The annual Cayman Cookout epicurean festival brings in a legion of visiting food, wine and spirits industry experts from all over the world who offer insights in their areas of expertise, and this year was no exception. However, the lineup of wine and spirits professionals for the 2016 Cookout, which took place Jan. 14-17, was easily the most impressive in the event’s eight-year history.
One of the A-list wine experts who attended this year’s Cookout was Bernard Sun, recognized as one of the best sommeliers in the world when he was the wine director for the iconic three-Michelin-star Manhattan restaurant, Jean-Georges, and its associated restaurants around the world. In 2010, Sun won the James Beard Foundation award for the outstanding wine service at Jean-Georges.
After more than 20 years of serving wine at some of New York City’s top restaurants, which also included Lespinasse, Le Cirque 2000 and Montrachet, and attaining the rare “master sommelier” accreditation, Sun decided he was looking for a new challenge.
“On the restaurant side, I’d pretty much done everything I could do,” he said in an interview before hosting a tasting of Louis Jadot wines at West Indies Wine Company on Jan. 14.
He had not only been the wine director at a three-star Michelin restaurant, he had also been the wine director of a restaurant group with multiple restaurants, in multiple cities, in multiple countries. “What do you do next after that? I wanted to explore something new, outside of restaurants.”
In January 2015, Sun made his move, accepting a position as the brand director for Kobrand’s French wine portfolio, which includes more than a dozen wineries through the country’s wine regions. That portfolio includes Maison Louis Jadot, one of the largest Burgundy producers in the Cote d’Or. Louis Jadot also owns two vineyards in the Mâconnais region of Burgundy – Domaine Ferret in Fuissé and Château des Jacques in the Beaujolais region.
Burgundy has a special place in Sun’s heart.
“I work across the whole French portfolio, but my speciality is Burgundy,” he said, noting that he was the spokesman for Burgundy in the United States at one point.
Over the years, Burgundy has become his favorite wine.
“My heart is always going to be in Burgundy,” he said.
Because of his fondness for Burgundy, it was appropriate that the tasting Sun led at the West Indies Wine Company on Jan. 14 focused on six wines from the Louis Jadot portfolio – three whites and three reds.
“Burgundy is the benchmark for making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,” he told those attending the tasting, adding that nearly all the wine produced in Burgundy came from one of those two grapes, with Gamay being a third grape used in the southern part of the region to make Beaujolais.
Burgundy wines are classified four ways. The most common Burgundy wines are those with regional appellations and the next step up in village appellations. These two classifications make up more than 75 percent of the total of Burgundy’s wine production. More rare are the single vineyard classifications, premier cru – often signified 1er cru – and grand cru, the last of which contains less than 40 vineyards and produces less than 5 percent of Burgundy’s total wine production.
“The best analogy I’ve heard for describing the difference in classifications is a car analogy,” Sun said, specifically pointing to the BMW series of cars. He said Burgundy wines classified village are like the 300 series, the premier crus are like the 500 series cars and the grand crus are like the 700 series BMWs.
“The 700 series cars have all the bells and whistles,” he said, saying that the grand cru wines are like that.
The first wine tasted was the 2014 Louis Jadot Steel Chardonnay. Most Burgundy wines don’t state the name of the grape, but some of the regional wines do. Steel is one of those wines, but just because it’s a mere regional wine doesn’t make it a bad wine. It will, however, make it less expensive, and regional wines of the quality of this one offer excellent value. The “Steel” name is used to indicate that the wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks without ever spending time in oak barrels. It’s a fresh-tasting wine with crisp, clean flavors.
“The thing about this wine is that it really pairs well with food,” Sun said. “It’s great with food and it’s great if you don’t know exactly what wine will work with what you’re eating.”
Meursault is a wine that comes from one of the most famous villages in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune. It is known particularly for its white wines, more than a dozen of which are premier crus.
Fragrant with lush, full flavors, the Louis Jadot Meursault is a rich wine that would pair well with cream sauces, shellfish and poultry.
“I always find Meursault to be rich and fat on the palate,” Sun said.
Another village south of Meursault in the Côte de Beaune is Montrachet, which also has four nearby villages which share the name, including Puligny-Montrachet.
“Montrachet is like the holy grail for Chardonnay in the whole world,” Sun said. “Puligny is probably the most highly regarded.”
Sun said the flavors of wine from Puligny are “much more focused and much cleaner” than the wines from Meursault. He noted that the wines from the two villages are very different, even though they aren’t that far apart in distance.
“When you learn about Burgundy wines, you’re learning about geography,” he said, adding that terroir – the environmental conditions like soil type, temperature, positioning to the sun and even water source – plays a huge role in the resulting wines from each vineyard.
Moving to the red wines, the first two tried were Louis Jadot Pommard from Côte de Beaune and Louis Jadot Gevrey Chambertin from Côte de Nuits. The Côte de Nuits, Sun explained, is known for its production of full-flavored red Burgundy.
“The Pommard is more sturdy, with more tannins,” he said. “The Gevrey Chambertin is beefier, more intense.”
The last wine tasted was the rich and elegant Louis Jadot Beaune Premier Cru, which is made from a blend of wines from several premier cru vineyards in Beaune.
“This is a very special wine,” Sun said, noting that its retail price in Cayman compares to other red Burgundy wines, even in the Jadot portfolio, and represents great value.