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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 284 (March 29, 2010)

Saturday, March 20: An early dinner of shrimp in cream sauce on rice with broccolini, with Château des Charmes Riesling 2009, and then Deborah drives me to the airport for a 9:15 pm Air Canada flight to Paris. Try to get upgraded with my Elite upgrade tickets but apparently I don't have the red one. The blue and green don't cut it. Never seem to be able to use those upgrades. Forego dinner and try to sleep but the guy behind me is pressing his finger into his television screen as if trying to eject me from my seat. Drift off fitfully and am awake to watch 90% of Up In The Air. (Deborah, coincidentally, rented this movie yesterday, so she'll be able to tell me how it ends, although I think I guessed it.)

Sunday, March 21: Breakfast – a muffin and a cup of tea. Chris Waters, editor of Vines magazine, and Deanna Van Mulligan, The Wine Diva from Vancouver, are on the flight. Rod Phillips from the Ottawa Citizen will be joining our party to participate in Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne, a biennial celebration of the wines of Burgundy. This is the tenth edition.

Chris, Rod, Marc and Deanna

We are met at the airport by Marc Lafont, an oenology student who eventually wants to make wine in his home territory, the southern Rhône. He is our driver and will accompany us during our stay. Marc has made wine in South Africa and New Zealand and has spent some time in Ontario studying biological agriculture. He drives us from Paris to Chablis, a two and a half hour journey. We are booked in to the Hostellerie des Clos, the same hotel where I stayed last May.

The old bastions of Chablis

We arrive in time for lunch and Marc orders a bottle of Raveneau Chablis Montée de Tonnere 2006. After amuse-bouches of gougêre, creamed chicken pâté and a flaky pastry with sesame seeds, a delicious cream of mushroom soup arrives. This is followed by poached egg in Chablis sauce with mushroom and ham, then baked cod in a sesame seed crust. Then a cheese course of Soumaitran with salad followed by a plate of friandise with almond tuiles with orange tea and lemon sorbet. We are about to rise from the table, crying "uncle," when the waiter tells us that dessert is coming: roasted pear, pear purée and thyme ice cream. I go for a walk around the village to settle my stomach.

Dinner is at 8 pm with the rest of the international journalists invited for the occasion. Dinner is a buffet with local foods, a kind of smorgasbord with a range of wines for us to try. Marc, our driver, joins us at the table. The press officer of the Burgundy vintners association welcomes us and informs us, "Don't be afraid if your driver tastes (wine) during the week. They are all professionals and know how to spit." Only in France.

Barrel-top tasting in Chablis

The wines available for tasting are:

  • Domaine du Chardonnay Petit Chablis 2008
  • Billaud-Simon Chablis Montée de Tonnerre 2003
  • La Chalisienne Chablis 2002
  • Lamblin Chablis 2007
  • Corinne et Jean Pierre Grosset Chablis 2007
  • Domaine Hamelin Chablis Beauroy 2004
  • LaRoche Chablis Les Clos 2004

The reds:

  • Caves Bienvenu Irancy Les Mazelots 2006
  • P. Dubreuil-Fontaine Pernand Vergelesses 2007
  • Vincent Dureuil-Janthial Rully Maizières 2007 (the wine of the evening)
  • Simon Bize Savigny-les-Beaune 2006
  • Bailly Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Exception Brut Intense

Ended the night with a glass of La Chablisienne Marc de Bourgogne.

Monday, March 22: Awoke at 6:30 am, an hour before my alarm call. This morning our group is tasting the wines of Chablis and Auxerrois at the Maison des Vin de Chablis et du Grand Auxerrois, a couple of hundred yards from our hotel. It's a barrel-top tasting with 94 producers and three more who weren't registered and are relegated to the grass verge outside the hall. There must have been 400 wines available for tasting. I managed 63. Of those I tasted, the stand-outs were:

  • Natalie et Gilles Fevre Chablis Les Preuses 2009
  • Billaud-Simon Chablis Les Vaillons 2008
  • Jean Durup Chablis Fourchaume 2008
  • Domaine du Chardonnay Chablis Vaillons 2008
  • Domaine des Malandes Chablis Côtes de Lechet (apparently the Queen purchased several cases; I forgot to write down the vintage so I'll have to email her) – this winery also makes super Chablis Vau de Vey and Vaudesir
  • Testut Chablis Montée de Tonnerre 2007
  • Azo Chablis Vau de Vey 2008
  • Roland Lavantureaux Chablis 2008
  • Jean et Sebastien Dauvissat Chablis Lews Preuses 2008
  • Christian Morin Bourgogne Chitry 2008
  • Agnes et Didier Dauvissat Petit Chablis 2008 (and their Chablis 2008 and Chablis Beauroy 2008)
  • Sylvain Mosnier Chablis 2008
  • Vignoble Dampt Chablis Fourneaux 2008
  • Long-Depaquit Chablis Moutonne 2006 (in spite of the fact that the pourer asked me if I was "Canadian or Quebecois")

My overall impression of the 2008 vintage in Chablis is that it is returning to a style of some years ago – very crisp and clean and minerally with judicious use of oak (if it is used at all), rather than the fleshy, more extracted wines of late.

After a buffet lunch our group returns to the hotel for the drive to Beaune. We are booked in to the Hostellerie Le Cèdre on Boulevard Maréchal Foch. Very comfortable and we will dine here tonight.

The village of Pernand-Vergelesses

Our Canadian group goes for a walk around the old part of Beaune and stops in Place Carnot at Le Clos Carnot for a bottle of J. & P. Fortune St. Véran 2008 on the sidewalk terrace. Dinner at the hotel. We begin with a bottle of Delagrange Haute Côtes de Beaune Blanc 2008 with a sabayon with truffles and a duxelles of mushrooms. Then a bottle of Champy Pernand Vergelesses 2007. Next tartar St. Jacques (raw scallop with caviar) with Patrick Janvillier Meursault Clos du Cromin 2007. This wine was also served with Jacques Prieur Beaune Champs Pimont 2007 with skate. We are given a cactus cream mousse with pistachio before the dessert. But before this is served the sommelier brings a bottle of sparkling wine and asks us to identify the grape variety and the producer. Not a smart move at this juncture in the evening if she wants a tip. It turns out to be Jean Francois Delorme Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs. Dessert: a coconut cream in a box of sugar wafers with tiny mango cubes infused with rose water.

The entrance to Clos de Vougeot

Tuesday, March 23: A bad night's sleep, up every two hours. Should have taken melatonin. We drive to Clos Vougeot, where I taste 51 wines of the Vosne-Romanée appellation in a barrel-top tasting. My top wines are:

  • Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Echezeaux 2008 and Clos de Vougeot 2008
  • Domaine Bretagna Vosner Romanée Les Beaux Monts 2008
  • Domaine Anne Gros Clos de Vougeot 2008
  • Domaine Guyon Vosne Romanèe Charmes de Mazières 2008, their Les Brulées 2008 and En Orveaux 2008
  • Domaine Hudelot-Noellat Romanée-Saint-Vivant 2008
  • Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanèe 2008 and their Clos de Vougeot 2008
  • Domaine Daniel Rion Echezeaux 2008
  • Domaine Jean Tardy et Fils Vosne-Romanèe 2008

Then we are escorted into a private room (that used to be the monk's kitchen) for a tasting of old Clos de Vougeot poured for us, no less, by François Labet of Château de la Tour.

Francois Labet serving Clos de Vougeot

The best Clos de Vougeot of the tasting

Twenty-one wines are poured:

  • Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Clos de Vougeot 2001 (ruby colour; minerally, elegant, raspberry flavour; light bodied and youthful (90))
  • Domaine François Gerbet Fils Clos de Vougeot 1999 (ruby colour; minerally, fresh and youthful, great balance, dry and elegant (91))
  • Maison Alex Gambal Clos de Vougeot 1999 (ruby; barnyard, beetroot and raspberry nose; firm and tight with a tannic finish (90))
  • Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Clos de Vougeot 1999 (mature ruby; smoky, minerally, firm structure with lots of extract (92))
  • Domaine du Clos Frantin Clos de Vougeot 1999 (magnum: ruby; earthy, drying out, lean and tannic (88))
  • Maison Joseph Drouhin Clos de Vougeot 1999 (ruby, tight and closed still (89))
  • Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur Clos de Vougeot 1999 (magnum: elegant, well extracted fruit; firm but still fruitful and sweet; chunky mouth-feel (91))
  • Domaine Michel Gros Clos de Vougeot 1999 (deep ruby; smoky, spicy; powerful but elegant raspberry and mineral flavours (93))
  • Domaine François Lamarche Clos de Vougeot 1999 (mature ruby; light, firm and tannic still (89))
  • Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Clos de Vougeot 1999 (mature, light elegant, well balanced (90))
  • Domaine R. Dubois et Fils Clos de Vougeot 1998 (mature ruby, fruit raspberry jam with a dry firm finish (89))
  • Domaine Faiveley Clos de Vougeot 1998 (mature ruby; minerally, sweet fruit, tight and tannic (89))
  • Louis Jadot Clos de Vougeot 1997 (ruby; minerally, violets, raspberries on the nose; elegant, feminine but firm and obvious tannins still (92))
  • Domaine Jean Grivot Clos de Vougeot 1996 (ruby; raspberries bouquet; still youthful and firm, evident tannin, needs time (90))
  • Domaine Jacques Prieur Clos de Vougeot 1996 (magnum – mature ruby; barnyard note, very elegant and beautifully balanced; ready now (94))
  • Château de la Tour Clos de Vougeot 1996 (deep ruby; blackcurrant on the nose; firm and fleshy with a tannic finish (90))
  • Domaine Tortochot Clos de Vougeot 1996 (flat, corked)
  • Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Clos de Vougeot 1995 (mature ruby, drying out, lean with green notes (87))
  • Domaine Méo-Cazumet Clos de Vougeot 1993 (elegant, great balance. Minerally, raspberry flavours; beginning to dry out but delicious now (92))
  • Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion Clos de Vougeot 1992 (mature ruby; elegant, ready; sweet fruit with a firm structure (90))
  • Domaine Alain Hudelot-Noellat Clos de Vougeot 1990 (magnum – mature ruby; sweet fruit, ripe raspberry, minerally; great balance and length (94))

Then we drive to Marsannay to the Maison de Marsannay for a tasting of wines of Fixin, Gevrey-Chambertin and Marsannay. Sixty-nine producers show their wines in a walk-around barrel-top tasting. Of the 34 wines I taste, my top scores go to:

  • Domaine Régis Bouvier Marsannay Rouge Clos du Roy 2008
  • Derey Frères Marsannay Rosé 2009
  • Domaine Sylvain Pataille Marsannay Fleur de Pinot Rosé 2006
  • Domaine Trapet Pèreet Fils Chambertin 2007

After a buffet lunch we drive to La Maison de Nuits St. Georges, where 40 producers offer their wines. Here I taste 51 wines. The highlights are:

  • Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux Echezeaux 2008 and Clos de Vougeot 2008
  • Domaine Bretagna Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts 2008
  • Domaine Anne Gros Clos de Vougeot 2008
  • Domaine Guyon Vosne-Romanée Charmes de Mazieres 2008, also their Cru Les Brulées 2008 and Cru En Orveaux 2008
  • Domaine Alain Hudelot-Noellat Romanée-Saint-Vivant 2008
  • Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanée 2008 and Clos de Vougeot 2008
  • Domaine Daniel Rion Echezeaux 2008
  • Domaine Jean Tardy et Fils Vosne-Romanée Vigneux 2008

Back to the hotel briefly and then off again to the Paulée de Marsannay at Château de Marsannay. Lots of speeches culminating with Aubert deVillaine, co-owner of DRC, talking about the Côte d'Or becoming a UNESCO Heritage site. Our group of four are split up between two tables. More wine, but my notes are on the menu that I left on the table. There were significant amounts of Marsannay poured. It was a long day.

Wednesday, March 24: Today we go to the Palais des Congrès of Beaune, where the huge room has been divided up into four sections: Symphonie Mâconnaise (Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles, Pouilly-Lorché, Mâcon, Saint-Véranc and Viré-Clessé); L'Autre Bourgogne (Crémant de Bourgogne, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and de Beaune); Quinte Sense (five senses for five villages- Aloxe-Corton, Chorey-lès-Beaune, Ladoix-Serrigny, Pernand-Vergelesses and Savugny-lès-Beaune); and Beaune Couleurs Vins – "a journey through the Beaune vineyard" – Côtes de Beaune, Beaune and Beaune Premier crus appellations, white and red.

Canadian David Butterfield and his Burgundies

Beaune – my top wines:

  • Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune Les Teurons 2007 and L'Enfant Jésus 2007
  • Bruno Colin Aloze Corton 2008 (perhaps my wine of the day) and Bruno Colin Savigny Les Beaune les Peuillets 2008
  • Jacques Prieur Beaune Les Champs Pimonts Rouge 2007 and Beaune Les Grèves 2007
  • David Butterfield Beaune Cru Les Teurons 2007
  • Tollot Beaut Beaune Les Grèves 2008
  • Domaine Nudant Aloxe-Corton La Coutière 2008
  • Domaine Rollin Père et Fils Pernand Vergelesses Les Vergelesses 2008
  • Domaine Rapet Père et Fils Pernand Vergelesses Iles des Vergelesses 2008
  • three wines from Simon Bize et fils – Savigny Les Beaune Aux Grands Liards 2007, Cru les Marconnets 2007, Cru les Guettes 2007
  • Domaine Chandon de Brailles Pernand Vergelesses Iles des Vergelesses 2008
  • Jean Fery et Fils Pernand Vergelesses Les Combottes Blanc 2008
  • Domaine Jean Marc et Hugues Pavelot Savigny Les Beaune les Peuillets 2007

Mâconnais – my top sparkling wine: Louis Picamelot Crèmant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Jean-Baptiste Chautard 2006. Altogether there are 139 producers pouring their wines at this barrel-top and kiosk tasting. I manage about 50 samples.

On the way back to the hotel I ask Marc Lafont to call Bernard Repolt at Remoissenet to see if he is available to meet. He invites us over, as he is entertaining a Danish couple. The husband, Michael, turns out to be an obsessive collector who has driven from Copenhagen to Burgundy and the Rhône. After the tasting at Remoissenet he shows us the trunk of his Mercedes, which is packed with 200 bottles.

Wine shopping Danish style

Balthazars of Remoissenet Clos Vougeot 1992

Bernard tours us around Remoissenet's amazing cellar and then opens Remoissenet St. Romain 2008, a very intense, ripe white wine. Then he opens Beaune les Marconnets 2008 and Beaune les Marconnets 2007. A real contrast in styles. On the table is an unlabelled bottle of red half finished. Bernard asks us to identify it. I think it is Côtes de Nuits and suggest it might be a 1967 Vosne-Romanée. It turns out to be Remoissenet Chambolle-Musigny 1969 – a wine from Chris Waters's birth year.

Remoissenet Clos Vougeot

Goat's cheese at the ten chefs event

The evening's entertainment is a food and wine matching event at the Bastion Saint-Jean. It's called Bourgogne et Saveurs du Monde – "10 renowned chefs will each present an international dish featuring a Burgundian ingredient prepared according to a traditional recipe in a foreign county." We have a glass of Crémant de Bourgogne and see the crowds pouring in so we decide to have dinner by ourselves (it is a stand-up affair and we would not be missed.). Since Deanna is vegetarian and Chris doesn't eat meat we scout a restaurant where we can all dine happily. We find a small bistro just off Place Carnot called Les Chevaliers. We order a bottle of Domaine Jessiaume St. Romain 2006 and Berthalemot Monthélie 2007. I order the 28.50 euro set meal – six escargots, Boeuf Bourgigonne and the cheese plate.

My favourite Rully

Thursday, March 25: This morning we drive south to Mercurey in the Côte Chalonnaise for a tasting of some 80 producers showing 300 wines. The tasting is held in the Tonnelleire de Mercurey. There many good wines at reasonable prices here and Rully is a real discovery. My top choices of the 40 wines I tasted are:

  • Vignerons de Buxy Rully Plantenay 2007 and their Bourgogne Côte de Chalonnaise Blanc 2008
  • Château de Chamirey Mercurey Blanc 2008
  • Domaine Dureuil Janthial (a real find – their white wines are great across the board) Rully Blanc 2008, Rully Les Meix Cadot 2008, Rully Maizières 2008 and their Rully Rouge Maizières 2008
  • Domaine Jacques Dury Rully Blanc La Chaume 2008
  • Paul et Marie Jacqueson Bouzeon Les Cordères 2008 (100% Aligoté)
  • Domaine Jobard Rully Montagne Folie 2008 and Rully 2008
  • Domaine Vincent Lumpp Givry Blanc Le Vigron 2008
  • Domaine Parize Père et Fils Givry Blanc Clos les Grandes Vignes 2008

Lunch is held in Mercurey's Town Hall, a short drive from the tonnellerie. A terrific buffet. Marc Lafont and I are seated next to the wine table, where you can ask for any of the bottles to be opened. I have a glass of Domaine Ragot Givry Clos Jus 2004 and a Pierre Ducret Givry Clos Marotte 2006. Back to the hotel, where I finish packing. A taxi takes me to Dijon station (at 150 km/hour most of the way) for the TGV to Paris. I am met by another taxi at the Gare de Lyon to take me to the Novotel Hotel by Charles de Gaulle Airport. A sandwich, watch some TV and then to bed.

Friday, March 26: Up at 7 am. Breakfast in the hotel – the best croissants since my arrival in France. Then to the airport. I am first to book in at 8:30 am for an 11:30 am departure on Air Canada. Bad move. They give me the very last seat on the plane – 37K, nearer to Marseilles than to Paris.

Conclusions about the wines I tasted: the 2008 vintage in Burgundy is a lot better than I was led to believe from press reports – particularly the whites. I was really impressed by the wines of Chablis and the Mâconnais. In general terms, there is a marked difference in structure and extract between the fat 2007 vintage and the leaner but more elegant 2008. Altogether a very satisfying trip.




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