Lunch of a lifetime

On Saturday evening, after all, I kept the Meursault  2002 for another occasion. Instead, I had half a bottle of Drappier Carte d’Or.

For viticltural Burgundy the weekend of the third Sunday in November is by far the most important of the year. The vendanges are long over. The wine is in the vats. On the Sunday, the auction of the new vintage is held at the famous Hospices de Beaune. The evening before, the occasion is celebrated by a dinner under the auspices of the Chevaliers du Tastevin at the equally famous Clos de Vougeot. The day after sees the third of the events known collectively as Les Trois Glorieuses, the luncheon known far and wide in the world of wine as La Paulée de Meursault. Paulée derives from poêle, or frying pan, and by extension is a Burgundian colloquialism for a midday snack.

The Paulée de Meursault is some snack! It begins very formally: all Monsieur and Madame and polite enquiries as to whether it is one’s first time at the Trois Glorieuses and what one thought of the prices at the auction. An hour later, people who had never met before taking their places at table are securing their neighbour’s attention, or emphasizing a point, with a hand resting intimately, albeit fleetingly, on a forearm. Heads are not seldom brought ever so slightly closer than is really justified even by the rising tide of conversation. Soon, glasses are clinking in bonhomie and the attributes of what is in them are being discussed not only with illuminating expertise, but passion.

The food is very good. As for the wines! It is a long and fondly preserved tradition that all wine-makers and merchants attending the luncheon are accompanied by examples of what they regard as the best burgundies their cellars can offer. Largesse rules. Bottles pass up and down the long tables. Names far beyond many a guest’s pocket or any but academic acquaintance appear on labels half-hidden now and then by slim, bejewelled fingers that a few weeks ago may have grasped the pruning shears or been stained by fermenting must.It begins with champagne and introductions about noon. It ends with cognac and other after-dinner drinks long after night has fallen and courtesy is the only surviving consituent of earlier formality. For many a visitor it has been the luncheon of a lifetime.

Vive la Paulée de Meursault!


This evening I’ll have the other half of the Carte d’Or.