Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Year in Burgundy

After the tasting at Vincent Perrin's, we were collected by the trusty Alain le taxi and returned to Beaune to "faire les courses" as we were planning to hole up at the gîte the next day. A lot of shops were closed but we managed to get some croissants and had a trip to Alain Hess, the cheese shop on Place Carnot. The website is well worth a look with its entertainingly god-awful English translation. This is an amazing cheese shop complete with a laser-cutting device for the hard cheeses, an extraordinary piece of newfangled kit in a region where everything is so traditional. We picked up some additional items for the cheeseboard - in particular a Regal de Bourgogne which is an old favourite of mine. It's a triple creme cheese covered in raisins which have been soaked in marc. What's not to like?

For dinner, we had a roast chicken with potatoes and other vegetables, and to drink we had two 2007 premier cru red Chassagnes, brought by ACC, both by Ramonet but different Ramonets! The Clos Saint Jean on the left was Domaine Ramonet, while the Boudriotte on the right was from Noel Ramonet. Compare and contrast the labels below. They were both "tres Chassagne" but one was significantly bigger than the other, so we saved most of that for the cheese.

As it was New Year's Eve, we stayed up and watched some dreadful French TV. One channel was showing a mesmerising succession of acrobats and novelty acts. Baron McG said he didn't expect to see so many human pyramids in the rest of his life as he had done that evening. The highlight was undoubtedly the performing seals, which balanced balls on their noses, climbed ladders, swayed from side to side enthusiastically to the music, carried a small dog across the stage, were occasionally treated to a piece of fish, and seemed to be having a whale of a time (groan). Am sure it wouldn't be allowed in the UK which is a shame as it was completely brilliant.

A couple of minutes past midnight, there was a handful of desultory fireworks somewhere in Chorey. Not quite the big bang entrance for 2013 that I'm used to in London.

The next day, the weather was rubbish and we had no plans, so we stayed in. There was some excitement when we were cooking and the power went out twice, bringing Monsieur Martin up to the gite to find out what on earth we were getting up to. We all looked as innocent as possible, but I suspect two induction hobs and the oven all on at the same time had overloaded the system. Fortunately, power was swiftly restored and for lunch we had a baked Vacherin with some salad and Ratte potatoes, which was wonderful.

We had a leisurely afternoon reading, sleeping and/or watching the Madness of King George on DVD, and then for dinner I made chicken and mushroom soup with the remains of the chicken, and we had petit salé (pork with lentilles) out of a tin, which looked absolutely disgusting but was very tasty. To drink, we had a bottle of G's Chambolle Musigny 1er cru 2007 from Domaine Odoul-Coquard, and some Mas de Daumas Gassac '05 provided by Baron McG. I hadn't had any of this for ages and was reminded how much I liked it, which is almost certainly due to the high level of cabernet sauvignon.

It was G's and my last night at the gite so we stayed up for a while with the Baron and broached a bottle of 1966 marc de bourgogne from Jean Michelot which G had picked up from the Boutique des Domaines the previous day. We also conducted a comparative tasting of the red Pruneaux d'Agen Fourrés from Fortnums against the blue Pruneaux d'Agen Fourrés from Lakeland - the former won, not surprising as they're twice the price. It was agreed that the texture of the filling was altogether more satisfactory.

The next morning we took the taxi out to Monthelie, which is close to Meursault and also Auxey-Duresses. You can see Auxey on the right in this photo.

We were visiting Florent Garaudet, who struck me as another very passionate wine-maker. I found it quite hard tasting his wines as they were so young and built to last, but the red Monthelie 1er cru and above all the "Mons Helios" 2009 will be very impressive in a few years when the tannin has receded. Only a tiny quantity of the latter is made and the attention to detail is phenomenal.

The corking machine

Then it was a taxi back to Beaune for lunch at Loiseau des Vignes, which ACC with deliberate understatement had referred to as a "wine bar" - it turned to be a very spacious one Michelin star restaurant next to poshy-posh Hotel le Cep, whose doormen assumed we were guests when G and I got out of the taxi with our suitcases.

They have a large range of wines by the glass so we were all able to have a different white with our starter, then we shared a bottle of the "house" Chambolle Musigny with our main course. There was quite a contrast with the Odoul-Coquard Chambolle of the previous evening, indicating that it was more in the Morey-St-Denis style. Fortunately I like both, but typique Chambolle is particularly elegant and charming. The four course set lunch was 29 euros a head, stunning value. It was a really great place to have our last meal, and I hope to return soon. Sadly we had to leave the others there and made our way to the station, via the marc shop to get another bottle of 66 marc.

All in all, it was a great trip with just the right mixture of activities. The only disappointment was that some of the wine shops were closed so we didn't get as much to bring back as we have done in the past. Guess I'll just have to go back soon!

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