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Clotted Cream Moon, Chablis and Home At Last

This is the classic soil of Chablis: Kimmeridgian limetone containing the fossils of tiny oysters; remnants of a time when this area was covered by the sea


I am now back home and, following a period of recovery (as prophesized in my last post, minus the whale music), I have a chance to recount the tale of my last day in Burgundy and the dash home. I have also had a chance to think about the broader picture re this vintage: where lie the strengths; what spread of wines I could think of offering; whether any wine will sell at all.

I rose early. Mercifully, I had slept pretty well, partially assisted by an infusion of wine at a tasting the night before. We had convened in a fabulous new cellar bar owned by a young German wine maker, the ancient, vaulted, brick ceilings arching low over our heads and lending a pleasant warmth to proceedings as we tasted and then chewed slivers of extremely fine saucisson sec. If you find yourself thirsty and at a loose end in Beaune, this is a great place to visit.

From there, we made a short hop to La Régalade. This is something of an institution in Beaune or, rather, just outside it, since it lies half a mile from town on the Dijon road. Portions are medieval and the food is regional, simple and gives up maximum flavour. Pack an empty stomach and a reasonably fat wallet.

I rose with the dawn on Friday, shotgunned some honey and yoghurt and a diminutive croissant, gulped down a cup of coffee and headed out onto the péage.

A clear sky was lightening in the east with the incipient day. Above me, a vast moon, a day from the full, hung pregnantly. It wasn't until I was back in England, rotating my way westward along the M25, that a Radio Four item about the moon caught my attention. In its eliptical orbit, the moon occasionally comes significantly closer to Earth than the norm and the full moon just gone, I was told, was such and would have appeared 14% larger in the sky. I heard this news and I remembered my Burgundy morning and the obese orb the colour of clotted cream that greeted the new day.

I determined to drive up the hills north-east Burgundy and stop at the top to snap off a few pictures, but it wasn't to be. At the top of the slope, the fog came down like fire extinguisher foam and stayed with me until I was well past Chablis.

I had two appointments in Chablis - Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin and Vincent Dampt - and both were superb. One can forget the power of good Chablis to tattoo crystalline terroir onto one's palate and the 2007s are a return to the classical textbook, cool, concentrated and choc-full of minerals.

After our last tasting sample at Dampt, Vincent went to the wine fridge and pulled out an old-looking bottle: a 1985 Chablis 1er Cru Cote de Lechet, made by his grandfather. It was young! The aromas were nutty and so evidently those of age, but 23 years?! Amazing stuff.

The drive home was monotonous and I was flagging by the time I arrived at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Calais. A cappucino; a sandwich; The Daily Telegraph crossword. So refuelled, I boarded the train for Blighty.

So what of this vintage? Is it worth buying? I do wonder whether this year may turn out to be one of those proverbially known as a "merchants' vintage". These come along every now and then. They are years largely ignored by consumers, but lapped up by merchants only too pleased to fill their cellars with fine quality, reasonably priced wine.

The best reds are far from fragile. Rather, they are elegant, subtle and pure. They lack nothing whatsoever. What they do offer is an extraordinary clarity of terroir expression, supreme balance and delicious Pinot fruit.

The whites have that same terroir, same stamp of place. In that respect they are like the 2004s, yet the '07s have more fruit, more canvas onto which the terroir has been painted.

The best of these wines will keep into the short-medium to long-medium term and hurray, I say, as I cannot wait to open some of these in their maturity.

Overall, I was amazed. And I was not the only one. Untold vignerons to whom I talked couldn't believe how quickly the fruit had ripened - essentially in two weeks at the end of August/beginning of September. Even after alcoholic fermentation, there were worries. But then, like a rabbit from a top hat, something really charming unexpectedly appeared.

2007 in Burgundy is a great success and I intend to put some of these stylish wine into my own cellar pronto.
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