secret tasting room right smack in the middle. You would never find it unless led there, and I’m sure once invited you would never lose the way again.
Some left behind Chardonnay grapes. Bernard goes vine by vine to decide which grapes are ripe enough to be harvested. He may leave behind 0, 5, or 500. It doesn’t matter as he will be back later, later when they have reached where he deems perfect.
Then we drive a little further to Saint Aubin to visit some Aligote. Sadly the neighboring plot has been dug up which means nature disturbed and also the last year they’ll be using this plot. Above Bernard is taking sugar readings to see if the grapes have enough potential alcohol. We just got some samples of the 2014s in today and the alcohols are all well below 13%. Bring on the balance!
Judith told me what I thought was a sad story, only to be corrected that it was just how it goes. Bernard had waited and waited on harvesting a particular plot after countless visits last year. Finally he decided tomorrow was the day only to drive out in the morning to find a wild boar had demolished every last grape. C’est la vie. (Do you love them as much as I do yet??)
Aligote. Big acid and tends toward neutral in flavor unless handled properly. Trust, this is handled properly.
And how wonderful are baby cucumbers from the garden?
Have you ever seen cukes so small? I, for one, had not.
After Judith and I rinse the harvesting buckets from the day before (take Pierre’s winery divide by 10 and slow it down by 8 and you have the BvB way of winemaking- truly zen), Bernard showed me the rest of the bottling process. Every single bottle is hand labeled and numbered and packed up for shipping. Every. single. bottle.
I was told this is the best wine coming out of China and who I am to argue.
Gravity pulls the wine from the press up above down into barrel below.
Then we three sat down for a glorious lunch. Judith has a thing for spices which was tastily evident across the delicious vegetarian fare presented.
We enjoyed the meal with a fresh 2014 Rose Aligote & Pinot Noir rose. Aligote and Pinot Noir!? you say. “Jeans and shorts, not tie and jacket.” Give me these jeans any day as this wine was the cat’s pajamas. Only 224 bottles were made and I bet each one was as round and complete as this. Something I have noticed from all of Bernard’s wines is the sheer concentration, not only in flavor, but concentration in texture if that’s possible. It’s like settling onto the couch with a giant duvet, not for the warmth, but for the fullness that envelopes your body and soul. Soul wine.
And what better on this sunny autumn afternoon than afresh rose to go with freshly cooked soup with tons of fresh veg from the garden.
Oh right, cheese. I’m going to say it one more time. Seriously, get better Burgundy.
There were so many anecdotes and bits and bobs about family, careers, wine, neighbors, that sitting at that table I felt right at home. Judith has a way of making you feel that way. After we dined she showed me the photograph that launched Bernard’s career (as seen on the cover of Photography magazine).
I feel so lucky to have been able to spend time with the Van Bergs and to get just a small glimpse into their little slice of Meursault heaven.
And luckier yet when Bernard pulled out a 2006 rose from Pinot Noir- his first rose. Again, there is another endearing story here, perhaps a tale for another time.
A quick selfie on the front stoop and we were off to Beaune.
And goodbye for now Van Bergs. Goodbye for now.