Friday, November 21, 2014

Domaine Perrin and Maison en Belles Lies, Wed 29th Oct

After lunch at Le Terroir, we were picked up by Julien, whisked along various windy roads, through Chagny (past Lameloise!) and back up to the Cote d'Or where the first stop was Volnay.

View from the main square in Volnay
We were visiting Domaine Perrin, and were greeted by Vincent and his wife, Marie-Christine, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. I think this was one of the first tastings of the 2013 vintage that they had carried out.

We kicked off with the white Saint-Romain, which ACC told me is an aligoté - I never realised this before despite quaffing large quantities of the 2008, or perhaps I'd forgotten. (Update: it appears I got completely the wrong end of the stick here. The aligote is not the same as the St-Romain, but is aged in St-Romain barrels. Mea culpa.) Must clearly re-evaluate my prejudice against stance on aligoté. Vincent said he had used less sulphur than previously (if I understood correctly) - he is generally moving to a more natural approach, and this seemed to have paid off as the wine had a very nice weight. I found it more difficult to assess the Meursault, which is another wine I've loved in the past, possibly because it had only been in bottle for a month and was still a bit shocked.

On the red side, the bourgogne rouge had a nice cherry thing going on on the nose, and was mouth-tingling with good acidity and crunchy fruit. The village Volnay was clearly related, but bigger and broader, while the two Pommards (Vaumurien and Chanlains respectively) were very elegant expressions of Pommard with a lot of tannin and I thought would need several years to come round, especially the Chanlains. The Volnay 1er cru Carelle sous la Chapelle was one of my favourites, with a really interesting nose, good structure and smoothness, while the 1er cru Gigottes had an enticing nose, great concentration and elegance, and a great finish - it may need the best part of a decade but when it gets there it will be fabulous. I shall have to give some serious thought to which one(s) it's going to be for me this year. Thank you very much to Vincent and Marie-Christine for yet another Volnay masterclass.

Then it was time to head off to Saint-Aubin where we were visiting Maison en Belles Lies. I remembered spending quite a long time hanging around in a car park next to what looked like a deserted factory last year. This year, things were very different. There were two men painting a piece of equipment (technical term) in a cheerful yellow colour, similar to the colour of A du V Towers in fact, and we were greeted by Pierre Fenals who seemed very upbeat. We were also joined by Bill Nanson from the Burgundy Report.

Last year, the domaine had been badly affected by hail which had drastically reduced what was on offer. This year, things were looking much brighter and we descended a tiny spiral staircase - it took me about 10 minutes to get down it, stepping very carefully to avoid a tragic accident - to the lower level where there were lots of barrels looking inviting!

We started with the aligoté which I thought was wonderful - vinified in oak, it had a lovely floral nose and was rich and big, unlike one of those nasty thin acidic aligotes that's only good for making kir. Next up was the white Santenay which brought tears to my eyes, not because it was bad, but because of the acidity level. Or maybe I just tasted it too quickly. It was very pure with good minerality and weight. The Monthelie blanc was less sharp, had a hint of honey on the nose, and was very agreeable. Then, the jewel in the crown: Corton-Charlemagne grand cru. What a treat! Pierre explained that he shares the vineyard with Bonneau du Martray and Coche-Dury so he's in excellent company. This was something very special, complex, rich and mouth-coating.

We moved into a different part of the cellar to taste the 2014s which were still fermenting away. They all seemed to be developing nicely, which bodes well for next year! At one point, Pierre was explaining something and suddenly there was a loud CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK which turned out to be Bill taking a photo with his super-whizzy camera. Pierre blinked and we all pretended nothing had happened.

Then it was on to the 2013 reds. First, L'Étrange, which I famously guessed blind at a dinner last year, admittedly only due to vast prior consumption of it since G is a big fan. It's a bit like a passetoutgrains in that it's a mixture of pinot noir and gamay, but if memory serves, PTG is normally 2/3 gamay, 1/3 pinot whereas L'Etrange is the other way round. Disclaimer: this could be completely incorrect. Anyway, it was very nice, had that slightly whiffy trademark nose, and chewy fruit. A relatively light and approachable wine.

Next came the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune which blew me away with its heady, scintillating nose. Pierre described it as tres jolie and it was just my kind of thing - very pinot, very pretty. The Aloxe-Corton was more serious stuff and had that meatier Aloxe thing going on, which certainly has its place but the Hautes-Côtes had ruined me for it. And then finally, the Corton les Perrieres grand cru which I see I put two stars next to in my notes, high praise indeed. It was very serious, rich, complex, interesting and just generally stunning.

We tasted some of the 2014s again bubbling away in their barrels. Already the unique characteristics of the different appellations were shining through. There's a Maranges in 2014 which will please a certain person I know, but it was very tannic at this stage and Pierre described it as more rustic.

Once again this was a very interesting tasting, it was great to see Pierre looking much happier, and the domaine's trademark style, elegance and purity were all in evidence. I don't really know much about biodynamism but it certainly seems to do the business as far as I'm concerned.

View of vineyards in Saint-Aubin

Afterwards, Julien dropped ACC off in Puligny-Montrachet and took me back to Beaune. I felt very swanky travelling in the black Merc by myself, but this luxurious lifestyle was short-lived. After Julien had gone on his way, I attempted to visit the local traitteur to get something to eat, but by the time I'd figured out how the automatic door worked, the sales assistant had disappeared. After hanging around for five minutes I decided to go to Petit Casino instead and procured a tin of lentilles aux saucisses, the French equivalent of beans and four pork sausages, a childhood favourite. It had been an amazing day and I was happy to have a quiet night in watching French game shows and reading a 1930s mystery novel.

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