JC in France
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Thirteen
This is my last morning before catching up the train to Paris and fly back home. It is always a great feeling despite the horrible flight!
I had to do one more! I chose Domaine des Valanges in Davayé (another village part of the Appellation Pouilly Fuissé) run by yet another young generation (even younger!). Two brothers this time - Camille and Mathieu Paquet. The Domaine is very old and located between the ‘Roche de Solutré’ and the ‘Roche de Vergisson’, these two limestone outcrops dominating the landmark in the sea of vines. I was greeted by Camille and wife Sandra (look at the photo if you don’t believe me they are young!) – I had the full story of the domaine and how they have managed to grow it via a negociant business. The quality of the wines (especially the domaines’ one) are high. Most of their wines are made in the Appellation of St Veran, a neighbour of Pouilly Fuissé. St Veran wines are slightly more forward and chunkier than Pouilly (due to a deeper, heavier soil) but still offering a lovely freshness on the finish. I was very pleased with this new discovery and time will tell when we decide to bring some in NZ.
We had lunch together and left just in time to catch my train and spend the night in Paris before heading home. As usual, on my last night, I always treat myself of a ‘couscous’ (North African specialty) which I had this time in a tiny place called ‘Chez Mamane’ in the 11th arrondissement. As the restaurant was completely packed I share the table with a local and very regular customer which I got the whole story of the place and the gossips of the area!
Thank you very much to you all for following and taking the journey with us. We hope to see you soon at Maison Vauron. A bientot!
Jean-Christophe & Charlotte
Claire and Fabien, Domaine Chasselay
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Twelve
I managed to spend the morning with my family before going back on the road heading back North in the Maconnais. On my way up, I made a small detour to get to the Domaine Chasselay in the beautiful village of Chatillon d’Azergues (worth the stop!) situated in the Southern part of Beaujolais. Not just the village but the domaine is really worth the visit! Actually, this domaine was first introduced to us by a Kiwi couple who had the fortune to visit there few years ago. There is a rather large ‘chambre d’hôte’ (4 double bedrooms) on the domaine surrounded by vineyards. I was greeted by the new generation (and gosh they are young!) Claire and her brother Fabien. Their range of Beaujolais (made the Burgundian way – No maceration carbonic here) are wonderful, expressing little red berry fruit aromas and offering delicate, well defined and balanced mouthfeel. The personality of these wines and vibrant, determined personality of these young people are refreshing. The domaine is in good hand – Anyone could see that!
I had to move on and drive to the village of Fuissé in the Maconnais region. Fuissé is one of the village (another pretty one) part of the famous Appellation of Pouilly fuissé, famous for its white wines made of Chardonnay – This is the only grape allowed. I was expected at Domaine Christophe Cordier by the man himself. He’s more my age but a much better winemaker! His 2016 whites are generous up front, juicy and round yet with great minerality and freshness on the finish. Christophe has a multitude of very small parcels of land, we have picked the best one for NZ.
At my next meeting, I was asked to fetch Roger Saumaize in the steep vineyards of Vergisson (another village of Pouilly Fuissé) as he was still tending the vines at sun set (what sun???) just underneath the incredible limestone outcrop of the Roche de Vergisson. Domaine Saumaize-Michelin is run by this fanatic, passionate and hugely hardworking man. At each visit it is always a great lesson of vines and wines’ life. Not everyone’s cup of tea, especially when Roger is on the roll and can’t be stopped but I love it. I love the wines here too – Contrary to Christophe’s wines, Roger’s wines are tighter and the fruit has more citrus like characters – ‘bonbon acidulé’ comes back quite often in my tasting notes. The range is large, very large but with tiny production of each ‘climat’ (climat = Burgundian word to define block of land). A tasting at Saumaize is never a quick affair but the experience and wines deserve it. We have been representing this Domaine in NZ for more than 15 years.
My evening was very lonely! I started to pack my bags as I was dropping the rental car the following day at Macon TGV train station.
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Eleven
Very sad news this morning as we woke up - One of the most famous French chef, Mr Paul Bocuse has passed away (1926-2018). He was for me and many one of the fathers of the French gastronomy, especially in his home region of Lyon. I even worked for him, 30 odd years ago.
Today is the last day of work for Charlotte – She has done so well by doing all the wine tastings and giving me great support these last 10 days or so. She has learned a lot about the wine regions we went through and the people we visited. I am sure everyone enjoyed meeting her and helping her to understand their Appellations, work and philosophy. Thank you to all of you. Next week, Charlotte will spend few days with her Grand-Mother (my mum) and they are planning to train down to Marseille (south of France), city that Charlotte has never been to.
Our first visit this morning is a very famous producer in the southern part of Beaujolais, Domaine des Terres Dorees with Jean-Paul Brun. The range has dramatically been extended (either by purchasing more vineyards or getting grapes for top vignerons) since our last visit and it does confirm that good Beaujolais wines are getting more and more popular with wine drinkers. Jean-Paul’s 2016s are stunning and reflect very much his style and personality – Rather powerful, concentrated and with a decent structure. They are serious wines and always deserve some time in the cellar.
We had lunch on the run as we are expected at the northern part of the Beaujolais (where are located the 10 crus of the region) to meet Frederic Lafarge from the famous Domaine Michel Lafarge in Volnay who bought some top vineyards in Fleurie and Chiroubles in 2014. The weather is terrible and the sky very low which stop us to see properly the situation of their parcelles of land. We tasted the wines (2016s) in their cuverie just above the village of Fleurie. Like the style of their Volnay wines, their Beaujolais crus have terrific elegance and finesse. No forcefulness here, the terroir is doing the talking. This is not Gamay as most people imagine! You must try them!
We had the big family dinner in a little Bistro in St Etienne (town where my family started the wine business in 1879 and were my Mum and two sisters and their children still live in). It was awesome to catch up with everyone and for them to see Charlotte. A real good time for everyone!
JC and Fabien de Lescure, Domaine Bouronière
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Ten
For the next two days we are staying to taste wines from the new superstar of Burgundy- Beaujolais. This region, at the moment, is the little darling of most sommeliers, wine press and attentive wine drinkers. Although made with Gamay grape- which is a cousin of Pinot Noir- the better domaines are making wines of our time and with the Pinot noir textures. They have also wonderful fruit characters, roundness and a delicate structure.
Our first visit was at Domaine Bouronière, with the de Lescure family. This is a magnificent producer (6th generation) in the village of Fleurie, producing wines with concentration and depth. Their site above the village is classic architecture and style , built with the local stones. We tasted the range in a converted stable, with a wood fireplace and rustic furniture. They are wonderful and kind people too. At the end of the tasting, Fabien insisted we share his wild boar terrine, which he made entirely himself- including the hunting.
We drove next to the Brouilly and Cote de Brouilly appellation, this is another two crus of Beaujolais- out of the 10. Without doubt Chateau Thivin is the best producer in the region and the Geoffray family have been making wine here since 1877. We tried the new 2016 vintage, sited around the table in the Chateau’s traditional dining room filled with classic furniture and paintings. This producer’s wines have definition, texture, balance and have an energy to them. To show us that they do age beautifully, Claude opened a Cote de Brouilly 1998- what an experience! And whoever believes that Beaujolais can’t age, should seriously reconsider their prejudices. They kindly invited us to stay for a lunch, which was made up of local charcuterie and cheeses.
After lunch I had to drive Charlotte to the top of the Mount Brouilly, and despite the average weather the view was phenomenal. From up there one have a clear view of the Monts du Beaujolais and the plain of the Saone River.
We then drove to another cru of Beaujolais - Morgon where Dominique Piron and his business partner Julien greeted us with huge enthusiasm. The focus was once again on the 2016 vintage and we tried the whole range! Lots of wines and cuvees! Their 2016 wines have the whole mark of the vintage, which offers delicate red fruit characters, a focused mouthfeel, and texture with a clean, mineral finish. Always well priced they are hugely popular with our clients. They always give the full characteristics of where they are coming from.
We couldn’t help ourselves we had to have another dinner at George Blanc’s restaurant- again the meal was delicious and just what we needed! As a starter I had a Burgundy specialty, Oeuf Meurette, poached eggs in red wine sauce and as a main we both had “canette rotie”, a little duck . Charlotte started with salmon tartare. We had an early night to be in good form for our next day tasting and the big family dinner at the end of the day.
Paul Bocuse, a culinary legend
22 Janvier 2018
Paul Bocuse, a culinary legend, has left his mark on French Gastronomy as his family announced his death on Saturday the 20th of January. “Monsieur Paul” as he was often known, died at 91 years of age in his restaurant l'Auberge du Pont de Collonges where he was also born.
He was the leading figure in the culinary movement known as ‘nouvelle cuisine’, a modernized version of classic French cooking. His style was traditional and simple. Putting emphasis on fresh ingredients and not trying to hide them. Bocuse’s main restaurant l'Auberge du Pont de Collonges near Lyon, is one of only a few in France to receive 3 Michelin stars and keep that status for over 50 years.
A legendary figure has gone but his influence on French gastronomy will live on forever.
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Nine
Appalling weather this morning with cold rain and wind, but still a lot of wines to be tasted in the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits - so we left the warmth of our hotel and hit the road. We were expected this morning at the new acquisition of the Grand Chais de France in the Burgundy vineyards. In buying the Bijot group they have secured nearly 300 hectares, scattered throughout the region.
We first visited the great and large facilities of Domaine Marguerite Carillon in the village of Meursault. At this stage for us, it is to see, taste and choose what we like and what suits us. This will probably take some time, as there are many wines to taste and see, and like nowhere else in Burgundy, the process is critical.
After the tasting I took the opportunity to show Charlotte the variation in the terroir from one village to another, and from one parcel of vines to another. She’s amazed at how such a difference can exist from one piece of land to another and yet to be touching each other. This is all about Burgundy and why it has been recognized as one of the most complex wine regions of the world.
Our next meeting was much further south in the Cote Chalonnaise (still in Burgundy!) in the very pretty village of Buxy! This was our first visit to this aggregation of vignerons - Cave de Buxy. We had a wonderful and rather large tasting with two of their export directors. The style of wine pleased us immediately for being in a style that we do search for in such area– lovely fruit characters, roundness in the mid palate and a clean fresh, zesty finish. Despite being not the cheapest, they do offer a wonderful value for money. Do expect to see them in New Zealand in the near future!
The weather got worse as we drove back up to the Cote de Nuits, to meet with Sebastien Cathiard. Unfortunately he had forgotten our meeting and by then it was dark and the weather was horrible, we decided it was better for him to stay with his little family rather than coming back to work. We, however, were able to catch up with his father (Sylvain), who I haven’t seen for at least 5 years, it was great to see him again. We could not stay too long as we had to drive an hour and a half south to the Beaujolais region and the weather didn’t help.
For the next two nights we are staying at this lovely hotel in the small town of Romaneche Thorins, Les Maritonnes, owned and run by 3 * Michelin chef Georges Blanc. We had a great dinner and plenty of fun!
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Eight
Pretty wet, windy and cold morning - classic burgundy winter weather. We drove south to the village of Meursault, where the team of Domaine de Montille was expecting us. We tasted the 2016 vintage just before the bottling, which is due in the next couple of months. As usual the wines of de Montille/Chateau de Puligny Montrachet have a superb precision and depth that makes them so famous. We were lucky enough to see again, the man himself, Etienne de Montille! Still going at 120km/h, he was very proud aside showing this stunning vintage, he was excited to share with us that he has just bought 12 hectares of vineyards in Hakodate, which will be the first vineyard planted in Japan (created and managed by a Frenchman). Although Etienne was very interested by the vines of New Zealand, he has instead purchased some vines in California, just to keep him a little more busy, than he already is! By meeting him, one will understand why he’s so respected in the world of wine.
The meeting and tasting took nearly three hours and finished just in time for lunch in the nearby village of Corpeau, l’Auberge du Vieux Vigneron. Here I always choose a piece of meat, which is cooked in front of us on the open fire.
The weather got better after lunch, and the sun was shining by the time we met for the first time, the young Pierrick Bouley in the village of Volnay. The wines of this sixth generation domaine have taken lately the world press a little bit by surprise. Pierrick is a very thoughtful, serious and true young man and the wines are very much reflecting his personality.
Next, we drove slightly south to the village of Rully (Cote Chalonnaise) to visit Marie Jacqueson, of the Domaine of the same name. This is a very reputable producer, and recognized by many as the best of the Appellation. She does produce a large range of whites, made with Chardonnay and reds with Pinot Noir. Marie with a Master in Law, came back to the family domaine about 10 years ago and continued the parents’ reputation. The whole 2016 range has the wonderful purity, freshness and weight of the vintage. They are extremely well priced for the quality they offer.
We went back to Beaune to have dinner at the Caveau des Arches with Claire from the Grands Chais de France. Charlotte enjoyed a steak tartare and as an offal freak I chose the veal liver! As we were having this wonderful dinner our thoughts were already to the next meal! This is always another top priority!
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Seven
A big day ahead of us! We left our hotel in Beaune, Hotel de la Paix, I have been staying in this hotel for the last 20 years (or so). Our first meeting/ tasting was in the village of Chorey les Beaune, a few kms north, in the Cote de Beaune at Domaine Arnoux Pere & Fils. Another Domaine where the new generation (barely 30 years old, both daughter and son) is slowly taking over. We tasted the 2016 range, mainly red as most of the whites were wiped out by the frost. Here the wines are well-made, honest and with the classic style of Chorey and the neighbouring villages- not hugely concentrated, nice small red berries aromas, medium weight and a round structure.
Our next meeting and tasting was a new discovery for us, in the village of Gevrey Chambertin. The Domaine is called Marc Roy but it is daughter Alexandrine who took the rein a few years ago to revive the reputation of this very very small Domaine- barely 4 hectares of vines! Alexandrine is a perfectionist, opinionated and with a huge focus on the quality of the wines. She does only produce Gevrey village wines but all them have a sense of purity, transparency and represents well the new generation of red burgundies. We got on very well and despite having a very small volume we were offered a few cases of 2016 for New Zealand. This is a great coup for us and I can’t wait to see them in NZ, in the very near future.
We had lunch at my usual spot in Gevrey, Le Clos Lenoir 1623. It is run by mother daughter, although the food is well prepared, it is all about the atmosphere that these two ladies create with their exuberant personalities.
Straight after lunch we were greeted by Emmanuel and his mother at Domaine Gelin in Fixin (a neighbouring village of Gevrey Chambertin). The wines available at this estate are from the 2014 vintage as they hold the wines until they are ready for commercialisation. The wines of Fixin are of a rather rustic and deeper style. Domaine Gelin are without doubt one of the superstar of this Appellation.
Then we had a short drive back to the village of Gevrey to meet the Livera family, daughter Helene (a wonderful and funny early thirties lady) presented us the 2017 range out of the barrel. Although the malolactic fermentation hasn’t started, we had the confirmation that 2017 in Gevrey Chambertin will have wonderful attributes and could be compared with the 2000 vintage! Maybe not as rich and filling as the 2016, however the wines are transparent, precise and very clean.
The highlight of the day would have to be our fifth and final meeting and tasting with the Barthod-Boillot family! This is a classy act! Three Domaines in one, with Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny, Louis Boillot Volnay/Gevrey/Pommard and son Clement Boillot-Barthod, Moulin a Vent all under the same roof in Chambolle Musigny. The experience to taste these very high quality wines with these hugely talented personages is unique to say the least. The wines have something extra and you understand why they are so sought after in the world. This is always a very long tasting but once you are down in the very old cellars of these wonderful people time stops!
For dinner we experienced a newish restaurant in Beaune, Bistro des Cocottes in the city center. I had my first oysters of the year and Charlotte enjoyed Brouillade d’oeuf et fromage de chevre. A well-recommended bistro, next time you are in this region it’s worth having a try.
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Six
Back to serious work today! The day commenced with our first meeting/tasting at 9.30am with another newish Domaine for us, Domaine Lavantureux. The two young brothers David and Arnaud have now firmly taking over the family business, in a little village next to Chablis called Lignorelles. Most of their Chablis are aged in barrels, which give the wines some roundness and complexity, yet they are still managing to keep the minerality of a typical Chablis wine. Their wines are outstanding but unfortunately, like a lot of Chablis producers, the volumes are extremely small due to the last complicated years of frost and hail. For example in 2017, Lavantureux family lost more than 85% of their crop, very sad!
From there we tasted at one of the biggest names in Chablis, Domaine Raveneau. Isabelle, the daughter, showed us the 2016 range of wines straight from the barrels and a few of the 2017 out of the vats. As usual the superb wines of this Domaine have an extra “je ne sais quoi”, with its extra texture and mouthful. At Raveneau, unlike Lavantureux, the crop was lower in 2016 than 2017, meaning volumes are right down.
After lunch we visited the other big name of the village, Domaine Vincent Dauvissat. Again this is the new generation, the daughter Etiennette, who took us to the wonderful old cellar, where I have been trying wines for over 25 years. It is always an amazing experience, going down to the very old cellars and tasting Chablis with a unique character and feel. Like Raveneau, these wines are sought after and after you have tried them you will understand why.
With that we were finished with our little stay in Chablis and had to drive down (1.5 hours) to the town of Beaune. We still had some time in our day so we were able to visit another Domaine, Domaine Camille Giroux. Winemaker Carel took us down to the enormous underground cellars, where we tasted, out of the barrel, a lot of the 2016 red wines (red wine being their main style). I was even more so convinced that 2016 red burgundy have the perfect expression of Pinot Noir- pure, transparent, delicate and balanced. Carel gave us the opportunity of trying some of the 2017 vintage, and while they might not have the stuffing of ’16, they are still extremely pure, clean and balanced- watch this space! As a treat, Carel brought out a wine bottle covered in dust and gave us a taste. The wine was a Volnay Premier Cru of the year 1966!! What an experience! The wine was still alive, and showing leathery, truffle and mushroom characters, and the palate was silky, hugely complex and still holding.
For dinner we went to a cute little bistro-like restaurant, La Buissonnière, which used traditional ingredient in a modern, fun and delicious way! We ate frogs legs, marrow toast and even sweet bread – A first for Charlotte!
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Five
As we had a day off, we started our morning visiting the Chablis Sunday market. After we toured the different vineyards and drove to the small town of Joigny, where I started my apprenticeship at three star Michelin ‘La Cote St Jacques’ 38 years ago.
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Four
We had an early start this morning, on the road by 7.30am for our 3.5 hour drive to Saint Bris le Vineux (South of the Chablis Appellation). As the sun rose, it uncovered a beautiful clear blue sky but the temperature is down to 0.
Our first tasting of the day was with Domaine Goisot. Here Guilhem Goisot took us through to his wonderful wine range of the still unknown appellation of Cotes d’Auxerre. The style of wines here is very much similar to the neighbouring appellation of Chablis - very precise, mineral and linear. We tried the 2015 vintage, which was a very good year for this top domaine. Guilhem was warm and informative and took the time to explain ‘terroir’ and the impact it has on the different wines to Charlotte. If you like Chardonnays with crystalline fruit characters, this is definitely for you! Goisot 2015s will be instore in the next few weeks.
After a quick lunch in Chablis, we had our second visit at a new supplier - Domaine de Chantemerle. This domaine only produces three wines in the Chablis Appellation. This is a very small domaine with very sought-after wines, especially their 1er Cru ‘Fourchaume’ and ‘l’Homme Mort’. Their 2016 are powerful and rich, and show another side of Chablis. Their wines are also due in NZ at the end of January.
Another highlight of the day was, and always is, a visit to the Domaine Seguinot. What an amazing family! A father and his two daughters, producing very honest and classic Chablis wines. We will now get their newly produced Petit Chablis. We ended the tasting with a bottle of the Chablis ‘Fourchaume’ from the 1997 vintage (Charlotte’s birth year). A 20-year-old wine still showing the potential of aged Chablis- unbelievable!
We travelled to the town of Auxerre for dinner, where we ate meters away from the outstanding and towering Cathedral, overlooking the Yonne River.
#JCINFRANCE – January 2018 - Day Three
We had a little time this morning before our first meeting, so we took this opportunity to explore the village we were staying in, Eguisheim. Eguisheim has won prettiest village in France, and the further we walked into the village, the more it was proven. While walking I spotted two large nests high up on the village’s church, and in the nests there were two large storks, which are almost like mascots of the area. This morning the sky is low, and the