Bicycles, Burgundy and bons viveurs - Part 1

Our Wine Director Tom Harrow has cycled around Burgundy. Here's his report for FT How To Spend It.
“…Good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people…” Such sentiments from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII sum up my last trip to Burgundy – if the final “good” can translate as happy, inspired, grateful, replete, slightly saddle-sore and mildly hungover. The latter quality I blame entirely on unnecessary quantities of 1960s Calvados from the bar at Le Pic in Beaune, and not on the array of fine wines enjoyed throughout.

[caption id="attachment_682" align="alignleft" width="215"]A Grand Cru water bottle A Grand Cru water bottle[/caption]
...we were met the following afternoon in slight drizzle at Le Creusot Montceau by our host Geoff Sandquist, a Canadian travel-business veteran and Burgundy resident for nearly 30 years, and transferred to Puligny-Montrachet, base camp for the first leg of our tour. Fuelled by a lean, nutty Guy Amiot 07 Vergers (Premier Cru Chassagne Montrachet) with charcuterie, then fleshy, inky Château Pommard 2006 with cheeses at Le Montrachet, we set off on a warm-up 25km bike ride along the canals of Puligny and up into the vineyards, passing various hallowed hectares and dreamt-about domaines as the weather cleared into a cloudless dusk.  We paused for refreshment at the Caveau de Chassagne, trying a selection of recent vintages and crus from the appellation’s respected growers and those in neighbouring Puligny and Saint-Aubin – the latter once a sweet spot for better-value premier-cru whites but whose prices are now rising with their reputation. Emptying the remnants of Vincent Girardin’s 2007 Grand Cru Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet into my water bottle, I freewheeled back down the hill to Puligny and dinner back at Le Montrachet.
Someone had written it into the rules that during our four nights in Burgundy we were only to drink magnums (or larger formats) at dinner, an eminently sensible precaution that recalled the chalked witticism on the bare walls of La Pointe du Grouin that “a magnum is the perfect size for you and your wife, so long as she isn’t drinking”. We started with a jaunty and undemanding St Aubin Cru 2011 from Marc Colin, which was put firmly in its place by Sylvain Bzikot’s uncompromising 2007 Puligny-Montrachet – all marzipan, ear wax and talc-dusted apple pie. Our red selection began with Rapet’s 2009 Premier Cru Pernand Vergelesses – an appellation appreciated by critics and connoisseurs for its tricky pronunciation. Sometimes herbaceous and angular in leaner years, the 2009 was plumper, with rich and supple fruit wrapped around a steely core. A vertical of Grand Cru Corton Bressandes from Tollot-Beaut followed, a producer who, if not absolutely in the very first tier of Burgundy’s top growers, has a deserved and loyal following among those who appreciate classic, unmanipulated Burgundies that are always a pleasure to drink and never a pain to purchase. The year 2008 was lissom, delicate, a little tense but charming and graceful; 2005 had darker and deeper pools of colour and was five to 10 years off drinking, all cut branches and edges but opening eventually with sweeter fruits. Meanwhile, 1993, a generous donation from Sandquist’s own cellar, had wafts of sweet hay, rhubarb compote and compost on the nose, was soft and perfumed on the palate but not fading, in fact amplifying the longer it breathed – like a dapper, reserved senior at a gathering of youths whose absorbing anecdotes command more attention as the evening wears on… Lovely with volaille de Bresse and sufficiently engaging to ignore the surrounding honeymooners and elderly local couples who, following the noble precepts of all grand French restaurants, clearly preferred the sound of cutlery to conversation.
Read the full article here
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