Fans of white Burgundy wines know Jean-Marc Roulot as the producer of Meursault wines which have been variously described as "subtly powerful," "feline," and Puligny-Montrachet-like.
But his skills are not bounded by the world of wine. According to Jonathon Nossiter (Liquid Memory), Jean-Marc is an "actor of considerable talent and courage" who entered the prestigious Conservatoir (the French national acting school located in Paris) at the age of 20 and only returned to Burgundy to helm the family Domaine after the premature death of his father.
It was this pedigree, and a fondness for Jean-Marc and his wines, that drove me to sign up to attend his play, and subsequent lunch, which, both held at Daniel, comprised the official Thursday events of the 2015 La Paulée de New York.
The play (the subject of this post) was titled Meursault Les Luchets 2011 and would precede the Roulot-Roumier lunch (For those unfamiliar with the Domaine, Les Luchets is one of its terroirs and wines.). I had not fully recovered from the previous evening's Collectors Dinner with Armand Rousseau because of (i) over-consumption and (ii) I had left my new camera, with my pictures of the night's events, in the back seat of a taxi. And, frantic calls notwithstanding, I had been unable to recover same.
We traveled by taxi from our hotel to Daniel. As I entered the cab, I asked the driver if he had seen my camera. He looked at me as though I had recently been released from a psycho ward. "What camera you talkin' 'bout Bro," he said. "Nothing," I said, my resolve crumbling away as I silently called down the wrath of the heavens on all taxi drivers. Well, enough about my negligence. Let's get back to the matter at hand.
We had gotten to the restaurant pretty close to noon so by the time we had deposited our coats at the coat check (darn NYC winters), checked in, gotten our programs, and were shown to the room, all of the choice seats had been taken. All of the tables in the Daniel backroom had been taken out and chairs had been arranged in an arc around a raised platform set against the rear wall. That rear wall had two openings to a passage that led to who knows where. Towards the front of the stage there was a single wooden table and chair; bare if my recollection serves me well (I had pictures on my iPhone but I lost those when my phone fell into the urinal on Saturday night.). There was an additional chair on the platform stage right and a couch stage left. Stage right, and floor level, was another solitary chair with an accordion on the floor beside it.
We made our way to some open seats house left which gave us a less-than-head-on view of the stage. Shortly after we took our seats, a solitary figure wandered through the opening in the rear wall, sauntered over to the chair associated with the accordion, and began strapping into the instrument. All the while with a bemused smile on his face. According to the program, this was Eric Proud. And he sure acted that way.
Shortly after, another individual made his way onto the stage and sat on the chair stage right. As I was familiar with Jean-Marc, this could only be Gérard Chaillou, who was playing Largeau opposite Jean-Marc's Monplaisir. Finally, Jean-Marc strode onto the stage, an impassive look on his face, staring into the distance. He was carrying a valise which he placed on the table and from which, after rummaging around inside for awhile, he produced a bottle of wine and a corkscrew. While he was opening the wine, Largeau went off stage and returned with two wine glasses into which Jean-Marc poured generous portions. The wines were sniffed and then tasted. And then the dialogue began, each man tapping "into his own language, their words to describe taste linked to their own personal memories and to the sensory world that each and every one of us build and define patiently, year after year" -- Jean-Marc Roulot.
The passion and enthusiasm of the dialogue was captivating, a testament to the skill of the actors as the entire discourse was in French. There was a TV screen high up on the rear wall stage right which displayed subtitled translations of the dialogue but it was tiring -- and tiresome -- to keep switching between the text and the players. A lot was lost in this fashion. Secondly, some of the nuances and subtleties of the situations could not be captured adequately by the subtitled presentation as evidenced by knowing snickers and laughter and expressions of appreciation along the way by French-speaking members of the audience while I sat blank-faced and unknowing.
Sometime during the course of the proceedings Jean-Marc said words akin to "presenting Les Luchets 2011" and, magically, the Somms who were assisting in the event appeared in the glass-walled hallway house right bearing lighted trays with glasses of wine. They stood there momentarily before making their way into the audience and distributing the glasses to the attendees. It was Meursault Luchets 2011. And it was then that I realized what I had been missing all along. I had not had a drink all day.
After all the wine had been distributed, the actors returned to their labors. Including, at one point, a lusty soundtrack in which all three participated.
At the conclusion of the play the attendees showed their appreciation for the actors' efforts with multiple rounds of ovations. It was very revealing to see Jean-Marc in this new environment. I have tasted wine with him at his Domaine and seen him expounding on his wines and engaging in technical discussions with Raj Parr and another US winemaker who had joined us at the tasting. We had enjoyed joyous banter and a bottle of his wine at a chance encounter at Charle Bird's when we went up to NYC for the inaugural La Fete du Champagne. And here he had peeled away those personas, or covered them over with this, the persona of the accomplished, confident, the-world-is-my-oyster actor. I was mesmerized.
©Wine -- Mise en abyme