A modest message in the wall of a Meursault back street, yet to ignore it would be to bypass some of the world's finest Chardonnays
It's been a fine day in Burgundy, starting with thick fog in Corberon. The fog retained its density to the outskirts of Beaune before it lifted, revealing the glowing slopes of the Cotes, mist edging the vines in white.
First stop was Lafarge in Volnay. Tasting Buddy had stayed at home. He cannot secure an allocation of these wines and decided to do the family thing back at the gite instead. It seems to me that, increasingly, this will be the story with burgundy. Global demand for these wines is growing exponentially; Asia is diversifying, as testified by buses full of visitors from South East Asia.
The Lafarge cellars are a great place to crack one's cranium with some force. The people who built these chambers cannot have been much bigger than Bilbo and friends. Standing for an hour to taste from the barrels that reside here can result in much stiffness in one's spine. But, my-oh-my, it is worth it. This was a succession of the finest Pinot Noirs: super-sculpted art forms of ravishing fruit.
Tasting over, I stepped into the street and the fog had caught up with me, the sunshine gone. I popped back to Corberon to collect Victoria for her to drop me at my next appointment and the drive across the plain's flatness was surreal in the mist, the pigeons flying over the fields seeming directionless, the bits of landscape coming and going like dreams.
I was asked by a client some years ago why I never talk about the vintages and domaines that do not perform, are unworthy of selection for a Bowes Wine offer. Well, here it is..
Next visit was to a domaine that shall, of course, remain unnamed. And the wines were okay...fine....quite tasty. But premier crus from the 2010 vintage that are low in acidity, lacking intensity, short on concentration are the produce of a wine maker not trying sufficiently hard. And this is a domaine that has, in the past, produced some truly excellent bottles. Sad to say, there's no chance of me offering these for the foreseeable future.
Lunch was in a grill restaurant on the main Dijon road out of Beaune and with all the family/s. We sat and watched the fog finally lift, the sky's greyness change incrementally to blue, the sun return the colour to the extensive and mono-cultural landscape outside the restaurant's window.
Tasting Buddy and I pegged it north to Gevrey and the cellars of Rossignol-Trapet. This domaine is now certified biodynamic and, tasting the wines, one gets the sense of their purity; that one is tasting a purity of Pinot Noir fruit unsullied by human intervention. These are achingly beautiful wines in 2010: super-true to their origins. We sampled exceptionally impressive village, premier cru and grand cru wines, culminating in a properly masculine, smoky and complex Chambertin.
Then it was back to white wine territory: the village of Gamay and the Domaine Marc Colin. Wine making here is impeccable. St Aubin fruit in the hands of someone as talented as Damien Colin can trump many a wine from the more celebrated communes nearby, and at a fraction of the cost at that. Again, the white premier cru En Monceau was the one I'll be picking, intense, super-mineral and age-worthy as it is.
Lastly...a visit of the kind one looks forward to for months; a producer of white wines that could compete with pretty much anything made anywhere and still shine. Lafon, Coche-Dury, Ramonet are names well-known around the world and command prices that put them within reach of the super-rich only. Yet Patrick Essa at the Domaine Buisson-Charles in Meursault crafts Chardonnays that can live at least as long and offer as much pleasure. They are wines I buy every year and the 2010s are quite extraordinary.
We left Meursault with two fine bottles generously donated by Patrick: a 2007 Meursault Vieilles Vignes and a 1995 Meursault Les Tessons and I sit now in Corberon tying this post with a glass of the latter in my hand. It defines Chardonnay's potential to a T. I am tired; I am, happy. And venison terrine has just been placed in front of me, thus I sign off in anticipation of a Good Feed.