November in Burgundy – Belleville to Beaune
Written by *Michael Edwards
As a freelance writer, one has to count the pennies and cents. But having had the good luck to win a prize (mit cheque) for my recent book on Champagne, I decided to have a rest from bubbles and take a few days holiday in a place where my love affair with France began: the land of plenty that is Beaujolais, Bresse and Beaune. Due to a mix-up on SNCF timetables, I had to wait around for the TGV from Paris Gare du Lyon to Mâcon-Loché, but it raced the 400 kilometres to Burgundy’s southern city in just 100 minutes. I found a spotlessly clean hotel close to Mâcon Ville station. Pleasantly tired but needing some exercise, I strolled down through the handsomely restored town and crossed the bridge over the broad Saône to St Laurent, the first township you come to in the Bresse department of Ain, a mecca for foodies.
“That cold, star-bright night, I ate a perfect dinner in the heated verandah of the enchanting L’Autre Rive restaurant (www.lautrerive.fr) with its dramatic views of floodlit Mâcon across the water: even in November, the flat roofs and the southern architecture of the city told me that I was just at the point where southern France begins – the Midi beckons. For the record, the soup of potiron and chestnuts was a warming intro to one of France’s great dishes, poulet de Bresse à la crème au vin jaune that quite lived up to expectations. As a good old boy, just wanting to sleep well, I drank just one lovely glass of Michel’s Mâcon Clessé 09 and another of Devillard’s Chateau de Chamirey Mercurey 08 with the chicken. Then the freshest raspberry sorbet with a splash of Marc de Bourgogne. Back to the hotel, I did not stir till 10 o’clock the next morning.”
Rejuvenated, I trained it to Belleville-sur-Saône, the real wine capital of the Haut Beaujolais and home of my old friends, the Ferraud family (www.ferraud.com) who still run one of the best small merchants that capture all the elegance and élan of top Beaujolais crus without the ‘boiled- sweets’, confected flavours that have damaged the region in the eyes of careful wine lovers. The highlight of my visit to Belleville was a memorable tasting, orchestrated by Yves-Dominque Ferraud of outstanding Beaujolais and Maconnais crus from the great 2009 and the subtly mineral 2008 vintages. All the wines came from specific domaines, where most had been aged mainly in large casks to round them out before bottling –a rarity in the region. The Mâcon whites were especially impressive; not that surprising, as Dominique is the nephew of the eminent Jean-Jacques Vincent of Chateau de Fuissé. The property of Pouilly Fuissé L’Entreroches belongs to Dom’s widowed mother, Marie-Jo Ferraud (elder sister of Jean-Jacques): the 2008 is a superbly textured Chardonnay, all silk and satin made more savoury by the mineral tastes of the rocks from which it came. Not a stave of oak in this beauty! Her Morgon Les Charmes 2009 is sensuously magnificent, a riveting mix of kirch, black cherry and liquorice flavours. At around £16 /18 € a bottle, all taxes included, this is one of Burgundy’s great wine values.
Hospice de Beaune 150th Anniversary Wine Auction 21 November 2010
Cheers rang through the auction hall in front of the historic Hospice de Beaune as a record price of 400,000 euros was achieved for the top lot, la Pièce des Présidents, a ‘tonneau’ of 500 litres, made specially for this anniversary occasion. The very talented actor Fabrice Luchini came to support the Association for Life and Hope against Cancer, the beneficiary of the top bid’s proceeds. The lot was bought by Monsieur Jacques Boisseau of Maison Patriache et fils, Beaune. The Sale was dominated by European buyers who accounted for nearly 86 per cent of the value of total bids. For the first time Asian buyers, notably from China, Hong Kong and Korea, outnumbered those from the United States. I was much taken by elegant 2010 whites and concentrated reds (due to smaller berries) and were I to write a best–selling novel, on my shopping list would be the Meursault Genevrières Baudots, Corton-Charlemagne Roi Soleil, Pommard Epenots, Clos de la Roche and Mazis Chambertin. One of the best values was a lovely complete Beaune Clos des Avaux, which sold for around 3,000 euros la pièce and was snapped up significantly by the restored and enlightened Beaune house of Bichot. I shall look out for it.
Written by Michael Edwards
After reading for the Bar at Gray’s Inn, Michael became a wine broker in the 1970s whilst living in France, representing top domaines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. He was also an associate and restaurant critic for Egon Ronay for forty years till 2005. Michael is now an author and journalist specialising in Champagne, Burgundy and Northern Italy. Winner of the Louis Roederer international book of 2010 for his “Finest Wines of Champagne” ( University of California Press), Michael is a regular correspondent for The World of Fine Wine, Decanter and The Drinks Business.