It is not every day that this cynical wine guy learns something about wine. But today, at Macon, I did. And today I think I found my vinous man crush. Also, they like to use the name Philippe a lot around here. It’s almost as bad as the time I went on the ‘Phil Smith show’ on ABC Brisbane.
This morning Petit dejeuner was well and truly rained out.
So Laura and I took a spin around the ring road to a boulangerie we’d frequented for baguette and pastries. “Sept croissant” I said. Shrugs greeted this and the look. A friendly French person suggested I needed “Sept” and the server was all over that. God I love the French. Adding to my joy was the fact that I didn’t have to attend the supermache with the crazy scissor waving women who tried to undress me and slash my face because the security gates go off every time I walk through. Lesson Four: In France you cut the tags off your clothes, or seemingly they cut you.
We lost two for the trip to Macon this morning.
So I could change gears in the bus without elbowing a passenger. The hour-long trek and a small section of perilously narrow and blind roadways rewarded us with a rendez vous par excellence.
The red brick buildings with sky blue shutters was unveiled as we gradually drove up the hill and through the gates. We parked looking down over the town of Macon and as we alighted Jean-Philippe Bret greeted us.
We wandered only a short way up a quite steep hill. Looking over Pouilly Vinzelles on the slope running away from us to Macon Vinzelles on the flat. Apparently on a clear day Mount Blanc is perfectly visible. We had to settle of the shadow of the Alps. In particular we were looking over their climat “Les Quarts” (pronounced Le Car).
Dodging cars on a dangerously narrow road we had the best explanation of what it takes and why it is important to know your soils and how to keep them alive and healthy. Jean-Philippe studied agronomie but experiences in winemaking have led him to biodynamie and he believes that he makes Pouilly Vinzelles with the help of Chardonnay. If he were to spray chemicals and kill the soil he would make just Chardonnay.
Then he proved to us he doesn’t make ‘just Chardonnay’. His family has two labels their negoce: Bret Brothers which started in 2001 and buys 10 hectares worth of fruit from Macon and Beaujolais. That complements the family’s Domaine wines of La Soufrandiere which is 6 hectare. Most of which is in one 4 ha plot of the climat Les Quarts.
We spotted a few poppies
A day too late for our commemorations, on the way back down to the cellar. We are taken through how they make their wine. Which isn’t that different but for the fact there is a fair bit of love involved.
Into the cellar for a tour and shameless name dropping from Jean-Philippe and wine guy Philippe, then we got to taste. And taste we did. 11 wines from the two producers. 100% Chardonnay and not a bad wine amongst them. The Bret Brothers wines were charming and delicate characters built on a lean and austere base. Not for drinking with bold flavours and not for chugging at a summer BBQ. These were very thoughtful and precise.
La Soufrandiere was a different experience. Instantly there was more weight on the palate and my descriptors went into more textural and plush. The base was still pretty taut but there was more here to love.
I won’t go into all the tasting notes, needless to say, there was amazing wine to be had here.
We as a group learnt about biodynamics, sustainable agriculture and also just exactly how terroir works. It was easily one of the best visits I’ve had in Burgundy.
Jean-Philippe then booked us lunch, told us where to source pate en croute and gave us some DVDs on biodynamics and we were off to continue this adventure.
Ma table En Ville in Macon was exactly what we needed.
The restaurant was empty except for us. A gorgeous but self-conscious waitress who announced “I will try English” and heroically saved her language from the assault of our tongues. The food started with cheesy puffs and elevated to a dish with a boiled egg, onions and a foam that I can’t remember because it was so delicious. I could have stopped lunch there and just been very happy. Some local wine, a spoonerism that turned ‘dark turkey’ into ‘Turk Darkie”. The next Star Wars villain that was kicked out of Sith school’. At this point they were probably lucky no other customers were in the restaurant. Duck and a dessert that I didn’t need but was too marvelous to not devour and everyone was ready for a nap. And nap they did while I drove home.
Pate en crute and local sausage, including many of us returning to ‘confronting sausage’ andouillette. Just as well too, the difference in quality to what we’d individually previously experienced was the difference between trying not to vomit and today trying not to scoff the whole bowl.
Meanwhile charolais boeuf roasted and we drank. Three wines from Premier Crus of very good breeding and three Grand Cru. No, two Grand Cru because the second Bonnes Mare (yep, we had two) was corked. Just the low-level cork taint that lets you know you’re missing a great wine. Amongst much pouting we consoled ourselves with Anne Gros Echezeaux and ate dinner.
Tomorrow we leave early for petit dejeuner then petit Beaune market then off the Chassagne for le grand tour a Paul Pillot.