Fortunately it is not necessary to march in the saint’s parade during a cold Burgundian winter in order to commemorate the memory of Saint Vincent of Saragossa. I was happy to pass my Saint Vincent this year in the very civilized environs of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong at a dinner organized by the local importer Pearl of Burgundy. It was a few days in advance of his official celebration on 22 January – peu importe! A number of winemakers were present and pouring their wine, and the guests had all brought wine from their cellar. We tasted some marvels.
Although Saint Vincent is the patron saint of vintners, his association with the grape is a bit of a mystery. We do know that he was the first martyr of Spain, who died in Valencia in 304 AD under the rein of Emperor Diocletian. French winemakers, who like him perhaps because his name starts with “Vin”, have long celebrated his feast day. In 1938 the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin resurrected the official celebration of the saint, which takes place in a different village each year, and is thus known in Burgundy as the “Saint Vincent Tournante”, which is celebrated on the last weekend in January.
The first wine of the evening was a 2014 Meursault Genevrières (***) provided by our vintner host, Domaine Tessier, which showed a clean fresh note of lemon peel and butter. It was fresh and elegant on the palate, with lovely balance and a lingering finish. Friends from Zachys Wine Auctions brought a magnum of 1988 Morey Saint-Denis Clos des Monts Luisants from Ponsot (*****) that was extraordinary, with notes of caramel and honey on the nose that open up to truffle and mineral. This is a very particular wine, produced in large part from Aligoté planted in 1911. In the 1930s, Laurent Ponsot’s grandfather Hippolyte planted about 15% of the vineyard to a variety called “Pinot Gouges”, which was a Pinot Noir vine from Domaine Henri Gouges that had mutated to produce white grapes which Gouges had propagated via cuttings. In the 1950s, Laurent’s father Jean-Marie planted about 20% of the vineyard to Chardonnay, and this was the approximate grape blend of our 1988 magnum. In 1992 the Pinot Gouges was ripped up, and in 2004 the Chardonnay was as well, and from 2005 this wine is produced from 100% Aligoté, making it the only premier cru in Burgundy produced exclusively from this grape.