More than most things in life, I love a trip to Burgundy. The wines from this part of France have been my favourite for a while. I have had plenty of colleagues over the years who could not empathise with my obsession and I concede that buying Burgundy in England is not cheap. These detractors have too often been burned buy underwhelming examples at £50 or more. If I put my mind to it, I could probably remember when I was in that position so I try to not be patronising. As an ardent fan of these wines, I am torn. I either continue to plead with friends that they persevere with these wines in the knowledge that, sooner or later, they will “get it”. Alternatively, I can keep my mouth shut, so there is more for me.
Every person that shares my passion will be able to tell you which wine it was that won them over, as well as where they were, who they were with and probably more. Burgundy isn’t always a fairy tale hobby, though. It can be frighteningly expensive. As demand across the globe has increased, good bottles are harder and harder to come by so these are often reserved for special occasions. Travelling to Burgundy is a treat for me. After a few visits I can now steer clear of the expensive wine boutiques in Beaune and find fairly priced bottles (at least in comparison to London). I have also learned which restaurateurs have the best relationships with the Domaines. This is where things get really interesting for me because I get to enjoy two of my favourite things: Burgundian wines and food. I have mentioned in earlier posts how painful I find it to pay the tariff for wines in restaurants in London. There I can enjoy great local food and dreamy wines at prices lower than UK retail. It isn’t difficult to get carried away!
Last week I had arranged to meet my friend Russell for lunch in Meursault. Russell is one of the great characters of the wine trade and he shares my joy of all things gastronomic. He wanted to take me to a place I had never been to before because they serve one of the classic dishes that has become more and more rare over the years, Lievre a la Royale. It is a rich dish, not for the faint of heart, involving hare with a dark sauce containing red wine, cognac, garlic (lots), shallots (lots) and the hare’s blood as well as several other ingredients, I’m sure. It is worth noting at this stage that I was still feeling a bit tender from the previous evening’s activities. Suffice to say, that dish was not at the top of my wish list! I did my best to listen to Russell’s story behind this dish but the wine list was competing for my attention with its range and value. We eased in to things with a bottle of Ramonet Puligny Enseigneres 2011. I love this vineyard. Not even a 1er cru, but it’s tucked under Batard Montrachet and I think it offers relative value. The starter was amazing, foie gras and ceps en papillote, washed down by a Coche-Dury Meursault Caillerets 2010. These wines draw a hush in England and are priced in the stratosphere, sadly. NB, I think it was around this time when my other friend, James, said his first words of the day. He had been out with me the night before. I had returned to my normal state by the time the hare arrived and I loved it. It probably called for something a bit heartier but we enjoyed a red by Ramonet from Chassagne Montrachet, a village known for its whites but I think the reds are great.
We took our time with the cheese that followed, swapped stories and opinions. Afternoons like that are why I enjoy my trips down there. There is so much more to see and learn too so I suggest all Burgundy lovers should pay a visit. If you think the wines are boring and overpriced, please stay away!!
Where to buy wine:
CPH. You can’t miss this place. It’s on Avenue Charles de Gaulle on the way to the autoroute and has “Grande Boutique du Vin” written on the building. It looks a bit commercial but it’s really good, particularly for Bourgogne and Villages-level wines as well as champagne and other regions in France.
Caveau de Chassagne. In the village of Chassagne-Montrachet itself. Really well priced and great selection, particularly from Chassagne, as you might expect. They usually have wines open to try and very knowledgable staff.
If you are confined to the centre of Beaune look for the Boutique des Domaines on Rue d’Alsace or La Vinotheque just off Place Carnot. Shop around though because prices can vary drastically as Beaune becomes more and more trendy.
Where to eat:
Ma Cuisine, on Passage St.Helene is a must. Always book because they are always full. Pierre is a very knowledgeable host, the food is good and the wine list is on another level.
Caves Madeleine is becoming a favourite. Just outside the ring road on Rue Faubourg Madeleine. Really fun atmosphere and Lolo (who speaks very good English) is a really good guide of his wines and menu. He also has a wine bar just by the Belle Epoque hotel on the way to Meursault called La Dilettante.
Le Chevreuil in Meursault, if Lievre a la Royale sounds like your kind of thing.
La Miotte in Ladoix-Serrigny. Very unassuming looking place but good traditional food and a wine list that might be smaller than some but is always full of gems.