I set off from Wiltshire early yesterday morning. Driving up the Test Valley along the A303, the mist filled the lowlands to my right, trees, houses, pylons sticking up through the vapours, the whole scene bathed in silvery white sunshine.
We arrived at Beaune yesterday evening. I quickly applied a smartly swung boot to my own backside. I had completely missed the fact that it was the day of the hospices auction in Beaune, a day when the world's burgundy-obsessed gather in the hope of successfully bidding on barrels of the new vintage. Beaune was full. We managed to find a table for dinner in a corridor of one of the restaurants in town and ate a filling meal. Those people who had travelled to Burgundy for the day's auction were spread thickly on the surface of the town, eating inside and out, chatting, laughing, noisily relaxed.
The morning dawned bright; cool, but not cold, with an easily-shifted film of ice on the windscreen of the car. A blast up the peage and we arrived in Vosne 10 minutes early, having the chance to stop and take photographs, to pilgrimage our way up to the grands crus for a snap or two.
And what a way to start the tasting week: Francois Lamarche and Etienne Grivot, tasting at the former conducted by the delightful Nathalie, whilst proceedings chez Grivot were attended to by Mathilde, Etienne Grivot's daughter.
The Lamarche wines are properly and deliciously fine: silken, creamy and utterly beautiful. The Grivot's thereafter perhaps more intense, more structured, but no more stunning.
It seems 2011 is offering us an alluring greeting. This is a vintage of great charm and purity and, perhaps most importantly, of immense minerality.
I had never been to the Domaine Pascal Arnoux in Chorey-les-Beaune. It was recommended to me a couple of years ago by Jean-Charles le Bault de la Moriniere, owner of Bonneau de Martray. And Pascal turned out to be a very pleasant host, talking enthusiastically about his wine and the recent vintages. These are good, too. Even the bread-and-butter Chorey - of which Pascal owns a 5 hectare vineyard - offers good depth and interest. I would like to buy these wines. They offer great bang for the buck
We were a disgraceful half-an-hour late for lunch in Chambolle. And a certain amount of wolfing was required in order not to be too tardy for the first appointment of the afternoon, booked for the cellars of Louis Boillot just 'round the corner.
I have started to think that Louis's wines resemble somehow the man. These are manly wines, rich and intense with straight backbones. Yet each is its own sculpture in Pinot Noir and choc-full of terroir. Vines are, invariably, extremely old.
And last of all, we visited Remi Rollin. M Rollin was in excellent humour. It is always a pleasure to taste with him. And his wines offer superb value. These are remarkably serious liquids: delicious; structured; complex; age worthy. How can people ignore these wines simply because they are not expensive enough?! Buyers of these wines I deem sensible, mature and knowledgeable wine lovers!