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A week in Burgundy by Aidan McGrory

A week in Burgundy by Aidan McGrory

A truly great quote is similar to an exceptionally aged wine – it never really gets old, so I hope I will be forgiven for recycling a favourite quote of mine from a previous post;

“Only with Burgundy do the details matter so passionately… others have made beautiful Pinot Noirs, but none arouse the passions like a true Burgundy.” 

Kermit Lynch, “Adventures on the Wine Route”

Up until last week, I thought of this as nothing more than a really great quote from a man much better at putting pen to paper than I. That all changed when I arrived in Lyon for a 4 day tasting trip around the region.

My experience with Burgundy is a touch limited. I have enjoyed the wines from the region for many years, but have always struggled to wrap my head around the terroir, the difference between 1er Cru and Grand Cru and, of course, the price can be an obstacle.

Tasting wines from the Cote D’or especially from small producers has taught me two things; great Burgundy doesn’t have to be expensive and making great Burgundy is really hard work!

Day 1 – Domaine Rochette

The JN Team at Domaine Rochette

Upon arrival in the Regnie, one of Beaujolais’ 10 crus, we were greeted by Chantal and Mathieu Rochette, proprietors of Domaine Rochette.  We sat and tasted through all of their red wines, as well as a rose and a white. Chantal had prepared some of her famous quiche Lorraine for our visit, along with some cured meats and cheeses – a classic match with Beaujolais.  We were also joined by Noisette, the little tabby cat that runs around the winery, who seemed to enjoy all the attention.

Despite the language barrier, I got on like a house on fire with Mathieu, discussing our mutual love of Cru Beaujolais. Mathieu kindly offered to open a Cote De Brouilly from 2009 (one of only 10 bottles left in the cellar) which had aged wonderfully and showcased flavours and aromas akin to a mature Pinot Noir from the Cote D’or. We said our goodbyes and headed north to Beaune, for some charcuterie, cheese and wine in the hip little wine bar next to our hotel.

Day 2

Domaine Patrick Javillier

Day two began with a trip to visit Domaine Patrick Javillier, where we were greeted by Patrick himself; a very pleasant surprise indeed, as he is approaching retirement and in the process of passing the reigns to his daughter and son-in-law. Patrick proceeded to pop and pour bottles of his famous white burgundies, explaining his philosophy of how oak aging and terroir are key; chardonnay grown on white limestone can. In Patrick’s opinion, they carry the presence of new oak better than the wines grown on clay, so he uses much less new oak on the whites grown on clay based sites, which are naturally fuller. Despite being famous for his white Meursault’s, Patrick also produces some red wines;  Savigny-les-Beaune “Les Grands Liards”, Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru “Les Serpentières” and an Aloxe-Corton, all of which showed a nice richness and a sappy, red fruited quality.

Justin Girardin

Justin was a firm favourite at our annual portfolio tasting, and it was a real joy to visit him at his family’s estate and taste through his ever-evolving range of wines. Based in Santenay, we tasted a variety of reds from Santenay, Savigny-Les-Beaune and Pommard, while also discussing the possible outcome of Ireland Vs France in the 6 Nations!

Tasting with Justin Girdarin

Olivier Leflaive

We arrived at Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet for a comprehensive tasting with Johann Cochut, who many of you will remember from our portfolio tasting last year. We tasted reds and whites, from village level all the way to Grand Cru, as well as a glass or their new range of champagnes (more on that in a later blog!). We were then treated to a wonderful lunch at Hotel Restaurant Le Montrachet, along with some special wines that Johann “borrowed” from the cellar.

Tasting with Johann at Olivier Lefalive

Domaine Agnès Paquet

After lunch, we arrived at Domaine Agnès Paquet in Meloisey, a village of the Hautes Côtes de Beaune. Agnès was enjoying a well-earned skiing holiday, so we were joined by Florian, one of the vineyard managers. After some initial trouble with the Coravin (Florian admits to being more at home pruning vines than pouring wines). We tasted a range of wines from Bourgogne rouge and Blanc, through to the Saint-Aubin 1er cru les Perrières and Auxey-Duresses – Cuvée Patience, all of which are available in store or online (from previous vintages).

Following our last visit, we headed back to Beaune and the promise of dinner at Ma Cuisine, the famous Burgundian bistro that serves great food and excellent wines in the heart of Beaune.

Day 3

Most of day 3 was spent visiting potential new wineries, but we’ll keep that under wraps for now.

Domaine de Montille

Our only current producer visit on day 3 was in Meursault at Domaine de Montille, probably the estate I was most excited about visiting. Tasting through the wines, only recently taken from barrel, was a very humbling experience, as the wines of De Montille have always held a special place for me. Having read about Hubert and heard the many stories of his passion and generosity, the wines appealed to me long before I ever got to taste them. They were the first taste of truly fine Burgundy that I have ever experienced.  In my opinion, their devotion to organic viticulture, (a passion of mine) cements them, as one of the pioneering producers of first-class top-notch wines in the region.

Tasting at de Montille with Loic & Brian

Day 4

Domaine Manciat Poncet

Following an overnight stay in the city of Macon, we headed towards Pouilly-Fuissé for our final two appointments. Starting off at Domaine Manciat Poncet, we tasted through their core range of whites with winemaker Marie Pierre and her daughter. The Pouilly-Fuissé cuvees were, as expected, wonderful. However, the stand-out for me was their Pouilly Vinzelles, which offers fantastic value for money for a classical white burgundy. We also got to taste their Mâcon Bussierès Rouge, a 100% Gamay with soft, fresh red fruit flavours, similar to Beaujolais, but with a leaner, crisper finish.

In the cellar at Domaine Manciat Poncet

Chateau de Beauregard/ Joseph Burrier

Our final trip was to meet Bertrand at Chateau de Beauregard. Chateau de Beauregard is somewhat unique in their approach; they produce white wines at the Chateau in Poilly-Fuissé, and their reds at Tournissoux House in Fleurie. Bertrand explained that the entire domaine is moving towards organic certification for all their wines, and that all wines are being vinified naturally with indigenous yeast.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Pouilly-Fuisse’s across the board, and was very surprised by their incredibly refreshing Beaujolais Villages ‘Les Belouzes’, made from Gamay grapes grown on a one-hectare plot on the border with Moulin-a-Vent. Of course, the highlight of the tasting was the 2010 Grand Beauregard Rouge, a fully mature blend of 4 of the best barrels from Moulin-a-Vent, which had aged gracefully and was showing notes reminiscent of the red wines we had tasted further north over the previous 3 days.

Overall, my experience in Burgundy was exceptional, and I will admit, I was a little sad to be leaving Lyon. There is a friendly, convivial atmosphere in this more rural part of France that I did not recognise from previous trips to France. There is a real joie de vivre in the villages, focused on food, wine, family and (not surprisingly) rugby, that really made me feel at home. I will definitely be planning a return in the not too distant future.

Jusque-là, merci beaucoup!

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