I'm a huge fan of Anne Parent and her wines and have had the privilege of visiting her domaine in Pommard three times (I wrote about the last time, which was in January, here). So it was incredibly exciting to find that ACC had managed to get her to come over for a special dinner which was held at the Savile Club on Thursday.
I arrived with my brother and sister-in-law and we were shown into the posh lobby area (G is outraged at this description and says this room is called the sandpit - I'm not quite sure why as there was no sand in evidence) where people were mingling. We were immediately given a glass of the Bourgogne Blanc 2008 which was showing very well - it had that floral nose which I'm starting to associate with 2008 whites but also quite a firm backbone. At one point a waiter came over with a tray of gougeres which was very exciting but sadly that was the first and last time we saw them. They weren't as good as mine anyway...
After this, the dinner commenced and we found ourselves on the top table with Anne Parent herself (!) amongst others. ACC did a brief introduction and then Anne gave a speech where she explained that Burgundy is not complicated at all as it only has two grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir (I managed not to heckle and mention aligote and gamay), and just four levels of wine (bourgogne, village, premier cru and grand cru) and just four regions (Chablis, the Cote de Nuits, the Cote de Beaune, the Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais - although this is five so clearly I've gone wrong somewhere). And only about 1,000 wine growers. The general gist was that it is very, very simple to understand Burgundy. This was very much tongue-in-cheek.
Anne went on to talk about the role of the winemaker. She believes that there is no such thing as a bad vintage, only a bad winemaker. Her family have been making wine since the mid-17th century and she herself is twelfth generation. You could hear the room collectively going "Bloody hell!" when she said this. Then she made the point that in certain other wine regions (e.g. some insignificant place beginning with B on the other side of France ho ho) they can change the proportions of the grapes to suit the vintage, but in Burgundy they're not allowed to do that - there aren't any other grapes to fall back on - so it's very important to do proper sorting.
I began to reminisce about the first time I visited her domaine in September 2006 in the middle of the harvest. It was early on a Saturday morning and in the courtyard we saw a stable-type building with the doors open. Inside there was a dining table fully laid with tablecloth and lovely cutlery and glassware, all ready for the workers' lunch later on. It looked like a Michelin-starred restaurant. That's how well she treats the people doing her harvest - we were very jealous!
Then we got cracking with the serious wines. With a hop, skip and a jump we climbed the giddy heights from bourgogne blanc right up to white Corton grand cru 2005. This is my desert island white Burgundy but I've only ever had cask samples, of the 2007 and 2008 vintages. G had never had it before and so the pressure was on as I boast about having had it at every opportunity. Fortunately the 2005 was wonderful. It's a relatively a pale colour, with a very classic white burg nose and on the palate it's rich yet elegant and has a finish that basically goes on until you can't wait any longer to have another sip. It's extremely accomplished and very much at the beginning of its life. For me there is no doubt that this wine gets 10/10 and needless to say, the next morning I made damn sure I got a couple of bottles which I will tuck away for 2013, hurrah!
Then it was onto the reds. As you can see from the picture of decadence at the top of this post, we had three reds simultaneously with the main course, which was great as it enabled us to compare them easily. The Savile came up with Riedel glasses (Anne gave a nod of approval when this was mentioned) and put little coloured stickers on the bottoms of each glass so that we didn't forget which was which halfway through proceedings - very thoughtful.
Pommard La Croix Blanche 2008
Pommard 1er cru Les Epenots 2004
Corton Les Renardes 2001
and with the cheese, Ladoix 2007.
Going back to Anne's crystal-clear classification, the Croix Blanche is a village-level Pommard. It's a lieu-dit i.e. the wine is made from the grapes from a specific vineyard. La Croix Blanche isn't a premier cru vineyard but it's right next to Les Grands Epenots, which is. I've tasted this wine several times and bought some of the 2007 vintage. I think of it as being an excellent Sunday lunch wine and as an "entry-level" Pommard it's hard to beat - it also costs significantly less than the premier crus. The 2008 vintage went down an absolute treat and I was surprised at how it was drinking so well so young. It had a delicious jammy fruit and was very approachable.
Next up was the clash of the titans (Titans Will Clash) - Pommard 1er cru Les Epenots v. Corton grand cru Les Renardes. This has always been a great dilemma for me as they are both superb and tres serieux. Anne has said in the past that if the village of Pommard had a grand cru, which it doesn't, it would be Les Epenots. I think this is a combination of grapes from Les Grands Epenots and Les Petits Epenots but hopefully somebody will correct me if I've got that wrong. This was tres Pommard - muscular and firm and well-structured. Essentially quite butch I guess, like an action movie hero. The Corton was softer and more sensual with a sort of mystique. I have to admit the Corton usually wins for me, although I love the Pommard too.
Finally, with the cheese course, we had the Ladoix 2007. You hardly ever see Ladoix in the UK which ACC attributes to the fact that we Brits don't know how to pronounce it. Therefore it's somewhat overlooked and can offer good value. I also know, having traipsed along the main road from Chorey to Ladoix back in January, that it's the next village along from Aloxe-Corton. So here you have Corton, with its grand crus, and a few feet away you have a village nobody has heard of. One of the reasons I love Burgundy! The Ladoix was more rustic than the other wines, but being from the 2007 vintage had that early-drinking charm. I note that we had it for lunch on 6th June but whereas G was not wowed by it on that occasion, on this evening he thought it went well with the cheeses - NB the English cheeses as Anne made a point of saying.
The wine and conversation continued to flow into the small hours and a good time was had by all. A fantastic evening! I'm just glad I didn't have to do the washing up...