Monday, November 13, 2006

Bibendum in Burgundy - Episode II

Day 2

Into the car after the 1st night’s sleep at Hotel La Closerie and off we set. “I think the boot might still be open; Ben, are we going for a bit of extra down force there?” With all doors finally closed the car was a bit less draughty and we hit the road with more calls of “drive on Binks!” emanating from the back seat.

First stop was Vincent Girardin, a modern and extremely efficient operation in Meursault. Home of good value whites in a very definite house style – we can’t wait to take delivery of the St. Aubin en Remilly white which is a top-value crowd-pleaser.

Visits to Fourrier and Drouhin Larose under the belt, we were armed with more clues as to the quality of the vintage. The village level Chambolle Musigny, Vosne Romanee and Nuits St. George wines were really starting to stand out, and the red Bourgognes were a delight too. By now our teeth were starting to take on a funny colour and espresso stops were becoming ever more vital. But all was about to take another very exciting turn as we headed towards Nuits St. George station. In a whirlwind of noise and colour, the 12.34 pulled into the station and suddenly Willie Lebus was upon us. Our amp went to 11 as the air in the car turned blue and exuberant. We arrived for lunch at Matrot where we hooked up with the delightful Graham Gardner, negociant to the stars. With his own fair hands he had prepared a delightful and simple lunch in the salle de vendangeurs (where the pickers feast during harvest) that consisted of jambon persille, rustic pate and gooey epoisses which slowly oozed its way across the plate to meet you. With their colourful clothes and bawdy stories, Willie and Graham quickly established themselves as the only 2 queens in the village – thank goodness we were amongst friends!

Then a tasting of the 2005s with Thierry Matrot, resplendent in a pair of new scaffolding-style spectacles, and a sensationally grubby yellow fleece that looked for all in the world as if it had come from the Bibendum Marketing Department! The wines were incredibly distinct with racing acidity and great intensity of fruit. Not an ounce of new oak in those ones and it really showed with cracking wine again at Meursault Villages level, all the way up to the opulent 1er cru Charmes. From there onto Domaine Robert Arnoux and the impeccable hospitality and smile of the big chief, Pascal “Mr Smooth” Lachaux. After grabbing a sneaky look at where some of the wrapped up pallets were heading, we were ushered into some extremely smart caves. First up were his rare negociant wines which were superb and limited to a maximum of 75 cases of each appellation. Understatement of the year award was snapped up by Graham who announced that the Grands Echezaux “might not be cheap…”!

Then into the Domaine Robert Arnoux wines where superlatives rolled off the tongue with alarming regularity. The Borgogne Rouge will be fantastic value, as will the village wines from Nuits, Vosne and Chambolle. The Vosne Suchots elicited a “that’s proper wine*” from Monsieur Collins and the Echezaux and Romanee St. Vivant were off the scale.

We finished the day off with one of our absolute favourite producers, Nicky Potel, who is a scholar and a gentleman. Every year the wines get better and better but the prices stay well this side of the troposphere. Look out for great quality and value reds and whites. With 105 wines done and dusted for the day delirium was starting to set and poor Graham, whose bags disappeared on the flight over, was by now firmly the rabbit in the headlights:
“What an honour it is to work with a man with pink socks! You’d better get on to La Chemiserie in town and tell them they have ‘un client important’ coming in.” Graham’s a great bloke though, and even after being dismissed as the Weakest Link, he still managed to grin and promise us good allocations.

Dinner at cult Beaune restaurant, Ma Cuisine (above), was fabulous and came to a competitive conclusion with the Bibendum crew and the Goedhuis table next door swapping glasses for some blind tasting challenges. You’ll be pleased to hear that we won... or so we thought anyway.

*anyone who knows him will appreciate that this is high praise indeed from BJC


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