Some days you are witness to history, even if you don’t want to. We were there for that Burgundy frost.
The sun was shining after yesterdays icy blast and the walk into town was not rained out.
There should have been an inkling when we found my favourite petit dejeuner place closed. Not the end of the world but I love it there. The other place was actually a good replacement except for the coffee which was more disappointing than my favourite place. C’est la vie, pas de probleme.
Things carried on swimmingly with a visit to the tres petite Beaune market. But it did net us a poulet de bresse, a Burgundy Poulet Jeune and a huge gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb). Fresh vegies (which I’ve been missing) and it was smiles all around. Because tonight we dine on iconic chickens. What was truly amazing was the lone butcher At a stand smaller than most in Queen Vic Market, lovingly beheaded (those French and their chopping off heads!) and gutted the birds. He also cleaned the heart and liver and popped them back in for a tasty treat. He then trimmed the gigot so all we had to do was cook and enjoy.
We departed for Chassagne Montrachet
Our visit to Thierry at Paul Pillot, on the drive Steven asked how long they’d have to wait to know if the overnight frost would damage the vines. I said straight away and so it was. When we arrived we were asked to wait. Then Thierry came out to say there had been a massive frost and his dad said it was a disaster and he had to look. He invited us to join him in what I believe was Clos Saint Jean to see it for ourselves. Even as a person not able to grow a tomato plant, I could see the leaves and buds were not looking too flash.
It was on most of the white vineyards of the Cotes du Beaune. But what was devastating was that the frost had stayed up the hill. So the frost affected even the very high vineyards of Puligny and Chassagne. Something his dad had never seen before. His estimation was he’d have little to no crop and he was visibly shaken. So much so we offered to leave. But gentleman that he is, Thierry asked us to stay.
Julie, the order packer, took the tasting for us. There was some awkward lost in translation moment but she was perfectly lovely and showed us some amazing white wines. There were nine wines. Two Saint Aubins with Liz and I flying the flag for this little appellation that could/can and does. And seven Chassagne. Once again we got to witness terroir at work. Julie, looking somewhat like she was doing safety dance, showed where the vineyards sat on the slope and in proximity to one another.
There is more understanding now of how the slope and the flat influence the wine. And acceptance of the fact that two vineyards that are seemingly only separated by an imaginary line can each have a personality that is vastly different from each other.
It was bitter-sweet
We had a lot of empathy for Thierry’s situation while really loving the wines we were drinking. His style harnesses concentration, mid-palate fat, subtle oak but mostly allows each site to express itself. C’est tres bon.
Theirry came back as we were leaving to have a chat and direct us to the Caveau du Puligny Montrachet to try the other style. Unfortunately we arrived just at the stroke of midday and it was impossible to taste for 2 hours during lunch. We took directions to several places including the beautiful but expensive Olivier Leflaive (if only the budget was plus grande), a local food place for locals, or a michelin star affair.
After a brief debate we opted for local food and it was a winner. At L’Estaminet des Meix we ordered steak au sauce epoisse ou sauce echalotes avec pomme frites. Not the most thrilling food we had. But we were treated to the locals pilling in and hitting the bubbles like it was NYE. We witnessed merriment and the occasional shifty eyes.. Since we had 50 mins to kill before our tasting we ordered dessert and cheese. Oh my. That was the best creme brulee I’ve ever had. I’m positively in love. The cheese was on point too and we experienced a goats cheese with a mutard crust, it was weird but very good.
Then we swanned out feeling chirpy and ready to taste.
On tasting was to two Puligny and one Chassagne to really lock in the local styles then we had two reds: A Santenay which is fast becoming a family favourite and a Chambolle Musigny. After quizzing the Caveauist we opted for a red and a white to go with our Bresse. Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot 1er Cru Blanc 2014 and a special old vine (planted 1916) cuvee of Santenay Clos Rousseau 1er Cru 2014.
Then it was off to cook these birds.
Low and slow, that’s the way to go. We just needed a tray so we returned to the supermarche of the waving scissors. I opted out so as to not be accosted again and found wine shop full of producers that I lust for. The shop was and is known as being pants wettingly good.
A lazy afternoon with treats of wine, livers and hearts of icon bird on toast and a wander in to see the Atheneum – a wine lovers paradise of bottles, gadgets, books, maps and knick knacks. They should have chairs in there for those of us who go weak at the knees.
Dinner was well anticipated
To our delight the entree was breast and wing meat of bird, the yellow chicken was clearly the favourite, until the leg and thigh came out. So intense and wonderfully cooked. Our chefs Anthony and Seonaid held their nerve and left the birds undressed so we could taste the unadulterated flavour and I will be forever grateful of that. They also turned out a salad of green leaves, tomato and goats cheese that I would happily have had as an entree at a restaurant and some yummy new potatoes.
The Chassagne was clearly the winner for its ability to match the sweetness of the flesh but not overpower it.
I was a happy man.
Wine trivia ensued and we were hitting 11pm and well past my bed time. Hopefully as he wakes up today, Thierry finds it’s not as bad as he thought. One thing is for sure though, he’s won some customers for his magnanimous treatment of his guests even in a time of personal tragedy.