Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Toasting the life of Dan Ginsburg, 1956-2009

I did not know Dan Ginsburg, one of the two directors at Champagne De Meric, who passed away this August. As a wine drinker, Champagne enthusiast, and employee of a retailer which imports De Meric directly, however, I am familiar with his accomplishments in the world of Champagne. An American partner in the Aÿ based champagne house De Meric, Ginsburg was one of the very few foreigners on the production/supply side of the Champagne business. De Meric's neighbors include the illustrious and storied houses of Aÿ: Bollinger, Deutz, Gosset.

The region of Champagne is not typically a place for outsiders. Land is scarce and expensive, and often handed down generation to generation, vineyard holdings very slowly increased by the hectare or less. De Meric does not grow most of their own grapes; rather, they buy fruit from quality growers in Aÿ, Mareuil sur-Aÿ, Mutigny, Cramant, Avize and Oger. They ferment partially in older wood, including some very large, 4,000 liter oval oak foudres.

Away from their grape sourcing and partial implementation of traditional vinification, or perhaps better put as a result of it, the wines are delicious. Broad, soft and textural, but with plenty of vivacity, the Grand Reserve Sous Bois, currently based on the 2004 vintage complemented by reserve wines, is a delicious drink and a good example of the style, perhaps with a bit more brightness than usual given the 2004 vintage base material. For an example of De Meric champagnes at the high end, see the 2002 Cuvee Renée, produced from 100% biodynamically grown Pinot Meunier farmed by famed grower/producer Francois Bedel.

Dan Ginsburg was clearly a man of varied passions. A simple web search leads to his involvement in the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), which he joined as a founding member at the age of 15. He also was a published author, having written The Fix is In on the history of gambling in baseball and The Art and Business of Champagne. Mr. Ginsburg held a residence in Washington, DC. I would not rule out the possibility that on at least one occasion he may have dined in the same restaurant as me as I was checking in on accounts during my three years working for a wine wholesaler.

On Christmas, I enjoyed a magnum of the De Meric Grande Reserve Sous Bois with my girlfriend and her family. New Year's Eve, I plan on doing the same with Natalie and some of our friends. I would be hard pressed to think of a more fitting, or more enjoyable, way to pay tribute to such a passionate advocate of small production Champagne.