If you swirl the wine in your glass clockwise, it will smell different than if you swirl counterclockwise. Or so claims Jacques Lardière, who would have you swirl it one way, but I can never remember which way, or why. Perhaps if I spoke French, I would understand. But even those who do speak French respect Lardière more for the energy and enthusiasm he brings to Jadot’s wines—for his practical winegrowing skills rather than for any philosophical meanderings.
Lardière talks in a language parallel to biodynamics, speaking of the life of the vine, the energy of the wine, molecular stirrings and sexual stirrings. He entertains with words that may or may not have any bearing on the 130 different wines produced at Jadot in any given vintage. His own energy and dynamism, his ability to charm his growers and those who work directly with him in the vineyards and the winery, all bear directly on those wines, which, during his four-decade tenure, have sustained a place among the top wines of Burgundy.
On his recent visit to New York, Lardière stopped in at the W&S offices for a blind tasting. We’d organized it with his importer, Kobrand Corp., as a retirement party; he will be turning over the reins to Frédéric Barnier at the end of the year. We convened a tasting panel including Pascaline Lepeltier of Rouge Tomate, Michael Madrigale of Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud, and Bernie Sun of the Jean-Georges Management Group.
Madrigale and Sun agreed on the first wine of the tasting: It wasn’t from a ripe vintage. Madrigale guessed 2010, given the white’s acidity and clean citrus flavors. Sun gave it a bit more age, guessing a Chassagne (or maybe Puligny) 2007 for the integration of its oak into lemon zest and lemon curd flavors. The wine, in fact, was a 2009, the Chassagne- Montrachet from Clos de la Chapelle, a monopole in Morgeot.
The third wine was the ’09 red from the same vineyard, which Madrigale praised for its purity and the precision of its red fruit. Again, he and Sun figured it to be a cooler vintage, suggesting 2008. Like the white, the elegance of the wine seemed a contrast to its vintage.
The fifth wine proved the most compelling in its aroma, the most downright delicious, with a lasting freshness and delicacy. Sun pegged it as a Beaune from 2001, a vintage Lardière described as “one that the people forgot, the writers forgot.”
If there were a lesson in this blind tasting, it was that Lardière’s wines did not follow the typical vintage patterns of Burgundy. He has been known to grow exceptional wines in difficult years and, if anything, this selection was a display of his sensitivity to the conditions of each vintage, using them to create vibrant wines. That’s how he got his start with André Gagey, who joined Jadot in 1954 and ran the firm through the early 1990s. Gagey hired Lardière in 1970, and the young enologist right out of school turned out to have a talent at saving those early ’70s vintages from disaster.
That 2001, the Clos des Ursules from a Jadot monopole in Beaune, should continue to age for years to come. Later in the day, at a retirement lunch, Lardière was back to his old antic hand motions, describing the forces that pulled wines down toward the ground in a swirl of death and decay, and others that lifted them toward the sun, toward life. The 1959 Clos des Ursules, poured at the end of lunch, captured both forces in an earthy, red glow, a rosy blush that connected with more flavor receptors than any wine had a right to touch. Lardière didn’t make that wine, but it seemed more like him than any other Burgundy of the day. It’s the kind of wine that will never fade from memory.