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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Back to Burgundy part 2

In the last post I talked of trips to Meursault, Pernand Vergelesses, Monthélie and the splendid Domaine Naudin Ferrand remain to be made.  We never made it to Pernand, and bought our Monthélie in Beaune, but the story of the rest of our wine visits last week follows.

Back from our trips to the far west near Auxerre, we began with a visit to Merusault.  This is of course white wine country, part of the wonderful collection of villages south of Beaune where chardonnay trumps pinot noir.  Here our friends' friend Gaël Fouré has set up a négociant business with two partners, making and marketing wines both from Meursault and nearby white wine appellations like Saint Romain, and from the red wine areas like Chambolle Musigny to the north of Beaune.  This is, in a sense, a hobby or passion on top of their day jobs - Gaël for example works in a nearby vineyard as cellar-master.  Anyway, their wines were delicious and our welcome likewise!

The next morning we drove the short distance to Magny lès Villiers to revisit one of our first discoveries in the Côte d'Or, the domaine Naudin Ferrand whose white wines we love - they are situated across the border of the Hautes Côtes de Beaune and the Hautes Côtes de Nuits (next door to the north, above Nuits Saint Georges) and we can never decide which we prefeer - the HCB includes 30% pinot blanc but the HCN is 100% chardonnay.

We finished the morning back in Echevronne where Jean-Michel Jacob offered us tastings from the barrels of his newest wines.  We were able to taste the difference between one- and two-year old oak barrels as well as between the oak and acacia barrels he is using in the (100% chardonnay) Hautes Côtes de Beaune white.  The acacia remains one of our favourites.

Before I sign off this time I must mention the series of catastrophes that have hit Burgundy vineyards again this year - the latest on hail in Chablis as well as more on the frost is on Decanter's website.  The lack of wines is only part of the story, a few years down the road, the financial worries start almost straight away with loss of seasonal employment in the vineyards, expensive machinery lying idle and rents set to increase by arcane regulations which makes them higher in times of scarcity.  Buying burgundy is the thing to do in solidarity with winemakers there.

Unintentional skyline on a barrel in the Jacobs' cellar

This lizad outside did not know what it was missing!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Back to Burgundy

If the posts in this blog are a bit repetitive it is because we know good wines and winemakers and enjoy returning to them when we can.  Burgundy and Beaujolais were on the route south for us since the early 1990s, and in 1996 Mary and the family clubbed together to buy me a 'vineyard share' in the Domaine Lucien Jacob for my 50th birthday.  20 years on we are back for a week in the Côte d'Or.  I can't go on without referring to the sobering news that tragedy in the form of a sharp late frost struck huge areas of Burgundy and the north-easterly vineyards of France recently - in Christine Jacob's own words: "Please pull a cork on a good bottle of Burgundy and toast the strength and courage of winemakers who are out caring for their vines despite knowing that there won't be many grapes this year. A thought also for our colleagues in the Loire, the Charentes and Champagne who are in the same position."

Often our trips up and down the A6 involve a stop by Mont Brouilly, and this year once again we were delighted to visit the Domaine des Roches Bleues and to sample lovely reds with Christiane Lacondemine who spared us time in her busy family day.  Then, blessed with sunshine that has since disappeared, we drove on with our friends Gaynor and Edward to Echevronne (do not know what Mary was saying animatedly here!)

The tasting chez Jacob that evening was an extended apéro lubricated with a number of open bottles that 'needed finishing' as well as new things to try.  How lucky we were, with good crémant, a new cuvée of white matured in acacia rather than traditional oak barrels (the label has a nice acacia sprig in the corner and the lemony zing of the wine was very attractive - we shall certainly add that to our payload on the way home) and then more reds than I can recall, though the Savigny Vergelesses premier crû sticks in all our minds, and several bottles accompanied us back to our gîte for the evening meal.

Although we always try to revisit makers we have got to know over the past 20 years, we also seek out new ones and this year after a visit to Vézelay we spent a very good hour tasting wines near Auxerre, in the village of Saint Bris le Vineux, whose fame rests partly on the Appellation Sauvignon de Saint Bris, which gestures to Sancerre and the Loire not too much further west.  However, the Auxerrois is not far from Chablis either, and the reputable producer Domaine Verret produces wines from there, from the nearby appellation of Irancy (red wines combining a small amount of the local grape César with pinot noir) as well as others.  Their best Chablis was simply too good to resist, but the Irancy wines were a revelation, a different dimension added to the pinot noirs we know and love.

In Vézelay my lazy legs would not take me back up to the Basilique, which was lucky because in the little supermarket at the bottom of the hill I found the local white I'd hoped to find (I could not get an answer from the maker in her nearby vineyard at Précy le Moult) since we got to know it shortly after Elise Villiers started making wines in 2006.  We shall include it in our next tasting back home in the Languedoc.  For the rest, trips to Meursault, Pernand Vergelesses, Monthélie and the splendid Domaine Naudin Ferrand remain to be made, and the descriptions for the next blog in a week or so!

One of Jean-Michel Jacob's many lovely wooden sculptures
- as if making lovely wine was not enough, he is a gifted artist