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Burgundy behemoth puts class drops on new tables

BURGUNDY shipper Louis Jadot celebrates its 150th anniversary this year and, as part of its celebrations around the world, kicked off the festivities in Shanghai earlier this month.

The house, which was founded in 1859, is one of the most important negociants in the often-confusing region. Headed by native son Pierre Henry Gagey since 1992 and with financial backing from the American Kopf family (which owns distributors Kobrands), Maison Jadot is often credited with introducing the delicious wines to a legion of budding enthusiasts.

"We know that Burgundy is difficult to explain, because there are so many appellations, so many names, that people get confused,?said the Frenchman. "What we try to say to the consumer is that there are three really important things ?the appellation, the vintage and the producer.?

When you start to understand Burgundy, always rely on the producer. Step by step you will understand the logic of the appellation and you will be able to get inside Burgundy through three or four producers. Don't try to go everywhere.?


The Frenchman, whose family has been in the wine business for nearly two centuries, believes his company works in new markets such as this one because it is easier for all new dabblers in wine to recognize his company and label (all Gagey's wines are released under the recognizable Louis Jadot brand rather than a diffusion of labels); it is only decades later that the market matures and they look toward smaller growers. "We try to be one expression of Burgundy.?

The underdog is always celebrated in France and part of the romance of Burgundy lies with these small growers, many owning just a few hectares of vineyards as opposed to Jadot's 105 hectares dotted around the region. While much has been made of the struggle between independent vigneron and mighty behemoth, Gagey believes the conflict is now behind them.

"Those who say it's a fight are looking behind them and not in front of them. I respect completely the small grower; my family was a small grower at the beginning. The growers are my friends; I went to school with them.

"I think it is a mistake to have a wine list of only growers. When a customer comes, he wants to discover new things he does not know but also to see names that he knows. You need to have both; a region only works well when you have a complimentality between both. Look at Champagne. It's true that there were fights 15 years ago but not any more.?

Earlier this month, ASC Fine Wines, which distributes Louis Jadot locally, hosted distinguished guests at Club Jin Mao for an exquisite Chinese dinner paired with Jadot wines. The nine-course banquet, which included delicacies such as shark's fin and braised king prawn, highlighted the suitability of matching the soft, elegant and complex wines from Burgundy with local fare.

Guests were treated to some very special white and red vintages during the meal ?1992 Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres, 1989 Carton Charlemagne (both white), Beaune Grand Cru Clos des Ursules, 1978 Gevrey Chambertin (the pick of the evening with a beautiful, alluring bouquet of cherry and more nuanced aromas, and an intense wave of flavors on the palate) and last, but not least, 1971 Bonnes Mares.


Those familiar with old Burgundies will know there is hardly anything quite like them on this planet. Flavor descriptors don't do them credit as the combination of flavors and aromas that swirl around your mouth in wave after wave of hedonistic pleasure make these some of the most sought-after wines in the world.

Wine lovers, however, should not forget Burgundy's often overlooked region ?Beaujolais. Much derided as a result of Beaujolais Nouveau (the first wine of the vintage released on the third Thursday of November, mere weeks after harvest), Gagey is hoping that Jadot can put the region back on the map.

"It can be delicious as long as you do not produce wines which are artificial. I am very sorry for what is happening to the area, but, believe me, it will come back and it will come back strong. There has been a crisis, and the growers are making a tremendous effort in quality.


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