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Grand Cru

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Written and directed by MWG member David Eng, Grand Cru is a documentary film whose subject is winemaker Pascal Marchand.

Pascal Marchand, an aspiring poet from Montreal, arrived in the mythical land of Burgundy to work the harvest at age 21. Enchanted by the region, he settled there and embarked on an unlikely path to winemaking stardom. Now over 30 years later, he is renowned as an artist and innovator, finding his inspiration in the ancient techniques of the Cistercian monks who meticulously studied and refined Burgundy’s winemaking in the middle ages. Shot over his most difficult year ever, the catastrophic 2016 season which saw devastating frosts, hailstorms and disease in the vineyards, the film is both a love letter and a cautionary tale, as winemakers like Pascal must face the unpredictable and destructive consequences of climate change.

Grand Cru begins its Montreal theatrical run at Cinéma Beaubien this Friday, April 6, at 12:35 p.m., 5:15 p.m., and 7:15 p.m. David and Katarina Soukup, the film’s producer, will be present for a Q&A session after the 7:15 screening. The run continues through Wednesday, April 11, with screenings every day at 12:35 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 9:25 p.m.

The film will also be shown at Cinéma Le Clap in Quebec City on April 6 (9:45 a.m. and 6 p.m.) as well as on April 21 and May 4 and 21. Further screenings are slated for Newport Beach (April 30 and May 3) and Toronto (May 11), the last with David and Katarina leading another Q&A (see the Grand Cru website for details).

In March, I attended an advance screening at the ITHQ. Besides the pleasure of meeting Pascal and watching the worthwhile film, we were provided with glasses of three wines from the Marchand-Tawse portfolio. You’ll find notes on them and a comment or two from Pascal after the jump.

(As far as I know, none of these wines is currently available. I’ve reached out to the Quebec agent for technical and pricing information and will update this post if I hear back from him.)

Crémant de Bourgogne, Marchand-Tawse (c. $36, private import)
A traditional-method blanc de noirs made from organically farmed Pinot Noir (65%) and Gamay (35%). Quebec agent: Delaney Vins & Spiritueux.
Electrum to the eye, with a fine bead. Citrus (lemon mostly) and almond on the nose. Pure fruit on the attack. Tiny prickly bubbles. Buoyant texture, crystalline minerality, an underlying bitterness and a sour-edged finish. Clean, fresh, incisive and bone-dry. Aperitif, wot? (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012, Marchand-Tawse (private import; the 2014 is available at the LCBO for $32.95)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed vines. The grapes were – unusually for this cuvée – sourced from the Mâconnais and Chablis regions (limestone and Kimmerridgian soil respectively). The whole-bunches were lightly crushed and gently pressed (pneumatic press). Spontaneous alcoholic and malolactic fermentation took place in stainless steel vats on the lees but without stirring. Racked once after malolactic fermentation. Matured 16 months in stainless steel. Fined and lightly filtered before bottling. All post-fermentation operations were done according to the lunar calendar. Quebec agent: Delaney Vins & Spiriteux.
Apple and a hint of tropical fruit (pineapple?), hawthorn blossom, background minerals, cut hay, chalk and white spice. Fat, even a bit buttery upfront though turning leaner as it moves through the mouth. The chalky minerality does, in fact, seem Chablisian while the stealth acidity shows mostly on the long, clean finish. Satisfying. (Buy again? Sure.)

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru 2011, Les Roncevies, Marchand-Tawse (private import)
100% Pinot Noir from an organically farmed vineyard on the south side of Gevrey-Chambertin, on the boundary with Morey-St-Denis. Mainly clay and limestone. The manually harvested whole clusters were given a short cold maceration, two punch-downs a day at the start of fermentation and pump-overs during the 18 days until the wine was pressed (vertical press). Spent 18 months in French oak barrels (20% new). All post-fermentation operations were performed according to the lunar calendar. Quebec agent: Delaney Vins & Spiriteux.
Rich Burgundy red with some fading at the rim and no bricking. Complex, earthy nose: red fruit, stems, slate, char, dead leaves and a hint of camphor. In the mouth, it’s ripe (no green) but not at all sweet. Structured by bright but integrated acidity and fine but resilient tannins, still somewhat teeth-coating and gum-tingling. The oak is mostly melded, barely detectable as a flavour. Lingering spicy, earthy finish. Flawless but not particularly charming at this stage. “Ça commence à être bon à boire,” Pascal says but I’d give it another two to four years. (Buy again? Yes)

A short Q&A with Pascal was held after the screening. One of the questions was about recent vintages. As the film documents, due to frost and hail, 2016 was disastrous for many Burgundy producers, including Pascal, though the few grapes he managed to harvest were very high in quality. Generally speaking, Pascal isn’t big on the wines from the hot 2015 vintage. The just-harvested 2017 vintage was excellent, he said, with large quantities of healthy ripe fruit. If 2018 and 2019 prove similar, we could see Burgundy prices descend from the stratosphere, a development he fervently hopes for.

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Written by carswell

April 5, 2018 at 11:56

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