Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Still current!

I borrowed a very pertinent article from Michel Bettane, published in 2005 on his blog – « Carnet de Route » :

Filed under: Carnet de route: Michel Bettane — bettane @ 4:08 pm
I got back from Japan just as the debate over European integration reached an unsuspected level of mediocrity. I have the feeling that the world of this new century will be made far away from us and without us. We are left with the comfort, less enviable that it seems, to imagine that if we no longer are part of building history at least we will survive as keepers of our own museum. And for lack of truly significant intellectuals or artists, we will fill our museums with first growths. For in this area, we are still being admired and our product is surrounded with the kind of care hard to imaging in our country. Thus, in all the luxury or traditional restaurants I ate in Tokyo, our wines were served with the same attention and perfection which characterizes the cuisine prepared in front of our eyes. The glasses were unbelievably clean and well proportioned, without any taste of chlorine, limestone or rag that even our three star restaurants cannot avoid occasionally, and were filled with such an sense of relationship between container and content which would be beyond the IQ of many young sommeliers. The nose reaches then a level of precision that I probably forgot, especially as the serving temperature is beyond reproach.

Fresh and net
I take the opportunity of this occasion to recall a few rules. For the whites, the greater the wine, the closer it must be to the temperature of a fresh cellar: 14° to 15° Celsius (57° to 59° Fahrenheit) after 10 minutes in the glass (in other words served at 12° C - 53° F) which will give a fuller expression of the vast nuances from the terroir, than the 10° C - 50° F (and often less) from our cold rooms! For the reds, the sense of purity and freshness will be reinforced if the difference with the room temperature is at least 4 to 5 degrees C. Therefore, it is not the temperature of the wine that counts but its relation to the temperature of the room. Japanese professionals instinctively understand this kind of refinement for their cuisine plays with the same virtuosity between cooked properly and the proper temperature of food.

Clear and precise
However, the greatest surprise came from the place of wine, of its economy as well as its culture, in the press, be it mainstream or specialized, maintained by rigorous and independent journalists miles away from the childish bias or deep ignorance found at home on the same subjects. For instance, on several occasions I was asked the right questions about my job as a wine taster, which is how can I reconcile the number of samples tasted with the precision of my judgment, or how did I define the criteria which allow me to judge work that I would be incapable of doing! It is certainly more pleasant than having to answer to the usual accusations I get in my own country, including from a few colleagues, regarding the arrogance, incompetence or corruption of the so-called gurus, especially when they are Americans! And what a comfort not having to fight to convince people that regarding the production of great wines, the terroir without the man is nothing else than dust and that we are born from dust and will return to dust! Back in Paris, I started again to read forums of amateurs where the feeling that great art is when a winemaker fades behind his terroir. At least I understand now what it means to have to force myself to laugh.
Michel Bettane

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