[Caspar Bowes and David Levantureux locating the domaine’s vineyards on a map of the Chablis commune]
The scene that greeted us on landing at Lyon airport was one of snow that had been swept off the runway and was lying in piles either side of our taxi route to the terminal. There was proper bite to the air, too, as we boarded the shuttle bus that would take us to the car hire cabins and car park.
Bad news in extremis. The keys handed to me were those for a Fiat 500L: possibly the worst piece of junk to grace the world’s highways; an under-powered sewing machine of an aberration almost certainly designed by someone who’s heard of driving licences, but isn’t really sure what they do.
It was late by the time we arrived at our hotel in Beaune: as I set the alarm on my ‘phone and plugged it in, its clock ticked over to midnight and I was grateful to flip off the light after nine hours of travelling.
The forecast for today was for no rain, but cloudy skies. This was proved to be pretty much 100% wrong, as we have had both glorious sunshine and teeming rain.
But what of the wines? Ah, the wines! The day has felt like a long series of precious gifts. We are fantastically joyous.
Domaine Michel Lafarge
We were dead on time for our first appointment at Domaine Michel Lafarge in Volnay, not least because the door-to-door journey from the hotel is little more than 10 minutes. We were greeted by Chlotilde, the youngest scion of the Lafarge clan, but almost immediately Frederic her father appeared and we were loaded into the plain metal box that is the lift that carries one down into the crepuscular, cobwebbed gloom of the Lafarge cellar.
Emanating from the (invariably old) barrels surrounding one in those depths are some of Burgundy’s finest fluids. The 2018s we tasted with Frederic are achingly lovely wines, red and white. Each quite different from the others; each displaying its mineral origins with startling clarity; each mineral expression encased in the most ravishingly delicious fruit. This is a truly great vintage here, make no mistake. We stumbled out into the street breathless with the wonder of what we’d tasted.
Dammit, we were late already. I ferried us as rapidly as I dared to our next destination – Domaine Camus-Bruchon – in Savigny-les-Beaune and we were relieved to see some of the domaine’s private clients being shown out as we pulled up. At least the delightful Guillaume Camus hadn’t been twiddling his thumbs waiting for us.
Again! Rich wines of supreme loveliness: beautiful fruit; cool, earthy Savigny mineral structure. Why are these wines so hard to sell? Can people really be put off simply because these wines have the word Savigny on the label, rather than Volnay? Something’s terribly wrong if they are.
From Savigny was onto the peage. One can cover the distance from Beaune to Vosne in 25 minutes if sufficiently motivated. We did it in about 20 and were no more than five minutes behind schedule as I pulled on the handbrake in the yard at Domaine Lamarche.
I do like tasting here. The tasting room is extremely comely. Not only warm, one gets to sit at a table whilst the very sympa Nicole Lamarche pours sample after sample into one’s tasting glass. Nicole has been making the wine for something like a decade here now and her hand becomes ever more confident. These ‘18s are pale, luminous and completely gorgeous wines that perfectly reflect their vineyards, the vintage and Nicole’s winemaking philosophy. I am not sure I have tasted better wines here.
We lunched at the Complexe Sportif in Gevrey. It doesn’t get tired or old. It’s simply a fine, fun place to eat a tasty couple of courses before continuing one’s tasting day.
And that continuation involved what felt like a long blast up to Chablis for a single appointment. I tasted the 2017 wines of Domaine Levantureux in London last year, but already had some (admittedly delicious) Chablis wines lined up for our offer. But I really, really wanted to get to know more about them, so had booked an a visit.
Young brothers David and Arnaud are running this estate and pushing it right to the top of the Chablis hierarchy. Goodness me, these are very, very proper Chablis. Clearly, they have an extremely clear view of how to express their vineyards. Words that came to mind and, for that matter, appeared in my tasting notes, were “pure”, “refined”, “elegant”, “dense”, “mineral”, “precise”. Damn, I love these wines. Chardonnay flick-knives sharp enough to shave with.
We are back in Beaune now. Can tomorrow possibly be any better? We are champing to find out…