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04.06.2005

Burgundy vs. The World: Matt Kramer Calls The Fight

I really like Matt Kramer. As far as I'm concerned he's the best thing that the Wine Spectator has going for it. For those who don't know, he writes an opinion column every month that is passionate, down to earth, and often funny. For my money he's one of the best wine writers in the business right now. Anyhow, a post on a bulletin board I belong to alerted me to an article he wrote today in the New York Sun about the Burgundy Empire and how, in his words, it is dying.

I know nothing that stirs the souls of hardcore wine drinkers more than Pinot Noir, and Burgundy in particular. Kramer frames his discussion around a conversation with a Burgundy negociant (distributor) and the particularly brilliant moment when he has this guy (who probably trades in $60 Echezeaux) drink a glass of Saintsbury Garnet. For those who haven't had it, it's one of the best quantity produced (10,000 + case) Pinot Noirs out there that is available at places like BevMo and Safeway, etc. As Matt points out, and his negociant buddy agrees (though there will still be people who argue with this), it is starting to be as good as a lot of 3rd tier and even 2nd tier Burgundy wines that cost three or even five times as much (the Saintsbury is about $15). Using this as a reference point and then pointing to facts like California alone (leaving out Oregon, Washington, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia) now has as much Pinot Noir acreage as Burgundy, it begins to look like the decline of the Roman Empire.

I always thought Bordeaux would suffer the most first because the aristocracy remains in denial the longest, but I'm now starting to reconsider.

It's a very nice piece, and is clearly the type of thing that the anti-globalization brigade loves to rail against. But I ask you this: is it really an evil conspiracy that must be stopped? Or is it evolution that can't be stopped even if we try?

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