Burgundy Beyond the Vines

Meeting the locals

For the past 10 days I’ve been in a chateau near the town of Nevers, France in the far-west of Burgundy.

Geographically, it is nearer the Loire Valley than Burgundian wine hot-spots like Beaune and Dijon, so local retailers are as apt to point you to a Loire wine as to a Burgundy if you ask for something local.

The practical implications of this are that there is twice as much drinking to do to get a taste for the area. No bad thing in my book. Plus there is the ever-present temptation to knock back a Provence rose or the odd budget Chardonnay.

These welcome temptations were embraced, along with a box of Lindt milk chocolate squares, yesterday evening in the chateau’s chapel, where the sacrament of fine wine with good company was observed.

Here’s what we drank.

Pascal Desroches Pinot Noir 2019, Reuilly AOC

Pinot Noir the way I like it: crisp, light and acidic yet with enough complexity to reward repeated pours. On the nose there was violet, spice and bramble; on the palate red and black cherry, strawberry, cedar and bramble with a delicate hint of vanilla. Perfection.

Terres de Varennes, Saumur Champigny, 2019, Val du Loire AOC

My colleague brought this bottle of organic Cabernet Franc. I’m not sure I’d ever had a varietal Cab Franc before and this convinced me I’ve been missing out. It was a medium ruby with rich black fruit aromas. The flavors were ripe but — importantly — not jammy black cherry, blackberry and black currant. As it opened up, notes of black pepper and cedar developed. The beauty of this one was the alluring balance of acid and tannin, like salted caramel, the sensations reinforced each other and rewarded each sip.

Domaine Martin 2019, Cotes du Rhone AOP

We veered off course, geographically, to finish the evening with this robust Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend. The medium-plus ruby color belied its intensity. It smelled of dark fruit, sweet spice, tobacco and chocolate.

“Like chocolate-covered cherries” a colleague said, hitting on the characteristic notes of Grenache and Mourvedre.

In addition to the chocolate tannins on the back of the palate from the Mourvedre it had a herbacious note of Syrah and a warm cedar tone that spoke to its aging.

***

The three wines were delicious. Better still, they were an excuse to get together, talk, laugh, share stories, look up random facts on our phones, reminisce about other bottles of wines and other excursions. It reminded me how wine can be glitter glue — a brilliant sparkly substance that helps us stick together.

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