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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 2, June 2013


Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

A Winetasting

Seeking a little late September warmth, we have escaped the atrocious English weather to come here: Dijon, Burgundy country, the Côte d’Or. All this morning we have been tramping up, down and across seemingly endless ranks of the noble Pinot Noir grape; have sheltered behind the limestone wall of a vineyard for lunch, and pointed our cameras down the gently shelving landscape beyond the small village of Marsannay into far haze of flat distance and the river Sâone. Were it not for human artifacts, we might be looking down a shallow shoreline at ebb tide; for sea was here once—millions of years ago. But now, rested, we plod back down to the village and the municipal cellar where we will taste its wines. Not the fabled, fabulously priced Romanée Conti, nor yet the Grand or Premier Crus of Nuits St Georges or Chambertin, (only 13 km. or so down the road), but wines of Marsannay la Côte whose humble Communal Appellation can yet boast, perhaps, the finest Rosé in all France. Our genial host, M.Mathey, geologist and lecturer, will, he says, first tell us something of the evolution of the Côte d’Or that takes its name from October colours on the sunlit slopes. You can leave your anoraks and bags here if you wish, he says, they will be quite safe. Some do; but I have noticed his warm sweater, and watched him pack a large field-bag with many charts. And sure enough, he takes us back up the slopes we have just descended, and where a breeze is now freshening, for a long lecture ranging from Paleozoic origins to present day methods of viniculture. Eagerly we hasten back to his cellar for the warmth, the bowls of pressed ham, the gifted amorally-decorated tasting glasses, and, at last, the wine—Ah, le vin! The blanc thin, the rosé good as expected, the rouge a bit too young and sharp; but all eminently quaffable. With much swirling and nosing of glasses, words such as bouquet, tannin and temperature echo round the brickwork; until, after several glasses, we leave with polite thanks, mostly in poor French, and make our giddy way to the bus-stop. And tonight, over the Boeuf Bourguignon, will it be Gevrey Chambertin, a modest Fleurie, or a regrettable Perrier?

five glasses to my head—
I seem to hear the old songs
of the grape-pickers

Author’s Note: The haiku in this haibun comes at the end, and echoes Basho’s “the beginning of culture! / rice planting songs / in the depths of the country.”



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